The Lambeth Conference 2008: Expect Heat, Not Light

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 9 July 2008 0 Comments
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How do you believe there is an actual God rather than just
principles by which the universe operates? I feel like everyone has
the equivalent of a radio receiver in their brain and almost everyone
can at least get static on the "God channel" for lack of a better
analogy. They at least know there is really something there because
they can hear the static or maybe even hear a bar or two of music once
in a while. Other people have really good reception and can actually
tune into the God channel and have a dynamic experience. I, however,
don't even get static. All my life people have been telling me that I
can use the radio receiver in my brain to listen to someone far away
and hear the music of life. But because I don't even get static, I
have no way of knowing whether they are lying to me and just want to
control my actions, or whether they are delusional and truly believe
there is something there even though there isn't, or whether there
really is something there but my tuner/receiver isn't sensitive enough
to pick it up. I can tune in mathematics, physics, chemistry; all
these things I can believe in even when I don't understand all the
math behind the physics. But I can't tune in "God." My question is,
"How do I do that? How do I get any kind of reception?"


Thank you for your question. How one talks of God is always
culturally conditioned. No one has seen God, and the deity about whom
most of us speak is our own creation. Religious systems try to
pretend that God has revealed God to them, but when they describe that
God, it is clearly a God in their own image. Throughout history we
human beings have perceived of God as an animating presence, an earth
mother, the sun, the moon, a tribal chief and a universal presence.
Each image, however, was shaped by human need and human understanding.
That is the first thing you should embrace. The God you say you
cannot see is a deity of some other human being's creation. As long
as you are bound by another's definition, you may well never see God
for yourself.

I do not believe that any human being can ever know who God is; we can
only know how we think we have experienced God. God and my experience
of God are not the same thing. That is a crucial difference. We can
experience on some level what we cannot ultimately define. What we
describe in our words, scriptures, creeds and doctrines is not the
reality of God but our limited human attempt to explain our
experiences of that reality.

God is not bound, as your words seem to suggest, to someone else's
definition. That is the God with whom you say you cannot make
contact. I urge you to trust your own perceptions, perhaps even the
absence of the God of others is the first step in your own authentic

I experience God as life. I experience God as love. I experience God
as being. I find God when I see life being lived, love expanding life
and people finding the courage to be. I look inward to find the holy.
I look at other people to see God at work in the power of love. I do
not look to some distant far away place above the stars.

I wish you well in your search and hope you continue to engage it with

John Shelby Spong




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