Internal Émigré Series 1991/ I AM or i am/ John T. Skinner

jewish-symbols-Menorah

I AM or I am

Exodus 3 v 1:15

‘Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father‑in‑law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush.  Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up.  So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight ‑ why the bush does not burn up.”

When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him within the bush, “Moses!  Moses!” And Moses said “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said.  “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.  I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey, ‑ the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzittes, Hivites the Jebusites.  And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.  So now, go.  I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you.  And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain”.

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘the God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘what is His name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob – has sent me to you. This is my name for ever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation”.’

What I want to consider today is the nature of Christian experience, the nature of our encounter with God.  How can we tell when we’re having an encounter with God? It’s something that we need to know, because we live in a society where people are claiming to have numerous  encounters with God.

The classic example of that and perhaps the most marketed at the moment and hyped is David Ike who claims that he’s not only had an encounter with God but that he is the I AM himself.  Now that might for some of us that might seem a bit funny but lots of people are claiming to have experiences of God that don’t seem to bear a resemblance, at all to what we have regarded in the past, as being normative Christian experience.  And it’s happening with an increasing momentum.

And I in my little travels have had experiences of God which I’ve found out later weren’t experiences of God at all, in my walk as a Christian, and fortunately there have been those around me who have had sufficient enough sense to know the things of God who’ve been able to say what you’re experiencing is not God it is either yourself or it is a spiritual power which is not related to God at all. Also within my ministry there has been countless occasions where people have come and said “God has spoken to me” and when we sit down and actually examined what being said, God hasn’t spoken at all.  And they’ve had to come to terms that God hasn’t spoken.

Well those are not negative things, because we need to learn, we need to be able to understand, what it is, who God is, and to be able to receive and listen to His Voice.

There is another question involved in this.  Can we actually experience God, and can we know God?

That is a question that many people today would say is impossible.  The Know‑ability of God, we can’t actually know God and many ‘Believers’ who go through the ritual of worship, the ritual of religion, in their daily lives would act as if their knowledge of God didn’t make any difference to them.  So there is a content of religion but when it comes to actual living then it seems God doesn’t make any difference at all.

And I put myself in that category at times as well, that’s not just a criticism, I hate the word ‘nominal believers’ and ‘real believers’ because I’m not sure what the difference is sometimes;   at times I’m nominal and at times I’m a believer.

On the one hand, the Christian Faith confesses that

GOD IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE.

God is far above human understanding.

So therefore knowledge of God can never be exhausted. It can never be complete.

God is outside of the limitations of our human experience.

If that wasn’t true, then we ourselves would be I AM.

We would be God, because if we knew everything about God we would be like God and we would be God.

One of the problems of the Reformation I believe, was a reaction to magic and superstition within the Catholic Church, and in reaction to that magic and superstition the Reformation took all the mystery out of the Christian Faith.   Everything was going to be systematically ordered so that every little dot and dash about God, there would be a Systematic Theology where we would be able to put God in order.  And the mystery went and when the mystery went the beauty went as well.  And if you look at some of the Reformation Churches you will be able to see what I mean, because they’re basically boring and dull.  The beauty went because everything was ordered.

One of the difficulties with Evangelicalism today, and I say this as one who owes a great deal to the Evangelical Tradition, is that it is stood in the tradition of the Reformation, and mystery has been removed again from a lot of religious belief.  So when people today are coming searching for God, the Evangelical Church has a ready‑made set of answers. To a certain extent the Catholic Church is in the same position, with Church tradition there is a ready‑made set of answers for every problem, for every situation and this is said to be on the basis that we have the Word of God or we have the Tradition of the Church.

When people come in seeking all they are presented with is

‑ ‘here’s the answers.’

There is no sense of ‘Encounter with God’

an encounter with the mystery of God,

the incomprehensible One

the one who is beyond us

the One who is over us

the one who is outside of our limitations

outside of our experience

– and people just end up disillusioned and disappointed, because what they encounter is not the Mystery of God, they encounter our understanding of God as He is being revealed to us.

We need to get the Mystery back into our Christianity, ‘we need the Mystery, we need that sense of Awe again, and for me any true Christian experience will involve that concept of Mystery.

We know – but we don’t know.

We have experienced ‑ but we haven’t experienced everything.

There are things we know about God ‑ but there’s an awful lot we don’t as well.

