G-d or Something Like It


(system) #1

By Raymond Roccograndi, Spectrum collegiate correspondent at Southern Adventist University

"Who or what is G-d?" It's a question all of us have asked, heard, or attempted to answer. To attempt to understand the Divine is a journey of a lifetime. It's filled with great joy, moments of ecstasy and excitement, perplexing confusion, agonizing angst, emotional pain, and extreme humility. Many cultures and societies have different faith traditions that attempt to explain the Divine through myth, poetry, prose, prophets, gurus, spiritual leaders, religious ritual and practice as well as statements of belief or professions of faith.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share many conceptual ideas about G-d. All three religions stem from the same Abrahamic faith. Sometimes in our own search and attempt to understand G-d, we forget that our faith is not the only group of seekers. Many prophets have come to us, some misguided, some outright strange, others blissfully inspiring, and yet although the Divine can be seen to varying degrees in their lives, answers are not what their messages bring. Buddha, Moses, Jesus, Mohamed, Ellen G. White, and the Dalai Lama all share many teachings about the Divine and each has his and her own understanding within context to their historical time and cultural norms within the society they lived.

I have noticed in university that we can too often get hung up on specifics. Such topics as jewelry, women and the church, vegetarianism, homosexuality, the Sabbath, and others can become volatile and key, salvific issues in the eyes of some earnest, albeit zealous, believers. I have found in my studies and walk with the Lord that there is much human influence and presupposition in these matters. One must first tackle the understanding of Holy Scripture and Divine Inspiration before these topics can be addressed.Holy Scripture comprises some of the more important documents of mankind\'s existence. It can justly be stated that more than any other book the Bible has inspired and permeated much of our common world culture and life. Yet it must be asked, "how did this document come to be?" "what are the ways in which G-d inspires and directs people?" The Holy Scriptures are a book that depicts the Divine struggle of a loving G-d that strives to be understood by His people and a rebellious, stubborn people that struggle to understand their G-d. This is the beautiful essence of Scripture - the dramatic story of the Dive expressed in the human; of which Christ is the apex and glory in the whole matter, the "Jewel in the Lotus," to borrow a Buddhist expression (Om Mani Padme Hum). Understanding Scripture in this manner one can come to notice the threefold nature of the themes of the Bible. G-d is love, The Great Redemptive Plan of Salvation, and the Atonement for Sin are, in my understanding, important thematic expressions found from Genesis to Revelation.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Man\'s struggle to understand the three of these and to apply the divinely-inspired concepts to personal life are also explicit within the pages of this "Sacred Text." Sacred not because of this notion of infallibility, but because of the beauty of a G-d that risks misunderstanding; that takes the Divine - which is awesome, ultimate beauty, without blemish, etc. - and translates it into the Human - which is broken, rebellious, confused, fallen. This is the beautiful act throughout all of Divine Scripture - that God would place the task of communicating His message through feeble minds. In this act G-d takes the Infinite - the very nature and being of the Divine - and expresses it in the Finite - human language. In this can be seen G-d\'s greatest struggle and act of Divine Trust.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>Understanding that G-d doesn\'t inspire verbal, verbatim texts of Scripture, but rather thematically is essential to garnering the greater meaning of Holy Scripture. Far from dismissing Scripture as relevant it renders that earnest seekers of Divine Wisdom - or The Way - must commit themselves to a deep, thorough lifetime of study. The original languages must be understood or comprhended on a basic level, the historical context of the timeperiod that each book was written, the author\'s life and limitations in understanding must be taken into account, the trifold thematic truths of Scripture must be searched for throughout each chapter and book, geography, and various other aspects must be applied before one begins the task of intepretation and application to practical life.\u003cbr /\>",1] );

//-->Holy Scripture comprises some of the more important documents of mankind's existence. It can justly be stated that more than any other book, the Bible has inspired and permeated much of our common world culture and life. Yet it must be asked, "how did this document come to be?" "what are the ways in which G-d inspires and directs people?" The Holy Scriptures are a book that depicts the Divine struggle of a loving G-d that strives to be understood by His people and a rebellious, stubborn people that struggle to understand their G-d. This is the beautiful essence of Scripture - the dramatic story of the Dive expressed in the human; of which Christ is the apex and glory in the whole matter, the "Jewel in the Lotus," to borrow a Buddhist expression (Om Mani Padme Hum). Understanding Scripture in this manner allows one comes to notice the threefold nature of the themes of the Bible. G-d is love, The Great Redemptive Plan of Salvation, and the Atonement for Sin are, in my understanding, important thematic expressions found from Genesis to Revelation.

Man's struggle to understand the three of these and to apply the divinely-inspired concepts to personal life are also explicit within the pages of this "Sacred Text." Sacred not because of this notion of infallibility, but because of the beauty of a G-d that risks misunderstanding; that takes the Divine - which is awesome, ultimate beauty, without blemish, etc. - and translates it into the Human - which is broken, rebellious, confused, fallen. This is the beautiful act throughout all of Divine Scripture - that God would place the task of communicating His message through feeble minds. In this act G-d takes the Infinite - the very nature and being of the Divine - and expresses it in the Finite - human language. In this can be seen G-d's greatest struggle and act of Divine Trust.

