Politics Magazine

Modern Koans – Talking About God?

By Andrew Furst @a_furst
CosmologyModern Koans is an ongoing series that recognizes that good questions are often more important then their answers.

The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man. ― G.K. Chesterton


Talking About God?

God? Of course, I’m Buddhist, and probably on principle should stay out of this fray, but I’m human and feel that the conversation is compelling. Especially living in a majority Christian country where interpretation of the Bible often leads to legislation that is potentially harmful to non-theists and people of other faiths.

As a former Christian by birth, I’ve always struggled with how to characterize the Christian idea of God. Having studied philosophy, I’ve read Aquinas, Augustine, and have looked for common ground with the Mystics. My study of the Bible uncovered that Jesus was very intimate with God, calling him “Abba”, the same word a young child would call his father. This would jibe with an interpretation where there is a personal God in touch with us in some way.  But there are also vastly different conceptions that encompass ideas like all knowing, all powerful, and so on. How do we choose to understand God. I think the plurality of interpretation is something important with religious texts. I don’t think they offer a menu from which to select the right choice of divine identity. They are necessarily elusive.

I appreciate the more intimate personal view, because it puts God right here in the same space with us. In fact I like to stretch Paul’s words “God, in who we live, and breath, and have our lives” to find common ground with the eastern concept of “oneness”. Such a God might share with us the limitations of this universe (gravity, laws of thermodynamics, and so on), but be faster, stronger, and perhaps be a good example of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law, which states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. This conceptualization averts the problem of evil, a very compelling argument against the existence of Aquinas’ distant and separate God. But it leaves the most vexing complaint of non-theists unaddressed, which is that God doesn’t show up or meet commitments. Here we see why Aquinas, et. al. were keen on the other worldliness of God.

I think this conversation is worthwhile. If there was a clear acknowledgement of what we can say about God, and more importantly, what we can’t, there might be room for advancement in this dialog.

The questions:

So what does a constructive conversation about God look like?

What happens at the end of a conversation between a theist and a non-theist or an atheist? Does anything ever change?

How does change happen in cultural religious ideas?  There is no doubt that it does happen, no one worships Baal or Hera anymore? Is it a generational thing?

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The post Modern Koans – Talking About God? appeared on Andrew Furst.

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