We know enough to have a relationship with Him, because He’s told us enough through His Image ‑ Jesus the Christ. We know that we can have a relationship with Him but we are constantly in a state of seeking, and when the Church stops seeking it starts decaying, because it goes in upon itself because it figures that it’s got all the answers. ‑ And the Incomprehensible One is reduced to the sum total of a communities understanding of what they think that He’s like.

I believe today that God is ‘busting our gut’ , He is putting us in a place where we are confused, not confused about a relationship with Him, but confused more and more about the nature of His relationship with us.  And I am not afraid and ashamed to be confused, and that doesn’t mean I don’t have a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, because I definitely do know I have that right relationship.

We are being called again  to be available to the Mystery of God.

Mystery in the Christian sense, means this, – that God has Revealed Himself but also that God has Concealed Himself

 

God has revealed Himself but also God has concealed Hi

So when we have an encounter of God it will embrace that sense of Mystery.  There will be things that we know and there will be enough to put us in a relationship with God but there will be things that we don’t know as well.

Now Contemplative Prayer, is entering into the concealed side of God.  It is entering into the hidden side of God, and the reason why the Church is so spiritually dry is that it doesn’t know how to enter into the hidden part of God. Because it is happy with the revealed part of God, ‘oh we’ve got it now, right!’ You do this and you do it that way, you do that and you do it this way, and you do that, and you do this, and these are the answers ‑ full stop.  Well people are sick of it.

Contemplative Prayer, is entering into the Hidden‑ness of God, it’s entering into the Mystery of God.  And this will involve awareness of our own small-ness.  It will involve an awareness of our mortality, it will involve an awareness of our sinfulness.

To illustrate this from Moses, because Moses knew what this meant.

There he is tending his flock in the desert, he’s not really in a real holy situation is he he’s just going around the ordinary business of his life.  And part of the divine conceit of Christians is the connection that they make between apparently mundane events in their life and the great themes of history.  Here we are in the ordinariness of our lives experiencing God and this is going to have a great effect on other people, ‑ well it’s true.  ‘Cos there was Moses tending his sheep just doing his job in an ordinary situation, and God spoke to him.

The thing about the burning bush you know, in the desert bushes would burn because it would get hot and they’d burn and they’d burn themselves out.  So here’s Moses sort of thinking this bush is not burning, it’s burning but it’s not going out, I’ll just go and have a look.  And often God catches us in our lives unawares.  When we are not getting seriously religious He catches us out and we are in a situation and we think we’ll just have another look and we hear God.  And God speaks.

And God always calls us by name, and He called Moses, “Moses, Moses” because when God speaks there is always a sense of personhood for us a sense of dignity.  And when people sit cringing in churches in fear, they haven’t understood the Nature of Christian Experience.  When they sit in a servile attitude towards God they haven’t understood the Nature of Christian Experience, because when God speaks He calls us by name and it gives us dignity and it gives us a sense of worth. ‑ But it also makes us afraid.  And it says that Moses fell on the ground ‘cos he couldn’t cope with looking at God.

When we’re faced with the Mystery of God, and here was Moses faced with the Mystery of God there was a Word revealed to him.  ‘Moses, Moses it’s God speaking to you’ but he didn’t know the whole picture he collapsed in fear.  He has an awareness of his smallness, ‑ his sinfulness.  And if we are to get anywhere in prayer it’s as we approach the Mystery of God we’re going to face our own sense of small-ness, our own sense of mortality, and our own sense of sinfulness; and many people turn back at this point.  They stop all together.  They pack in, they can’t cope.

Any true Christian experience of God, will involve Mystery, it will involve Revelation, God speaking and it will involve a response in ourselves, where at the same time we have a sense of worth and dignity, at the same time we have a sense of our worthlessness, our sinfulness, and our smallness before God.  And any true Christian experience will have those two things in it, and I’m convinced of that and if one of them is absent then something is wrong.

So at the same time that we feel affirmed by God, we will feel worthless in our selves.

Jurgen Moultman ‑ The Crucified God

‘Confrontation with the Cross or the Glory of God, and ‘Glory’ in Biblical terms means the Nature and Presence of God, is not positive or constructive but in the first instance is critical and destructive It does not bring men into better harmony with himself or his environment, but it brings him into contradiction with himself and his environment. It does not create a home for him, but makes him homeless and rootless, and liberates him to follow Christ who is homeless and rootless.’

Any genuine experience of God will give us a sense of our own worthlessness, and I am putting that in the context of God giving us dignity as well.

