Late last week I listened to a podcast where Suzanne Giesemann was interviewing Peter Panagore. I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with Suzanne many times. And, I’ve heard a few interviews with Peter and spent an evening with him (via Zoom) discussing his near-death experiences. I feel like I know both of them reasonably well. So, it’s interesting when they touch on the subject of whether God is a person, a being, or not. Suzanne seems to view God as impersonal. Peter is saying we have to see God as personal to be able to relate to God. This is an area that can trip us up over and over again. I’ve believed both in my lifetime. In the tradition I grew up in, God was very personal. God was a bigger version of a human being. God had a temper. God could get jealous. God was a big white guy on a throne in the sky. Think of Zeus, only more powerful. The elders told us the Eastern religions, didn’t have this personal God. Their view of God was of a lesser God than ours. Our view of God was obviously the right one. But, our God had an ego, an ego that often seemed frailer than ours. What was up with this God?
As I matured beyond this utterly anthropomorphic view of God, I thought I was progressing when I began to view God as impersonal; God is a force. God is more like The Force in Star Wars than a Zeus-like character. God was impassionate. God was neither male nor female. God wasn’t even a being. God was beyond being. In fact, many of us, myself included, think the word God carries too much baggage. So, we call “it” Universe or Spirit or Creator. But, this God can be cold and unrelatable. This God is not a parent. This God is more like a watchmaker who wound up the universe and let it go. Soon I realized the error of this view of God. In our human experience, everything that loves, that has compassion, that is kind, is generous, is a being. It’s personal. In trying to correct the view of God as being human (and therefore flawed) like us, we tend to overcorrect; which gives us a God we can hardly relate to. Our human brains cannot conceive of a non-being as being loving.
I think of God as transpersonal now, not impersonal- without personality. God is beyond personality, beyond ego. God loves, but God does not get offended. God cares, but God keeps no record of wrong. NDErs tells us God is Love. They try to describe the indescribable experience of being in the presence of this unconditional love that knows no bounds. As I’m taking my walk this morning, I listen to a podcast where two artists, musicians, and writers, talk about this problem with trying to put into words what is beyond words, even beyond comprehension. We cannot do it, but we try. I think of my work here where I make that attempt to describe what is beyond my ability to comprehend, let alone to put into words. Then, I’m reminded of a sermon by S. M. Lockridge; a sermon that was turned into a song I that I listened to back in my contemporary Christian music days. It’s the best 7-minute sermon ever recorded (it has to be). It’s by a preacher named S. M. Lockridge, but it reminds me of Pop. I can hear Pop delivering this sermon. I pull it up on my phone, and I listen to it again. In this sermon, he describes his king. A king was one metaphor used for God, back in biblical times that worked, at that time. I don’t believe what he is saying literally anymore. God is not a king. But, the beauty of this man’s rhetoric and his passion inspire me every time I listen to it. While we cannot describe what we are coming to know, we must continue to make an effort. My favorite line of the sermon comes at the 4:07 mark.