Toward A Non-Theistic Understanding of God

Note: This post assumes that the reader has read the preceding post entitled, “Who is God, anyway?”

A non-theistic understanding of God is one that assumes that God is spirit (John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”). There is no super-human God hovering just about the clouds. Rather, God is infinitely vast and transcends all that we know. God is without beginning and without end, because God transcends time (and everything else). God was present at the creation (however that happened) and will be present beyond the end of life as we know it on this planet.

Religions, every last one of them, are limited as opposed to transcendent. They cannot possibly capture God, who is infinite. The best they can hope to do is to capture some part of God, to come to an imperfect understanding of God. To remain vital, they must remain open to input. The notion that God, who is infinite, ever stops speaking is absurd because even if God spoke only once it would take us forever to hear it because, unlike God, we are bound and limited by time.

Since every religion falls short, it is absolutely absurd for us to engage in wars over religion. It is also absolutely absurd for us to hate, exclude, ostracize, ex-communicate, or seek to punish those who do not agree with our religious viewpoint because we have this great religious truth in common – we only see part of God. If we are going to kill someone because we believe they are wrong about God, we may as well start with ourselves because we, too, see only in part (1 Cor 13:12 “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”).

It follows from this that every religion has something to offer of God, quite possibly something we have missed. If God is infinite, God contains all things, and so all things show us something of God. All religions may not work for me, but most certainly I can learn something from other religions. None of us has a corner on God, for infinity has no corners. Understand Jesus how you will, understand Mohammad how you will, understand Buddha how you will, understand Krishna how you will, understand all systems how you will, but above all understand that they all contain something of God. They may not all speak to me, but they most definitely all speak of God.

Of course, there will be those who are critical of this thought and get their hackles raised – but their interest is not in seeking God, it is in defending their own particular view of God or their churches’ view of God. Churches, however, are not infinite and God is infinite. God is bigger than any church and bigger than all of them put together. What you really are defending is your need to feel superior, your need to reassure yourself that you are going to be with God and those who disagree with you most definitely will not get to be with God.

God then is not a guy (or a girl), who lives some physical place or destination (heaven) to where we travel when we die. It would be much more accurate to say that when we die we hope to achieve union with God. We might even say that we hope to achieve union with infinity, or all that is, or the universe…

You don’t have to agree with me, you can believe whatever you like. The truth is that most human beings at this moment in history have a rather tribal understanding of religion, even if they no longer have a tribal lifestyle. For some reason most people seem to need to be primitive when it comes to God – and that is very ironic when you consider that God is so infinite, so transcendent, that the last thing God would ever want is tribalism and hatred, especially in the name of God.

This view opens up for us the truth that there is something to be learned from all religious systems, because they all contain something of God. I suspect that most of us will find a system in which we feel most comfortable, and that is a good thing. At the same time, however, there is no need for any of us to feel uncomfortable about inquiry, because all inquiry (religious or not) leads us to learn more about God. Ind the end, that’s what we all want, and that’s what we all need.

2 thoughts on “Toward A Non-Theistic Understanding of God

  1. That's great. A Bishop not afraid to break the mould. If you ask me there is far to much talk of "Truth" still in the Church: i.e. the Catholic one I was raised in.Man, I'm sick of all the speculation, all the petty arguiing, all the false certainties. Good science has long ago given up speaking about "Truth" with a capital T and now talks of models that more or less acurately fit experience/ the data. That thinking is far more rigorous than the approach of traditional theologies. We have to let go of our false certainties and study the data: impartially and scientifically. Do we think we are going to go to hell for using our brains and searching for the most accurate hypothesises and models? That what has enabled humans to progress.Un saludo, caro vescovo.A. Scotland.

  2. Amen! How wonderful and enlightening. I've long thought and felt this very thing and to see this article just when I did was especially uplifting. It's not God that's screwed up it's people's ideas about God that are.

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