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DrDon

Creating The Attributes Of God

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It is always surprising to me to read, see or hear well-known Evangelical Christians describing the way that 'God' thinks, feels and acts. I am astonished that such men and women are so privileged as to have the inside scoop on such things.

 

I believe that responsible and mature faith must begin with the honest and unemotional reality that God has left us absolutely nothing by way of proof to His/Her/Its/Their existence. We would love to hang onto emotional concepts that circumvent this but, in the end, we cannot.

 

In my opinion, it is thus that Faith has a grounded and clean foundation.

 

From here we all (myself included) begin to build other attributes to attach to the first unprovable (equally, if not more so) in determining how God 'feels' about the universe and, ultimately, us. Sometimes we get on board with the systems of others who utilize ancient collections of writings that incorporate God in their stories. It seems to be a stronger pull to attach ourselves to such groupings that are referred to as Religion.

 

Religion has a rather consistant way of declaring exclusivity to God and anything else that refers to God. The assignation of incredible supernatural events to ones own religion seems fully reasonable and yet the same assignations claimed by another religion is held as absurdly laughable. This extends to the writings of each religion, writings that are assigned the status of sacred, 'God inspired', inerrant and infallible; further attachments of the nature and character of the unproven.

 

It is an odd image of a soap bubble, fragile in the light breeze, with a seemingly endless man-made construct attached to it, at every possible surface opening, extending outward for miles. As each new 'lego' is clicked onto the last, the actual fragility of the original bubble is further obscured until the self assigned voices for God each loudly and authoritatively inform us of the full emotional profile of God.

 

Is it a coincidence that these 'attributes' of God also happen to be the same as those informing us?

 

Dr James Dobson declared that 'God allowed' 20 children to be shredded with bullets in Sandy Hook, CT because He wasn't getting the attention, in this modern world, that He feels He is due. This statement is merely a repeat of the same idea put forth by former by former Arkansas Governor 'Mike' Huckabee and has been picked up by various other 'mouthpieces of God' on national USA radio.

 

In the end, each of us are faced with our own choices for the existence and nature of God. What is important to try to remember is that it is all utterly and perfectly unprovable from the very onset.

 

That's why it is called 'faith', n'est-ce pas?

Edited by DrDon

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Good posts, DrDon.

 

I've been discussing this subject on another PC forum and thought I would abbreviate my thoughts on this subject here also.

 

I am accutely (and sometimes painfully) aware that what I know, or think I know, about God is not provable, especially from a scientific approach. If there is a God as a reality in or behind our universe and existence, this God is, to a large degree, unknowable to us (IMO). If this God is there, then what we can know of this God is more of a knowledge based upon experience than upon concepts that we hold to be true. Our God-concepts, which I call "models", are how we attempt to make sense of our God-experiences (if, indeed, we have them). Therefore, conceptually, the best we have is models of God that we hold to, human constructs that explain our experiences of God, so that we can, as humans, explain and pass along our experiences. Some of these models may indeed come relatively close to the way that God really is, but they are certainly not infallible and inerrant. We construct our God-models in our image. As Spong says, "If horses had gods, they would look and act like horses."

 

I believe we do (and should) update our God-models from time to time as new data is considered and as we progress as humans. This is where I differ from my conservative brothers and sisters who think it best to "conserve" God-models from the past, either from the OT or from the models given to us by the Church. God may or may not be immutable, but our concepts of God certainly do change over time. Nevertheless, even our updated God-models are only that - models - and will most likely be discarded by future generations as idols or misunderstandings of our time and culture.

 

You wrote: I believe that responsible and mature faith must begin with the honest and unemotional reality that God has left us absolutely nothing by way of proof to His/Her/Its/Their existence. We would love to hang onto emotional concepts that circumvent this but, in the end, we cannot.

 

Maybe. :) But this raises the question, DrDon, of what you mean by "God"? What is the God-model that you are using? I'll be honest and say that my God-model is a reasoning Mind behind and in the universe that has lead to life and consciousness. Is my God-concept ontological true? I don't know. I don't require 100% absolute ontological, scientific truth before I have faith. If I did, I would never have faith. :)

 

What kind of proof would you like to see for God's existence? I suspect that it depends on what your concept of God is like, does it not?

 

Some want to see miracles. Some want God to protect them from all harm. Some want a universe where nothing bad ever happens as proof that an all-loving God rules from heaven. Some whan assurance that no matter what happens here, they have a promise of a blessed afterlife. Some want God to bless them with health, riches, power, or a long life. Some want God to be their "genie in the bottle" who will do what they ask if they pray long enough or right enough or often enough or say the magic words of "in Jesus' name". We all have God-models. But they are not God.

