My Credo: The God Beyond God


Gentle readers, what follows is my credo. It’s not all I believe; nor do I claim that I live up to it on a routine basis. Yet I offer it to you in the spirit of sharing how things look from my vantage point.

*****

I believe the world as it exists is thoroughly fallen from the creation God intended. It gives the lie to all facile ideologies of human perfectability and historical progress. Beneath the fragile tissue mask of human optimism lies a vast reservoir of grief no human imagination can fathom. It resists all of our efforts to eradicate it; its seeming limitlessness frustrates even the most earnest attempts to minimize it.

I believe that at the end of all our projects; at the end of the road, after all lights have gone out; after the death of ourselves and all we care about; after the death of hope, of faith, of God even; beyond all this, God meets us– the God beyond God. We discover, after it is all over, that all this time God walked alongside us: Jesus the Christ, Son of God and Son of Man.

I believe that this last truth is the hardest one for us to bear. Yet it is all that can save us. For it is in that recognition alone that we are able to stare down the abyss of the world’s suffering without looking away in shame and disgust. It is all that allows us to look upon others with eyes untainted by hatred. It is this recognition alone that allows us to be truly compassionate, which is all that allows us to be–at last–human.

By Brian Cubbage

Brian Cubbage is a member and Elder of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Louisville, KY. He and his wife, Cheryl, have a young (but rapidly growing) son. Brian has numerous interests, some more embarrassing than others. The picture is not really of Brian; photos of him are rumored to exist but their authenticity is highly doubtful.

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7 thoughts on “My Credo: The God Beyond God

  1. Brian,

    Perhaps I am too positive, but I have rejected the notion that humanity has “fallen from the creation God intended.” I have come to believe that we are indeed what God intended, and while we are not in any sense perfectible, God intends that we progress from age to age, in how we interact with one another, with creation, and with God.

    I also rejected the notion that human life is a vale of tears. Bad things happen for certain, but tragedy and suffering while often part of life, are not the essence of life. God did not create our world so that we could serve out a life sentence in a prison of pain and despair. The “God beyond God” as you put it, is indeed right here, among us, prepared to stay with us through the good times and bad. We have not been abandoned, and we are not alone, and we are not without hope

    Whatever God’s notion of justice, I am confident that it was not part of God’s design that all humanity (or even most of it) would endure lives of suffering and die in a state of utter despair. I take very seriously the call to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and to be thankful in all circumstances. The call for thankfulness is surely not a call to be forever and always thankful for each tragedy we suffer. The call to rejoice cannot be intended to call us to rejoice and be cheerful in the midst of incessant grief. Unless God is an utter misanthrope, those commands must arise from a divine perception that creation is and remains good, that humanity and life in general are good. Mere humans are not capable of undoing the goodness of God’s creation or of rendering God’s good gifts into an abyss of suffering.

    That is not to say that we cannot afflict one another, or be afflicted, nor is it to say that we are not capable of polluting or even destroying the good earth which God gifted to us. Nor is it to say that nature cannot itself cause tragedy to occur. Nor do I ignore the fact that many people do indeed lead lives of serious pain, suffering and despair. Instead, I am saying that in the midst of this tragic potential, because we have a loving, faithful, and powerful creator, there is hope, and thus there is an even greater potential for joy.

    John

    • John,

      Thanks for your thoughtful response! I’m not sure there is much daylight between us here, but you will have to be the ultimate judge of that. Part of the issue is the 250-word limit, which forced me to select my emphasis.

      I hope that I didn’t send the message that life is nothing but suffering. That would just be false. Give me another 250 words and I will write about the joys of life in authentic community with others, even in the midst of suffering! My targets here are moralistic ideologies that promise that, if we could just get rid of this religion, or all religion, or immigrants, or Republicans, or something, human life would be on the quick road to maximal happiness. I sense this in people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, for instance, for all their alleged sophistication. They all remind me of the character Settembrini in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain: Eternally optimistic, yet unable to look upon suffering and finitude with anything other than disgust and embarrassment. Perhaps I am preaching to myself a bit here, too.

