At this point in my continuing search for ‘meaning’ in the concept of ‘God’, I am sympathetic to the proposition that, strictly speaking, God does not exist. That is to say that, in the context within which we assert that a given something is or is not, subject to our understanding of – and judgement of – any scientific proof, the concept lies outside this domain of existential realism. ‘God is’ is not a scientific statement or hypothesis. It is not real to us in the way that the planet Mars is. To argue differently is to be victim of category error.
I take this to be what Thomas Aquinas meant – and which Kant and others modified – by the idea of God being beyond anything that we can imagine.
For me, this is the surest foundation for deploring anthropomorphic depictions of ‘God’ as a personality, active in our world of time and space, as essentially unreliable, misleading and ultimately, even blasphemous. What kind of God is it that we can locate and describe in human terms; seemingly the only terms available to us?
The problem with this is, where do we go from here?
If we reject divine anthropromorphism as illogical and unhelpful we are left in a ‘baby and the bath, situation where it seems that, at the very least, we have no language with which to articulate the ‘god concept.’ It is literally beyond words. Doesn’t this mean that we have no proper conceptual framework with which we can define any sort of ‘interim’ deity at all? Is there no way available to us to connect and interact with a ‘divine other’?
It is tempting, but ultimately unsatisfying, to suggest that ‘God’ is a dimension of all our experience and quest for meaning. I want to return to this point later (in the full knowledge that this conundrum has been covered much more thoroughly by the great German theologians of the 20th century).
If there is a problem here, however, it has been one that has been thought about by human beings for millennia. History shows that getting the answer to this question ‘wrong’ has all too frequently entailed dislocation, social unrest, power politics and bloodshed. This is why through the ages organised religion has had as its reason for being the gatekeeper role tasked with the search for a concept of the divine, and a convincing account of how humankind can encounter the ‘divine other’ in diligent, fruitful ways.
One of the most important of these ways has been, and always will be, the arts. [To be continued].