Christian beliefs – Spirit of the Living God

This past Sunday our (Christian beliefs) discussion group was studying Chapter Ten of Lloyd Geering’s book, ‘Christianity without God’. Chapter Ten is titled ‘Why Christianity must become non-theistic’.

Geering states, near the beginning of the Chapter, “If we think of God as ‘a superhuman person regarded as having power over nature and human fortunes’, we are using a descriptive definition. But if we take ‘God’ to refer to the highest values which motivate us, then we are using a functional definition.”

Someone mentioned the confusion this causes when we use the word ‘God’ to refer to two different things (definitions). It often becomes difficult to discern which ‘God’ the speaker or writer is referring to. Several people agreed, adding that even if one knows that the speaker is referring to the functional definition, confusion is created because of the ‘baggage’ surrounding the word ‘God’; caused by two thousand years of using the descriptive definition as part of our Christian beliefs.

We discussed the desire to refer to the functional definition with a new or different term but this would, admittedly, cause great consternation and anxiety among those Christians who are not ready, willing or able to move away from the descriptive definition. The word ‘Ruach’ (the Hebrew word for spirit or breath of life) was mentioned. Ruach might be used to refer to “the highest values which motivate us”, i.e. love, compassion, tolerance, inclusiveness, justice. Expressed is this way, ‘the Ruach of life’, might give rise to an utterance of our new meaning for the word ‘God’.

Still, for those not disposed to advancing the intellectual integrity of the Church, this would seem unnecessary, even blasphemes.

Later, during the morning worship service, the congregation sang the familiar old hymn, ‘Spirit of the Living God’….

Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me,
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
As I sang the words of this song, my thoughts went back to our group discussion, and I began to ask myself…. “ When we refer to the functional definition of ‘God’ as love, compassion, tolerance, inclusiveness, and justice… are we not referring to how we as humans ought interact with each other in living out our lives? Is it not a manifestation of the Ultimate expression of life itself?” And in this context are we not speaking of the ‘Spirit of a Living God’?

This thinking does not solve the confusion factor mentioned earlier, but perhaps it could serve to help those who are concerned about the baggage surrounding the word ‘God’ when used in the functional context.

I’ll let you decide…..

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Date: Sunday, 1. April 2012 0:41
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