The God Below God
Yesterday, I wrote a blurb about The God Above God. In order to be fair and balanced, I felt that I should give some airtime to the God Below God. By that I mean, the latter god of the first sentence is the same as the former god of the second sentence. But like I’ve said before, it just seems that that’s one god too many.
It all started for me when I was a kid going to Sunday school. I had questions, lots of questions and the answers, if any, only raised more questions still. Later when I was in college, the roles were reversed with me as the Sunday school teacher. Alas, the results were no different.
Just as I have done, people have gone to church on Sunday, even read the Bible regularly, and yet gotten little out of their experiences. What’s missing? Well for starters, God is missing. For most people, God is nowhere to be found in their lives. What’s worse, they feel that God plays favorites (i.e. appears only to his Chosen People). In fact, the only time that God has seemingly ever visited his creation was a small window of time over 2,000 years ago. How’s that for being an absent parent! Accordingly, many people that I know have become atheists, which is in reality sort of a learned behavior (i.e. no direct experience of God turns into no belief in God).
So the concept of an invisible God that can only be discerned spiritually doesn’t play very well in Peoria. Worse yet, religious dogma with respect to the existence of God is extremely hard to fathom for the average person. Of course, most people truly need a higher power to believe in. As Voltaire said, “If God didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him”.
So exactly who is to blame for this situation? Well, I vote for the Bible. To be more precise, I vote for man’s interpretation of the Bible. By that I mean that the Bible has often been either mistranslated, misquoted or misunderstood. As George Bernard Shaw said, “No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says – he is always convinced that it says what he means”. So for example, we have the argument that God created everything out of nothing. Now, most people just aren’t able to wrap their minds around that one (something out of nothing, that is); Aristotle didn’t like the concept much either. I have two takes on this issue. One is that we(man) were essentially created out of nothing because everything originally came from nothingness (God). But of course, that’s not the way that it is generally interpreted. Heck, the whole concept of creatio ex nihilo isn’t even in the Bible.
My second take is that it’s way too convenient for the church to declare that man needs to be saved because our souls were created out of nothing. In that scenario, the church gets to play mediator between man and God. I refer to it as the selling of salvation. On the other hand if our souls did come from God, then by definition we would not need to be saved at all!
As for the God Below God, I never could quite embrace the revengeful, wrathful god of Genesis as the type of god that I wanted to pray to. I wanted to know why God couldn’t act more like…well, like God. How could you violate your own commandments and why would you need to establish a covenant with your own creation? After all, you either are the prime creator or you aren’t. There’s really no choice in the matter. You can’t choose to be someone’s god if you already are their god. Only a jealous, insecure(and inferior) god worries about man choosing a different god to worship.
As I got older, what bothered me the most about the Genesis stories was the fact that they happened at all. Most people that I know believe in the concept of free will and God’s involvement in the realm of man is certainly a direct violation of his free will. The point is probably moot, however, because the Bible says repeatedly that no one has ever seen God (see the Book of John).
So one day, I’m going on a rant about this to my wife and she innocently asks me just who then was the god of Genesis. The question surprised me because I had never taken the issue to that level and so I couldn’t immediately respond to her. But then, almost immediately, I had a flash of enlightenment; the god of Genesis in fact wasn’t God (the First Cause). That’s how it all came together for me. There was no way that this could have been God because no one had ever seen God. With that in mind, the use of the terms “us” and “our” in Genesis started to make sense to me in that god was apparently not alone with Adam and Eve in the garden. Actually, the Bible is replete with references to many gods (and angels and other heavenly hosts) and so it is not unreasonable to assume there were other divine entities with him, especially since the Bible refers to the god in the Garden of Eden by using the much-maligned Hebrew word Elohim and then elsewhere refers to “gods” with the same word Elohim (see Psalm 82:1 and John 10:34-36, for example).
It’s interesting to note that there is no proof, in the Bible or otherwise, that the god in the Garden of Eden is the prime creator. The best that can be said is that Jehovah was the self-proclaimed god of all creation and insisted that there was no other god besides him. Of course, other religions also tend to be self-proclaimed, as if anyone can prove or disprove the existence of God. As for me, I’ll just take the God Above God and call it a day. I don’t even require a covenant.