Friday, October 21, 2005


Some of my housemates and I have the habit of debating the existence God late at night. While our philosophy sessions cost us a great deal of sleep, they are invaluable, at least to me. One of the fellows has a bad habit of getting hung up on semantics. If I say, in reference to God, that "he" did such and such, or "he" had such and such a trait, he informs me, quite passionately that we cannot refer to God as he. Apparently he--my friend, not God--is unaware that in a very real sense, "God" is too small for God. In truth, the whole cosmos is quite full of "him" and seems ready to burst.

It goes without saying, that God is not a "he" in the sense that God is only a he. But, left to the inadequacies of language and metaphor, he seems a good enough name for me, for two reasons. First, God became man, at least according to Christian tradition. And while the most important reason that Christ became man was to open the gates of heaven for mankind, God, being God, could have enacted his plan of salvation in other ways. I tend to think that he chose to become a man for a very good reason, namely, to help us better understand something that is uncomprehensible to the pathetic human mind.

The other reason I do not mind calling God a he, is that, as previously discussed, there is no word that adequately sums up the essence of God. Thus, to squabble about how God is not a person, and is more of a spirit or an idea, really misses the mark. I do not care how one defines God for the consideration of his fellow man. I care a great deal about the characteristics of the nature of this God.

My friend speaks well of Islam, precisely because they do not get hung up on semantics. Being a Christian, I am well aware of our semantical devotion, and will readily defend it, but I am almost wholly ignorant of Islam, something that it quite regretable. Lacking any basis for judgement of my own, I will accept his point for now. He further expressed resentment at the Christian's idols, or icons, devoted to God. I, too, will defend these.

Very few Christians, I would imagine, really pray to a crucifix. If our number did express cult-like devotion to mere material things, I would demand at once that we destory these golden calves. The cruifix is important, because although it does not embody the Christ, it does represent him. In prayer, one must meditate on something. It makes a great deal of sense to focus on a cross rather than to stare idly off into space, or focus on something internally.

In the oft quoted passage, the Bible tells us that "God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who so ever believed in him, may not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) The Christian is well aware that he cannot thank God enough for his gift of eternal life, but God deserves thanks for something else, too. In sending his son as a man, he has allowed for us to further our understanding of him.

He is compassionate to the point, not only of giving up his life for us, but even to take on the miserable existence we share. It is difficult to determine which is the grander sacrifice.


John Sobieski said...

Your library is a good resource to rid you of ignorance of Islam,if you so choose. Critical books like Crisis of Islam by Lewis, Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam by Robert Spencer or gushing books from John Esposito or Karen Armstrong can give you two perspectives, at no cost to you other than your time.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Thanks. I will keep this in mind.

troutsky said...

I was fortunate to become aquainted with a number of Muslims in North Carolina (all males unfortunately so I only have that perspective) and was inspired to learn more about the religion.For me the traits of these individuals (as I percieved them) was more telling than the doctrine or epistemology of Islam.Huston Smith wrote a "concise introduction" to the religion titled simply Islam,taken from his incredible book The Worlds Religions and published separately.

A Wiser Man Than I said...

Again, thank you for the help. If only you could persuade my teachers to allow me some free time to help. Hopefully I can get to it during Thanksgiving break.