Thursday Reflection: What Can We Know – Definitively – About God?

Nothing. That was easy.

What can we believe – definitely – about God?

Everything. Actually, we can believe anything about God that we want to believe. And this is the dilemma. Some assumed that as the “Enlightenment” proceeded the need for God would gradually decline until “faith in God” became a dinosaur. Quite the opposite has happened. God did not die.

Time Magazine rocked the world with its April 8, 1966 cover – the first in the history of the magazine with a cover absent any picture – only text – in large red letters posing the question: Is God Dead? With that question, having its roots in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, the magazine acknowledged two forces moving against religion – Secularism, and Science. These two forces worked in consonance with each other. Science was rapidly eroding the need for a “God” in control of the universe, paving the way for secularism. In the post-modern age a new dichotomy in the God conversation has emerged: Spirituality and Religion.

More and more people are self-identifying as “spiritual”, but not “religious”. Typically, “spiritual” is understood has having faith, deriving strength from some belief, and experiencing the divine in some or other life experience – often an experience associated with nature. God is in the sunset, the ocean tides, the wind, etc. “Religious” is what is associated with denominations, church membership, doctrine and liturgy.

Would you categorize yourself as one or the other – “spiritual”, or “religious”?

But it seems a problem has come up for the spiritual but not religious folk. One blogger notes that the “spiritual seeker” needs something religion provides – tools. When we talk about our spirituality, we inevitably fall back on language and imagery that have roots in some or other religious tradition. Religion, when it is working right, is spirituality that is embodied. To use a Christian theological term, our spirituality is incarnated through our religion.

The problem, says Netanel Miles-Yepes in his blog post, is that religion can lose its spiritual focus. It becomes like a body without breath. People “come” to church, but fail to recognize how they are called to “be” the church. We become more enamored of our tools than the truth those tools are supposed to lead us to.

We will be talking more about this at First UMC Burlington for the last three Sundays in June. And you can read Netanel Miles-Yepes’ blog by clicking here.

May your Thursday bring you the challenge of new spiritual insights and the comfort of timeless traditions.


Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.

  • Mark Jacunski

    Best lines: “People “come” to church, but fail to recognize how they are called to “be” the church. We become more enamored of our tools than the truth those tools are supposed to lead us to.” This was very true for me while growing-up and until just a couple of years ago. Worship has now taken on more meaning for me than ever before.