God’s Manifestation (Video Script)
One of the major theological problems that has been a stumbling block for many who would search for God is the tendency for humans to anthropomorphize God – to ascribe human features to the Divine. Throughout the ages in virtually every culture, humans have worshipped a god or gods, created in their own image. For example, it’s easy to spot man-made gods in the Greco-Roman pantheon. Just look at the statues of Zeus or Neptune – obviously created in the image of man with all the foibles and shortcomings of human personality.
Gods created in the human image served many purposes, including security and protection. Thus weak and insecure peoples preferred Gods of great power and wrath to smite their enemies. And since God did the smiting, there was no need for guilt.
To reinforce the ideology, idols were created to confirm the reality of the gods presence in daily life. In some traditions, idolatry was considered a sin. For instance, the Biblical Hebrews (for the most part) avoided the use of GRAVEN images to depict their God – Yahweh. But there are all sorts of idols.
Muslims avoid even GRAPHIC images of God. Some sacred traditions consider God to be beyond language and avoid assigning words to designate the divine. All of this to avoid the creating of God in the human likeness – projection in psychological terms.
Despite these concerns, the sacred texts of various spiritual traditions contain numerous instances of human projection. For example, the holy scriptures of the ancient Hebrews sometimes depict their God as a jealous, vengeful warrior.
That such a God would kill or condone the killing of many thousands of humans, some of whom were totally innocent by any decent standard of morality, is problematic. However, it is only confusing if one reads these texts as the literal and infallible word of God without any consideration for the human role in assigning human characteristics to the divine.
If this were merely a scholarly theological dispute over some trivial occurrences of distant history, it wouldn’t be an issue in a modern Search for God. Unfortunately, retribution theology is still with us.
For example, some fundamentalist Christian ministers have attributed a terrible earthquake in Haiti as God’s just punishment for the wickedness of those people. Likewise, hurricane Katrina was proclaimed as God's punishment for New Orleans' sinful, wicked ways.
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated large areas inhabited mostly by Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists was pronounced as God's punishment for the persecution of Christians in that area. The terrorist attacks of 9-11 have been attributed to God’s punishment for America’s moral decay. The list goes on and on …
If these were only verbal bombs being tossed about, it would be forgettable and almost comical. But suicide attacks by Muslims against other Muslims simply because the latter were too moderate in their beliefs, is no laughing matter.
Certainly, Christians throughout history have done their share of violence – and we are not immune from such atrocities in our own time. All in the name God.
Our Concept of God
When the Norfolk Study Group #1 requested a reading on how to further the work, they were told to examine their “concept of God.” They were encouraged to avoid some of the images of God put forth in the Bible. They were to ignore the God of wrath painted by Moses and the warrior god painted by David. Rather they were asked to consider the concept of God as a loving, merciful father portrayed by Jesus.
Like many ancient texts, the bible contains much truth and inspired wisdom, but is not infallible or literally accurate. Thus the symbolic nature of the God concept can be an obstacle to spiritual awakening if the symbol is mistaken for the reality that it represents. Then the symbol can become an idol.
If we mistake the menu for the meal, we will be left hungry and disappointed when we try to eat it. If we mistake the map for the terrain, we will not reach our destination. Menus and maps are just symbols that point to a reality beyond. Likewise, idolatry involves substituting the symbol for the reality.
Creating a statue of God and worshipping that object mistakes the symbol for the reality that it represents. Likewise, worshiping words or ideas that paint a concept of God is a mistake, even if they are regarded by some as holy scripture or sacred theological constructs. Our concept of God is a dynamic process that changes as we grow and develop in our relationship to the divine.
There is no mystery in the fierce, murderous version of God in the early Biblical scriptures – no need to blame it on God. It was only their concept of God in that place and time – a concept of God that evolved in their scriptures as that people grew in the understanding of their relationship with the Creator. God did not change. Their concept of God changed.
Jesus’ parable of the wineskins is a wonderful symbol for the necessity of developing a new concept of God. Due to the limitations of human understanding and the nature of consciousness on this planet, it is sometimes necessary to create a new, flexible container for our evolving ideas and understanding of God and how the divine manifests in the earth.
There have been mountains of theological and philosophical debate about how, or even whether, God manifests in the earth. Some thinkers have posited a concept of God as an impersonal Prime Mover or First Cause that created the universe and then left it to run itself. This approach is called Deism.
Others have viewed God as a micromanager – personally involved in every minute detail of human activity. One version of this model advocates a God of History that intervenes in behalf of certain groups, taking sides with his chosen people and fighting their battles. This is a theistic approach.
There are a multitude of religious belief systems available in the modern world that are only a mouse click away. You can take your pick if you feel the need for a theological identity.
A simple pragmatic approach that is consistent with soul development, is that we are each the means by which God manifests in the earth. God is love. Souls, incarnating as human beings, are a channel for the expression of God’s love as companions and co-creators with the divine.
As Gods in the making, we each have the opportunity to co-create a better world. It is our privilege to manifest God in the earth, if we make that choice.