Q: I hope you can give me the truth on how God came about. I am a very
concrete person, so help me. Could he have evolved from the apes that walked the earth and learned from their experiences or another planet, or what? It can’t be just a spirit who would tell Moses what to do. I hope you don’t think I’m crazy to ask this question.
Thank you for your time. — (From B)
A: Dear B, I love your question because it is not the normal question I receive so often, “Prove to me that God exists.” Yours is the question of how God revealed God’s presence to us so that we could understand it. Your question is also very timely because last week Jews and Christians celebrated in different ways the holiday of Pentecost which always falls 50 days after Passover. In Judaism, it is called Shavuot and it celebrates the revelation of God to the people at Mt. Sinai. In Christianity, Pentecost is seven Sundays after Easter and it celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus while they were in Jerusalem celebrating Shavuot. (Acts 2:1–31). So, this is a good time to think about God.
The two questions that birth religion in the West are: “Did someone make the world?” and the second is “What does that Creator want us to do?”
The first people who looked up into the night sky and asked “Who made this?” were the first theologians. The awesome beauty and order of nature must have filled them with the thought that some power is behind the natural world as its creator. We see this impulse to go from a world to a world-creator in Psalm 8:
8 (KJV) O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
So, even children who, like you, dear B, are also very concrete in their perceptions — even children can understand that we are not alone in the universe, and they learn this by looking at the world. It is just like looking at a watch and knowing that there exists a watchmaker. Things of order, function and beauty do not just poof into existence. They are carefully and lovingly made.
The second question does not have a universal answer that is accessible to all in the same way, “What does this Creator want from us?”
The different answers to that question define the content of the different religions of our world. And are recorded in our Sacred Scriptures. However, with all the obvious differences between the faiths, I believe that there is still a common core of ethical teachings that unites them all. It is fascinating to me that the Golden Rule is in every faith in both the East and the West. The belief that human flourishing depends upon each of us loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.
How far you move from that core belief is up to you and your faith traditions, but know this, the search for God in the world is at the root of human consciousness. After the search for fire, the next great human quest is the search for hope.
Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at email@example.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.
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