The answer to this question, of course, depends entirely on what the word “God” means. The fact is that it means so many different things to different people tells us that there can be no single correct answer. I will try to answer the question as I understand the word “God”. In doing so, I am immediately aware that I need to look at my own core beliefs…my own worldview, if you like. This is not as easy as it may seem.
I now realise, possibly for the first time, that at the heart of my belief-system is the belief that, when compared to all possible knowledge, about all possible things, I understand very little. I totally agree with Karl Popper, who said that our knowledge is always finite, but our ignorance is always infinite!
I understand very little. And I say this despite that fact that I have had a very good continuing education, and that I read very widely. There is just so much that we do not understand. Here are just a few examples:
We, meaning all of us, have no idea how the Cosmos began, if indeed “began” is the appropriate word. Scientists have advanced many theories (Big Bang, “singularity”, and so on) but they don’t really know.
We don’t know the deeper nature of the Cosmos. Yes, we know quite a lot about its physical and material aspects, but beyond this we are fumbling in the dark.
We do not know how life began on this planet. Again, scientists think they know – it happened by chance! – but they are only speculating.
As for other questions, such as “What is mind?”, “What is consciousness?” and “What is spirit?”, we struggle with these questions. Not surprisingly, scientists attempt to find answers rooted in the physical, the material, so they claim that mind and consciousness are both functions of the brain. They claim this, despite much good evidence that neither mind nor consciousness are limited to the brain. As for “spirit”, they tend to ignore that question.
You may be wondering where this is all leading. The answer is mystery. Not a mystery, just mystery itself.
I define “mystery” as that which eludes my understanding, and probably always will. I think it significant that scientists are encountering more and more mystery as they attempt to penetrate deeper in the nature of matter, life, and the Cosmos. As Alan Watts could have told them, decades ago, the more you try to understand mystery, the more it will elude your understanding. If you doubt this, just think quantum physics!
For me, personally, God is one and the same as mystery. I am content to accept that mystery will always elude me, and that I will never understand God. In this sense, at least, I am a good Taoist! It reminds me of a phrase I picked while attending the Church of Scotland in the 1950s. The phrase was “beyond all understanding”. For some reason this made a big impression on, and it still does. It seems clear that when we apply the rational mind to mystery, we always end up with more mystery.
That said, understanding is not the same as knowing. The best way I can think of describing the difference is that understanding is the successful response to questions such as “What?”, “How?” and “Why?”, whereas knowing is direct connection. Thus, I know you because I am connected to you in some way. But I may not understand you!
More generally, I can know mystery, even though I do not understand it. It follows that I can know God (as mystery), because I am connected to God, but I cannot put this into words, because I do not understand at the rational level.
At this point, you surely cannot expect me to try to explain what is “beyond all understanding”!