GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast

EPISODE THIRTY-EIGHT: Where God gives me a deeper understanding of the divine story, and of the role of human beings in it

August 25, 2021 Jerry L. Martin Season 3 Episode 6
GOD: An Autobiography, As Told to a Philosopher - The Podcast
EPISODE THIRTY-EIGHT: Where God gives me a deeper understanding of the divine story, and of the role of human beings in it
Show Notes Transcript

"You can't get to the truth by starting with some theological nostrums and trying to force divine reality into that box."

JLM

I did not note the context, but I was apparently contrasting the New Testament message of love with the Old Testament message of obedience, law, and judgment.

GOD

Can't you see already the trend?

JLM

I had been reading Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel.

GOD

The theme is love, not just from a distant God but from one who is arriving.

JERRY

Is this about God's sovereignty?

GOD

And, yes, the sovereignty of God, which is another way of saying the necessity of yielding to God, and that is the same as happiness.

JERRY

But the judgment and chastisement?

GOD

It is love, passionate concern for the state of people's souls. Obedience to My law is one side of that coin. My loving grace and salvation is the other.

Commanded obedience is one step, but no one - no leader such as Moses - ever thought that was all. The crucial thing about obedience is circumcision of the body as symbolic yielding, yes, especially of one's erotic and creative power and assertive force; and of the mind or heart, in yielding to God His own. 

 

Hence sacrifice--not making oneself miserable but yielding to God a small portion of what is His own--requires overcoming one's desire and ego – one’s desire for self-assertion and dominion - in order to yield up to God one's material resources and, ultimately, oneself.

JERRY

Is there a Christological aspect?

GOD

You mean the role of Jesus? Isn't it obvious? He is the host. He is the one bringing the bountiful feast. He fully understands the joy of yielding to the Lord. He invites everyone to the feast, even the sinners, since they too can yield to the Lord and enjoy the bounty of God.

JERRY [added]

The bounty of God?

GOD

 

God's bounty is not a matter of winning trophies or bestowing blessings - wealth, safety, and the like. 

That is an overliteralization, though a natural one, since I am particularly by one's side when one is hard-pressed.

 

But the blessing is the very presence of God--no, not that exactly, but the participation in the divine realm. This is the Kingdom of God. You understand, I trust, the joy and peace and sense of direction that this represents.

JERRY

But what about the claim that Jesus is the Son of God and is God incarnate?

GOD

Don't you see that this does not matter? Jesus brings the message, in a very pure form. What more do you want?

JERRY

Well, the idea is that God came to earth, suffered like a human, and died for our sins--his sacrifice, in effect, paying our debts incurred by our sins.

GOD

Let's parse that. Why does God need to come to earth? God is already "on" earth and "is" earth and is "in" you and "is" you.

JERRY

But it could still be another important act for God to become a person in the flesh, couldn't it?

GOD

Yes, sure, but what would that mean? That, of all creation, I was "especially" embodied in Jesus? What would that do?

JERRY

Well, it would certainly bring You closer to mankind. The Old Testament God seemed distant.

GOD

No, He didn't. Where did you get that? Not from the Old Testament. I am all over the place--unfurling the heavens, talking to Noah, to Abraham and to Moses, to the Prophets and Job and Daniel. Do you think John the Baptist or Jesus thought I was distant? I am closer to you than you are to yourself. That is not just a figure of speech. It is literally true.

JERRY

But it is felt that God's becoming man is essential to His sharing our suffering and sacrificing Himself for our sins.

GOD

Then let's go on to parse the rest: first, that God "suffered like a human." I already suffer like a human. That is clear from the Old Testament story. That is why Genesis says I regretted ever having made the world. Do you imagine that I felt no pain at the betrayal of Adam and Eve, which stands for the betrayal of all mankind, that I did not suffer for the sins of Israel, whom I loved, (indeed) of every sinner, all of whom I love, of everyone cut off from Me, when I feel totally and fully--and without psychological mechanisms of repression--all their suffering? I suffer more than a human being can ever know; that is, My suffering is greater than a human can ever experience.

JERRY [added}

 

What about dying to pay for people’s sins?  

 

                          GOD

 

That doesn't even make sense. Sins are not debts to be "paid." They are a condition to be healed, rectified. The solution is not for Me or someone else to suffer or sacrifice or otherwise "pay" for them or "redeem" them. It is for each person to become more perfectly attuned to Me. There are many ways a person can do this--living uprightly, lovingly, even more intuitively and appreciatively, even, in a sense, more quietly. Some hear My voice clearly. Some walk with Me through all the travails of life. Others love their wives and husbands, and children and neighbors. Still others have a meditative or even aesthetic understanding of the world, and of what life is all about. I am present in all these modes of experience and each one moves the individual, and his or her community, closer to Me.

 

So, no, the world does not need to be "saved" from sin--though people do a lot of sinning, of falling away in different ways, and they need a lot of "saving" in the sense of getting on the right track.

JERRY

So Jesus is not the 'Son of God' or 'God'?

