Friday, February 18, 2005

"What is it Like?" vs. "What is it?"

This last Monday was Valentine's day. Holly and I and Lisa and a couple other friends of ours met for dinner. Nice.

The question came up, "Do you believe in soulmates?" Some people scramble to answer. Once some thoughts were laid out there I prompted, "Isn't that the same question as asking. 'Do you believe there is one person out there for each person?'" and some said it wasn't the same question, but either way it got us thinking about destiny (whether we used that word or not).

Destiny... that there is a way things are 'supposed' to happen. After some awkward, "Well, (s)he is definitely my soulmate," comments, the question turned to "God's Will"... dun, dun, dun...

We started asking if God had a person picked out or a soulmate for each person. [Now those of you who read this blog often probably know that I do not believe this. I would probably be classified as a mild deist (although I believe God is at work in the world) before I would see myself as a "If Allah wills..." kinda guy.] So I talked a little bit about the Greek understanding of perfection that was new to ancient Hebrew thought. How Hebrews saw things in light/dark, broken/shalom, incomplete/complete, out of place/in place. That is, there was no perfect/imperfect, there were just things out of place. So one person said that her husband brought completion to her life, so that meant that he was her soulmate. Cheers! That sounds great to me.

But after pondering this on the way to my Spanish class the next day (I am a full-time student this semester...), I was thinking of how we really want to say "God is..." or "Destiny is..." and actually place a definition that is timeless after that elipse. But I think that the Universe, that God, that Destiny is way beyond our vocabulary, so we need to move more towards "God is like..." Make sense?

I sat in on this seminar where someone was talking about how many people get attached to some of the metaphors of the Bible and cannot see beyond these "names" of God to see that (s)he is way larger than anything we can think of or imagine. We call God, "Father," but he is not male. We call him, "Holy One," but he lives within us, not beyond us. He even went on to say that the word, "God," is a metaphor. Even "Yahweh" was the metaphor for God being our very breath. Perhaps (s)he is, but perhaps (s)he is way more than just that.

What is God like... it is a less confining way to think about Ultimate Reality.


ashdown said...

YES!!!! so great that you just are thinking this too! i am reading the cloister walk and kathleen norris talks about the same thing. that our theology should be more methaphors. our faiths, our lives, should encompass this. faith in God is a lot like poetry, she suggests, that it is a process, and not about facts. we dont teach answers, we immerse people in worship of the the Ultimate Reality. she calls worship "a metaphoric exchange". i think that is brillant.

Jon said...

You hit a very key point about metaphors. We tend to believe in the names themselves, while all descriptions of God are simply "fingers pointing toward the moon," as the Zennists say.

I wrote a bit about the metaphor problem myself on this page.