Chapter 5. The Language of God

"In every religion, the transforming religious experience is turned into a religious

system...doctrines of God represent the rationalization of our human experiences of God."

"The theological constructions of the idea of God emerge in all of our religions as largely human creations, reflecting both human insight and human blindness. Our differing cultures, indeed, give many faces to God."

"Describing our experience of God is likely to be more akin to an artistic rendering than a rational definition. Words so often fail us. Every world religion resorts to literary descriptions because literalistic descriptions of God turn out to be hollow and cold, devoid of passion. I am among those believers who do not believe that there is an external thing "out there" in the universe that properly bears the name God. God is not a noun. God is not a substance in the world to be located rationally or apprehended doctrinally."

"The word "God" holds a large reservoir of meanings. One personʼs God is not necessarily the God of another. In our own personal histories as well, the God of one era is not always the God of another. From time to time, we find ourselves desperately trying to hold onto gods in which we no longer believe."

"The call of faith, the Christian faith, the Muslim faith, the Jewish faith, the call of the Buddhist way does not come to people who do not believe in God. The call of faith comes inevitably to people who believe in many gods. The landscape of faith is not that we believe too little. We believe too much. Being without a center, we are left to worship many gods."

"The question about God is a peculiarly human question. Only the human species appear to raise the question of God. There is a mystery about human life, and about our own being here that inevitably gives rise to the language of God. The issues we call religious—man, woman, life, death, eternity—are born of the human spirit. No mere fragment of clay would raise such issues."

"We may learn what we do not believe before we learn what we do believe."

"From Zeus to Yahweh. God has been made in our image."

"While human life is experienced as fragile and transitory, we human beings long for a world of immortal beings, or at least, we want to achieve some sense that the brief span between life and death does not tell the whole story of our lives. I describe this intersection by saying that you and I live between the "not yet" and the ʻno longer".

"The history of human civilization, at every turn, reflects this human struggle to connect with a more enduring reality, to know some reality that transcends the boundaries of human birth and death."

"Godʼs reality is that being that is not bounded by the fragileness of human existence. Our language is a frail way of saying that without Godʼs being, nothing, including ourselves, would exist."

"Our lives, which I like to think of as fiery episodes of Godʼs being and presence, are like sparks of divine light."

"Our being here bears witness to Godʼs presence."

Chapter 13: Creating a community of Conversation

"In conversation we not only learn more about what someone else believes, we learn more about what we believe and we are likely to discover along the way that our doctrines of belief are less important than our experiences of faith."