Reaffirming Faith in the One


For both my personal life, as well as for research for a current book on the redemptive keys to the human heart and culture, I have been recently working my way through issues related to the enduring power of myth, the pervasive influence of archetypes, the theological passion of theopoetics, depth psychology, the alluring nature of symbols, the wonders of panentheism (God-in-all things), the stunning insights of kabbalistic theosophy, etc.  I have read copious amounts of Karl Jung,  Joseph Campbell, Paul Tillich, Rollo May, Teilhard de Chardin, Aldous Huxley, Sanford Drob, Gershom Scholem, among others.  I have to say that I have loved learning about it all.  So much living mystery, divine process, mythic structuring, and grasping of the invisible powers and influences on our lives.  Its been amazing.

For those who have studied theology would immediately recognize in my recent reading diet the names of people and ideas that have been considered heretical or even mildly occult by orthodox theologians.  I have learned so much that I must admit to being worried about my own biblical orthodoxy.  So in the last I decided to do an exercise in what can be discerned about God from this study of phenomena-in-themselves (general revelation) and compared it with what we can discern about God from Scripture (special revelation). In doing so I wanted to test myself as to whether I find myself unhealthily captivated by some of these powerful ideas.  I tried to be as honest as I could be, neither deprecating paganism/immanentalism, but also not shirking from the harsher (sometimes unpalatable) aspects of biblical revelation.  Here are my two simple lists. What do you think?  


  • God is...
    • That divinity is manifest in many gods and/ or infuses every aspect of the world in which I inhabit. 
    • It is wholly other and ground of being at the same time. 
  • That a God-awareness lies at the root of human self consciousness.
    • We cannot seem to escape the divine. 
  • It/They are beatiful and yet truly terrible at the same time. 
  • it/They inspire both fear and devotion. 
    • They often will require sacrifice to coax their blessing or to mollify their anger.  
  • They/It, if and when they speak at all, do not have a univocal voice. 
    • Multiplicity is ontologically grounded
    • It seems that the gods are often at odds with themselves and in engaged in eternal political machinations and second guesses in relation to the other gods. 
  • That It/They are morally indifferent when it comes to humans and creation
    • No absolute ethic can be discerned from nature.  If anything nature can be seen as anything from nurturing and sustaining or capricious and violent. 
  • This leads some adherents to either orgiastic celebration or harsh ascetism or both depending on the deity being worshipped. 
    • That It/They are everywhere but especially concentrated in liminal zones and sacred places. 
  • It/They have real power
    • There is a clear understanding of the supernatural
    • This makes all of life rather eery; it is sacred and scary at the same time.
    • They/It animates life (animism).  
    • This also means that life can be a very dangerous place. One can easily be possessed. 
  • That I participate in It. 
    • Because deity pervades, we cannot avoid participation.
    • I feel my life as taking place within a larger, cosmic, arena. I am an intrinsic part of being. I am enfolded in divine life. 
  • That It/They are to be feared and yet desired. 
    • Formal rites and religion can provide propitiation and approach to the divine, but we must tread very carefully because the gods are not "good"; at best they are indifferent but most likely they capricious and nasty. 
  • It/They (the gods) are largely indifferent to me and my suffering. 
    • In many ways their actions are the cause of human suffering.
  • It/They don't have compassion.
    • They are dispassionate.  