One of the things that is said today about the experience of God that it gives us a sense of our harmony with the world. Our harmony with each other, that underneath the fabric of everything there is a great harmony going on, everything is OK. But the Christian concept of experience is, when we’re confronted with God, the only thing that we are aware of that has unity, is God Himself.

In ourselves what we are faced with, is the reality which is in the created order,

which  is dis‑unity;

which  is chaos;

which  is uncertainty;

which  is mortality;

which  is to do with decay;

which  is to do with division.

We need to be seeing more in our own lives, and in the lives of people who are saying that they are having an experience of God, a deeper sense of our own sinfulness.  And that seems to be absent not only inside the Church but outside the Church, as well.

So genuine Christian experience will involve confrontation with the Mystery of God, it will involve an awareness of our own sinfulness as well as our own worth in God’s sight, and the other thing that it will involve is disclosure ‑ God will speak about Himself.  God will say something about Himself which will have meaning and purpose to us, it will be something that we will reasonably be able to understand, it is something that will come into our experience and it’s something that we will act upon.

And when God speaks there is always continuity.  When God spoke to Moses He said “I am the God of your Fathers, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” God was making His Credentials known.  You’re not experiencing here somebody who’s unknown to your community, you’re not experiencing here somebody who’s different to who you’ve ever experienced before.

‘I am the God of Abraham, I am the God of Isaac, and I am the God of Jacob’

God always speaks with continuity, and when God speaks he never contradicts himself. He never contradicts Himself. So genuine Christian Experience while it involves hearing God, hearing a Word from God, it will be a Word that doesn’t contradict the ways in which God speaks to us, and God has spoken to us through Scripture, and through the community of the Church.  So if anybody says ‘God has told me to go and fall in love with Mrs Mopsy, er goodbye Linda’ then there’s obviously something wrong with my hearing of God.

GOD WILL NEVER CONTRADICT HIMSELF.

If we love the Lord we will want to be near and‑as close to His Word as possible.  And His Word is primarily expressed in the person of Jesus Christ whose presence is communicated to us through the Holy Spirit.  And we have the memory of the Christian People encapsulated in the Holy Scriptures, and we have the living memory, the continuous memory of the people of God’s Word encapsulated in the living community today.

So in order to stay close to God, to continue experiencing God, then we’ll want to be spending time to be near the Lord Jesus, to experience Him in the Word of God through the Holy Spirit, and to experience Him in the community of Christ today, again through the Holy Spirit.

So there are no Lone Rangers and there are no people coming in to the community with new revelation, it keeps us from being subjective.  And the reason that I brought the community in is, because with the Scriptures we have a great gift from God as to how we shall live.

But sometimes people come and say ‘this is not in the Scriptures how do I do this?’ What they are wanting to do is not something amoral, its just a question they have in relationship to their lives which is not contained in the Scriptures.  And so they come to the community and they say will you discern with me, in the context of the Scriptures, in the Presence of Jesus, communicated to us through the Holy Spirit, and in our living tradition that we have together, can you discern with me what God is saying to me at this point in time?   And I think that’s right.

That’s why when we talk about community we’re talking about something that has to be a living entity.  Not just something that we pay lip‑service to.

So our Christian Experience will involve Mystery, will involve Revelation, ‑ God speaking to us a Word, and our Christian Experience will also be reasonable.

I hate it when people come and say to me “You know I’ve had a Word but I don’t know what it means’. and I’ll say, “Go back and find out what it means and then come back and tell us.” or somebody gives you a picture or some sort of word and you’re just mystified by it.  Well the Word of God that comes to us is reasonable.  It doesn’t mean its rationable but it’s reasonable and we can actually ask God questions. And Moses did.  “Who are you?  Who shall I tell them that you are?”

And our Christian Experience, it is to be authentic will always be reasonable.  We can say to God ‑ “When you have said this to me when You have spoken what do You mean?’ “What do You mean God?” “What do you mean Father?”

This is the Heart of Christian Meditation.  Christian Meditation is not meditating on yourself, it’s meditating on the Word of God.  It’s meditating on the Word of God Incarnate ‑ on Jesus Christ, and its meditating on the Word of God as it’s being expressed to us in the Scripture.  And we are meditating on something outside of ourselves, on Him who is other to us; and in that meditation we’re chewing‑over we’re asking God to confront us with Himself, and as He confronts us we’re asking Him questions.

Not from a place of studying this occasion but from a place of relationship.  “Father what is that mean? what are you saying? what does that mean to me?  how have I got to change in this situation? what do you want to do? what are you going to do with us?”

