Tuesday, July 7, 2009

On God as an Orange Ball

I have been asked, and asked myself, a few times "What (or who) is God?" The most interesting answer came from my undergrad professor, Dr. Thompson: "God is not an Orange Ball." He was describing the relationship of God and the world, discussing the difference between pantheism and panentheism. Thompson used an image, like the one I crafted up below, to show the difference between the two.
In the image, you can see three different approaches to understanding the universe in relation to God (I use the term "world" to represent creation, the universe). The orange ball represents God--"God is not an Orange Ball"--and the blue ball represents the world. In the first, God created the world, and may have power over the world, but the world is not God. In fact, God is wholly other then the world. The second, pantheism, shows God and the world as being one. Think of Star Wars, the force. God is everything and everyone, a collective "force" that is a part of everything. Now panentheism posits that all of creation is part of God, but God is much greater than that. Christians have generally thought of God as either the "seperate" model, or, more recently, the "panentheist" model.

Now, why do I say all this? Because the quest to seek out God, to use our senses and minds and spiritual nature to try to understand this orange ball has been the quest of religion since it first began. John Caputo wrote of God as the ocean and religion as a raft sailing above it. The raft is always in danger of capsizing under the vast and dangerous sea. Or maybe God is the white whale, and religion is Captain Ahab, hoping against hope to pin it (God) down, but knowing full well that at any time, at any moment, the whale could catch us off guard and we'd be destroyed.

God revealed the Name to us, God revealed this full presence as a battered man on a cross and in a mysterious celebration, an amnesis of sorts but so much more, in elements of wine, bread, and water. Yet, even still, God is not an orange ball--God is not something (or someone) that can be examined and felt and harpooned, a trophy of life-long sails. But, with every fiber of our beings we feel the questing and questioning nature of the unknown begging an answer, and so we try. Let us begin this journey of discovery, of self, of one another, and of the Other-yet-same, hand-in-hand we tread, together.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Pax et bonum,


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