Uncertainty vs Doubt and issues with ‘He’.

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I used to love this sort of thing. Love it. Boom, slam dunk, take that stupid Christians kind of loved it. Debate over.

But now I look at it and just shake my head and the sheer straw-man-ing. I believe in evolution. I don’t believe that a billion Indians are going to hell. I don’t think that people die young because God needs another angel.

I don’t believe in the God that is represented there at all. And I’m fairly sure that I’m not alone in that.

But this is the way that many people understand Christianity and I really can’t blame them. We do tend to understand the world in simplistic and unsophisticated sound bites because it’s easier, right? Why bother trying to understand something more deeply when you’ve already nailed it. That’s not meant to sound snarky at all even though it might sound like it. If you think that you understand something fully and you’re not particularly interested in it anyway, then why on earth would you seek further clarification?

Recently Stephen Fry (isn’t he fantastic? I was heart broken last month when he announced his marriage. He may be gay but I’ve long held out hope that he and I would end up together. Dreams shattered. I’ll content myself with memorising the script of Peter’s Friends instead) was asked what he would say to God and his resulting feelings about the problem of suffering apparently annihilated God, according to some corners of the internet. As if these problems have never been thought of and agonised over and dissected by people for hundreds of years. I’m not criticising him at all but the problem of evil= no God because we can’t conceptualise the answer is problematic for me.

I liked this article by John Dickson. This sentence sums up (for me, although I don’t think it was its aim) why arguing about these things is ultimately unproductive

“…if you find yourself stuck with the intellectual conviction that there must be a Powerful Mind, you will puzzle through both the beauty and the pain, unable to accept Dawkins’s universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication”

And vice-versa. You will find evidence to suit your world view.  I don’t do apologetics and have no interest in arguing the case for God, as such. When someone says that God is as real as Star Wars (which happened last week) then I go ‘OK, that’s fine, your choice’.

As I see it, ‘God’ isn’t a being, or a thing and most definitely isn’t a ‘he’. The personification that we all fall back on doesn’t help us understand the complexity. This book helped me enormously in understanding this, because a life time of stereotypical thoughts (as in the above meme) can be hugely hard to break away from, even if you’re consciously trying to do so.

I think that the use of the word ‘he’ when referring to god and the father imagery associated with it has done more harm than good, with many people finding this triggering rather than comforting and reassuring. I know that the writers of the Bible needed to make connections that we can relate to and it’s certainly easier to personify instead of trying to wrap our minds around what God may actually be, but I wonder how many people have been put off the whole thing because of their inability to conceptualise a ‘Father in heaven’ who is unconditional, all loving, non judgmental and who we aren’t constantly feeling disapproval from.

Meanwhile, I had an unproductive week last week dipping into some Hebrew to try and find out whether ‘father’ was what the Bible is actually referring to with all the God talk. Didn’t get far but I’m really good at pronouncing ‘ruach Elohim’ now so that’s a win.

I suppose that, given God’s concentration with helping the powerless, the needy and the at risk, it makes sense to have a ‘man’ in charge because patriarchy and all that but still. It’s not necessarily an intuitive bond for everyone.

So, no solutions here tonight! I’m learning that ‘doubt’ and ‘uncertainty’ can operate in very different spheres. I don’t doubt to any large degree that God exists now days; I suppose that you could say that I’m fairly firm in my faith. But within that there is still a huge amount of uncertainty and questioning and eyebrow furrowed puzzling.

And I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing. It’s just the way things are.

 

 

26 thoughts on “Uncertainty vs Doubt and issues with ‘He’.

  1. Piper Chapman is commenting on the “blind faith” simplistic believers, whom you may not care for either; it’s not clear that she therefore deplores more sophisticated spiritual seekers such as yourself.

    • You know right after I clicked ‘publish’ I realised that I have set my self up as ‘Oh so sophisticated’ and had a bad case of posters remorse. So I’m expecting to be told that I sound like a know it all wanker because I kind of think I might have come off like that. Damn. Too late to edit now!

      • Wasn’t thinking that at all. Your brand of spirituality is wiser than most; at issue was whether non-believers jam all Christians into the same simplistic cart. You wouldn’t deserve that, and I imagine Ms Chapman would agree.

