The God I Believe In

(Version 1.3)

The God I believe in is hard to describe, at once inscrutable but very close to us on a personal and intimate level. The Jesuits “define” God thus:

God–Various titles or names are given to the Mystery underlying all that exists–e.g., the Divine, Supreme Being, the Absolute, the Transcendent, the All Holy-but all of these are only “pointers” to a Reality beyond human naming and beyond our limited human comprehension. Still, some conceptions are taken to be less inadequate than others within a given tradition grounded in revelation.

Jesuit spirituality encourages us to be aware of the images of God we have in our heads and to jettison childish, destructive, hurtful images, e.g. an accountant of good and evil waiting to damn or redeem based on your account balance, while cultivating adult images that help us to love God more deeply (and consequently humanity). So these are the images that inform how I apprehend God. Let me be clear, these images are not God. 

No image fully captures who God is. We naturally try to put our experience of God into words, but all words will be inadequate because we are dealing with God, who is Ultimate Mystery. We must be careful not to turn our images of God into idols. Instead, we let God reveal Godself to us, gently and naturally.

Father Kevin O’Brien SJ. The Ignatian Adventure: Experiencing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in Daily Life (Kindle Locations 500-503). Kindle Edition.

With that caveat here goes:

I never believed in the Old Man in the Sky with the fuzzy white beard.
  • Ground of Being – God doesn’t exist within a set of dimensions. Existence and essence have their root, so to speak, in God. (Thanks to Tillich for this.)
  • Love – God is not loving. God IS love.
  • Mind – The God of physicists, e.g. Einstein, and mathematicians who see the way our universe works under the precise laws of physics, who cannot help but see how they point to a Mind that constructed them.
  • Person – Being brought up in a western tradition, I relate to God personally. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best on how God relates to us personally in our deepest (and sometimes darkest) moments.
  • Trinity – I must admit I was very hostile to this doctrine back in the day. Learning the sordid history behind the Arian Controversy, I judged it (unfairly) by the at times ugly process that led to its authorship. But as I learned more about mysticism and theologies that teach that paradox can be powerful for disciplining against our idol making tendencies, I saw the beauty it holds. Three Persons in One God  is indeed non-rational, even nonsensical (especially to those who worship rationality) but apt since we Christians experience God as all three.
  • Good/Hope – Eschatologically speaking, God is my hope that on the cosmic scale, the Good prevails, despite the horror of the present.
  • Truth – God for me is True in every sense including the objective.
  • Jesus – The Master and example of what a human being looks like who is in intimate communion with God. So much so that we Christians make the audacious claim that he is God.
  • Justice/Blackness – As a black man, God is intimately connected with both justice and my racial identity. Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the God of Abraham. Well, God for me is also the God of the Negro spiritual, of singing instructions to runaway enslaved people for the Underground Railroad under the nose of the Overseer, the God of enslaved people who read Exodus under pain of death while “Pharaoh” preached St. Paul’s slave theology, a God who “makes a way out of no-way,” a God who is “good all the time and all the time God is good,” who “may not come when you want Him but is always right on time,” the God who inspired King to exclaim on the night before he was murdered, “I’ve been to the mountain top!” and “I just want to do God’s will!” This by far is the most powerful image because it has been and continues to be lived by necessity. The relentless onslaught this world has made on us for centuries make it so.

So there is my list. That’s the God I believe in so to speak.

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