Posts Tagged ‘faces of God’

A Beingless Being

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:13-14a

It may seem odd to discuss God as a beingless being in a series about the Faces of God. The following will sound more like a discussion of a faceless God. In fact, that is exactly what I intend to convey. The reader will have to wade through the obscure language, as I know of no other way to communicate this foundational, undefinable aspect of God.

A being implies someone who can be known, described, and even predicted, at least to an extent. Human beings can be known, at least to a degree that is usually comfortable. Even though human beings are created in the image of God, the opposite cannot be completely true. The only place where we know God is created in the image of human beings in the minds of humans; and that God is but the limited image of a limitless being. God, as Spirit, enters and animates all living creatures, including us. Father Richard Rohr, in his daily devotion for April 2, 2017, writes, “Spirit is forever captured in matter, and matter is the place where Spirit shows itself.” God has no visible, tangible, physical being except in and through God’s creation. In the book of Exodus, God speaks to Moses through a burning bush on top of a mountain. The people below see only dark clouds and lightening and hear only thunder. When Moses asks for God’s name to share with the Israelites, God says, “I am who I am.” The Israelites wanted to know God as a being like themselves, but God refused to be known in such a limited way.

All attempts to know or name God ultimately fall short, because once we have given something a name or description, we have limited its being. While we are more comfortable with that which we can describe, God resists confinement to any limited form. God assumes an infinite number of faces. Indeed, this series of Life Notes is exploring some of the ways God manifests to us. None of these faces exposes the entirety of God, but all of them provide glimpses into God’s unfathomable nature. Above all, God is mysterious. Thus, God is a beingless being – God cannot be known as we know another person, the trees of the forest, or the ingredients for our favorite casserole. In this sense, God remains distant from our conscious understanding. Yet, God lives and experiences through us, so God is also closer than our next breath. When we look at the infinite variety and diversity in nature, and when we understand that God expresses in every part of creation, we begin to imagine the incomprehensible vastness of God’s beingless being.

God is a God of endless possibilities, not an unchangeable rock. Even rocks change over time. Even mountains crumble. Rivers change course. Our limited experience of time makes some things of the earth appear eternal, but that is simply not true in the context of eternity. If there is a constant quality to God, it is that God is constantly changing, shifting, and forever creating new tapestries of being. God shepherds all of creation through the on-going process of birth, growth, death, and rebirth, ever transforming everything into something new. Being less; being more; simply being.

God will be what God will be.

Note: this is the fifth in a series of Life Notes on the Faces of God

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A Plural God

 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;”

Genesis 1:26a

The image of God as a stern, bearded, all-powerful, white man is primarily an invention of the West. Certainly, there are biblical references to this fearsome, limited image of God, but when considering the references to God in their totality, it is not a very accurate picture. The name generally translated as God in the Bible is Elohim; the name translated as Lord in the Bible is Adonai. These are the two most common scriptural designations for God, and both are plural nouns in their original Hebrew. The plurality of the names has been lost in translation, as witnessed by our common understanding of God and Lord as singular beings. Some other references are feminine. The point is that God expresses in a number of different ways and is not confined to any of them.

It should not be surprising that our One God manifests in a plurality of ways. It is true of much of creation, including us. I am a father, husband, co-worker, brother, and friend. In each of these roles, I express myself differently, even though each is a unique expression of one being. Intelligence is not a single aspect, but is a combination of intellectual, emotional, and instinctual intelligences, each expressing in unique ways and providing distinct perspectives to a single body of knowledge. There are numerous phases to each day: sunrise, morning, noon, evening, sunset, and night. All are discrete parts of one day.

The first biblical hint that God is a plurality occurs in Genesis 1:26, where it is written, “Then God said, Let us make humankind in our image.” The writing is distinctly and unmistakably plural. The question, then, is if God is One, as many of us believe, who are the others? This question is often reconciled by the religious doctrine of the Trinity – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In short, the Trinity names the three persons, or personas, or faces of the One God. I will address the Trinity later in this series, so that is all I will say at this point, except that God appears to manifest in multiple ways, always in relation to other expressions of God or parts of creation. Whether we believe God expresses in one, three, or many ways, it is clear to me that our One God has many faces.

The observation that God has many faces is encouraging. If our God is all-inclusive and if we are all created in God’s likeness, then the being of God must include the infinite variations among all of us: all colors, all cultures, all genders, all ages, all beliefs. That is good news for those who feel excluded from, unworthy of, or otherwise unable to access the all-inclusive love of God. In the Genesis creation story, God looks over the whole of creation and sees that it is good. We, on the other hand, look over the whole of creation and label some good and some not-so-good, some righteous and some evil, some like us and some not like us. We cannot begin to know and experience the depth of God’s love for us until we learn to see God’s creation as God sees it: wonderful and beautiful in all its awesome and infinite diversity. We are an inseparable part of one world expressing in countless ways, just like the image and likeness of the One God from whom we and all creation flow.

Our One God expresses in a plurality of ways.

Note: this is the third in a series of Life Notes on the Faces of God.

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