I have written, on and off, on my blog, Travels of a New Christian, since 2012. In fact, it has been over a year since my last blog. Much has happened since then, not the least of which is that I have completed my first book, The Road to Spiritual Iron.
Recent events and revelations have brought me back to my blog to start a series that I believe is long overdue. It’s exploratory. I am not asserting that what follows in this series is of a foundational nature in my theology, nor am I using this series to attack Christianity. However, our Western culture had moved so voraciously, since the 1960’s, in a direction other than that of the Christian hopeful, that it appears to be a good time to examine some of foundational characteristics of what has been called Christianity since the Roman Empire established Nicene Christianity as its state religion in 380 A.D., with the Edict of Thessalonica.
I will present this series in the form of a hypothesis, and I am confident that it will disturb those who consider themselves Christian; from the most conservative to the most liberal. I ask for the reader’s patience, and most especially, I ask for their open mind, as I am going to take us to a place that few have considered as a feasible, in fact, a divinely-appointed future for mankind. In order to do this, I am to begin with the simple concept of God, along with His possible characteristics.
Putting aside, for the moment, that several religions have already delineated the characteristics and personalities of their god(s), if one were to describe a god(s) whose characteristics reflected the sensory world, and not the spiritual world or any other immaterial world that is non-sensory, what would this (these) god(s) be like?
It seems the first thought would be to establish a number; a quantity. After all, the thought of continually inserting text surrounded by parentheses is wearisome. One god, two, three? How many gods would there actually be in order to create and maintain all of creation? I’m going to jump ship again in noting that such an exercise would yield an infinite number of options. There could literally be a god for every particular, or in retailing jargon, stock keeping unit (SKU), of all that exists. Let’s drop this matter for now.
Moving on… but I just can’t seem to yet. It’s interesting that man, through his primordial, self-awareness renaissance, came to the conclusion that first, there was such a thing as a god, then second, that there were, in all likelihood, multiple gods. From there, as time moved along, things settled down until about three to four thousand years ago when a few cultures managed to whittle them down to one; or at least only one that they worshipped over all others. Interesting again… I guess this would account for tragedy and bad luck. I mean, if I were a self-respecting god, I’d be more than a little pissed that I was considered a second-rate god by some slovenly, puny bunch of mortals, and not the prime stuff. I’d toss a lightning bolt or two myself.
Now, sticking to the lazy and generally accepted notion that there is but one God, let’s address this “worship” thing for a moment… Why would one worship a god? Using the word “god” as a name, with a capital G, it seems fairly obvious that one would worship a god over, say nature, because mankind was more than a little unintelligent, and cognition & reason had not really found its oars yet. Mankind was much like a rowboat without the oars in those early days; caught in the flow of the chance of life much like Tom Sawyer on the Mississippi River. No one knew where they were going, nor cared one bit; except in the context of survival. Where’s the food, shelter, and security? Things were pretty primal and basic back in those days.
Perhaps, they worshipped God because they simply could not explain anything in any other way. The world intruded upon them in a clamorous manner of sight and sound, provision and starvation, life and death; and primitive mankind had no sensible explanation. There just had to be something like themselves, yet something so much more than them that was responsible for their experiences as a mortal creature of sentience. I say, “like themselves”, because it would be illogical to think that such a conclusion would propel a rock to divinity. Yes, we did consider the assets of nature as possible gods, but that didn’t last for long; too rational. No, the thing we had in mind was more like us, but not like us. After all, we couldn’t make light come and go, dark come and go, celestial faces travel through the sky day and night, wind blow, rain fall, thunder resound, and lightning crash. We also couldn’t make food appear from nothing, nor carve out sheltering caves from solid rock. And though we sensed the urgency of sex, and practiced the art faithfully on a regular basis, we surely had little idea about how a child came into being. Uga must have been quite surprised with that whole birth thing. She was just bending over to pick up a flower. God was, therefore, born in the minds of mankind. That was surely the only cognition that made sense to a self-aware hominid.
This if fun! We have, so far, a god who is responsible for everything the tribe could not comprehend at all, and that was everything, and later could comprehend everything as something from God; once this god was concretely born in the tribe’s mind, of course. Until that moment, they just kept running around in circles yelling “Juba, juba!” So, this takes us closer to the characteristics of this god, and I would imagine that everything that man gave thanks for would be a great place to start the list of attributes of God.
Man was alive. That’s got to be a reason for thanking God. There was food, shelter, security, social networking (no smartphones yet), and the penultimate relief of a good orgasm. All good reasons to thank God. There has to be a relationship between why man gave thanks to God and just who God was in reality, and I do mean reality. Early god and the gifts that flowed from God were decisive to the survival of mankind. This was more than serious stuff; it was headlining stuff. The marquee always, in those days, read, “Now Showing: God!”
You know how Hollywood will get stuck on some actor, and there proceeds a seemingly endless parade of this actor as Hannibal, this actor as Philip Marlowe, this actor as Gertrude Stein, and this actor as the Grinch. Hollywood squeezes all the juice right out of the fruit until there’s nothing left but pith and skin. Then, toss him they do and move on to the next. Kind of like that today. “Now Showing: Man.”
