Common Thoughts 12


When I’m not using my computer, and sometimes when I’m using it and the battery is low, there is a cord that runs from my computer to a plugin in the wall. From that socket in the wall comes the electricity that gives life to my computer. On it is my life in photos, word files and anything and everything about me.

Think of the universe, the cosmos, everything we see and don’t yet see having this invisible cord plugged into the “ground of being,” a term theologian Paul Tillich talked about in his Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 (1951). Tillich writes: “The question of God must be asked because the threat of nonbeing, which man experiences as anxiety, drives him to the question of being conquering nonbeing and of courage conquering anxiety. This question is the cosmological question of God.” This comes from his concept that the ontological question of being-itself springs from the “shock of nonbeing.” To be or not to be, that is the question.

We have the God of the Judeo/Christian Bible, but this is a limited image and if this is all we have it gets confusing when we take this image into the larger understanding of the cosmos. This confusion doesn’t come from God but our limited image due to the fact the Bible has a specific purpose, not an encyclopedic definition of Reality in all its facets. I’m tired of having to defend thinking of the God of the Bible as also God, the ground of being, larger than the limitations of the Bible. Those of you who challenge me are right, it won’t lead to redemption, but while redemption is the fundamental need of us all, after that there are other needs that necessarily are to be met. Why?

The answer goes back to “who” we are. There is an artificial separation between what we can call the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of earth, created before “sin” entered our world, but not created without reason. The first three chapters of Genesis are three “looks” at the same scene focusing on different stories. Chapter 1 tells us the story of God’s creation of the cosmos, but also from the perspective of the earth. Unless you are thinking of God as the great magician who magically spoke into existence everything on earth and heaven, we actually find in Chapter 2 a process happening where the earth is formed but not filled with plants and life. This comes when a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground,” this also brought about by God. Now plants could grow and animals could exist because not just air but water is a fundamental basic of living. We also learn that one of the duties of man, one of the creatures God created, was to “till the earth,” and “have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

But don’t mistake man to be just another of the many creatures God creates. To no other creature does God say, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness . . .” And to no other creature do we read these words, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

We look upon Adam and Eve as the progenitors of all humans but without explanation we find in Genesis 4 there are other people who also know God, people that Cain will encounter and worry that these people will act as avengers for Cain killing his brother Abel. How inconvenient of God not to give us a complete story, but once outside the Garden of Eden, the story is all about man’s rebellion and God’s redemption making more not said than said beyond the story of sin/redemption. Does it cheapen God that he made more than Adam and Eve, that others were on the earth at the same time as Adam and Eve? Does it change anything about God? It doesn’t seem to bother God that we be confused over this. What he’s concerned about is we understand our sin and his redemption.

I personally don’t doubt that there was an Adam and Eve. They may be symbolic (representing us all) without being metaphorical (just a teaching story). I’ve often wondered why a Garden of Eden. There is a pretty good argument for the Garden of Eden being in what today is Iraq. The earth at this time was growing plants and trees, grasses and shrubs, but if the Middle East today is representative of the Middle East of Adam’s time, it was more sand than grass and trees. Driving through the San Joaquin Valley in California where so much food grows there are signs along the freeway that say, “Food grows where water flows.” Let’s assume that while there were oases throughout the land of the Middle East, mostly it was sand. God, therefore, created a special garden for Adam and Eve, where water flowed, to take care of and where the grand experiment would take place.

“The Grand Experiment”, what would that be? When those men in Philadelphia in 1776 wrote the Constitution of the United States, it was considered a grand experiment because it was a government of the people, by the people, and for the people and those who governed did so by the consent of the people, something never done before. And don’t forget it was a limited government it created. What, then, was God’s grand experiment? And why would he need to experiment? Am I just an experiment? Actually no, and we learn this by reading the Bible, but I, through Adam and Eve, was tested. Again, why?

To understand who we are let’s look into creatures of God that live in his world. What follows comes from the snippets we are given in the Bible referring to the Kingdom of Heaven, and God. The first problem we have is the same one Paul Tillich suffered through in his Systematic Theology. The images we are given of God in the Bible present him as a “being”. We think of being as having structure and can be measured (not using a tape measure) against other beings. The problem Tillich showed is that if God has structure then there is being outside God which limits God, a contradiction not just to the idea of God but to the ultimate image we are given in the Bible. If God is the ground of being how can he be smaller and physically present in time and space (our world)? These thoughts come from a philosopher’s mind thinking and wondering what Reality is and may or may not represent Reality.

What Martin Luther taught me was that God is far greater than my imagination of him—my imagination coming from scripture—and at first, I found this frightening. I had passed over the God of creation from whom all things came, and agreeing with Tillich is the ground of being. This God we don’t know, is too big for us to know, at least while we are here in this bubble of time and space, and sin. It’s a realm we are denied admittance to, again while in our bubble. But every now and then we are given glimpses and we don’t know if what we see is real in itself or images for our purposes.

The first is a vision given to us is a specific messaging for the prophet Isaiah and is a commission for him to be a prophet over:

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4 NIV.)

Do Seraphim normally look like described or is this just how Isaiah interprets his vision? I would ask why would God create such creatures but then I’ve seen some incredible creatures here on earth I can’t explain. Another group of creatures we see in Heaven are Cherubim who we first meet when God sealed the entrance to the Garden of Eden with Cherubim as guards.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Next “Thoughts” I’ll begin with Revelation.