Saturday, February 28, 2015


As with Thursday’s post, again a single line from Dorothy Sayers’s Mind of the Maker has prompted a post. We know God only through his effects, she says, and all statements about Him are analogical. She goes on to explain this line by noting that we measure Him by our own yardstick because humans measure everything by the human yardstick necessarily. So we call Him Father, Lord, King, and so on, knowing what these things are in human terms and knowing where the analogy ceases. The heavenly Father, for instance, doesn’t procreate sexually.

That thought, that all statements about God are analogical has lingered in the back of my mind as I’ve been reading the Bhagavad Gita. In the central portions of the song, Krishna makes several statements about himself:
Whenever there is a decline in dharma . . . I create myself. . . . I am the intention; I am the sacrifice. . . . I am fire. . . . I am the father of the world – its mother, its arranger. . . . I am what is to be known . . . the Rig, the Sama and the Yajur Veda. . . . I am the way, the bearer, the great lord, the one who sees. I am home and shelter, the heart's companion. I am birth, death and sustenance. . . . I am sweet immortality, as well as death; being and non-being.
If I had read the Gita when I was sixteen, as I thought about doing through my love for the Beatles, I would have had a completely different reaction to these statements from what I experienced last week. Then my simple categorizational scheme would probably have dismissed it as mere blasphemy. Today, I think this Hindu scripture has something to teach me. But I have lots of questions. I know that all statements about God are analogical, but I don’t know where these analogies are meant to end. Is God one or many (or both) according to the Bhagavad Gita? When Krishna says “I am the sacrifice,” does he have transubstantiation in mind? Does the text mean for him to be a substance, or do these statements portray him only as a literary personification of all these things? And finally, taking these statements as statements about God with a capital G, I wonder: Which of these analogies are valid? Which can I agree with?

Certainly I believe that humans need divine revelation in order to understand God sufficiently for his purposes, and that the Bible provides that revelation, and not the Bhagavad Gita. But I also believe the words of Paul on Mars Hill, that God “made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him.” And I believe that the people of the Hindu religion have earnestly sought God in that hope and that Christians like me who accept their revelation second-hand and pre-packaged can learn much from those who feel after Him.

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