      • Didn’t think that at all! Very thoughtful post and I enjoyed it. Sometimes “christians” bug the daylights out of this Padre who is simply trying to be a Christ-Follower… Sorry about the Stephen Fry dream going up in smoke 😞

  2. I can totally see you and Stephen Fry together. Even with the gay thing. I think if he met you he’d drop all and propose instantly.

  3. For what it’s worth, I didn’t think of words like “sophisticated” or “wanker” when I read this. I just found it interesting, because my way of thinking is obviously very different to yours in some ways, even though we agree on many other things.

    I was interested to check out the mysticism book at Amazon, and can see how that is a very valid way to know God, but it doesn’t seem to be “my” way. But surely God is so “big” that he can be known from many many different perspectives, so it’s not all that surprising that two random people would approach him differently. I will enjoy and appreciate seeing him a little from your perspective as you continue to report on your journey here. Thanks.

    • Thanks UnkleE. That was the book, along with Borg’s Convictions, that solidified every thing for me in December so very valuable to me as it turns out! Is ‘your’ way a more personalised God?
      Keep in mind I’m still making this up as I go along. I may well have changed some of my thoughts by next week. It’s all about evolution 😉

      • I wouldn’t say more or less personal, just different. I don’t seem to do mysticism or worship very well – I don’t know if I even do face-to-face relationships very well. My christianity is built more on the life and teachings of Jesus as he lived in Galilee – fairly down to earth, getting on with life in a practical way and trying to think rightly about things. I don’t really enjoy church all that much, and ritual, liturgy or worship even less. So I think of God as being personal, and I pray to him in a simple practical personal way, but I don’t think I do devotion to him much. But all that’s just me. There’s no reason why we have to respond to God that way, and your way is surely just as OK, just different as you are different to me.

        And I agree that we should all be evolving in our faith and response.

        • Thanks- I’m always interested in the different ways that people experience their faith, either hands on or in a more mystical way.

      • Oh yeah… I have Carl’s book as well. He has led a couple of retreats I have been on. His journey of faith is fascinating and he is also pretty cool and down to earth in person! Glad it touched your heart!

  4. I have no desire to get all apologetic with anyone anymore. Heck, it’s difficult enough trying to have a friendly dialogue with atheists when most of them have already placed the possibility of God’s existence beyond the realm of possibility. No common ground. It’s enough for me to say everyone is right in their own mind. 🙂

  5. I don’t think you sound like a know-it-all; I think you sound like someone I want to be friends with. I’ve greatly enjoyed Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” and “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” as great books expanding, rather than shrinking, God. I just finished another great book, “Jesus Feminist” by Sarah Bessey which does an excellent job discussing that Father in the Clouds concept and issues of patriarchy and religion. I’d also recommend the Alcoholics Anonymous book as having a solid and “outside” perspective on faith and religion, even for people who have never taken a drink or tried a drug, 12-step literature could teach many churches and atheists both a lot about faith and spirituality. I don’t think God minds at all if I call Her Him or call He She, my God is much to big to worry about petty pronouns or the constrictions or inadequate language. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Thanks for your comment. I think that you’re right that we need to work on expanding rather than shrinking God. That’s interesting about the AA book- I’d have never thought to look into that!

    • But I always finding myself falling back on it! Despite the fact that I don’t love the description, I always use it unless I’m consciously trying not to. Habit, I guess.

  6. What an interesting post! Thanks so much for visiting my blog as it gave me a chance to visit yours! Jesus said we must be like little children (to understand things of a spiritual nature). When I was a child and reading my great big illustrated children’s bible, I came to the conclusion that God was neither male nor female and he was both. When I became a young adult and new Christian, I dismissed the conclusion as being naive, now I know less but am closer to God and feel instinctively, I was right the first time. 🙂 I love the link to book which impacted you. This is now on my Amazon wish list.

  7. Where are your posts? I was thinking of you all through Easter. Big time for Jesus and all….

    XXX

    • That’s hilarious 🙂 I don’t seem to have many posts at the moment- nothing interesting to say. OH MY GOD I’VE BECOME A CHRISTIAN AND BORING AT THE SAME TIME!! I’m a boring Christian. But I still say ‘fuck’ too much so there’s that.

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