Our first reading: Genesis 1:1-5, 11-19 & 24-27 (NLT):
‘In the beginning God created the heavens and earth. The earth was formless and empty, and the darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw the light and it was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light “day” and the darkness “night”. And the evening passed and the morning came, marking the first day.’
Note, God is Spirit. God has no form. That is why it is so foolish to make human idols. God who is the Source, the First Cause, is beyond human comprehension, beyond human framing. God is not white, nor male in the human sense, nor bearded, nor English! These ideas are all limiting, child-like understandings, which stand between a true appreciation of the God who is both Immanent that is in creation and Transcendent; which means existing apart from creation.
‘Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation – every sort of seed bearing plant, and trees that grow seed bearing fruit. These seeds then produce the kind of plants and trees from which they came.” And this is what happened. The land produced vegetation – all sorts of seed bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. The seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.’
So, the God we worship is Spirit. And the God we worship is revealed by the natural world, as it has developed in all of its splendor. So why not, simply call God, ‘life’? We don’t do this because that is only part of His manifestation. For God is both revealed and hidden from view. So why call God ‘He’ or ‘Father’? We do this because that implies first cause, first source; remembering that God is the Spiritual Father of all.
‘Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind – livestock, and small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And this is what happened. God made all sorts of wild animals, live-stock and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw it was good.
Friends God has given us a diverse creation. One which, by the way, we should we should nurture and honour. We should never forget that we have stewardship over this earth and not ownership. But above all, stands man, humanity, made in God’s own image.
‘Then God said, “Let Us make human beings” in Our image. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.’
Again, something to note: ‘Let Us make human being.’ In ‘our image’; such phrases are understood by many Christians as Trinitarian proof-texts; God-as-Trinity. Although, of course, they are from Jewish scriptures for whom the idea of God as Trinity would be anathema. So I see this as referring to a God who by His very nature is creative, unfolding, expanding; just as the Universe does; favouring a conceptual rather than dogmatic understanding of that contentious word.
Our second reading was from John 1:1-5 (NLT):
‘In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him. The Word gave life to everything that was created and His life brought light to everyone. The light shine in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.’
Friends, John copies the style of Genesis. ‘In the beginning’ and so forth; this is deliberate. Here God is given a third attribute. He is already Father (Source), and Spirit, and now He is Word as well. This points us to a God who isn’t simply the divine clock-maker - setting things in motion then stepping-back. No, our God is intimately involved with His creation; planned it from the beginning, loved it from the start.
And what does ‘Word’ mean? Theologians still argue. Some think of it as ‘intention’ or ‘plan’; in the beginning was the ‘plan’ and so on. But for most, it is Christ; or perhaps the Christ-Spirit; part of the ‘We’, the ‘Us’ that Genesis refers to.
So yes, we non-subscribers do believe in God. The One, True God; the Father and Source of All, manifest in natural world; but existing outside of it as well. This same God exists as Spirit, so please no craven idols or images; for such is as best a child-like religion and at worst an arrogant idolatry.
No, we meet our God personally. We know Him as Father, and through the Holy Spirit, but we affirm this Christian truth above all; that this same God is met fully and profoundly – in the person of His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.
What do non-subscribers believe? We believe in God. Amen.
(First in a series of addresses by The Rt. Reverend Christopher Wilson, MA)