      You state that you reject the notion that humanity has “fallen from the creation God intended,” yet further along in your comment you state “I am confident that it was not part of God’s design that all humanity (or even most of it) would endure lives of suffering and die in a state of utter despair.” This sounds very close to the same thing to my ears, given that a substantial portion of humanity does endure a life of suffering and does die in a state of utter despair. I don’t mean to endorse nihilism, resignation, or defeat; on the contrary, I believe God calls us to do what we can to improve the overall situation. I just believe that given our natural inclination to recoil in shame, terror and impatience from the suffering, faith is needed for us to be able to cope with the utter enormity of the task of alleviating it. I see Christ as a condition of possibility for authentic human relationships that address the whole person.

      You are right to observe that there is tremendous room for joy and hope. I didn’t mean to imply anything different. My aim was to point towards a God who is able to encounter us and walk alongside us even in the deepest suffering, since that very same God has defeated death itself.

      • Brian,

        I agree, the 250 word limitation forces you to focus the credo and leads to all kinds of problems.

        As for the nature of the human condition, I would focus on my statement “but tragedy and suffering while often part of life, are not the essence of life.” Life is good. There is definitely pain, and not everyone’s life can be said to be good – but life is still something special – carrying the gift of God’s spirit – even when downtrodden – and the potential for hope and love – even when afflicted, and even when defined by pain, suffering, and oppression.

        Death is part of the divine design for earthly life – everything dies, and in dying, makes room for and often nourishes new life. But death is the end of earthly life, it is not a part of it. Of course we can obsess on it and it can come way too soon for some, and not soon enough for others. But it is a punctuation mark for a life, not the substance of it.

        I understand that some see death as a mark of human fallenness, but I cannot accept that. Death is a part of what it means to live on this planet. And who wants to live in this body forever, or even to be forever young? That is not progress, that is not growth – that is stasis, and that is decay.

        Progress means moving on, to new and greater possibilities. Eternal life does not mean a an eternity of waiving feather fans over a self-indulgent God. Eternal life holds the possibility of new challenges, and new adventures, ever more closely knit to the creator.

        I know what I just wrote sounded crazy and overly exuberant. And I can’t say that such exuberance actually describes my attitude towards death. I am afraid of death, I treasure my life. But what I wrote is among the possibilities inherent in accepting the premise that humans are not fallen, and instead they are just fallible. Accepting the premise that we are the way God made us, full of possibilities, life-affirming and life defeating. I have this debate with my wife: is it fairer to assess someone according to the best that they have displayed of themselves or the worst that they are capable of? Good people do despicable things, and despicable people were not always that way.

        Life is a gift, not a burden – though it can sure seem that way sometimes.

        John

  2. Cool enough to respond to someone else’s Credi. However, it also short circuits the process — enabling the respondent to use MORE than 250 words to state their own beliefs. My suggestion — let’s try responding with our own credos — or at least limit responses to 250 words or less. Seems fair.

  3. Joel,

    Your reply suggests several points of etiquette of which I was not aware: (1) that Credos are necessarily limited to 250 words (as opposed to a commitment to brevity, and if willing to accept the challenge, then attempt the 250 word limit), (2) that it is inappropriate to respond to another’s Credo, and (3) that replies, if at all, should be limited to 250 words.

    Did I miss a discussion of these points – or were these conventions just obvious as a matter of good form. I now notice that most posted Credos have not been commented on.

    I have understood that Disciples as a matter of course engage in open theological explorations. I also understand that the open expression of a personal Credo makes one vulnerable and open to challenge and debate. I can see where such discussions can get wildly off-track, unkind, and very personal, and such should have no place here.

    But if respectful discussions and challenges are off limits, then I apologize for my bad form. It seems I have gravely misunderstood the nature of this forum.

    John

    • Oops — my bad!

      I did not mean to imply any breach of etiquette, which is not mine to declare. I have no authority here. To the best of my knowledge, you have done nothing even slightly inappropriate. Please forgive my lack of clarity and courtesy. As far as I know, we are free to comment on credos. Your personal beliefs are obviously well considered, and clearly addressed in your response. I would enjoy your response to the original challenge — a direct, brief statement of your core beliefs.

      I should have simply said, “Well said, John! You should answer the call, too! Found in “We Need Your Credos!”

      • Joel,

        My credo will be posted in due time. It exceeds 250 woods, but it is still relatively brief.

        John

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