 

So I agree with you that, in the end, each of us is faced with our own choices for the existence and nature of God. But, in my opinion, whether or not our God-models reflect how God really is (if he/she/they/it/we actually exist), I don't think all God-models are of equal value or benefit to humanity. Some God-models reflect our human desire for greed, for more land or wealth, and we believe God sanctions that, even war, because God has favorites that he wants to bless. Some God-models reflect holiness codes, and we believe that what God really wants is purity. Some God-models reflect an ultimate "us vs. them" with "true" worshippers or followers and that God will separate people according to their God-models, perhaps damning most to hell. Or, unfortunately, calling the "true" believers to rid the world of infidels. So I don't believe that all God-models are beneficial to us or our world.

 

In my bias, what I believe we need is a God-model that is beneficial to us and our world by calling us to compassion and justice. Yes, now I sound like a flaming liberal. :D That is the kind of God-model that I see in the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Is God "really" this way? I have no idea. I hope so. All I know is that this God-model, though I suspect it is an idol, works for me. It transforms me, not because I can "prove" it scientifically or ontologically, but because it makes a difference in my life, hopefully for the better.

 

BillMc

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I don't think all God-models are of equal value or benefit to humanity.

------------------------

 

If it is true as you said Bill that our God model is the lens (paraphrase) with which we search for proof of God then isn't proof of God irrelevant and since we choose our God model isn't it only our thoughts and behavior that can be valued.

 

I don't mean to dismiss the value of 'personal' relationship with ultimate reality but to focus attention on evaluating - isn't this where we always end up - our behavior towards each other. That the personality chooses a God that validates our own inclinations and that the way to change is through relationship with others and not through God's teachings?

 

Dutch

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>>If it is true as you said Bill that our God model is the lens (paraphrase) with which we search for proof of God then isn't proof of God irrelevant and since we choose our God model isn't it only our thoughts and behavior that can be valued.

 

I may have misspoke, Dutch. I didn't mean that our God-model is what we use to "search for proof of God", but, rather, that our God-model is how we explain and preserve our experiences of God. In this sense, yes, I do think that it is behavior (which often does come from our thoughts and beliefs) that is the "proof in the pudding".

 

>>I don't mean to dismiss the value of 'personal' relationship with ultimate reality but to focus attention on evaluating - isn't this where we always end up - our behavior towards each other.

 

I think so. In biblical terms, if we say we love God, but don't love one another, we lie. And the converse may be radically true -- if we love one another, then we are loving God also. What do you think?

 

>>That the personality chooses a God that validates our own inclinations and that the way to change is through relationship with others and not through God's teachings?

 

Hmmm. I don't doubt that we do tend to choose a God-model that reflects our own inclinations and values for where we are. This is certainly the case in my life. So I think there can be the tendency for each of us to create God in our own image and then enthrone that image in our heart and life. And this can be, IMO, detrimental if that God-model serves us and us alone. This is why I think we need community. Community can keep us from getting "too far afield" with our God-model, calling us to be responsible to one another, keeping us from becoming too idiosyncratic, which, unfortunately, can lead to cultish beliefs and practices.

 

For instance, I have an "experience" of God that I believe (as much as I can) is transcendent, that goes beyond words, that "proved" to me (I'm not sure I like that phrase) that God is real. But I don't preach this experience as doctrine. Nor do I make it binding upon another. It is MY experience. In my experience, God seemed to me to be pure love and acceptance. I have no statistics, but I think many people either experience or see God this way.

 

But if my experience had led me to believe that I am the only true Christian and that everyone else is going to hell, then community is right and helpful to me to say, "Bill, you need to rethink your experience, for it can be harmful." This in no way means that the majority is right. It simply means that we are accountable and responsible to one another in a good way. So while I may claim a "personal" relationship with God, if that "personal" relationship leads to bad behavior towards others, I need to be called on it. My "personal" relationship with what I call God should not harm other "persons". Is this a value judgment? Certainly. But sometimes that's all we have, isn't it?

 

BillM

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I believe that responsible and mature faith must begin with the honest and unemotional reality that God has left us absolutely nothing by way of proof to His/Her/Its/Their existence. We would love to hang onto emotional concepts that circumvent this but, in the end, we cannot.

 

DrDon,

 

It seems to me that your statement is valid only to the extent of your personal definition of God. In my definition, God is existence itself and therefore beyond question as far as proof. That to me is not hung on emotional concepts or any faith i might have but rather on the ISness of Life itself or as some might refer to as the "suchness" of the moment.

 

Now to speak of attributes from such a view as i have pointed to is not to build on that which is unprovable since Life speaks for itself in every moment. Life itself does not speak of an evil or good God, of a supernatural or natural God, of God inspired or not inspired. Life merely IS and it is only mankind's conceptional assignments and attempts at defining the indefinability of such a diversity of moments that creates such a diversity of God-models, explanations and stories as we have today. Strip away these models, stories, explanations, and human assigned attributes of that which is created and what is left is Life itself without opposites which are often expressed by those who have done so as Light, Love, Peace, and Beauty in all its diversity and manifestations.

