This seems like a very straightforward, yes or no, closed-ended question. "Yes or no, do you believe in God?“ I am reminded this morning how conflicted I am about this question as an atheist friend of mine who is an avid afterlife researcher threatened to quit a forum because people keep mentioning God. He claimed that the fastest way to shut down people from any afterlife conversation is to invoke God.
It’s a strange perspective, given that the vast majority of people for the vast majority of human history have had a belief in God or, probably more accurately, gods. Atheism is a modern development and still a minority position. Yet, there are atheists who would have nothing to do with me and even dismiss my views on the afterlife if I say I have a belief in God.
If the question "Do you believe in God” is put to me, I have to answer like a politician, like Bill Clinton. Clinton famously said: “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” For me, you’d have to define God. I asked my friend to do so and he came up with a definition that says God is a being, basically a very large, very powerful person. This is basically the Sunday school definition many of us grew up with. No, I do not believe in this God. Some NDErs claim to see God or at least a “Being of Light”. Almost all claim to feel an overwhelming sense of unconditional Love from a source that loves us more than a parent loves a child. To me, God is both immanent and transcendent. God is not a person. God is not personal, but God is not impersonal. God is transpersonal. If God is Love, as the Bible says and as NDErs say, then how can God be impersonal. God is Consciousness. God is our Source. Most of all, God is ineffable. Trying to define God, trying to understand God, is like a dog trying to understand quantum physics. I believe God is simply beyond our ability to conceive of or define.
Because I do not believe God is a being, sitting on a throne, pulling the strings and waiting to judge me when I die, Christians think I’m a heretic. Some would call me an atheist. Any conversation I would have with them would be immediately shut down because I do not believe in their image of God and I don’t believe He wrote the Bible that they call his word.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone,to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
I say to the atheists who don’t believe in a big man on a throne, who don’t believe in a judge waiting to throw us into Hell, who don’t believe He’s pulling the strings of our life. Me, too. I don’t believe in that guy either. I say to the Christians who say they do believe that they are spiritual beings, that they are sons and daughters of the most high and they will live forever because of who they are. Me, too. I believe that, too.