What is God – Part 4: Creator
For part 1 go to http://www.sholomchicago.org/2013/05/07/what-is-god-part-1/
For part 2 go to http://www.sholomchicago.org/2013/05/30/what-is-god-part-2-is-god-a-person/
For part 3 go to http://www.sholomchicago.org/2013/06/14/what-is-god-part-3-god-as-a-metaphor/
One of the most common metaphors we use to refer to God is “Creator.” God beheld the chaos and, with a breath and a word, creates the heavens and the earth, creates us and all that we know.
Do I believe that this is really what happened? No. But I also reject the choice presented by some atheists: either the stories are true as is or they are false, and therefore there is no God. My experiences are much more complex. I am moved by one of the meditations in the Gates of Prayer:
If God is not, then the existence of all that is beautiful and . . . good , is but the accidental by-product of blindly swirling atoms, or of the equally unpurposeful . . . mechanisms of present-day physics. . . . For to wish there should be no God is to wish that the things which we love and strive to realize and make permanent, should be only temporary and doomed to frustration and destruction. . . . Atheism leads not to badness but only to an incurable sadness and loneliness.
I don’t purport to know the nature of the transcendent reality in which I believe. In fact, I strongly assert its mystery, its radical unknowability. Yet I find it comforting to think of that Mystery as the Creator of the things I believe to be extraordinarily valuable and universal, such as birthrights. Creation, as a metaphor for having a transcendent foundation for powerful truths, a starting point, works. Love, honor, caring, justice are righteous because that is how the world was “created.”
The very next meditation in the Gates of Prayer echoes this:
Religion is not merely a belief in an ultimate reality or in an ultimate ideal . . . . Religion is a momentous possibility, the possibility namely that what is highest in spirit is also deepest in nature – that there is something at the heart of nature, something akin to us, a conserver and increaser of values . . . that the things that matter most are not at the mercy of the things that matter least.
The breath of God that lies over the land in the Beginning is a metaphor we repeat often, but sometimes without realizing it. “Breath” and “spirit” are comparable words; the formal name for breathing is “respiration.” We find this metaphor in “inspiration” and “spirituality.” For there to be eternal truths that continue to inspire and motivate us, they must have a place of origin, a staring point. That this transcendent reality was “created by God” is a terrific metaphor that enlivens my faith in those important truths.
Next time, (part 5) God is “Holy.”
Dan Swartzman has been teaching in our Adult Education program for many years. Dan is a professor at UIC, where he teaches ethics, law and nonprofit management. He and his family have been members of Temple Sholom for 23 years.