Here are a few of our favorite Big Ideas + Other Cool Stuff from Week 2 of Ian Lawton's 7-week course, A History of God
Ian Lawton has been growing God Pods for over 20 years now, helping people and organizations uncover the seed of divinity within and grow from the inside out. Or as he says in his Twitter profile, he is a "Spiritual teacher of inner wisdom, divine love, deeper consciousness, oneness, peace, and abundance."
Ian is an author and lectures internationally on contemporary spirituality, technology and change. He has been blogging and writing daily affirmations for several years and teaches regularly at C3 Exchange in West Michigan which is an independent, inclusive spiritual community.
Ian has also launched an online community with his wife Meg ―Soulseeds―that offers resources and services for people of all faiths and no faith.
In this course, we will take a look at all of the different ideas about God and sort out our own, probing deeply while having fun!
Let's check out some of our favorite Big Ideas from this week's class:
Big Idea #1: The Trinity
The idea of the Trinity developed after the Bible was actually compiled, in the first couple of hundred years of Christian history. The people creating this concept wanted to find a balance between the unity of God and the fact that God seemed to present Himself in different aspects. This came to be seen as: the Father, sovereign, creating, holy and other than man; the Son, God incarnate in human form; and the Spirit, an invisible force filling people and nature with the awareness and presence of God.
There were certain problems with this formulation, however. For one, it had no women, and didn’t point to the feminine aspect of the divine. Ian believes that this was done to maintain and explain the social order, where men were in power.
The concept of the Trinity immediately led to a lot of debate. Modalists believed that there is only one God, but that he appears in different modes – kind of like masks that God wears at different times. Other beliefs suggested that there were actually three separate Gods.
Over time, some thinkers have found the concept of the Trinity ridiculous. But perhaps some deep meaning can still be gained from thinking of God as having these different aspects.
Big Idea #2: A Father, a Son and a Bird?
If taken very literally, the Trinity can simply appear as an older man, a younger man and a bird. But there are other ways of understanding this concept. Ian was once in a church where the Trinity was referred to as the Creator, the Redeemer and the Giver of Life. This formulation points to three experiences of God, not just to beings who are somewhere up in the sky.
Perhaps the Trinity points to the fact that God is not just this or that, but many things to many people. In the same way, a man can be a father, a son, and a husband, or, in different conditions, H20 can manifest as water, ice or steam.
It is interesting to note that the concept of the Trinity was developing as Greek and Roman theater flourished. The theater of those times used masks to represent different Gods. Perhaps the Trinity was intended to be seen as different masks of God. The theater involved a lot of dance, and it may be helpful to see the Trinity as a dance between the known and the unknown, between unity and diversity. Here we’re reminded of Nietzsche’s famous quote, “I would only believe in a God who knows how to dance.”
Big Idea #3: Within, Between and Beyond
Another interesting aspect of the Trinity is that it avoids dualism. It is a concept that doesn’t see God as having two aspects, but as having at least three. Perhaps this stimulates the mind to think of God as complex and manifold. Each person may have a different interpretation of the Trinity that has power and meaning to them. Ian likes to think about the God Within, the God Between and the God Beyond when considering this concept.
The God Within points to moments when we feel the completeness of the divine within us. We are whole and at peace. We may have many roles we play in life, but inside of us, Ian believes, is an unchanging essence. We must try to not hold onto our roles too tightly, or we’ll miss the experience of the God Within.
The God Between refers to those moments when our jaws drop from seeing the sacrifice of a fellow human being for the benefit of the community. We see God in the group, in the way the individual gives of themselves to the many and the way the community nourishes the spirit of each member.
The God Beyond refers to our vision of God in nature. We see this God in the mysteries of the universe, in the divine spark found in the arts, in music, in great causes, in creating a better world for the next generation. This is the God that we see when we are taken beyond our usual perspective, into a greater, more expansive view of the world. This is the Beyond that we find in the midst of life.
Other Cool Stuff:
Click here to join our community site where you can discuss the ideas you learn in this class with your classmates!
We hope you enjoyed and see you in Week 7!
-The en*theos Team