Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Theism: The belief in one or more deities. More specifically, it may also mean the belief that God/god(s) is immanent in the world, yet transcends it.

Clew started a discussion on her blog asking people to say whether or not they are theists, and why or why not. I think I’m going to have trouble fitting my answer into a comment form, so I’m making a whole entry of my own about it.

I’ve actually been thinking of writing something along these lines as it is. The church I attend is Trinitarian in nature, and the theology is based in the Nicene Creed, which essentially states that the Father begot the Son, and the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or as it is sometimes called now, Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

My problem here lies not with the Creator or the Sanctifier, but with the Redeemer. For reasons I can’t quite explain, even to myself, I just can’t bring myself to believe in the Jesus part of the Trinity, even though I have wanted to. And if I am completely honest with myself, I have never believed in Jesus as a personal aspect of God. Look back through my other theology writings. I always speak of “God” or “the Spirit,” because that’s what I understand and feel comfortable writing about. It’s never about Jesus.

If I break down my beliefs to their core, I could probably best be classed as a panentheist. Panentheism is the view that God is immanent within all creation or that God is the animating force behind the universe. I touched on this a couple of entries ago, writing about comets. Everything that exists is God examining God’s self and seeing what happens. The part of God which transcends the knowable universe is the part which is observing.

I do believe also that part of the knowable universe includes a spiritual realm, as well as the material realm we can easily see, and that this realm contains beings which can interact with the physical realm in certain situations, or in dreams. For example (yes, I know it’s fiction, but it’s the clearest example I can think of), J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology of Middle Earth, The Silmarillion describes the world as the unfolding of the thoughts of the creator-god Illuvatar, while other beings, the Valar and the Maiar, who were created by Illuvatar, are “in” the world as its caretakers. (They’re in a spiritual realm not reachable by ordinary means, but also not in the Void where Illuvatar dwells.) I have not yet decided whether I believe the spiritual beings to be separate beings who are part of the creator-god in the way that material things are, or if they are the way by which the Divine interacts with the parts of itself which are enfleshed. I could argue either way.

But you see my quandary here. I belong to a church. I love my church and the people there. But I don’t believe the same things they do. I’ve been feeling like a fraud since I started being more honest with myself. How can I say the Nicene Creed every week when I don’t believe a word of it? How can I accept the “body and blood of Christ” when I know that it’s just bread and wine, and no holier than anything I make for myself in my own kitchen?

I believe in my church and the love that is there and the work that we do in the world, the music we make and the prayers that are raised. I don’t know if that’s enough for me to keep going there without feeling like a very uncomfortable fraud.

Friday, April 07, 2006

More History Channel Fun

Wasn't I supposed to spend Lent creating brilliant theological essays? Yes, you see how well this has worked.

So, anyway, I was watching more History Channel last night. They ran two specials about the Antichrist and the coming of the end.

Now, as I've posted before, I don't believe in any kind of literal interpretation of Revelation at all. But I always watch these End of the World specials. Generally, I sit there and argue with the narrator. (For some reason, the History Channel specials on the supernatural always seem biased in favor of whomever believes in the topic of the special.) These specials both had a few interview clips with Frank Griswold, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, as one of the "voices of reason" who take a decidedly non-literal interpretation. And it was obvious that poor Bishop Griswold was trying not to roll his eyes at the inanity of some of the questions being asked of him.

So, while I was sitting there listening to the dispensationalists describe exactly what is going to happen when the Antichrist comes to power (and I will swear to you that televangelist Benny Hinn's southern accent is fake-- he sounds like a refugee from a Grisham movie), it occurred to me that these people must think the Antichrist is a complete idiot.

Think about it. For a couple hundred years now, they've been publicizing these things. And yet they still think the Antichrist is going to do what they SAY he's going to do? Like he'd use 666 for anything when it's gotten such a bad rep! New world order? Pfft. A REAL Antichrist would find much more indetectible ways of doing evil.

(And why do these folks always assume the Antichrist is male? The Beast described in Daniel and in Revelation is never once referred to as male. The pronoun is always "it.")

For that matter, why would the Antichrist even bother doing all these things anyway? The prophecy's been written, s/he knows how the story ends. So why not skip all the trouble and use all that power and charisma to lead a life of leisure on some tropical island?

See? Strange things pop into my head while I watch the History Channel.