by Sheri Baker
It’s only three letters, but probably no word has caused more confusion and controversy than “God.”
Think about all the common expressions in reference to the Almighty. We verbalize “Oh my God!” when we feel shock, awe, or disbelief. Its trendy abbreviation “OMG!” permeates text messaging almost as a form of punctuation, kinda like saying “wow” or “really.” It’s part of many other popular phrases, such as “Thank God,” “Godspeed,” “God willing,” and “God forbid.” Even a sneeze is met with a compassionate, “God bless you.” But as often as we use the term, do we really know who or what God is?
In our ongoing quest to unlearn everything we only think we know, our concept of God may very well be at the top of the list. Many people question the very existence of God. This has long been a subject of debate among theologians and non-believers alike. From its perspective, A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is resolute in its proclamation that God does indeed exist. “God is not symbolic. He is Fact.” (Text, Chapter 3)
Though ACIM does not waver on its stance concerning the existence of God, it does not give a precise definition of the word. The reason, ACIM explains, is because words themselves are the product of our unhealed minds which assign meaning to them based on our various interpretations of ourselves and the world. Hence the difficulty in selecting a word which provides the same understanding for everyone.
Depending on our life experience, we all have very individualized thoughts about God. Some of us visualize God as a wise old man, with a long white beard, perched high on a cloud, accepting requests for things we want. Others conjure up an angry God, apparently upset about something a couple of us did with a piece of fruit in a garden eons ago, and determined ever since to pursue a vengeful punishment on the rest of us. Insurance companies have their own spin on the word, usually defining an “act of God” as a disastrous event, albeit a natural one, such as a hurricane, tsunami, or earthquake.
From a Course perspective, none of these descriptions of God is true. Despite the limitations of language, it does, however, offer many insights into the nature of God:
- God is the Creator and Source of all life.
- God created us; we did not create God.
- The essence of God is Spirit. God is not a physical being, and did not create the physical world.
- God has no gender, form, or boundary. God is changeless and eternal.
- God is perfect Love, and only Love is real.
- God is One, and has no opposite.
- God is all that is. If God is Love, then this means God cannot be anything else but Love. And as extensions of God, Love is who we are as well.
If you’re among those for whom the word “God” brings up negative connotations, substituting the word “Love” would be an accurate, and perhaps more acceptable alternative.
Will we ever join together in our understanding of God? Absolutely, but not as one might expect under any type of single religious umbrella. As ACIM states, “A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary.” (Manual, Clarification of Terms, Introduction)
This universal experience the Course refers to is one of love. At some point, we will recognize that our way of thinking and doing is not bringing us what we truly desire, and that only a collective experience of love, or God, will help us reawaken to the peace which is already within us. Just when might we realize our glorious destiny?
God only knows.