So, it would follow that man thought it wise to give this god some measure of thanks; to give worship. I’m sure with each divinely-appointed gift came that measure of thanks. I am also sure, knowing mankind, that it evolved into a more or less lazy kind of thanks; the “I’m taking you for granted” kind of thanks. Aaah! Know I see how worship, the authoritarian kind of worship got into the game. Ugo, husband of Uga, didn’t give proper praise to God after running down an antelope, and a lioness came along and stole the tribe’s hard-earned food for the week. The tribe’s starving eyes of suspicion soon fell upon him, and with the alpha male’s approval, Ugo was served for supper the next day. From that poignant moment forward, no one thought not to properly praise God for his provision, and there evolved the concept of a schedule for worshiping their god so as to ensure the god’s good graces. It was the alpha male, along with his busy-body wife, who were in charge of making sure proper worship happened on schedule. Religion was born, and since this is a Christian blog, let’s talk Christianese and apply its doctrines as we move along.
If man gives thanks to God, God must be a sort of good fellow, and since we think much of ourselves, we saw this fellow, God, as much like us; perhaps even in our own image. I’m happy to come to such a conclusion so early in this contest. It shortens this blog by a few hundred-thousand words. God is like man, but more so. Well, I guess the next question has to do with that “more so” part.
First, that “more so” part can only be expressed in the human language and is thus limited by man’s intellect; leaving our understanding of God, as a reflection of the sensory world, to somewhere between a simple element and a prokaryote.
If man were to detest God, for all of the evil that is in the world, then God must be some sort of bad fellow, and since we think too much of ourselves, we see this fellow, God, as much like ourselves; evil. So, man and God are both good and evil.
I’m merely reporting the historical analysis of three millennium of the finest intellects of mankind. Personally, I don’t believe the bad part about God, because I don’t believe that God was made in man’s image. I also don’t believe that man was made in God’s image, but that’s an argument for later. I also don’t believe that man is evil, and that’s also another argument for later.
Since this is my blog, I’m going to declare God “good” and move forward.
I want to take a leap here into a hypothesis that might just reflect back to this first discussion regarding the characteristics of a god. Here goes.
Try to consider the possibility that God created and continues to create only good things. (pause) And try to imagine that no good thing can stray from being a good thing; for to see such happen would render God as less than good himself. (pause) This fits. This is easy logic. Now consider, therefore, that mankind is thus good and has not strayed from the course that God set forth for mankind when created. (pause) Mankind is evolving; this we must acknowledge, for man has changed in all ways physically and intellectually since recorded historical evidence began, and therefore, this evolution is of God’s will. Here comes the hard part for many. Now imagine that where man is today and where man will be tomorrow is also in God’s plan and of God’s will. (pause) For many, it might be about time to get out the barf bag. I understand the concerted concern.
Is it not fact, we cry out in our anguish, that the society of Western mankind – you know those guys: los supremos – is rapidly abandoning God, with many even declaring God as “dead”? With this self-evident, how can mankind be on God’s path and under God’s will? This certainly cannot be good, which in turn, would toss the whole hypothesis out before it even gets started.
I’ve always enjoyed the sentence, “God is dead.” as if God knocked god-self off after being rejected by one of the created. Or even better yet, as if Friedrich Nietzsche personally did God in at some Mixed Martial Arts event. And then there’s the contradiction. If God is now dead, there must have been a time when God was alive.
I believe that people have a big problem with man ‘s relationship with God because of two things. First, mounting distortions within Christianity of the true nature of God has produced an incomprehensible and unsolvable problem in comprehending and thus having a meaningful relationship with the true god. We see this especially evident in the fact that there is an authoritative elite of clergy and intellectuals that have been appointed by the previous assortment of clergy and intellectuals as the sole arbitrators of God’s truths. We believe somehow that God is so inadequate in God’s ability to create, that “good” is more closely defined as “barely adequate”. According to these elites, though man has evolved, God is still as far away from mankind as God was in the beginning. It’s a lovely way to describe power.
And second, people focus solely upon the indoctrination of the particulars of a culture – not a surprise – that is of their own circumstances and generations, and thus refuse to consider the big picture. Remember, if your Christian, God doesn’t think in minutes, days, years, centuries, or any other value of time. God isn’t even in time; end of sentence.
The particulars. What am I talking about? A particular is any one thing in creation; an element being rather base; a porpoise quite complex. Particulars might be a set that yield another particular, but it is always that stock keeping unit that is part of the library of God’s creation. That’s the physicality of particulars. But there’s another type of particular, and this type resides in the human intellect; both unconscious and conscious. Here, I’m talking about the mostly common events of both public and private action and discourse, that any culture focuses its collective consciousness upon.
For example, in today’s world – the modern, Western world that is – much debate is given over to the sexual revolution in all of its forms. Also, the issues of family and marriage seem of great import. And what about the authority and size of government? Some demand more; some less. Guns, immigration, religion, race, etc., are all social particulars. These are the particulars of the cultural impetus that shapes the culture to come – albeit near future – of post-modern man.
Let’s first deal with the second problem that man has in fostering a proper relationship with God; that being mankind’s sense of the particulars. Getting that out of the way will permit one, who is willing to consider my hypothesis in full, to better assess what I am to say about the first and primary problem; authority, and its impending fate as the means to the salvific end of Christianity.
I’ll address the issue of Particulars in my next blog.
God Bless – Reese