Do You believe in God?
Posted On 09/02/2020
This is a question we are asked quite a lot as Quakers. I can only answer from my experience.
Firstly, what do I mean by God? For me, it’s not the traditional old, white man on a cloud. As I have gotten older I’m less and less certain in my belief but that’s ok. I’m finding myself preferring to use terms like ‘The Divine’, The Spirit’, ‘The Truth’, ‘The Light’, ‘The Rock’, because for me, God is so much more than I can discern. Over the years, I have found the following model and images, helpful with my understanding.
The following model, I first encountered when I was a student, I have a Science background and so how Science and Religion interact fascinated me and still does. It is in the book – Does God Play Dice by John Houghton. The model he describes is taken from an earlier book by the mathematician Edwin Abbot entitled Flatland.
“It is a two dimensional world where the inhabitants only understand north-south and east-west not up-down. A sphere from the three dimensional world of Spaceland appears and attempts to explain to one of the inhabitants, what it means to possess another dimension. The sphere passes through the plane of Flatland several times, appearing first as a point followed by a minute circle, a larger circle, a smaller circle again, and finally disappearing – a process completely inexplicable and magical to the Flatland inhabitants. The sphere in Spaceland was normally outside Flatland yet could peer into all parts of the inside of Flatland; all events in Flatland were transparent to him. Further he could enter and be present in Flatland anywhere he pleased.
By way of analogy, let us imagine an extra dimension to the three of space and one of time with which we are familiar, we can call it the spiritual dimension. We can imagine God in the spiritual dimension being outside the material universe yet being all-seeing and all-knowing regarding events within it and having the ability to be present anywhere within it and also appear within time.” This model has long helped me understand a little of how The Divine can be both in the Creation but also much greater than the Creation.
The image of Light has such rich connotations, of illumination, the Early Friends called themselves Children of the Light. The Light shows us all our imperfections but Light is also used as a lamp to show us the way.
The Rock is another powerful image for me. I always see it towering up out of the sea, a windswept place, neither is it soft, the rock itself is hard, even barren but it is a place of refuge, of safety – Psalm 94:22. The Rock is my refuge in times of trouble, I can go there when I am tired, afraid and lonely, but it is not a place to remain and hide in all your life, you have to emerge and go back to the situation, face your problems.
Finally, Water, the phrase that came to mind is “Streams of Living Water” – John 7:38-39. This water is always flowing, always moving but we can try to dam it, try to stop it. Water is very powerful it can move large boulders, even cars and vans if there is enough of it. I think to myself what boulders am I putting in the way, what unpalatable truths about myself am I not facing.
Water is also very gentle and soft but it does wear away rock over time. The Spirit can help us to put right those things we need to, to help us grow; sometimes by the torrent and sometimes by the gentle current. Water is needed to sustain life, the same as I am unable to live without The Divine. Water can also be a promise of how your life will be “like a spring whose waters never fail” – Isaiah 58:11.
I think The Divine will always be an Eternal Mystery for me, but one that I have a relationship with, that I have been seeking after my whole life. I choose to call this ‘Other’, this ‘Mystery’ God.