God Talk #2
When Albert Einstein was asked if he believed in God, he hesitated. Here was the scientist who represented a culmination of the Enlightenment and the modern age and to the cusp of the transmodern age we are now beginning. But he knew his audience and did not pretend to be a theologian. Yes, he said, I believe in the God of Spinoza who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists.
Spinoza's God is the harmony of the Universe. Spinoza has a pantheist or panenthesist theology in which the Whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But I really think Einstein believed in Whitehead’s God. Or perhaps Whitehead spoke of the sacred in a way that was most compatible with Einstein’s discovery of Nature.
The major distinction a theologian must make is between the concept of God and the notion of God. The “of” in both can be understood as either an objective or a subjective preposition—God as subject or object of the concept or of the notion. But let’s leave the personhood of the divine a mystery and just call it the concept or notion of “the sacred.”
All speech and language, including religious, aesthetic, and scientific has an outer and inner aspect. On the one hand, there is speech--including that regarding the sacred--as out in the world, objective, systematic, formulated, written, in which many (at least two) persons participate. And on the other, there is speech--including that regarding the sacred-- creatively sprouting from persons, emanating from the soul, the feeling of consciousness in projecting to the world.
We have here the difference between beliefs and faith. Or we can notice the difference between the feeling of committing to the sacred (faith) and the external expressions—the belief systems of concepts, teachings, stories, rituals, organizations. And this leads to an understanding of three types of believers.
1. There are those believers who recognize that their belief systems are time and space bound, never final, steps to newer, wider, more inclusive beliefs through faith that will not get stuck in belief. They acknowledge the transition and transformation of belief systems through history. These are the great-souled persons in touch with continual and profound transcendence.
2. There are those believers who confuse their faith with their beliefs. They believe that their way is the only or, at least, the best way. They are devoted to their religions, their doctrines, rites, and practices, and try to get their children, relatives, friends, even all people to adopt their belief systems so they too can be saved. These are weak-souled persons. Most of us who get stuck in our religious, cultural, political ideas because they have served us well without shaking us up to search wider and deeper.
3. There are those true believers who have no faith. In other words, they identify faith with their beliefs. They consider themselves at the end of history, having the key to history, or on the side of history. With huge egos, that they are the ones who know best. Often, however, their arrogance portrays insecurity and the cynical view that there is no truth except what they say is true. These are persons with tiny or no souls, self-absorbed, unconcerned with consequences for others except insofar as they affect them, persons with strong opinions without critical thinking.
The religious spirit is not in conflict with atheism, secular humanism, and the multi-diversity of religions. It is faith, the sense of transcendence, in conflict with static dogmatism and its intolerance, rigid belief systems, and arrogance. And faith is the driving force of science and social progress. Faith opens the believer to the new, the future, the process of the Universe and everything and everyone within it.
The problem with Spinoza and his God of modernity is that he saw Nature as did the ancients up to Newton, complete, final, absolute, waiting passively to be known. Whitehead and many who followed, assimilating the new science, moved us to a new epoch of transmodernity, and a new understanding of supreme being, the sacred, and the divine.
(Definitely to be continued.)