I have been thinking this morning about the evolution of God in the Bible. Yesterday, as part of our communal gathering, we read a passage from Deutoronomy. Parts of the text really bothered me because the writer painted God as nothing more than an ethnocentric tribal God, making war on "bad" tribes on behalf of this singular "good" tribe. The passage even went as far to say that no other tribe in the world knew God.
I am hugely skeptical of some of these kinds of passages / notions of God.
Reading Wilbur's Theory of Everything has caused me to really see that most people and communities and tribes and societies move from egocentric (self-centered) to ethnocentric (community-centered) to worldcentric (globally-centered). This morning I was thinking about how that particular idea in Scripture intersects with this. Perhaps the writers' understandings of God evolve down this same path throughout the text.
I am reminded that both early Judaism and Islam (and perhaps you could make a case for Christianity as well) came out of widely polytheistic societies. When Abraham got the call from El-Shaddai (God of the Mountain), it's largely possible that he took that call as though this was one of many gods in the area...only later to realize that this was YHWH. Muhammed was called by God out of the polytheistic Arabia only to realize that this connection was a God much larger than the Arabs, it was Allah (the arabic word for GOD). Christianity, similarly was formed out of several Judaic sects and in the midst of many Roman civil gods. Perhaps a case could be made that it, too, came from a sort of polytheistic society (if you feel the need to classify these as unique religions with their own distinct beginnings).
My point is this: Most all of these began with a personal or egocentric connection...perhaps animistic (like Abraham) or exclusive (like Muhammed) or personal (like the first followers of Jesus)...and then moved to ethnocentric like the formation of Israel, Islam, or Christianity.
In ethnocentrism, my group is right and yours is wrong. Simple as that. And, unfortunately, that is where most of us stand these days.
But there must be something beyond this...something beyond mere tribal co-existence, don't you think? Worldcentric is a scary place to go. It suggests that there is something universal, but it is never contained in one tradition, tribe, person, what-have-you. That seems a scary place to many of us. But it's also a place of much greater possibility.
And, all of these traditions (despite their tribal form today) suggest that there is a single, universal Source...in most all religions. But how do we reconcile our idolatrous understandings of God in our heads with the God of the Universe?
It might be helpful to take a look at the Hindu metaphor of Atman and Brahman. When asked how many gods there are in Hinduism, you might get a response like "300 million gods" or "1 God". There is nothing but Brahman, everything else is merely a manifestation of Brahman. Each of these 300 gods is nothing more than "Brahman in our context". There is only one real Source.
I wonder how that might affect our understanding of God. Rollins, in his book HOW (NOT) TO SPEAK OF GOD, talks about taking an a/theistic approach to theology, where we attempt good theology while knowing that any construction of God we come up with is just our own (or our community's own) construction of God...it is not REALLY God. And to think so would be idolotrous. So, we must not believe (hence the atheistic approach) in the god we construct in our heads...whether informed by sacred texts, experience, or revelation.
Interesting. I'm gonna leave it there. Thoughts?