"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

On Being God's "Other"

The other day I introduced Joseph's Bones by Jerome M. Segal. He writes the book which covers the first six books of the Hebrew Bible as one reading a novel. He tries to write with little regard for the traditional understanding, but just as one reading the Hexateuch for the first time.

I've already informed you of a few thoughts from the book. Here is a bit more for you to mull over.  Please let me know what you think.

First of all, you know how people say you can't understand light unless darkness exists? You can't appreciate joy and happiness without the days of suffering and pain?  Well, along the same lines, sort of,  the author says we cannot have a God without humans. Or God needs us in order to have the god/human relationship. We are God's "Other."  Oh, let me just quote it from the book.

"...It is only by virtue of being the God of a people that God can be God.  What is at stake for God -- and here I mean from the very beginning of the story, when he creates man in his image -- is the question of his own reality. God's fundamental project is To Be, and for this he needs mankind, and ultimately he decides that he needs a specific people, the Israelites.  The paradox is that a god that calls himself 'I Am' can only be if there are others that recognize him as God."   (pg. 111)


"Perhaps being a god involves having a certain position in a relationship, just as being a master or slave requires the existence of the other.  Perhaps a being is a god only if it is recognized as such, only if it is prayed to, only if it is seen as a god by a non-god."  (pg. 113)

Do you agree that we are God's "Other" and that He needs us in this way?  Do you believe God only exists if we recognize Him in a superior state of being than our own?

Also the book portrays God as having to restrain Himself from killing these creatures He made. Thus the rainbow given after the Flood.  Thus the reason He put Moses as a mediator between Himself and the Israelites.  Moses was His rainbow.  The reminder to not destroy all the people.  Leviticus was a covenant God gave to restrain His own behavior.

About God giving Moses His name as "I Am That I Am" -- "It suggests that God is saying that his nature, his way of being, is somehow different from that of humans, conveying a kind of self-sufficiency or independence of being." (pg. 105)  Which the author says is entirely not how God - who is portrayed as actively and emotionally involved in the lives of the Israelites - actually is.

OK, thoughts on any of this?


sanil said...

This guy's...interesting. :D

Certainly for anything to exist as a god as we understand them (worshiped, supernatural, powerful in comparison to humanity), there has to be something to worship them, something natural, and a people to be weaker in comparison. But that's only how we relate to them, not what they are. It sounds about the same as saying my mom had to have me because otherwise she didn't exist - obviously, not at all true. It would only be the aspect of her as my mother that wouldn't exist.

It's really hard to say what God would be without the world, though. That doesn't mean that God needs the world to exist, but that we only have our own observations and experiences, and we can't say for sure that God fits anywhere into them.

I'm a fan of panentheism...that the physical world is an expression of God. It isn't the whole of God or the only possible expression, but everything that exists is a natural outgrowth of God's mind/personality. In that case, it could be said that God couldn't have a complete existence without the world, that life for God would be unfulfilled and stifled, as we would be if we weren't allowed to speak.

Lat said...

Interesting! Who is the author,Sus? Is he Jewish? You know the book I'm reading? I'll try to post soon.In it the author says that in Jewish context of God,there's no present tense.Only the past and the future. so God's name,Yod heh vod heh,YHWH,is I Will Be Whatever I Will Be instead of the author of your post,

"a god that calls himself 'I Am'"
Interesting how authors can come up with different ways of explaining the 'Jewish' God.

Does God need us to have a relationship with? If yes,He/She could have started a family of His/Her own. I think that God's manifestation is known and enjoyed through His creations,not just humans.But humans have a way of ursurping this manifestation thru' the chosen people concept.Not just the Isrealites but others like the Brahmins too had this belief.

I don't think God wants or likes to destroy people.Why is death seen so bad? When it's a natural phenomenon of the world.Once born a death certificate is issued anyway.Why the need to complicate things I don't know.Superiority complex?

Amber said...

All I can say is that I'm having flashes of the novel American Gods. One of the things about the novel is that the gods, as they lose worshipers, lose power. And new gods are created because people believe in them. So there's a god of the road, a god of electricity, etc. Belief creates and sustains the beings. In other words, humanity is god because we create the gods.

I'm with sanil in that I'd say the author is 'interesting'. If God is only God because He created humanity so that He could be God in relation to us, then that means He is not self contained, self sustaining. He required humanity in order to make Him God. In essence meaning that we created Him.

Suroor said...

Why were we created? Does anyone know? (Genuine question!) Muslims believe that we were created to worship God. Then it means that God needs us. How is He I am then when He is He because we are we and He is He in relation to us. OK, it got a bit confusing but I hope I made some sense.

Sarah said...

This book is reminding me of "Answer to Job" by Jung. I find these ideas quite interesting!

Susanne said...

Sanil, I agree that the physical world is an expression of God... a way He shows His creativity if you will. Thanks for your comment. I enjoyed it!

Lat, yes, this author is Jewish! I like how you related this stuff he said to the book you are reading (which I am finding interesting to read your notes on it, by the way!) Interesting about there being no present tense...hmmm!

Amber, thanks for sharing about what this reminded you of. American Gods seems interesting! Yes, I got the impression in this book that man had a lot more power and almost as if we created God. I actually thought of you and some comments and posts you've written about the world revolving around us. :)

Suroor, I've heard anything from God created us to worship Him, to fellowship with Him, to enjoy Him, because He is love. I don't believe so much that He needs us as...I don't know. He wanted to create and here we are! :)

Sarah, thanks for sharing that about the book you are familiar with! Yes, they are interesting to consider maybe because it's all new to me!

Thank you all for your feedback!