Monday, April 4

Reflections on Theologia and the Web of Jewels

The very center of our religious experience is our relationship with the Divine.  Indeed, Augustine defined the word theologia (the root of theology) as the reasoning and discussion of the Divine.  As to how that has morphed into a study of institutional religions, I will leave that as a 'finger-moon' problem. To enter into that discussion, one should identify our perception of the Divine.  Note that it is my contention that the Divine is both infinite and ineffable.  Therefore, full understanding of Her is beyond the capability of our finite minds. Thus, I wish to focus on our capacity of understanding certain facets of the Divine.

When I was growing up, I had the fortune of being 'exposed to' two disparate depictions of the Divine, both being familiar to the readers.

The first is that of Strict Disciplinarian Father.  This is the Old Testament YHWH, replete with long beard, Elizabethan English and smiting ready for all those who are naughty in His sight.  The parallel thought process with that is that we are all inherently (dare I say, intrinsically) naughty in His sight and it's only by the direct intervention of the Pascal Lamb that we can avoid the smiting that we are well and truly deserving.

As a compliment to the Disciplinarian Father model is the Nurturing Mother.  This vision of the Divine is a (mostly) maternal figure who is filled with love and acceptance - a non-judgmental and comforting figure full of mercy and compassion who emphasizes the innate value and worth of every human being.  In some versions of this understanding of the Divine, there is no Hell in the afterlife, for all are brought into the loving embrace of the God.

The second depiction of the Divine I grew up with was a variant on the Divine Watchmaker.  In this scenario, the Divine created all and was active in the lives of mankind.  At some ill-defined time between the Apostolic era and the Protestant Reformation, however, he stepped back and has let the watch run from there.  In this envisioning, God is a distant figure...neither overly loving or reproachful.  It is for us to read the book and follow the instructions, pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps when needed.

Then, there's the facet of the Divine which I perceive at present - a old friend and mentor who knows you better than you know yourself.  This aspect of the Divine gently guides, reminds and chides but doesn't overtly condemn.  Choice and self-responsibility is key, with a strong emphasis on fraternal love which can mean the occasional pat on the back or kick in the pants.

The question arises, which image of God is the correct one?  The answer is yes.  Our image of God reflects ourselves and what we, individually, bring to the table.  Those who feel a certain innate guilt about themselves or wish for divine punishment exacted on others for perceived sin see God as the Disciplinarian.  Those who have a need for love and compassion or wish to bring those traits into the world, see the Nurturer.  People who have a strong belief in self-reliance and a rational/scientific world without miracles have a distant deity.  I think you see the point.

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