19 Jan Our Belief in God….And Why it Matters
“I believe in God, the Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”
This is the opening line of the Apostles’ Creed, that ancient confession of the Church that expresses what it means to be a Christian. For centuries, the existence of God was assumed to be self-evident. Over the past 200 years or so, of course, that has no longer been the case. People debate the existence of God and many choose not to believe.
For those who do choose to believe, an interesting phenomenon is occurring. As theologian and author Diana Butler Bass observes in her book, Grounded, the questions about God are changing. Rather than asking, “who is God?” or “what must I do to know God and be saved?”, questions of faith are now more concerned with finding God. Where is God? How does God’s presence make a difference in my life or the world? Questions of information (who and what) are being replaced by ones concerned with experience (where and how).
This makes a lot of sense. We watch the daily news feeds, recounting yet another shooting of innocent victims, and we wonder, where is God? We watch the levees break in New Orleans or the tsunami sweep over Indonesia and we wonder, where is God? We see bodies of refugees floating in the Mediterranean and we wonder, where is God? We are horrified at another brutal rape, another abuse of the elderly, another injustice seemingly never to be made right and we wonder, where is God?
The traditional answer in many churches was that God was off in a distant “heaven,” sitting on his throne watching human events play out. In some versions, God is seen as a disinterested, “hands off” toymaker who wound up the world, let us go, and now leaves us to our own devices. In other versions, God is viewed as a divine puppet master or as a harsh, punishing judge ready to zap us with more thunderbolts. But, these are visions of God whose time may blessedly be up, as such a divinity looks increasingly either absurd or suspiciously like a monster.
The biblical narrative presents a much different picture. There we find a God who comes close, who comes to “be with.” The Creator God proclaimed in the Apostles’ Creed is also proclaimed as Father, a father whose love for creation means an ever-present involvement. And that means that we are never alone. Where is God? God is here, with us in the mess and messiness of our lives.
In recognizing God’s nearness, we seem to be rediscovering an impulse toward spiritual intimacy. To say that God is with us is to awaken ourselves to the truth that an intimate presence of mystery abides with the world, a spirit of love and compassion that breathes hope and healing. As we affirm our faith in this God, we simultaneously affirm that we are called to participate in God’s loving and healing activity in the world. As the Apostle’s Creed reminds us, we are meant to be changed by our belief in this God, not just to give intellectual agreement to some beliefs about God. As God is with us, we are to be with God and with the world, acting in God’s name and for God’s purposes.
Yours for the Kingdom,