I ended my last post by wondering whether or not God cares about what we think of God. That question is important for me as I reflect on the theological training I’ve had and on the experiences my life has given me. It seems that so much unspeakable evil has been done in the service or name of God, both in my presence and in the presence of history, that somehow God must be concerned about how God is being represented.
But I also wonder at what else is transpiring within the self of the people whose unspeakable acts are performed using the attributed authority of “God.” What do they think God is? This leads to another question: Who is God?
That question has taunted and tempted thinkers from time immortal, and while I wish to avoid adding my name to the register of the attempted, it is such a crucial question for me as one who wishes to know God.
Before I launch into something of a theological/biblical expose of the question, I want to explore something philosophical that I think informs and underwrites what we think of as theological. I want to say that first and foremost what we think of as “God” is really a construction of our beliefs.
For centuries Christians have been taught to believe. In fact, when I was a younger man, believing was how one became a Christian.
But this reveals a problem, because our beliefs are the limit of what we consider possible, and even moreso are the signposts by which we determine who we are. They are the markers of our identity. I am my beliefs. BUT if I am my beliefs and my beliefs make me a Christian then I make myself a Christian. This progression eliminates any need or opportunity for God to be anything beyond myself, and thus the God I believe in is none other than me. I may call God “God” and mean that I am not God, but within the depths of the human psyche I am really only believing in myself, and I have named that part of myself “God.”
So then, back to my original question: Does God care about how God is represented? IThat depends on which “god” we are referencing. The trouble is that we think that in order to have a relationship with god we have to believe in God, that is, we have to have belief in God. But that relationship is only with ourselves.
So what then do we make of passages like Acts 16:31- “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved?” I will deal with this question in more detail in upcoming posts, but for now I will say that “believe” in Acts does not mean “believe” in English, because believe connects ideologically to belief for us, but it has no such connection in the bible.