[Scripture quotations are from] Common Bible: New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]
[Image: by johnhain is licensed under CC0 Public Domain]
In the midst of life there is a power, a force, a dynamic, a Presence. Some call it God, or Spirit, or mystery; others, Creator or Creation or serendipitous creativity. Some have rejected all attempts to describe that which is given the name “God,” claiming the appellation ‘atheist.’ The simple atheist does not believe in God. The evangelistic atheist resists every attempt to describe a presence that is given the name “God.” In contradistinction to the atheists, those who call that dynamic Presence God have built religious systems to protect their beliefs and practices. Ironically, over the long course of history, many of those beliefs and practices work against the dynamism of the Presence. They go all out to protect the particularity of their beliefs and practices. They bottle up Presence, trying to prevent it from getting out of hand. They might just as well attempt to carry fire in a paper bag.
What becomes important, then, is all to which we attach the name of God. Whether God exists or not, whether God has substance or not, whether God is real or not, what matters is that we continue to name God in certain contexts. Even the atheists continue to name the God in which they don’t believe. (I usually find myself not believing the God which the atheists deny.)
The divine mystery, the Presence, can’t be bottled up. It is part of the normalcy of life. It can no more be domesticated than the will to live. However, when Presence nudges and nags by dint of an unheard inner voice calling us to live life to the full, in solidarity with the least, last, lost, and left out… then we become the fire burning away at the non-necessities of our living, the wind blowing change into our perceptions of the world, the refreshing living water that quenches thirsts… then we become the presence of the Presence.
Paul Tillich, The Shaking of The Foundations, put it this way:
“The name of infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of our being is God. That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have learned about God, perhaps even that word itself. For if you know that God means depth, you know much about Him.”