It is easier to be a believer in a God rather than to be an atheist. An atheist is on shaky ground. In order for an atheist to find success or peace of mind with regards to his or her claim, the atheist must first become god-like or at least possess the ability to absorb an immense amount of knowledge regarding this world, the universe and beyond. Surely there is no one who can claim to have such powers. Therefore, it is easier to be a believer rather than an atheist. Although it is much easier to be a believer in a Supreme Being, it is difficult to know this God, for there seems to be many ways to know God. This study will take a closer look at eight articles written by different types of theologians and social commentators and by doing so one can have an idea of how to know God by seeing nature and immersing into a world of human relationships.
Maintaining a Sense of Wonder
Rachel Carson, in her piece entitled, The Sense of Wonder pointed out the importance of having a sense of child-like admiration and curiosity when it comes to observing the raw power and beauty of nature. She asked the question, What is the value of preserving and strengthening this sense of awe and wonder, this recognition of something beyond the boundaries of human existence? (Carson, p.24). She answered that we must continue to feel that way because there is something deeper and significant with what we see in nature that goes beyond the physical.
Her article is a good starting point in the attempt to define and understand God. At the beginning of each day, as one awakens from slumber, the first thing that comes to mind is not a philosophical idea with regards to the existence of God but the absorption of the stimulus that comes from the outside world. The information sent back to the five senses of the body provides an idea of the world but at the same time it affects what people feel inside. This is perhaps the reason why hiking, swimming, rock climbing and other outdoor activities are so appealing. There is something amazing that happens inside the heart and soul of a human person when he or she is in contact with nature. Carson went even further by suggesting that it is not only about physical matter that is the root cause of these wonderful feelings.
Carson offers a cliffhanger and did not directly reveal what she felt although she left important clues when she said that there is more. Reading between the lines one can understand that she is talking about the spirit world and therefore she is also a believer in a Supreme Being that provides a reason as to the majesty of migration, the indescribable beauty of waves crashing unto the seashore, and the exhilaration felt by an adult every time he or she hears a baby laugh, with the pure joy and innocence that only a child can give. Although Carson did not take the next step to engage in a more direct theological discussion about the existence of God, Marcus Borg made it clear that there is a God.
At the Center is God
In his book entitled, The Heart of Christianity, Borg pointed out a critical component of the Christian faith and it is the existence of God. He made an emphatic statement, Without a robust affirmation of the reality of God, Christianity makes no sense (Borg, p.61). This is an important declaration because God is not only at the heart of Christianity it also means that God is at the heart of everything that we do, see, and feel.
There is nothing unsure about Borgs statements and in fact in his book he made a clear argument that there is indeed an Almighty and he proves this via what he calls data or information gleaned from the study of history and science. He said first of all that the ancient people believe in God. He said that people in the modern era must consider the idea that the ancients knew something that is why they were so fervent in their belief. He added that their actions were based on something that they know, not in what they do not know (Borg, p.64). He also said that the religious experience of many people could not be put down as mere imaginations and the thought pattern of those who are highly excitable because there is overwhelming evidence that it does occur. Finally, Borg pointed to the discovery of postmodern science that seems to affirm that there is more to the physical world of matter and energy.
Grace is Proof of God
Borg was very keen in pointing out religious experiences as something that cannot be discounted. He even went so far as to say that these religious experiences that people felt inside the church or in their daily living is the most persuasive sign indeed to compel people to investigate the reality of God. The same sentiment is shared by Denis Edwards. In his book, Human Experience of God, said that God is felt and understood through the experience of grace. He defined grace as, the experience of something which transcends us, which breaks in upon our day to day existence in a mysterious way, and which we experience as a gift given to us (Edwards, p.28). This is similar to what Carson said earlier about the things that are beyond human understanding.
Whereas, Carsons idea of God was vague and his interaction with a Supreme Being is passive as described by the way she felt great joy and excitement soaking into nature, the idea that Edwards wanted to share is about a God who works in mysterious ways, not to cause fear and pain but in a manner that will leave a mark in a persons spirit, making him or her aware that there is an Almighty God watching over the earth. Just like Borg Edwards said that there are evidences to show not only of Gods grace but also of Gods work in the lives of men.
