Monday, February 7, 2011

Conceptions of God

Probably one of the extremely few points all the major religions agree upon is that God is beyond complete understanding by humans. We might be able to discern many of God's specific attributes or perceive pieces of His character, but, as God is infinite, we are unable to fathom Him in His totality.

Several days ago, while just randomly surfing the Internet, I came across a website. It was kind of a New Age spirituality blog. Unfortunately, that is not a movement I identify with in any way or am even interested in (no offense to anyone who is; I having nothing against New Age beliefs, I just don't relate to them) so I did not think to bookmark the site. However, I did quickly take a peek around and ended up reading a couple paragraphs concerning our flawed perceptions of God. It suggested that phrases such as "I love God" are ultimately pointless because you do not actually love God Himself, but only the conception of God you've constructed in your mind. Basically, this author of this site felt that you cannot have any feelings toward, and, therefore, any relationship with, God, since those feelings and the relationship is directed towards a perception that does not actually exist.

To say this idea disturbed me is an understatement. Although my heart instantly concluded it was false, my brain was not so quick to come up with a valid counterargument.

The idea that my personal conception of God is not accurate is not shocking in the least. I have always known that how I imagine God in my head is nothing more than an estimation that my brain can handle. God is infinite. He knows everything that can be known about a universe which is itself so enormous and complex we cannot comprehend it, let alone its Creator. Personally, I do not believe God meant for us to be able to totally understand Him. We are just too small. To realize that our images of God are finite, imperfect, and exist merely for our own convenience is a sign of a mature and modest person. Only arrogance could convince someone that their image of God alone is perfect.

However, does the fact that we require a simplified image of God mean that our feelings toward Him and our relationship with Him are worthless? If so, it renders much of religion, especially the monotheistic religions which stress a personal relationship with God, utterly meaningless.

After pondering this proposition for awhile, I realize it is absurd. One of my stanchest religious beliefs is that God deeply desires a personal relationship with all individuals. However, if our flawed conceptions of God hinder every single one of us from having a meaningful relationship with Him, it would mean that God knowingly created us this way. Considering God longs for relationship, why would He deliberately do this?  Such a contradiction would be damaging to both humans and God.

While no one person perfectly understands God, we do have the ability to learn more and more about Him. As I have grown up, my internal image of God has changed considerably, growing more mature and complex. This has occurred in a multitude of ways: reading sacred religious texts, reading about universalism, writing, contemplation, and prayer. I genuinely believe this will continue if only because I desire a closer relationship with God. My closeness derives from my awareness of God's nature. I'm fully aware of the limitations of my awareness. There are many aspects of God I do not know, and some I doubt I will ever know. But my imperfect understanding does not mean my relationship with God is meaningless. We are meant to have a relationship with God, despite lacking His intelligence.

I feel it is important that everyone know the limitations of their mind when it comes to perceiving God. But to completely dismiss the possibility of a relationship with God because of these limitations is overkill. We deal with limitations in every part of our life: school, career, family, etc. Yet most people don't just give up. My relationship with God is probably one of the most crucial parts of my life. To throw it away because of limits not under my control would be foolish. God had a reason to create us the way we are. I highly doubt He meant for us to ignore Him just because we don't know everything about him. How depressing the world would be without the promise of a Father who supports us through all troubles and loves us more than we can comprehend.

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