It’s almost funny how many times I’ve had a conversation with someone that includes, at one point or another, their confession to having a problem with “the concept of god.” Almost funny.
It’s funny how things can be almost funny but upon further inspection definitely not funny. How that’s funny is beyond me. “Funny” is a funny thing. My response to this almost funny admission has become something akin to well oiled machine:
“That’s because God is not a concept.”
I know this seems obvious, but it is worth exposing and highlighting the ways in which our imaginations work against us by insisting that we construct concepts for things we are unsure of. We conceptualize as a way of making sense of things that do not fit within the limits of our constructed reality. It is our cognitive defense mechanism to guard against mystery, and thereby against potential danger.
But why do we need a concept of God?
I think it is because we need a God who is apprehensible to our imaginations. We need an imaginable God. But we are unsure where to find the material needed for our construction of an imaginable deity. This is because we have heard so many theories and concepts about the notion of God that we are unable to decide where to begin. Even the best intentioned of us who attempt to construct an understanding of God from the bible are so filtered and swayed by competing theories and philosophies that we are unable to determine a point of departure.
So how do we stop conceptualizing about God?
And what do we replace the concept of God with? First, we need to realize that God is not a concept but a person. Not a human, of course, in the strict sense, but a person nonetheless. This in turn reveals the answer to the second question: relationship. It is not possible to have a relationship with a concept. And if your relationship with God seems misaligned with your concept of God, it’s because your concept is misaligned with God. Or rather, your concept is something other than God. In fact, our concepts are actually a projection of ourselves. We are the concepts of God we seek to have a relationship with. But it cannot be done. There is no one-sided relationship.
So if you, like so many others, struggle with the concept of God, good! You’re on the right track.