  • That we know that God is
    • That in fact He is the Creator of all things
    • He is also YHWH … the I AM….or I Will Be As I Will Be.  
    • Transcendent and Immanent,  He chooses the manner of His appearance in ways that conform to His nature and will. 
  • God is Holy
    • He is the wholly Other Other
      • His essential being is beyond all human knowing.  We only know what He chooses to reveal. 
      • He is super-natural
    • He is pure and requires purity
      • Any approach to holiness requires a corresponding holiness in the devotee.  We must be holy because He is holy. 
  • One has to have huge amounts of respect for God if one is to even have the possibility of knowing and loving Him and not being destroyed by Him.
    • This is what the bible refers to as the fear of Yahweh. 
      • Therefore the fear of Yahweh is the gateway to the knowledge (and the love) of Yahweh. 
    • He is not to be trifled with. There is an utter seriousness about Him. 
    • The fact that he is Creator, King, Judge ought to be enough to awaken the necessary mysterium tremens et fascinans. 
  • That God is Love
    • Beyond all else that can be said of Him, and as ha red as it is to discern, the Bible affirms that He is intrinsically loving. 
  • That God is passionate.  
    • His love, as well as his anger, are fierce and unrelenting. (= divine pathos)
      • His patience, mercy, and wrath are in constant dialectical tension
  • That God is good and merciful  
    • He is kind. 
    • And humble
    •  ....and forgiving!
  • That God is a redeemer. 
    • That He takes it upon Himself to rescue and restore His lost and rebellious creation
    • This relationship is the source of history. 
    • He IS the Savior ...and this is good news because we not onLy judged by Him we are saved by Him. 
  • That God is in charge. 
    • He is the undisputed King. Ruler of all. 
    • His adversaries are not even close to being His equal
    • We are subjects of His Kingdom
    • He cannot be negotiated with...His will is absolute and His ways are righteous. 
  • That God chooses to reveal Himself in creation, revelation, and redemption
    • While He will not overwhelm, and is essentially other, He does seek relationship with those who desire to know Him. 
    • This relationship will be on His terms and it begins with surrender. 
    • And ultimately He speaks His Word in and through Israel's Messiah. 
      • Jesus is God's language...God's rationality. 
      • Divine reason, logic, or plan is revealed in the life of Jesus
  • He is relational and can be known.
    • That He is intensely personal
    • He is the Thou to our I. 
    • The Holy partner in our dialogue
  • He seeks covenantal relation which requires active response and constant attention. 
    • In a way more intimate than we can ever understand, and by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, He Himself lives within all those who love and trust Him. 
  • That God is just and righteous. 
    • And He requires justice and righteousness from all his creation. 
    • Monotheism and ethics are inextricably linked. 
    • Any approach to God requires a deep soul searching and change in those that would approach
  • That God is beautiful and the the source of all beauty. 
    • All symbols, myths, art, longing, philosophy, reflect his traces (archetypes) in the world and all religions grope after him.
    • He courts us in theophany and speaks in prophecy and revelation
    • He is the object of all human longing...and its only true fulfillment
  • That God is Truth and the Source of all truth. 
    • True Ideas are holy in that they originate in God and are a means of connection with Him. 
    • We can know something of His mind and His will insofar that He has and will reveal them to us. 
    • We are guided by His light. 


The second list comprises a thoroughly orthodox understanding of God. And I realized afresh that I can totally sign off on it.  I passed my own test of orthodoxy with flying colors! Philosophical Paganism does not in my view come close to what is revealed about the God of Israel.  Phew!  

Although I will say that authentic biblical theism--not the overly rationalistic, cut-and-dried, "theism" that we have inherited--incorporates a profound sense of the numinous (the holy) and the mysterious, an ever present threat of overwhelming theophany (e.g. Isa 6, Eze.2...never a comfortable event), acknowledges the ongoing role of archetypes in our world (the so called "powers" and "archons"), is mostly coded in the language of poetry and myth (therefore appealing to a different register of human consciousness than simply the rational mind), and is saturated with the ever-present reality of the supernatural.  What most evangelicals believe about God and reality is a rather pale, anemic, substitute for real theism.  In this I believe our inherited Evangelical faith is itself not entirely orthodox! 

This was a fantastic exercise and resulted in me being very thankful for what is revealed to us about God in the Bible.   Paganism is fascinating in so many respects--life becomes filled with divine mystery that invites participation--but it is in the end somewhat despairing, painfully fleeting and relative, and leaves me to the mercy of my own--and other's--sins.  I don't believe paganism can deliver meaning! 

We Shall not Cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
~ T.S. Elliot