Understanding that G-d doesn't inspire verbal, verbatim texts of Scripture, but rather inspires thematically is essential to garnering the greater meaning of Holy Scripture. Far from dismissing Scripture as relevant this approach renders that earnest seekers of Divine Wisdom - or The Way - must commit themselves to a deep, thorough lifetime of study. The original languages must be understood or comprehended on a basic level, as well as the historical context of the time period that each book was written. Also, the author's life and limitations in understanding must be taken into account, the trifold thematic truths of Scripture must be searched for throughout each chapter and book, geography, and various other aspects must be applied before one begins the task of interpretation and application to practical life.Each author of the Bible and prophet understood G-d within the context of their time; it is true that some came to radical and even inovational understanding of the Divine, however, this was through earnest study and humility not a dogmatic faith that we know in Conservatism or Evangelicalism. Literalism is not a biblical principal, but a method of control that the church imploys to consolidate power. The prinicple is continual seeking for understanding and a humble approach to Holy Scripture. The biblical principle - and cerished Adventist contribution to Christendom - of "Present Truth;" or better stated, the idea that G-d meets people where they are. This can be seen when the Divine inspires a murderer, an adultoror, the uneducated, the prideful, and the broken to be his Vessels of Divine Love and Compassion.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>G-d is not this being that refuses to attempt to understand us - for He knows us better than we know ourselves. He wants to have an intimate, loving relationship that leads us into service in Divine Love for our fellow human. G-d\'s goal is to express His love for us and to be understood by His people, this is the work of a lifetime. Literalism is not biblical. The fruits of literalism can be seen throughout the suffering of manking. Genocides, Holocausts, Inquisitions, Wars, Poverty, and Opression - all of these are the fruits of the dangerous misleading concepts of Literalism.\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>G-d is not a literalist - He understands that there are cultural elements to our reliogus practices. Such topics as jewelry, women and the church, vegetarianism, homosexuality, and the Sabbath are cultural phenominas. Jewelry is not sinful, the principle is whether this becomes an idol or takes the place of other important aspects of life and wholeness. Does one buy expensive adormnets instead of paying bills, feeding their children, or giving to the church? That is the key component to the "jewelry question."\u003cbr /\>\u003cbr /\>The texts used in Scripture for the exclusion of women from ministry is contextual to that time period, it is not a principle of Scripture. The principle is a church structure, not a gender exclusive policy that holds men are "holier" in the eyes of G-d.\u003cbr /\>",1] );

//-->Each author of the Bible and prophet understood G-d within the context of their time; it is true that some came to radical and even innovative understandings of the Divine, however, this was through earnest study and humility, not a dogmatic faith that we know in Conservatism or Evangelicalism. Literalism is not a biblical principal, but a method of control that the church employs to consolidate power. The principle is continual seeking for understanding and a humble approach to Holy Scripture. Thus biblical principle - and cherished Adventist contribution to Christendom - of "Present Truth;" is the idea that G-d meets people where they are. This can be seen when the Divine inspires a murderer, an adulterer, the uneducated, the prideful, and the broken to be his Vessels of Divine Love and Compassion.

G-d is not a being who refuses to attempt to understand us - for He knows us better than we know ourselves. He wants to have an intimate, loving relationship that leads us into service in Divine Love for our fellow human. G-d's goal is to express His love for us and to be understood by His people, this is the work of a lifetime. Literalism is not biblical. The fruits of literalism can be seen throughout the suffering of mankind. Genocides, holocausts, inquisitions, wars, poverty, and oppression - all of these are the fruits of the dangerously totalizing concept of literalism.

G-d is not a literalist - He understands that there are cultural elements to our religious practices. Such topics as jewelry, women and the church, vegetarianism, homosexuality, and the Sabbath are cultural phenomenas. Jewelry is not sinful, the principle is whether this becomes an idol or takes the place of other important aspects of life and wholeness. Does one buy expensive adornment instead of paying bills, feeding their children, or giving to the church? That is the key component to the "jewelry question."

The texts used in Scripture for the exclusion of women from ministry is contextual to that time period, it is not a principle of Scripture.

Vegetarianism is not a principle, the principle is eating healthy, wholesome foods that promote good heath and wellness.

The issue of homophobia in Scripture is not a Divine principle, but a cultural misunderstanding of sexuality that persists to this day. People fail to see the Spirit of the Living G-d directing and guiding our scientific research and discoveries on sexuality and sexual orientation.

The "dos and don'ts" of Sabbath observance is not a principle, giving a day to the Lord and resting is the principle.

In these examples we can see how G-d meets people in their time and culture; that He truly risks being misunderstood.

"Who or what is G-d?" This is a question we must always ask. We should never be satisfied at our answers or our church's - this is the journey of a lifetime. Let's humble ourselves and not make interpretation an idol before the Lord. In many matters we should let G-d be G-d and concern ourselves not with lists of a who gets saved, but with interpersonal relationships. "By this you will know that they are my people, if they have love for one another." Understanding that religion is a cultural phenomenon and religious customs and practices differ is the first step in the right direction to a United Body in Christ.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4052