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Only One God

People are sometimes surprised when I say that I think one of the ingredients of faith is the ability to be comfortable with uncertainty. But an intellectually, emotionally honest faith should allow some uncertainty, humility and openness. It is better to take an ecumenical approach to faith, with humility about your own faith tradition, openness to the wisdom and thoughts of other traditions, and acceptance of the idea that it is not necessary to be absolutely certain all the time about all things.

Re-reading the book of Isaiah, I see a theme of inclusiveness that I hadn't seen before. In the midst of chaos and conflict, Isaiah's prophesies teach that there is only one God, and that God speaks to the whole world. Imagery of people, animals and nature are woven throughout the book, echoing the theme that the world was made by God and responds back to God. I like the passage that says that "the beast of the field will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:20)" Or, another favorite: "Sing O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing." (Isaiah 49:13) The idea is that God speaks through creation and nurtures the land, animals and people everywhere. The statement that there is only one God becomes inclusive and not exclusive. God speaks to everyone and everything.

Some favorite passages show God as both majestic and nurturing. After saying that I don't need to be certain about everything, I find that these passages speak with a joyful confidence:

Who created the heavens and stretched them out,
Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,
Who gives breath to the people on it,
And spirit to those who walk on it:
(Isaiah 42:5)
Even to your old age, I am He,
And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear;
Even I will carry, and will deliver you.
(Isaiah 46:4)

Ecumenical themes are found throughout the Bible. As people of faith explore the oldest texts in the Bible, especially exploring the early connections in the biblical laws to nature, environment and agriculture, and exploring the connections among the nations in and around Israel, more and more univeral themes unfold. God's people are set apart, yet connected. The people of Israel led the way in revealing the one-ness of God, but the intermingling of ideas among neighboring people never stopped. And today, in such a connected world, it feels natural to assume that God has always been inclusive.

January 2011