 

In effect, i have most likely said nothing meaningful to many but to your conclusion "In the end, each of us are faced with our own choices for the existence and nature of God", perhaps what one deems their own choices for the existence and nature of God are merely an evolution of an illusive conditioned and evolved 'you'/'me' that is to shortly pass with the story to make way for the next chapter. And to your conclusion, "What is important to try to remember is that it is all utterly and perfectly unprovable from the very onset", it seems to me that perhaps what really is most important is recognizing the conditioning or traditions of men from the subtle silent words of Life itself.

 

Just some different thoughts from another view,

Joseph

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>> I didn't mean that our God-model is what we use to "search for proof of God", but, rather, that our God-model is how we explain and preserve our experiences of God.

 

To me these are the same . We have an experience. Reflecting on the experience often leads us astray because we look for meaning where there is none. I agree that stories are a great way to hold our experiences but I would emphasize the fact that we made up the story to hold a memory of our experience. To say that "I felt as if I was exactly where God wanted me to be." may influence the rest of my life but it is only a meaning I created in community.

 

I don't want to butt heads about reality. I just think experiences come first. What we think and say afterwards is not the experience. What I say and think about God is afterwards and is not God.

 

imHo :) opinion truth can only be discovered, as you say, through community, conversation, and context..

 

dutch

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Don,

 

Your post reminds me of a podcast I listen to called 'Reasonable Doubts' and a segment called "God Thinks Like You", which by it's title, you may have guessed, presents a number of examples where God's mind seems to remarkably fit what different people believe.

 

I have no proof that God does or doesn't exist. I have no idea if there is a God or if there isn't. But frankly, I don't care. What I see as 'working' in my life and others is that peace is a good thing, social justice is a good thing, relationship with friends and family are good things, and worrying about other things in life is usually a waste of time. If there is a God, I am sure that God would prefer I live a life this way rather than get any definition of God right.

 

Cheers

Paul

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BillM-

 

"...this raises the question, DrDon, of what you mean by "God"? What is the God-model that you are using? I'll be honest and say that my God-model is a reasoning Mind behind and in the universe that has lead to life and consciousness...I don't require 100% absolute ontological, scientific truth before I have faith. If I did, I would never have faith."

 

 

I agree fully. I have 'fleshed' out my concept of 'God' in my own way, that serves my mind and, therefore, my needs. I'm not sure if you are truly asking me to offer that up. Others in this topic have seen my thoughts on that way too many times to re-issue but, with a few extra 'attributes', I believe the same core as you have described. I am not sure what you mean by models as indicators. There is only the physical universe (including our wee planet and the so-far-unique life upon it) by which to observe. If you are referring to the wide range of human (or animal) interaction as being indicators of a model, that is quite another thing.

 

JosephM-

 

We will always stand at this same precipice in terms. I have come to fully appreciate your stance on Life/Existence and God/Existence. I think we merely have an emotional veil between us in terms. I believe that in the already mentioned depth of my overstated beliefs is the connection between us. It is only the wording that either satisfies or doesn't. The core is the same.

 

Dutch-

 

You are a steady rock. Short and sweet, clearly well versed in your view into what each of us 'cart out' as newbies here. I am truly impressed by the unswerving stance of the stalwart old guard here. It makes things very challenging and humbling. So glad you've taken the time to remain in the 'dog-pile' of new and enthusiastic voices. Thank you for that!

 

PaulS-

 

Right in there with you! You are one step further into the honesty of the issue by stating "I don't care". You have it square on the nose with your consistent voice for the true core of the message of love, compassion, decency and any other word that can be lumped into that anti-gravity grouping! Spong states that in 'Loving Wastefully" we are truly exercising the 'in the image' of God. It is always good to read your words that cut to the chase.

 

I believe that there is something to be said for the idea of 'motive' in the myriad approaches to God. What would a 'God' gain by 'doing' things a certain way? What would we gain by setting up our own personal versions of God, Its nature, mind, wants, needs... It is very important to look at this rather legalistically.

 

I suspect that the'motive' behind such heartless statements as made by Dobson and Huckabee after the latest atrocity in Connecticut and those that Robertson made after hurricane Sandy are this, "See! If all of you people were like me, this wouldn't have happened!". The problem is the utter lack of proof, for or against. I think most of us would agree that even if the entire planet were all clones of Dobson, Huckabee and, especially, Robertson, the existence/occurrence of natural disasters, disease and everything else that 'goes with the territory' of a planet that can sustain life would continue.

 

So, what do we do? PaulS, you've got the ticket! Let's all defy a bit of gravity everyday!

 

Wishing you all a lovely Sunday!

