Updating One’s Map of [God]

I ran across something in my class reading the other day that struck me as interesting.  While it wasn’t quite the author’s intent, it is very easily applicable to spiritual development with the changing of a word or two.  I’ll quote a paragraph nearly in its entirety, only I’ll replace most instances of “reality” or “world” with God.  It becomes rather poignant.

Peck explains why so many people encounter problems with their map of [God].  First, human beings are not born with such maps.  A great deal of effort is required to construct a moral and cognitive map of [God].  The more we are able to perceive and appreciate [God], the more accurate our map will be.  peck maintains that many people are unwilling or unable to expend the time and energy to make necessary alterations to their [God] maps as life continues to unfold.  Because the world and our place in it are constantly in flux, we are required to revise our worldview continually.  When we are children, dependent on our parents for safety, [God] looks one way.  During the adolescent quest for identity, [God] looks quite different.  When we are preoccupied with the tasks of early adulthood, [God] looks different yet again, and so it goes throughout life.  We are continually forced to increase our understanding of [God] or be left with an outdated and inaccurate map.  … clinging to an outmoded view of [God] is a source of psychological misery and much mental illness.1

Our understanding of who God is must change through life.  I’m wary of his use of the term, cognitive, because our map of God is not merely intellectual.  It is narrative, emotional, and instinctual as well.  We navigate our relationship with God on multiple levels, but we must be willing to allow our map of Him to change, just as we must allow our maps of other people to change.  Not, of course, so much that it conflicts with grounded theology, but there’s more to a person, to God, than doctrine.  And sometimes, our map of God actually conflicts with our doctrine, and we don’t even realize it!  A willingness to allow change is necessary for continued growth and flourishing relationship.

1. James Gollnick, Religion and Spirituality in the Life Cycle (New York: Peter Lang, 2008), 153.


5 responses

  1. mike

    …great meditation!..”seek and you shall find” takes on its enhanced meaning here..When i think back over my life of some of the ideas and dogma’s ive held to about God they seem comical and yet it was right for me at that time..We’evolve’I think in proportion to our hunger/desire to fully experience Him..life has a way of correcting our errors along ‘the way’ if we have eyes to see and ears to hear so to speak..Also as pointed out in the post it’s very interesting how only when speaking in spiritual terms do certain words now become inter-changeable…God/Life..Experience/God..Reality/God..God/Truth…God/Love

    February 22, 2011 at 7:23 am

    • Such evolution, as you propose it here, must be micro-evolution, given that there are no succeeding generations to prove its fitness as per natural selection. Such micro-evolution can be a movement in a destructive direction as well as a constructive. The transformation of one’s understanding of God can be in a direction that is no longer reflective of the truth. This is why I note that one’s God representation must still be within the boundaries of orthodox theology.

      Just to be certain, interchange-ability is not the same as equivalence. In the above, a distinct alteration of meaning arises that could perhaps be subtle, but is still significant. Replacing God with Life or others of your examples will most often result in changes of meaning that are not necessarily true.

      February 22, 2011 at 9:02 am

      • mike

        …your right on both counts…I stand corrected..:)

        February 22, 2011 at 9:34 am

      • Not necessarily correcting so much as just making sure some potentially problematic rabbit trails from your thoughts don’t end up leading into bottomless pits!

        February 22, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      • mike

        ….just birds circling overhead

        February 23, 2011 at 3:49 am

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