The Meaning of God

I have always been challenged by my own concepts of God. As a rabbinical student I have wanted to understand  not only what God means in a modern Jewish context but what God means to me. Mordecai Kaplan found the concept of a traditional “Supernatural God”  problematic, he did not go so far as a Humanistic approach to Judaism and found the Humanistic approach limiting. He wrote in in his book The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion

 “The fundamental error of humanism consist in assuming that there is only one conception of God, which must remain fixed and static, and that we either accept the traditional view of God as the author of specific laws and customs… or leave God entirely out of our reckoning.”

I have never considered myself an atheist or a humanistic Jew but when my friends would ask me about how I felt about God, my joking but serious response would be “I haven’t gotten to that chapter yet.” I have also met people along the way that believe that  Reconstructionist do not believe in God. While that may be true for some, it is not part of the theology or philosophy of the movement. I can understand the confusion because before I read excerpts from the Meaning of God I wasn’t very sure about what the Reconstructionist Movement had to say on the concept of God, other than the fact that we don’t believe in a supernatural God who dispenses reward and punishment.

As a Jew in the twenty-first century I was still unsure of my own conception of God but Kaplan also wrote that

“Those who possess enthusiasm for living and strive for a better world are believers in God.” This is language that I can use for my own understanding of God. I entered rabbinical school to make the world a better place, without an understanding of how all of it fit into the concept of God.

One more quote that I liked

“When we break through our narrow and prejudiced conception of religion and begin to realize that it is inevitable for the conception of God to reflect one’s mental and ethical development, we will learn to identify as divine that Power in the world to make it what it should be. The name of God will stand for truth about reality, not in terms of a division between natural and supernatural but in terms of normal human experience”

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