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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 13, 2024
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I'm Going to Tell You About God

One day my then-12-year-old daughter made an unusual formal appointment to see me in my church office. Settling into the chair, she said with heart-tugging earnestness, "Daddy, please explain God to me."
The enormous importance of the request and the requester seized me. My gut knotted up, my mind careened across the cosmos, frantically mentally Googling for what my little one was waiting to hear, quietly confident that her daddy would deliver.
I couldn't do it.
Today, with a title and a job that certify me as an expert in God-explaining, I still couldn't do it.
I might be a tad less distraught now. Having thought about, taught about and experienced god (the small "g" is intentional) long enough for my little girl's grandchildren to ask me the same thing, I'm more comfortable about knowing that the request is impossible to fulfill.
Do you realize the Bible doesn't explain god either?
I've dropped the customary capital "G" because it implies the word is a title or a name. It is neither. Our well-intentioned forbears did us no favor by turning the generic word for deity into a holy word.
And if Jesus had known his words would be taken as eternal, universal declarations of deity by people who don't speak his language or understand abstract analogies within the same cultural framework that he did, maybe he would have put a different spin on the word "father."
When Moses met god as a burning bush that wasn't burning, he was instructed to say to those who asked what the source of his received wisdom was, "'I am' told me." In our language that just doesn't make sense, and that's exactly the point. It can't make sense, or be reasonable or crammed into our little box of rationality. Thinking about god is not irrational, but it certainly is non-rational.
Talking about god is like a 20-something Nigerian student experiencing his first snow. He had never even been cold before, thought the flakes were magic illusions because they disappeared before his eyes, and fretted about how he could explain it to the folks back home.
How indeed!?
How would you explain a palm tree to an Eskimo who had never seen any kind of tree?
Looking for a way to talk about god to devout pagans in Athens, Paul lifted the words of their own 6th century B.C. poet Epimenides; "In him we live and move and have our being."
That apostolic observation dovetails nicely into Jesus' use of wind as an analogy of god. Wind is activated air: always in motion, dynamic, powerful, uncontrollable. Wind is both a savior and a destroyer. I am in it and it is in me, but I am not identical to it.
I don't "believe there is a god," but I know that god exists. I know it the same way I know lots of things, such as whether someone loves me or whether electricity is real. We all base our view of the world on observation, including other people's observations.
There — I've explained god!

Editor's note: W. Jackson "Jack" Wilson is a psychologist, an Episcopal priest, a sometime academic and a writer living in Colorado. He writes with humor, whimsy, passion and penetrating insight into the human condition. And in Pushkin, Russia, a toilet is named in his honor.

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.

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