The English reformer, John Bradford, was credited for saying, “But there for the grace of God go I” in the middle 1500s. Centuries later, Christians still say similar things. Most are expressions inserted into conversations when well-meaning people don’t know what else to say, such as phrases like “God works in mysterious ways” when visiting hospitals and attending funerals. Statements like these are often attempts to harmonize a world filled with pain and uncertainty and a belief in a sovereign God who controls everything.
Conceptualizing God as a micromanaging being in the sky can cause several problems. In ancient times, it was no doubt easy to describe God in these terms, just as it was easy to believe that the earth was flat, heaven was above, hell was below, and that the sun moved around the Earth as the center of the universe.
We can biblically think about the nature of God in many ways. In John 4:24, Jesus said that God was spirit and that we are to worship in the Spirit and in truth. In 1 John 1:5, God is conceptualized as light, and it is further explained that in him is no darkness. In 1 John 4:15, the Bible says we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. Here, God is conceptualized as love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in them.
Even though it’s common for religious leaders to act like they have the definition of God all figured out, it is probably wiser for deconstructing Christians to stop trying to describe the nature of God in words or to think about God physically as a European male, like Michelangelo did. We should also see a big red flag waving when a religious person claims to speak for God and asks people to do something for them in God’s name.
Conventional Christian dogma seems to get God backwards. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in his own image; in the image of God, he created him; male and female he created them.”(63) This infers that humanity is spiritual, not that God is physical.
While several authors of Biblical passages certainly describe God in physical forms, the Bible also says that God is spirit, God is light, and God is love. When tragedies and blessings happen in our lives, conceptualizing God as spirit makes more sense than physical depictions. Life’s circumstances in this sense are not “God things.” God as I Am and spirit, light, and love are not descriptions of a God that is micromanaging our daily lives or picking winners and losers.
In early biblical times, God was considered too vast to be described in words. If Christians today need to use a word to describe an undefinable God, then, given Jesus’ greatest commandment, why not try “love?”