The Concept of God
Although a correct concept of God is not the same as an experience of oneness with God, a correct concept is essential for salvation. Concepts are needed at the bodily or perceptual level of experience. Concepts affect experience – peace and love vs. conflict and fear. And so, in A Course in Miracles Jesus is teaching us a concept of God that is more in accord with what God really is. Thus, changing any concept that is out of accord is one aspect of the savior’s task. As Jesus says in the Text, “Concepts are needed while perception lasts, and changing concepts is salvation’s task” (31.7,1:3).
What is a concept? A concept is a set of ideas taken together and labeled with a word, called a term. Think of all the ideas that are taken together to make up the concepts represented by these terms: “forgiveness”, “the world”, “the ego”, “God”. For a concept to be meaningful, the ideas that comprise it must be consistent with one another.
I want to share my understanding of what the term “God” represents in the Course. I believe it is used to represent a Perfect Being. What is a Perfect Being? A Perfect Being is one than which none greater can be conceived. In other words, a Perfect Being is the Greatest Conceivable Being. The Greatest Conceivable Being is a Mind and Will That is perfectly powerful, perfectly knowing, perfectly loving, and perfectly happy. Therefore, the term “God” is used to represent a Being Who is perfectly powerful, knowing, loving, and happy.
God is perfectly powerful means:
1. God is the creator of everything real and true.
2. God’s Will is done; It cannot be opposed or changed.
God is perfectly knowing means:
1. God knows everything knowable.
2. God is perfectly aware of everything that is true or real.
God is perfectly loving means:
1. God’s Will for everyone He created is perfect happiness.
2. God is always loving; He is never hateful or selfish.
God is perfectly happy means:
1. The only emotion and feeling God experiences is perfect love and pure joy.
2. God is always happy; He never suffers.
Besides these, there are other attributes the Course assigns to God as a Perfect Being, namely, timeless, changeless, eternal, formless, and limitless.
The purpose for setting forth the attributes of God as a Perfect Being is to then consider reasons for keeping those attributes in mind. Their relation to our willingness and ability to forgive is an obvious and practical reason. When we keep in mind that everything that God as a Perfect Being created is perfect and changeless like Him and only what He creates is real and true, forgiveness is understood as for illusions. Forgiveness is not for truth but for illusions, things that seem true or real but are not.
Another reason for keeping in mind Jesus’s teaching about the perfection and changelessness of God and His creations is to aid in understanding some sentences in the Course that seem to imply something inconsistent. There are some sentences that on first reading may seem to contradict statements about the perfection and changelessness of God and His creations. For example, “The constant going out of His love is blocked when His channels are closed, and He is lonely when the minds He created do not communicate fully with Him” (4.7.6:7). A second and more careful reading shows the use of the word “when” twice in the sentence. There is no time when God’s will is not done or what He created one with Him is blocked from Him. Holding in mind the attributes of God helps the reader of the Course to find the words that clarify sentences that seemed inconsistent or contradictory. Additionally, there are many sentences in which the reader needs to understand if Jesus is referring to “you” as the Self God created and knows or to “you” as the self you made as a sign of separation. Again, keeping in mind Jesus’s teaching about the perfection and changelessness of God and His creations helps the reader to understand such sentences in the Course.
Many other concepts in the Course became clearer and more personally meaningful once I began to keep the attributes of God in mind. I see that its concept of God pervades the Course’s teaching. For example, Jesus offers various descriptions of the goal he expects his students to achieve by learning what he teaches. One way he describes the goal is that, in place of the constant conflict we usually experience, we will experience peace within our own mind and in relation to every person, situation, and event. He teaches, “There is no peace except the peace of God” (L200) In the Manual for Teachers Jesus raises the question, “What is the Peace of God?” Then he answers, “No more that this: the simple understanding that God’s Will is wholly without opposite” (M-20,6:1-2). Jesus is implying unless we understand and accept the idea that God is perfectly powerful, we will not learn this Course or attain the peace of God, our one goal (L205,1:3).
Adapted from God, Self, and Evil: A Miracle Theodicy
Copyright © 2002 , 2019 • Robert J. Hellmann