Musing on the mystery


THE Greek philosopher Xenophanes, writing 2500 years ago, said if horses had hands, they would surely paint God in their own image.
Xenophanes noted that Ethiopians of his time painted their gods black, while some northern Europeans painted their divine images with red hair and blue eyes.
“Mortals deem that the gods are begotten as they are, and have clothes, face and form like theirs,” he said.
Early 20th-century historian Wilhelm Schmidt suggested the belief in one God — the Sky God — was a primitive notion long before men and women began worshipping a number of gods.
The Sky God, believed to govern human affairs from afar, became so distant and exalted that he disappeared, says Schmidt. He was replaced by lesser but more accessible and more easily depicted gods.
History reveals that when one perception of God has ceased to have relevance, it is discarded and quietly replaced.
Most of our descriptive notions of God are, and have always been, man-made.
The major world religions have agreed it is impossible to describe God in normal conceptual language.
Jews have always been forbidden from pronouncing the sacred name of God, and Muslims are banned from depicting the divine in paintings.
French philosopher Rene Descartes said it was natural for humans to have “more admiration for the things above us than for those on our level and below”.
He railed against painters depicting clouds as God’s throne and depicting God Himself as sprinkling dew on the clouds or hurling lightning against the rocks.
Descartes said clouds, wind, dew and lightning were mere physical events and no cause of marvel or belief in God.
He was more interested in his God of the philosophers.
The three monotheistic faiths — Christianity, Judaism and Islam — claim God is the supreme reality; a personal being, bodiless, omnipresent, creator and sustainer of the universe.
The theory is that if the physical universe had a beginning, as most religions believe, God caused the beginning. But if not, God kept the universe in being for all past time.
The argument of God’s omnipotence supposes He can do whatever He chooses.
But could He change the rules of logic to make two and two equal five for instance? Or change the past, or make something exist and not exist at the same time?
Descartes considered these possibilities and concluded that although God could probably do such things, he would not.
Thomas Aquinas wrote a pamphlet entitled How the omnipotent God is said to be incapable of certain things, and listed around 20 such things.
Other unanswerable questions that have occupied great minds through history include: does God have a body? If not, then how can you have a “personal” relationship with a God who seems invisible and silent?
THE great Arabic philosopher Averroes (1126-1198) searched for a comprehensive definition of the divine.
He said simple-minded believers would say God was in heaven. A man “of trained mind”, knowing God could not be represented as a physical entity in space, would say God was everywhere.
But Averroes said that formula, too, was likely to be wrong.
“The philosopher more adequately expresses the purely spiritual nature of God when he asserts that God is nowhere but in Himself; in fact, rather than saying God is in space, he might more justly say that space and matter are in God.”
Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, said: “Think of a heart that contains all your hearts, a love that encompasses all your loves, a spirit that encompasses all your spirits, and a silence deeper than all your silences, and timeless.
“It is wiser to speak less of God, whom we can not understand, and more of each other, whom we may understand. Yet I would have you know we are the breadth and fragrance of God.
“We are God in leaf, in flower, and oftentimes in fruit.”


1 thought on “Musing on the mystery

  1. “The philosopher more adequately expresses the purely spiritual nature of God when he asserts that God is nowhere but in Himself; in fact, rather than saying God is in space, he might more justly say that space and matter are in God.”

    If you believe the creeds, God is one, but also three. If these are three aspects of one divinity, then a God in whom we live and move and have our being, a God who is a personal father figure to us, a God who is our suffering servant, a God who is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, a God who sends His angels to find out things, and whatever else God is seen as, these are all aspects as perceived by us, of one Divinity.

    Perhaps we should be paying more heed to the Aspect of the Holy Spirit.


    How dependent Jesus Christ was, in His state of humiliation, on the Holy Spirit! If He needed to depend solely upon the Spirit can we afford to do less?

    a) He was Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Spirit, Luke 1:35.
    b) He was led by the Spirit, Matt.4:1.
    c) He was Anointed by the Spirit for Service, Acts 10:38.
    d) He was Crucified in the Power of the Spirit, Heb.9:14.
    e) He was Raised by the Power of the Spirit, Rom.1:4; 8:11.
    f) He gave Commandment to His Disciples and Church Through the Spirit, Acts 1:2.
    g) He is the Bestower of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:33.


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