So Christian Meditation is not ‑ know yourself. It’s know your God.  But it will involve knowing yourself again.  This is a paradox that starts with the Lord, it starts with God Himself.

So our Christian experience of God will be reasonable, and it will also be experiential, we will experience God.  When we are confronted with the Mystery of God; when we hear the Word from God; when we can take it into our understanding, it becomes part of our hearts, because Christianity is not just about thinking, it is about having a change of heart. It will change our behaviour; it will change the way we see things; and for poor Moses, it was going to change an awful lot.  Because he was going to go from being a shepherd of sheep, to going to face one of the Tyrants one of the Totalitarian Leaders of his day.

Now rationally that’s absurd isn’t it?

But it was still reasonable to Moses.  Because the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob said “I’ll go with you”. so he said ‘well this is reasonable’ even though I don’t think I can cope, it’s reasonable.  It’s irrational from human point of view, from that point of view, but its reasonable.

And any true Christian Experience, and I’m talking about experience in this context now, will always lead us to the people who are crying out for God.  That includes ourselves it will always lead us in that direction.  So Christian Experience will always lead us to other people, it will never just turn us in on ourselves.

It will always lead us to want to be in a situation where as a response to God we can be with other people, who are crying out for Him.  And when God spoke to Moses He said, “By the way the reason I’m calling you is because I HAVE HEARD the call of my people who are oppressed and I want you to go” and our experience of God will always put us at odds with our culture.  Because the other thing that God said to Moses “‑ but you’re going to have a terrible time with Pharaoh.” You’re going to have a bad time.

And if we are truly experiencing the Mystery of God as He is being revealed to us in Jesus, then it should be leading us to being at variance with our culture.  We should be in trouble there should be different times in our Christian Lives where we’re in trouble.  And if you’ve never been in trouble you need to be thinking about who you’re experiencing.  And I don’t mean that on a grand scale, I don’t mean that ‑ because I’ve not been called to Pharaoh ‑ I mean that on a small scale, when you’re standing up either for yourself in your Christian Experience with other people and it brings you into variance it brings you into odds with the established order.

We’re not in trouble enough.

I said to Andy last night‑ “I’m fed up I feel as if my life doesn’t make any difference to anything, I need to be in trouble”.  And that’s not because I want to be a Hero; ‘cos I don’t, ‘cos I’m scared; but I’m more scared by what I see happening outside than I am scared of the trouble, and I keep saying to the Lord “put us where the trouble is”.

I think we’ve lost the sense of Mystery and we’ve reduced God to a set of manageable propositions.  We’ve got it all sussed.  And what does God do?  He makes himself ‑ Absent. Because He’s not actually Present in our own suppositions. So we’ll start coining out of ourselves and reaching out more for Him.

And the other thing we’ve elevated Reason and Experience above Revelation.  I cannot cope when people say they are Bible‑believing Christians, because I don’t know what they are going to say; and it bothers me.  Because I actually love the Word of God.  Here’s another paradox for you. Because I’ve met a lot of people who’ve said they’re Bible‑believing Christians who when it comes to it don’t accept half the things in the Word of God because they’ve subjected the Word of God to their experience.  And we’ve a constant conflict in the Church at the moment between Reason and Experience.

Some people say it’s unreasonable to think that we can experience God in a dynamic, spiritual, supernatural way. So we shouldn’t expect that; and other people say God is the experience of dynamic, supernatural experience.  And there is this kind of reaction going on, and both of them usually come from a Bible‑believing point of view, and what happens with the ones who start from, we don’t accept the supernatural is that they end up in a kind of duff intellectualism. And the ones that say they don’t accept that everything comes from experience; they get deceived by all kinds of things, because they experience all kinds of spiritual experiences from outside the nature of God as well.

We need the two to come together.

I saw a man on the television the other night who was a Bible‑believing Christian, and he was talking about how to get rid of the ‘Niggers’ who were dirtying‑up the town. And he gave a real rational explanation from the Bible why the ‘Nigger’ was less than him and how he was actually, because of his love for God, doing the ‘Nigger’ a favour.  We live in our limited understanding of Scripture.

Our experience of God is bigger than, our own limited experience of, our own limited understanding of the Revelation of God through the Scripture or even through the tradition of the Church.

Many people are turning away now from any hope of having any experience of the God of Jesus Christ.  I often ask myself the question;

“What do people who have rejected Christianity really believe about  God?”

