Articles - Deb > Seven Things Not to Do to God


Sometimes it is easier to figure out what not to do than to delineate a precise code of beliefs or truths. Pondering this little list of don’ts may lead you to some powerful positive understandings. The great sculptor Michelangelo claimed to have created his famous statue of David by cutting away what was not David. By removing some inadequate images of God, we raise our expectations and allow God to reach us.

1. Don’t spout nonsense and put "God can..."

in front of it. More than one New Thoughter has pointed out that God can only do for you what he can do through you. All creation is co-creation, and you have to hold up your end of the log, do whatever you can. God can multiply your loaves and fishes, but you must get busy and at least do the mental work of clearly visualizing your outcome.

2. Don’t spout nonsense and put "God can’t..." in front of it.

Such statements are literally non-sense; they are self-contradictory statements that are logically flawed. Two famous examples are the notion that God might make a stone too heavy for him to lift and the statement that even God can’t steer a parked car. The remedy is to rephrase the statement. There’s no such thing as a stone too heavy for God to lift, and steering requires a moving car. The parked car is a metaphor for a person who is not making any headway.

3. Don’t confuse God as giant human being with God as ultimate Person.

God is the title we use to refer to the ultimate real entity, the highest state of being. That entity must by definition be higher or better than any other part of reality, including us. Since we are capable of being good, loving, just, and merciful, God must be so to an even greater extent than we are. We are persons, and personhood is the highest state of being that we can imagine. A person is one who is self conscious, rational, and value oriented. God therefore must be the ultimate Person; personhood is the floor from which the notion of God-hood begins to build. God may also possess a great deal more of which we have little or no understanding yet. He does not, however, possess the limitations of personality from which we humans suffer; God is not an irascible, capricious potentate. We may or may not choose to relate to God as Person; there is much to be said for "May the Force be with you". Just don’t allow distaste for anthropomorphism to tempt you to sell God short.

4. Don’t kick God upstairs.

The Christian church around the seventeenth century did this at a time when it felt threatened by practitioners of magic and by mechanical philosophies. It kicked God upstairs by declaring that only God could work miracles, which he did by suspending the laws of the universe. This related to deism, the notion that God created the world and then went off and left it to run on its own, with no intervention by God at all; and led to atheism, because if God wasn’t going to intervene, who needed him? But God is "inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs", right in the middle of everything, "closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet".

5. Don’t treat God like a genie in a bottle.

Some New Thoughters act as if God were a celestial vending machine, ready to dispense whatever they desire or respond to their every wish. But as Emmet Fox put it, "The Lord is my shepherd, not my bellhop." The shepherd is the one with the rod and the staff, the source of correction when we stray from the path. We need to rely on God’s wisdom in order to receive what we truly want, what is for our highest good, rather than the whim of the moment. We would do better to regard God as our senior Partner.

6. Don’t call God "It".

An it cannot love, and we do not refer to a person as an it. We say "God is love", speaking metaphorically, but love and goodness are abstractions, whereas God is actual (concrete). Certainly the various aspects of God are worth dwelling on, and people through the ages have given God many names, all of which help us to understand God a bit better and thus draw a little closer to him. God does not have the limitations of a human body and is therefore without gender. God possesses both male and female qualities; so do all men and women: a man can be nurturing, and a woman can take an active role. It may be most accurate to drop altogether the use of the personal pronoun and simply repeat the title: God, God’s, Godself; however, this quickly gets tiresome. We might just as well retain the traditional he and him when referring to God, since we most frequently concern ourselves with the various activities of God.

7. Don’t fence God out.

Don’t fence him in, either. God is in the world and the world is in God, but he is not to be identified with the world; he is more. The universe, as the mystics tell us, is God’s body, and God also "has a mind of his own", distinct from our minds. We often feel that we are struggling alone "against a sea of troubles", but the Bible makes it clear that God is always right in there with us, sorrowing over our defeats and rejoicing at our victories. (Check out Psalm 139, for example.) Or we somehow develop a too small concept of God, a God that for assorted reasons is not worthy of worship.

If we heed the advice to "be still and know", God will speak to us; God will guide us, and we can follow willingly. Our God is all sufficient, if we will only let his light shine forth from us and allow his loving power—far greater than ours—into our daily lives.