Sunday, April 6, 2014

Dreaming in league with God

I have probably spent too much time, and too much space here, speculating about the meaning of God, as if I could ever come up with a final definition. I've done so largely because so many non-theists have written books in recent years that assume that "God" means a being "up there" somewhere who, like a heavenly Santa Claus, controls our lives, rewarding and punishing us. I have tried to articulate a more grown-up notion of divinity, drawing mainly on the intellectual study of theology.

But maybe the whole thing has little to do with head, and all with the heart--the feelings. And with the acceptance of a certain vagueness in dealing with a mystery.

I was interested to see a recent article in the NY Times by Howard Wettstein, who says what many others have no doubt thought: that prayer and a religious life do not require any definite concept of God. What is fundamental, he says, is the experience of God.

"Prayer, when it works, yields an awe-infused sense of having made contact," he writes, about the things in our lives that really matter. He thinks of prayer as sharing our commitments with a "cosmic senior partner" in what A. J. Heschel called "dreaming in league with God."

I guess this means that effective prayer puts us in communion with others and with the totality of creation in a way that we feel is meaningful--even if we never have a clearly defined sense of who the "partner" we communicate  with is.

I would have to add to this the basic scriptural revelation that the God with whom we dream is a loving and living presence in and around us.

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