One question that has been prickling at my brain the past couple of weeks, outdistancing the election, and even the creation of this very blog. “What is the essence of God?” I believe that understanding just who or what God is, at some way shape or form, a never ending endeavor. I tend to lean on the side of the mystics, viewing God as a sort of “Hyper Being”, or a sort of being that is, at its very core, beyond understanding. However, while I do see it as a never ending endeavor, I do not view it as a fruitless endeavor. To try to unwrap just WHAT God is, and how the divine interacts with the world around us is one of the facets of spirituality in the first place! The fact is, I do not profess to have all the answers. I am fully aware that I am only scratching the surface and may be leaving more questions than answers in my wake. I urge you then to remember that as we all strive to discover the essence of the divine, questions are good. Questions lead to searching, digging, and discovery. Where would the great philosophers and scientists and thinkers of history have gotten if they had not asked the questions of, Is there a better way of doing this? Is there a different option? Is there a better world out there? Questions are good. Do not shy away from them, but rather embrace them, as I embrace them, and as we embark on this little journey together! This will more likely then not turn into a bit of a blogging “series” where we will encounter many different views and forms on this.
In all honesty, this blog will more likely then not turn into my own personal journal as I sift through and strive to learn more about these different options and ways of thinking about God. My hope is that this will find you in the same sort of position I am at. Dissatisfied by the present, “Three-Tiered” understanding of what God is, and seeking ways to find a more expansive and world changing view of what the divine truly represents. I am going to base this series off of podcasts and research and conversations and meditation and prayer and a whole bunch of other stuff, so do not think for a second that this is a scholarly resource. Rather, I hope that this helps you to begin asking these same questions. I also hope that it sparks within you, as it has for me, a desire to seek and learn more. I hope that my journey and experience helps to energize you into even greater and further action. That’s the whole reason for this blog in the first place! But anyway, I digress. Let’s get on to the good stuff…
So, we must begin with first coming to an understanding of what this present “Three-Tiered” view of God is. I willfully offer up that I first heard this in Rob Bell’s Podcast, God Part 1. (At least I think it was God part 1. It may have been in part 2, and he DEFINITELY mentions it win part 3) In it, Rob discusses this ancient view of the divine entity/entites (Greek gods etc.). This view, in its most basic form states, 1. Humanity is here on earth, 2. God exists somewhere else, and 3. God comes down here from time to time to bail us out of a problem or a bind from time to time.
The problem with this view is this. What about all those times where bad stuff happens to good people? If God actively get’s involved in some people’s lives but not others, how then can He be a loving and just God? How can a charitable man get stricken with pancreatic cancer, while a corrupt official is healed of his skin rash and it is “a gift from God”? Do you begin to see the problems with this? In this view, God actively sees our suffering and our pain and chooses, at random seemingly, to intervene or not. This leads to people taking on the belief that God owes them something, or that if they are good enough, then God will bless them. The simple fact is, “Shit happens.” Sorry to be so gruff about it, but it is true. In my freshman year of college, I was following God’s will and doing what he told me to do by switching out of the Music Major and into the Youth Ministry major, but that didn’t stop my best friend from dying that summer. Yes, our choices and our actions matter, but to think that our actions and choices effect wither the essence of God is here on earth or not is 100% absurd.
The simple fact is that God is present at all times, both in joy and suffering; blessing and loss. To look at it from a biblical perspective, there are countless times when we see God’s people asking the divine where it was, and the response is along the lines of, “I AM” or “I was always here, you just weren’t looking or listening.” In other words, God never leaves. The Divine is always here. Which leads to one of the main views of what the divine is. Paul Tillich, a renowned theologian, gave us an understanding that God is the “Ground of our being”. What Tillich means by this is that, the divine is the source of being itself. Everything about us that makes us conscious, cognitive human beings with agency comes from the divine, which is the structure for such things. Our understanding of what the divine is comes from the divine itself. It is, in fact, a never ending circle.
In a way, it resembles the same train of though of hinduism. In Hinduism, the thought is that we all inherently possess some bit of the divine essence which is yearning to return to its origin. However, because of the cycle of Karma (For Christians, you could replace Karma with Sin) hides believe that they are constantly being reborn into different lives to learn these lessons over and over again until eventually, they reach enlightenment, break the cycle of karma and death, and return once more to the full essence of the divine. They are like a drop of rain water falling back into the ocean. In the same way, God is the essence of our entire being. We resemble that image of God by simply being/existing. However, when we come to an understanding that God is indeed the essence of our existence to begin with, then we are able to begin viewing those around us as also retaining the image of God inherently, no matter what they may have done.
When we are able to do that, that is when the true love and compassion and grace and reconciliation bursts forth, as Jesus called us to do. When we understand that God is the very nature and substance through which our existence occurs, then we are able to look at all situations and all reality and see the divine at work. There are spaces of hurt and pain where the divine is present, helping us to bear those burdens. There are times of great ecstasy and joy that we are able to experience with the Divine existing in, and with, and through it all.
When we see this view of who the divine is, we are able to look past the false “Three-Tiered” notion that God is somewhere else sometimes interacting with us. God is IN us. God is WITH us always. God is the substance from which we were formed itself, and one day, we will be reunited with God, in complete oneness with Him.
That is just simply one view of what the essence of the divine is. I wish to do more research into this train of thought, as it sparks my interest and broadens my perspective of just what God is. I apologize if I butchered the explanation for what God being the Ground of our being really means, but know that I am still searching myself. I hope that this helps you in your own seeking for understanding though. I hope it does raise questions. I hope that those questions don’t just remain stagnant, but that you instead embrace them and seek the answers. I hope that this is as edifying for you as it is for me. May you go forth and ask these questions, and find answers, and see the divine essence within each and every single person you meet.
Blessings and Peace,
This is a personal blog and does not necessarily represent the views of Community Church or any groups mentioned here