One of the books I am reading right now is entitled, “The Idolatry of God” by Peter Rollins. Perhaps it is unfair of me to comment before I have completed the book but I do anyway because the whole notion of the premise he proposes is rather fascinating. Not to mention the fact that many people are probably quite guilty of what he proposes. Many people have made an ‘idol’ of the image of God while not having much regard for what we are called, in a sacred way, to do and to be. In order to think more thoroughly about this, we have to begin by separating the “image of God” from the sacred texts which teach us about God. Even then, also separating in our minds what the texts teach us about how to live from what we are taught about God. What Rollins says is that, “God is the name we give to that experience where things are called into existence for us … God is not seen but testified to in a particular way of seeing.”
Rollins argues that the definition of ‘existence’ rules out the possibility that God exists. What does exist for me (and I think for Rollins) is the sense of the sacred and we, as in all humankind, have chosen to give the experience of the sacred the name ‘God’. It seems to me, at least as far as I have progressed in the book, that Rollins claims that humankind has so ‘idolized’ that which it has named God, that we forget what it is we are really supposed to be understanding and doing. This, in my mind and my words, is to “Live with love and respect for all to the best of one’s ability.”
Making an idol of God is an interesting and thought-captivating idea. When I was young and learning my way into and through Christianity, the images of God included the great masterful paintings by Michelangelo and the ‘hand of God’ reaching out to touch humankind and give life. The existence was portrayed and many have grown up with the reality of the image in mind — of sitting before the throne of God someday as real as one would sit before a judge in a courtroom. Many have come to worship that image as if God was that real. In that way, God does not exist.
Later, as my journey of faith became somewhat extended and much deeper, I have come to see the Christ (savior) figure of Jesus as an earthly image that reveals all that we imagine the perfection of the Sacred to be. Jesus, his teachings, the stories about him and his life, the aura about him that reveals what perfection ought to have been like, tells a story that can save people from despair and hopelessness. In that way, God does exist as revealed and imagined.
As a post script, I must add that I believe that there are multiple options for the revelation of God to be made real. At one point in history, the world seemed, I am certain, to be limitless and for a people to discover a revelation of the sacred . . . well, how could there have been more? But today, we see things through a glass made clearer by the time and study and openness to many paths that others have found in different parts of the world. Places the people in our Judeo-Christian heritage were not aware of at the time. Today, it seems far more plausible that the Sacredness, we, in the western world, have named God, has been revealed in other ways to other people. It only serves to make the image of the sacred more grand.
Just a thought!