I hear ongoing concern and even debate over “God as I understand Him”. For those not familiar with the 12 steps or AA, “God as I understand Him” comes from the wording in the third AA step. Specifically, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him”.
Those who have a clearly defined understanding or belief of who God is, appear often to find this challenging or offensive. I suppose I understand. Yet even among people of the same faith systems, do we not all know God only as we understand him?
Do any two Christians, Muslims, or Jews understand God the exact same way? What about our various denominations, sects, and cultures of any major faith? Do they not all have very distinct view of what they presume to be the same God? Are there not members of major faith systems who profess the same God yet some feel God is a God of violence while others feel God is a God of peace and kindness? Clearly a difference in understanding.
Others are concerned that AA, which certainly appears to have been rooted in Christianity, was tainted when step 3 was changed from “God”, to “God as we understood Him”. On one hand, I understand their concern over the morphing of their specific belief that yielded results into something compromised for broader appeal. On the other hand, I don’t understand where this is still not an honest statement because we all can only believe to the degree our understanding allows us, can’t we?
My understanding of God changes continually as I feel he reveals more to me of who he is and how he works. I believe in the same God I believed in many years ago when I was going nuts with anxiety, depression and ramping up for active alcoholism. But I understand God today a lot differently than I understood Him then. This does not mean God changed. It means my understanding changed.
I used to believe the philosophies and theologies of men who sought to package and sell God to me through their organizations. And much of what I understood has indeed proven to me to be correct. But the understanding I had of God through this set of perspectives did not help me get sober. In fact, their input based on their understanding barely helped me at all. Some of them even told me that God did not work a certain way or through certain people or organizations that turned out to be the very people and organizations who did indeed help me get sober and recovering.
So were they really interested in helping me find God and seek his help, or were they more interested in my conformity? Perhaps I will never know. Nor do I resent them for trying. They were likely just trying to share God as they understood Him.
One day, I am sure greater truths will be revealed. And we may find out which understanding of God is correct and incorrect. Maybe there is a “Road to Damascus Experience” awaiting us and thus we ought to use wise caution in saying who God is or isn’t. Until that day, how can any of us not be limited by our experiences, cultures, perceptions, and basic natures in our understandings of who God is and how he works?