Last month (scroll down) I wrote about my faith, that is, how I sense that the living God shapes my life. Now I’ll very briefly tell you some of the things I believe to be more or less true about how God makes “himself” known to the world and therefore to me. That “more or less” may sound a little equivocal, like I’m not really certain of these things. That is because I’m not. Certainty seems to me an illusion. So I do not say I have certain knowledge of these things, but agree with Saint Paul’s statement “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NRSV)
(As an aside, you also may wonder why I put “himself” in quotation marks when writing of God. It’s because I want to draw attention to the traditional and not altogether satisfactory use of the masculine reflexive pronoun. I use “himself” because I just don’t know how else to use a reflexive pronoun to speak of God. I could say God “herself” but that doesn’t get me any further. I can’t say God “itself” – too impersonal. I have tried saying God “Godself,” but “Godself” is not a word in the English language, so I’ve stopped doing that. I can’t reinvent the English language just because it is not adequate to speak of God. Look, God, in creating us in “his” own image, created us male and female. That tells me that God is both masculine and feminine, and neither exclusively. You may notice that in what I’ve written below, I have simply avoided the reflexive pronoun altogether. Discretion is the better part of valor.)
So here is what I believe, more or less.
I believe in one ineffable God whom philosophers have called the Numinous and the Sacred, whom theologians have called the Ground of Being and Ultimate Reality, whose name the ancient Hebrews rightly dared not speak, whom Jesus lovingly addressed as Abba, Father.1 I trust that this God creates all things, sustains all things, reconciles the world in Jesus Christ, and relates to us personally. I assert with the Apostle Paul that in God we live and move and have our being.2
I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a fully human being who was born and grew and lived and died as every other human being.3 I claim that in Jesus the Word of God was made flesh so that we rightly affirm the divinity of Jesus as Christ.4 I believe that after he died, God raised Jesus from death so that his followers experienced Jesus as yet alive, and I experience him as yet alive still.5 The mystery and full meaning of the incarnation, death, resurrection and real presence of Christ exceeds the limits of rational explanation, and yet is the ground of our hope in life and in death.
I believe that God is Spirit, and as Spirit is truly present in all the world.6 This divine presence is often referred to in Scripture as Holy Spirit, but is also known as the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God, or simply Spirit. The presence of God the Spirit makes possible our experience of reconciliation and communion with God and our fellow humans.
It is my sense that the acts of God in creating, revealing, reconciling and transforming are dynamic and ongoing processes.7 The enjoyment of these divine processes in the fullest possible measure is, I believe, the divine intention and aim for all human beings, indeed for all creation. As Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”8
Correctly interpreted, the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments bear faithful witness to these acts of God in Christ.9
I believe that the new and reconciled life, a new way of being in the world, the reign of God’s justice and peace is manifest in, by and through the church, the called-together people of God, as the church seeks to be faithful in living out its calling.
I believe that in the church this new way of being in the world is signified and sealed by the two sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ. In baptism we re-present our engrafting into Christ and inclusion in the covenant of grace. In the Lord’s Supper we gratefully remember Christ’s sacrificial death, join in loving communion, celebrate the gift of eternal life, and are spiritually nourished and strengthened to live out our calling in faith.10
I believe that in living out our calling in faith the church works as the body of Christ for the fullest possible realization of God’s reign of justice and peace among all people.11
I believe a lot more than this, but this kind of religious belief-talk should be meted out in measured doses. So this is enough for now.
ineffable means beyond words or description; numinous means mysteriously supernatural; Ultimate Reality and Ground of Being were terms used by German-American theologian Paul Tillich; in Rabbinic Judaism the speaking of God’s name was strictly prohibited; Abba, Father see Mark 14:36 ↩
Acts 17:28 ↩
Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:7; Heb. 4:15; any many other places ↩
John 1:14 ↩
1Cor. 15:4-9 ↩
Jn. 4:24; Ps. 139:7 ↩
Here I am influenced by the Process Theology of John Cobb, David Griffin, Marjorie Suchocki, and Catherine Keller, among others. See www.processandfaith.org for more information on Process Theology. ↩
John 10:10 ↩
Luke 24:27 ↩
Matt. 28:19; Lk. 22:19 ↩
Ephesians 1:22-23 ↩