“What’s their   I AM ?

“How does their faith affect the way in which they understand the meaning and purpose of human existence?”

“What is their answer to our question the ever present question of human heart which is ‑ Who am I?”

“What is their answer?”.

And I would suggest that there are four current ideas about the nature of God that are believed and accepted either actively or passively in our Society.  And basically they are all variants of the same idea.

The first one is ‑ God is a good idea.

God is a good idea, as a teenager my pop hero was John Lennon, I loved John Lennon, especially after he’d left the Beatles, and one of my favourite songs had a line in it which I used to sing over and over again and I still do unconsciously it keeps coming up in my mind and I never understood it at the time.  It was this ‑

‘God is a concept by which we measure our pain.’

‑ and for many people God is just the Good Idea.  However while many people today no longer actually believe in God, in a way that makes any real difference to their lives the Idea of God is too good too let go of.

Religion gives to people a good feeling, a sense of belonging, a sense of comfort, a sense of meaning, and also at times a sense of moral responsibility.  The leading and perhaps The most well known exponent of this view is the Reverend Don Cupitt.  He is the Dean of Emmanuel College Cambridge a priest, he’s the guy who did ‘The Sea of Faith Series’.  Now he’s been notorious for arguing that ‘God has no objective, out‑there, existence; yet remains valid as a personified, religious ideal, who has supreme authority in our lives and shows us the way to true self‑hood.’

What he seems to be saying is that God can exist nowhere but in our minds.  Nowhere but in our minds.. God has no existence of his own, he is merely the projection of our own imagination.  The sum total of our own values, our own desire for meaning and purpose,

God is a Concept.

but He’s a nice concept and it’s worth keeping Him, let’s not get rid of Him let’s keep him. ‘Cos Cupitt says it makes him feel good.  The notion of ‘God as a Good Idea’ is a religion about feeling, it makes us feel good and listen this is so true in the lives of a lot of ordinary people, and I tell you this as a parish priest.

I used to go down to a pub with a mate and meet a woman in there who used to say “I love God” “I love God” every time I saw her she said it.  I used to say “what do you mean about God?” “I don’t know I just feel Him I just love Him” well there’s no content, no reason to it.  There was nothing in her experience which suggested that there was no revelation in her life, there was just a feeling.  A good idea.

The concept that God is a Good Idea, doesn’t lead to a concept of Mystery in God, it leads to a concept of Mystification.  You can say what you like about God as long as it feels good.

“Well I feel good about God and I’m sick of you and I’m going to kill you”

It mystifies God and what it basically says at the end of the day is we can’t know anything about God.  God is just a projection of our own imagination.  God we create in our own image.

I read an article on Cupitt recently in the Times and one the guys said to him, “what do you do when you pray?” “Who are you praying to?” because Cupitt uses Christian terms all the time, he talks about God and he talks about Jesus, and the guy said “Who do you pray to?” and this is what he said,

“I see prayer as rather more like meditation, I take the idea of God as something like a guiding, spiritual, ideal, that you use to orient your life by”

So he gets a picture in his own mind of his own idea about God and starts thinking about that.

God symbolises the goal of spiritual life, prayer is a way of thinking about oneself. What one lives by and what direction one’s life goes by.  If we thought of prayer as being literally talking to a being out there it would be pagan and totally unchristian.

Now he’s an active guy he’s a militant ‘God is a Good Idea’ man but those ideas have seeped into Society and seeped into the Church.  And sometimes we fall into this trap of just thinking that God’s just a good idea.  It is only when we come across real sort of points of stress in our lives that we’ve got to put the idea to the test.

A Bishop recently was asked, who holds this view, “what are you doing when you’re sitting with somebody who’s bereaved and you are praying for them?” and he says “Well I’m being with them.” and lie was asked “Well what are you offering them?” and he said “Well I can’t offer them anything except to be with them.”

Well it’s not good enough!

If God is just a Good Idea, then I don’t want any part of it!

He’s not an original thinker ‑ Cupitt.

One of the things that we make the mistake of today is to think everything is modern, even the New Age is not modern. It’s old, I don’t know if any of you are aware of the Philosopher Rousseau, he was one of the guys responsible for the thinking that went into the French Revolution.  He said he’d made a great discovery, this is what he said,

“The human spirit‑ no longer orbits around God as a centre, but around mankind itself.”

Now he was an original thinker, at the time in his day because that sent shock waves right through the Christian World.  Whether people agreed with Christianity or not whether they were believers or not, Christianity provided for people some objectivity God was the one which people orbited around.

