Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I am an Atheologist

Mixed metaphor department update:

I am cursed with a literalist mind: I want my metaphors to make sense. The other day I participated in a worship service where we sang this refrain: God, unchanging and ever-flowing. Isn’t that a contradiction? How can something that is unchanging be ever-flowing? Unchanging means static, and flowing is, well flowing.

So which is it? Is God unchanging or is God ever-flowing. If we say God is unchanging then petitionary prayer is a waste of time. If God has decreed that so-and-so is to die of cancer, for example, praying for healing is really asking God to change his mind, something that an unchanging god cannot do.

Now I don’t think God can change his/her mind. God doesn’t have a mind. God is what is and what is is the way it is because it can be no other way at the moment it is anything at all. God is bound by God’s own nature. If the conditions are such that death is necessary, you will die. This is not because God wills it, but because God is it. God cannot be other than God.

Yet as I look around I see nothing that is static and fixed. Everything is wriggling, dancing, gyrating, and flowing. God is not unchanging at all. God is change. This is what the Torah tells us when it has God say that God is “Ehyeh asher Ehyeh” (Exodus 3:14): I will be what I will be. God is unfixed and changing. God cannot be any one thing, for God is all things dancing into and out of existence.

Here’s the fun part: If God is change, then God is unchanging for change is constant. God is unchanging not in the sense of God being fixed and static for all eternity (Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover), but in the sense of Shiva/Shakti’s never-ending dancer.

Maybe this is what the refrain is trying to tell us. God is unchanging change, and being unchanging change God is fundamentally unknowable and unlabelable. You cannot classify or categorize something that is unfixed and flowing. You cannot have a theology about a God that won’t stand still for the portrait. And it is only when you drop all knowing about God (and certainly all your projections about “God’s will”) that you have any chance of meeting God at all.

So maybe the refrain is right. Maybe it is paradoxical because paradox is the only way we can point to the ceaseless changing that is God. I think the Hindu’s have the best phrase for this: Neti Neti, not this, not this. God is everything, but as soon as you point to one thing and say “This is God” you have stopped the flow that is God and so the thing to which you point (now reduced to an idea in your mind) is no longer God in any living way.

So it seems to me the atheists have it all wrong. You cannot be an atheist. How can you deny something that defies definition? What we should be are atheologists, people who refuse to reduce God to a god that we might worship or reject.

Think about it.

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