6 The God that can be Storied is not the Real God

When talking about God, something I shouldn’t do and yet cannot help doing, we have to make a distinction between God as an ontological reality—God as God actually is if there is such a thing as God at all—and God as a narrative construct: the God of our story. Let me make this clear: Torah’s God is a character in a story whose purpose is to sanction the worldview of the Jews who tell that story. This doesn’t mean there is no God, only that we should not mistake talk about God with God.

All Gods in all scriptures are narrative devices. Sometimes God calls us toward an infinite nonzero worldview devoted to compassion and justice, and sometimes God calls us toward a zero–sum worldview devoted to cruelty and exploitation. In either case the God in question is a projection of those who control the narrative.

The God of Torah created the world, chose the Jews as his (Torah’s God is clearly masculine) special people, gave them the Promised Land and hundreds of commandments, and made them the focal point of all human history. How Jews understand these things changes from generation to generation, and inventing new understandings is what it is to be a Jew. But that in no way suggests that the God of Torah is anything other than a narrative device.

Is there a God outside narrative? Certainly there are other Gods in other narratives: Jesus in the Gospels, Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Allah in the Qur’an, etc., but these Gods are still narrative constructs designed to further the agenda of the narrative’s creators. But to the question of whether or not there is a God outside any narrative structure, we must remain silent because we humans cannot operate outside of narrative.  So, as Lao Tzu says in the opening of the Tao te Ching, “the tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao.” In other words, any God about whom we can speak, tell stories, and create theologies is merely the God of our imagination.

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