And Rousseau said ‘We need to change that’ and ‘that He’d discovered that man was free and good, and therefore he was able to make his own laws as an expression of the common will and such laws should be regarded as absolute, holy, and inviable,’ and Rousseau believed that if man could see himself in that new light as revolving around himself, then there would be a perfect society; a paradise on earth.

And what happened was the French Revolution, which was a blood‑bath.

Cupitt says that the Religion of Feeling should have as its leaders Artists and Poets, and the Artist will inspire us to think nice things about God.  But creativity has a double face, Adolf Hitler thought he was being very creative when he killed all the Jews, and he was motivated by the concept that Man is at the Centre of things, he should make his own laws he should choose his own way, and he should act upon that and do something concrete.  And Marx was the same.

If God doesn’t exist, then our salvation lies in ourselves,, and we should believe in progress. We should believe that man will evolve from his animal nature into a new man, we should believe this.  Communism has collapsed.  After millions and millions of people have been killed in the name of the new God ‑ which is basically man itself.

When I listen to Cupitt, I think he’s sickly, cos he’s sickly sweet and it’s a sweetness that’s bitter because you can see what it would do to other people if this was the major accepted idea of God in our society.  And I also feel that he’s dishonest because the next idea which is most prevalent in our society about the nature of God is that God is Dead, and he’s finished, and that is much more honest.

So the second one is God is dead

We can’t have any knowledge of God any more.

Our relationship with  God is finished.

We will have to go it alone.

The conclusions are the same, as for people who say that God is just a Good Idea, but I think people are more honest; and I’d much rather talk to somebody who was a definite unbeliever, than somebody who was saying they believed and then didn’t.

The third idea is that God is unknowable.

God exists but he’s unknowable.  This is another form of being Mystified, instead of Mystery.  God’s unknowable but He’s there.  Again talking to ordinary people, you ask. “Do you believe in God?”   “Yes, I believe in God”. And you know the person does. “but what does he mean to you?” “Well I don’t know because

‑ I don’t know him”.

‑ I don’t believe God can be known”.

‑ I don’t believe that He can be experienced”.

‑ I don’t believe that He can make a difference to my life”.

So whatever I say about God or tell you about God won’t be true.  Because really it will just be me guessing at what God is like.

The fourth idea which is steadily creeping into our Society’s consciousness, but that has been around for a long, long time is that, God is everything.

I am God.                    So I AM = I am.

And at the end of the day, they are both cancelled out and you have got nothing.  Because I am God in this idea which is called Pantheism.

Pantheism is not new, the Eastern Religions have been based upon a pantheistic idea of God, and Hinduism and Buddhism are older religions than Christianity itself.

If you examine Pantheism what you come up with is the same answer.  At the end of the day you haven’t got any God, because God is impersonal, therefore God is unknowable and what we are left with again, is a religion of feeling.

So prayer for a pantheist is entering into the unity which already exists, because ‘I AM GOD’, doing exercises that make me conscious of that unity.  So that I have a sense of One‑ness with that, which is already there and exists. we’re all Ohm‑ming together…

But pantheism is not new either.  It is creeping more and more into the belief images of our society.  You can see that in many of the movements that it gives birth to.

When there are thousands of babies being killed every year and it is never mentioned, and yet they are giving to Children in Need, and while I want them to get as much money as possible, and there are children not even being born to be in a place of need because they are not regarded as being worthy enough to be placed.  There is that duality in there.

Pantheism puts all values on the same foot, this bench has got as much value as a person.

Just to mention the New Age Stuff.

What is unique about the New Age is that it puts all these things together into one and gives religious language and religious meaning to them.

So God is unknowable ‑ so what? We can create God.

‑ We can say things about God because basically we are God.

‑ We are Good and we can say what we like.

‑ We can create our own laws,

‑ We can create our own image of God,

‑ We can create God in our own image

And we’ll all be happy together….. except if you disagree.

Because although there are no absolutes and we’re all one, if you disagree with it, then you’ll have to be put into a state of becoming part of, the Consciousness that Streams throughout us all;

in other words You’ll be killed.

And acceptance of the New Age leads to our Death.

So, we have come back to the beginning; God is a Mystery who is both revealed to us and concealed from us in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Through contemplative prayer we enter into the Mystery of Christ and discover Him as the I AM and rediscover the dignity of our humanity  I am because He has created and redeemed me.

John T. Skinner 1991

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