Wednesday, April 24, 2013

God's Outstretched Arm (part 3)

One of the reasons I embraced Islam is that I have a strong, personal dislike of the anthropomorphic versions of God found in many other religions. That being said, I feel that trying to grasp The Divine without using ANY 'personhood' references is next to impossible. We are physical beings in a physical world and, as hard as I try, I can't avoid using personal pronouns when referring to God or using human ideas and emotions to describe God's being.  For example, when I say things like "God hates this," I don't think God really hates in the way that we do, but trying to discuss God without using any of this kind of language can make the discussion cumbersome and esoteric.  So it doesn't offend me to read or hear God being referred to in this way. I think we're all trying to understand The Divine and we're using whatever faculties we have to do so. Perhaps, the closer we get to understanding God, the less we need to rely on anthropomorphic representationswhether mental or physicalof God.

Amanda originally wrote her response in the comments section of Tziporah's post. Grace responded last week with a Christian perspective. Please share your thoughts in the comments section this week. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

God's Outstretched Arm (continued)

The outstretched arm of God is a powerful image in Christianity, too. Witness Michelangelo’s beautiful “Creation of Adam” painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel!  Unlike our Jewish and Muslim cousins, Christians are comfortable imaging/imagining God, yet without worshiping the image itself or losing sight of the reality that God cannot ever be imaged/imagined in all God’s fullness and glory.  We believe that God has created every human being in God’s image, and that, in the person of Jesus Christ, we can see that divine image fully revealed. For this reason, we seek to conform our lives to the life of Christ—not just to the prophetic teaching of Jesus, but to the very being of Christ—by loving wholly, unconditionally and limitlessly.  The term “Son of God” is not understood by Christians as a reference to Joseph’s or Mary’s son; like other monotheists we believe that God is One and undivided. “Son of God” is simply a way for our finite brains to conceive an eternal relationship through which God gave and gives to us God’s very self to be with us in our joys and in our suffering, and to offer us the redemptive Grace of an ever-deepening awareness and experience of God. That is why the historical Jesus, a Jewish man situated in time and place, can be understood as the eternal Christ—of one being with God—who can be seen and embodied in every person. Depictions of Jesus Christ, the Icon of God, can thus be windows for us through which God’s presence, and God’s forever outstretched arm, may be revealed.

This is a response to Tziporah's post of March 20th. Please share your thoughts about using anthropomorphic terms to talk about God in the comments section. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

God's Outstreteched Arm

“And God took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and with great awe, and with signs and wonders.” (Deuteronomy 26:8)

This verse was made famous by the rabbis who compiled the Haggadah, the book that Jews use to recount the story of the Exodus at the Passover Seder, and who expounded upon it as follows: “Not through an angel, not through a seraph and not through a messenger, rather The Holy One Blessed be He did it in His glory by Himself.” The traditional text of the Haggadah focuses entirely on God as the Redeemer of the people of Israel. While Moses is the conduit for God’s signs and wonders in the biblical account, the rabbis removed him from the Passover narrative so that future generations would understand that Moses was merely a messenger or prophet of God.  Both texts—the Hebrew Bible and the Haggadah—contain numerous references to God’s strength, using anthropomorphic language to describe God. But these descriptions are not intended to be taken literally, as Jews believe that God has no corporeal being. Nor are we permitted to create graven images of God; we are, however, comfortable speaking metaphorically about God’s physical attributes. 

My understanding is that Christians regard Jesus as the son of God—some believe Jesus to be a physical embodiment of God—whereas Muslims do not speak, even metaphorically, of God’s physical attributes.  Although Jews appear to fall somewhere between these opposing views, Maimonides (1135-1204) cautioned against describing what God is because, by doing so, one might inadvertently imply what God is not.

Is there anything that you believe your tradition forbids you to say about God?