 

BillM, thanks for starting things rolling. If you'd like to know my stance on things, I'm 'viewable' in lots of other Spong threads. If you'd like, we could discuss peer to peer.

 

Best!

 

Donald

Edited by DrDon

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DrDon,

 

I hope that I didn't come across as a conservative, fundamentalist in my post. I am probably about as far from orthodox Christianity as one can get doctrinally (except for, perhaps, our dear Jack Spong), but there are still a few areas where I use the language of traditional Christianity, but often have to explain how *I* am using the words. So my gift, unlike Dutch's, is saying in one thousand words what should have taken ten. ;)

 

There is a sense in which I think PaulS is right. Whether a person thinks that God doesn't exist or doesn't care, or whether another person believes that God exist but is so transcendent, the result is the same -- God cannot be known. Yet there is a very large segment of humanity that claims experiences of God and I don't know what to do with these claims (other than what the New Atheists say should be done with them). Many of these people, despite the validity of their claims to know God, are, as PaulS has said, loving people. Love rises to the top in their lives and manifests itself as peace, social justice, compassion, etc.

 

Now, I admit that perhaps the only terms that we need to bind us together is peace, social justice, compassion, etc. As long as we agree on those or work towards those, that may be all we need. If that is the case, then maybe many people will let "God-language" and "God-models" go. We will, therefore, become solely humanists. I think, and this is only my opinion, that this is where Spong is going with his work, a new Christianity where God is no more than a synonym for human love and compassion. God is us at our human best. It is indeed an interest premise. But this does fly in the face of God as the "More", as something or Someone larger than ourselves that binds us together. And I just don't know if most people, especially those who have a religious bent, are going to give that up.

 

On the other hand (I have eight of them because I've had four children), I definately disagree with most theistic "attributes" of God. I especially disagree with the "God is holy" model that set up holiness and purity codes, creating an us versus them mentality in religion, and think that Jesus countered this model with the "God is compassion" model, which can foster oneness.

 

I will look through the other threads, DrDon, in order to get to know you better. Nice chatting with you and I'm looking forward to our relationship!

 

BillM

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If that is the case, then maybe many people will let "God-language" and "God-models" go. We will, therefore, become solely humanists. I think, and this is only my opinion, that this is where Spong is going with his work, a new Christianity where God is no more than a synonym for human love and compassion.

--------------------------

Bill,

 

I don't dismiss the language of story telling, liturgy and worship. Recently when a visiting pastor tied communion to Genesis 1:1 I responded emotionally because that was so much closer to one way I might tell a story that holds value for me, to what makes emotional sense to me. I just can't say that I know that what words I use really describe 'God'.

 

Dutch

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Dutch,

 

I understand. And I'm not saying that a new Christianity without "God" isn't the right path. It may be for many people. I'm just saying that many people will not find it appealing because, as DrDon points out, they want or need a God-model.

 

But this is why, for me, Jesus is a mediator. Not because he died to pay for my sins, as I don't believe that. But he offers me words that, for me and my needs/wants, do describe God: Father, compassion, Spirit. Granted, I have to fill these words with my own meaning, which I try to do from the rest of Jesus' teachings and my own experiences.

 

I guess what I'm trying to do is what one theologian pointed to when he said something like, "God is the One that we cannot speak of, that we must speak of."

 

As always, just my 2c.

 

BillM

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This is my point in sticking to the reality of the unproven. By it's very nature it does not carry a universal value, and certainly cannot move forward into further and further defined 'attributes'. The courage of the agnostic really stands here. It is, by no means, a form of wishy-washy cowardice. It is not fraught with the all-to-common baggage of the atheist's rejection. It does shine a clear light upon myself. I believe in my God construct, because I want to. The spun out nature, after that fact, is but a continuation of that desire, that want. It serves my emotional and self-created spiritual needs. It is self-serving but without the usual negatives. How else can we truly distill such things down?

 

Assigning enormous sequential attributes to something unprovable has no effect upon the reality of the core. It is a process that is just as self-serving as my own. I'd like to think that a few rules along the way, encouraged by incredibly insightful messengers of human decency, can steer us into areas of greater harmony and inclusivity than other, more gravity prone, paths may lead. We can see that living in a state of war, violence, disease, poverty and death is far less desirable than the opposite values. It is only a few that benefit from the former and the greater masses that benefit from the latter. The former tends to corrupt even the fabric of our global environment while the latter holds much greater potential for a healthier planet.

 

The message to humankind that urges us to Love EVERYTHING, in all it's forms, including our own kind, is problematic for the gravity heavy exclusionist mind. For you, PaulS, this is the battleground. You are correct. Application speaks infinitely more than theory. The inter-connected 'WE' holds the humility necessary for the defiance of gravity.

 

The message of Yeshua, and so many more, has been this gravity defying leap. As in 'repentance', it is merely turning around and going the opposite (or another) direction.

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