GOD

I didn't say that. You have a particular story about Jesus, God, and the people, and I have told you that it is not a very apt story. You can't get to the truth by starting with some theological nostrums and trying to force divine reality into that box. This is true not only of Christian theology but of others as well. The theological phase of revelation is as often a setback as it is a breakthrough.

 

JERRY [added]

One day, I was just sitting there, thinking, when God spoke.

GOD

Get in tune with Me.

JLM

I quiet myself and try to tune in to God.

GOD

Don't you feel how I am reaching out to the world?

JERRY

Yes, with a kind of longing, a yearning.

GOD

Yes.

JERRY

But what kind of longing or yearning?

GOD

Just sit still, and get in tune with Me.

JERRY

It feels very much like unrequited love--a love reaching out for the other person's good, but the person who so much needs that love is distant and unresponsive.

GOD

Yes. Now come into Me again.

JERRY

I'm having trouble, Lord, because I start thinking. The sense of yearning and of distance reminds me of the artist who creates an artwork, thereby stamping an object with the artist's own subjectivity, but since this subjectivity now has objective reality, it becomes an object independent of and standing over against the artist.

GOD

Yes, that is very apt. I am the world in some sense, and yet I also "stand against" the world, and face it and try to interact with it and redeem it.

JLM

I don't like hearing this. God sounds too distant, too alien, standing opposite the world. And you and I and all the people in it just seem like problems to be fixed--or redeemed like bad debts. I keep wanting a Grand Swoon in which we and the Divine are entwined, something with more crescendo.

 

But it is not my role to tell God the answer. It is my job to be quiet and listen. So I pause and try to reconnect with God. Then an image comes to me.

JERRY

Lord, now I have a sense more like a mother bird with her little ones nestled in her bosom and surrounded by her wings. That sense is more nurturing, less distant--of God having given--and still giving--birth to the world . . . 

GOD

Yes!

JERRY

. . . and still nurturing it within a womb or nest, and hovering over it and loving it and yet feeling that the world is now independent, self-preoccupied and rejecting of the love and help God provides.

GOD

Yes, that is getting close.

JERRY

Then Your story is the story of that birth process?

GOD

Yes, but don't get too literal about your images. I am not just a big incubator. But the aspects of coming-to-be, of nurturing and guidance and drawing forth toward fuller realization, of My love and offering of help, and of independence and distance and rejection and being ignored, are all present.

JERRY

So Your story is the story of this coming-to-be of You and the world in tandem, and the central drama is Your love for a world that tends to reject or ignore You?

GOD

No, that is not right. There is a drama inherent in the action within the world, the action of individuals and institutions and nations. That drama unfolds on its own. Human beings and I are participants in this flow of action, and it is up to us to meet it successfully. We are partners.

JERRY

But that seems like a very different story from the first sense I got of yearning, a kind of unfulfilled love.

GOD

No, they are part and parcel of the same story. The world is a world of action. That is the plane on which it is all decided. The world--all Being--moves forward, moves up or down, depending on action on that plane. My love is instrumental in helping creatures meet the challenges of that plane of action. It is not just that, out of My love, I want to help them. My love is itself the help, but it has to be received in order to be effective. I can meet the challenges of action through people, I cannot do it alone. And people cannot do it alone. They cannot even have a decent life alone.

JERRY

That sounds as if action in this world unfolds entirely on its own, driven by our actions and only partly by Yours. I keep wanting to have God preside over destiny, not the other way around. I want a strong sense of Divine Providence.

GOD

No, you have to give that up. I do not write the script. We are all players trying to discover our lines. I have a very special role and it involves guiding the human players toward the right action.

JERRY

But we have never talked about any overall plan that must be enacted or challenge that has to be met.

GOD

No, those are not apt ideas. There is not a single trajectory of action or one big problem to be solved. The world of action consists of many actions, some of which are personal to oneself; others involve the people you love, family and friends; others larger institutions and entities such as nations. No one arena of action is more important than the others. It depends on the mission of each individual's life.

JERRY

Does each individual have a single, overall mission?

GOD

No. Sometimes you can sum up the challenge of someone's life in a nutshell, but, no, every day presents many challenges, and they must all be met. They are all important. I am a partner in meeting them.

JERRY

And so Your story--and the story of the world--is not an upward march through a necessary series of phases?

GOD

No.

JERRY

It sounds as if we should not look for a grand design but focus on the particular ways You disclose Yourself, and interact with people and nature, and give them love and guidance, and on how You have developed through these interactions.

GOD

Yes, that is My story. It is the story of how I have tried to help people move forward and meet the challenges of their lives, and how we are partners in that effort, and how I develop just as people do.

JERRY

But then there is no destiny, no Providence, no Divine Plan, no goal toward which it is all pointing?

GOD

I didn't say that. But you have to give up your fixation on a means-end understanding, a goal-oriented outcome in time, like the finish line of a race. There is a purpose, a telos. Not every purpose is a finish line.

 

(MUSIC)

 

(THE END)