The first sign of the activities of a Higher Being in the life of human beings is seen in the beauty and warmth of interpersonal love. There is just something about romance, marriage bliss and the union of man and woman that goes beyond the physical. There is something mysterious about it and words cannot explain not only the happiness but also the overall effect that it has on the person who receives love from another human being in such an unexpected and unmerited way.
Edwards also said that this inexplicable feeling of wonder and mystery is also seen in childbirth, creativity, forgiveness and by experiencing the beauty of nature. There is something about the interaction with other human beings and the contact with nature that makes it very clear that there is Someone out there and that there is more to this life. Even in the bad things that happen to people the sense of mystery is present. Death for instance does not end our curiosity about life it deepens our desire to know more about the hereafter.
God is in Nature
Kwok Pun-lai an Asian feminist theologian does not spend her time arguing about the reality or the existence of God but instead try to explain that there is no separation between the spirit and the physical. From the point of view of this female theologian there is no dichotomy and therefore God is in nature and nature is in God. This is a radical take on what Carson said about the feeling of wonder and inspiration that is experienced by those who spend time with the natural world. In Pun-lais reasoning the sense of wonder felt is due to the fact that God and nature are one.
Pun-lai argues that, God as the creative power of life constantly sustains and renews creation However, the author did not stop here. She added that this God is not an impersonal God who is all-powerful and yet distant. She also said that this God is not just a force or a power source. She said something that contrast sharply with the impersonal Supreme Being that was described by other writers because she said that God is full of compassion.
Challenges in Knowing God
Whereas, Pun-lai had no difficulty in accepting the reality of the existence of God, there are those who are unsure. They are overwhelmed by the problems that they face each day of their lives; they also question the inconsistencies as well as the hypocrisies that abound, making them feel tat there is no God. They cannot feel the truth behind the words of Pun-lai when she said that God is full of compassion. In a collection of stories found in a the book entitled, Gods Fierce Whimsy: Christian Feminism and Theological Education feminist theologians explore the other side of the discussion the difficult in accepting the reality of God, even a God who cares for the people of this earth.
One woman said that the extreme loneliness that she felt in her life made her question if there is indeed a God out there who cares for her. If there is an Almighty then she wonders why there was no one to help her go through her toughest moments. There is also another woman who said that God it seems is some sort of a coping device for her and when she became a teenager everything came crashing apart (Cannon, p.115). However, a closer analysis of her circumstances and her statements will reveal that she did not reach this conclusion by rationale thought but as a reaction to her emotional problems of feeling alienated and unpopular especially when it comes to the opposite sex.
God is with Us
In Anne Cliffords book Introducing Feminist Theology she introduced the point of view of a South Korean feminist theologian named . This South Korean woman believes that God is not only real but a source of empowerment for life and liberty in the physical and human world (Clifford, p.124). In Carsons view man can look from the distance and begin to appreciate the work of the Creator. Borg and Edwards affirmed the reality of God but they approach God from a philosophical manner. Chung Hyun Kyung on the other hand believes that God can participate in the affairs of mankind.
She wrote to fellow believers, Dear sisters and brothers, with the energy of the Holy Spirit let us tear apart all walls of division and the culture of death which separates us (Clifford, p.124). This is a significant improvement from previous discussions where the divine is seemingly approached from a purely analytical level. In the case of this theologian she was not afraid to express that God as the Holy Spirit can be called upon through prayer to aid her in her struggle to rectify the wrongs in this world.
Chun Hyun Kyungs background information and her written and spoken words provide an insight into the world of theologians. It has been pointed out that she is a South Korean woman and therefore her teachings with regards to the divine must also be understood from this context. When she said that the walls that separate them and the mindset that enslaves them unto death must be destroyed she was not talking in general terms but most probably talking about the political and physical barriers that has divided Korea since World War II. Thus, theologians are not only reacting to what they feel and sense but also from the events that help shape their outlook in life and religion.
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