God spoke to me: I do not exist

By Pete Rollins. From ‘The God Delusion’ Greenbelt 2007.

I would like to begin by sharing a secret with you, a sacred secret that must be kept strictly between us. To be honest it is a secret which cannot be told, for it cannot be understood or even experienced, but only birthed within us and lived through us. Nonetheless this evening is a futile but necessary attempt to place this sacred secret into some kind of language, for language is the only messenger we know, fallen angel though it may be.

My first encounter with this secret occurred a number of years ago while I was walking home, late one evening. As I weaved my way through the half-dead trees that inhabited a piece of wasteland connecting my origin to my destination I heard an inner voice calling my name. I stood still and listened intently to what I took to be nothing less than the solemn, silent voice of God. As I stood there, rooted to the ground, God spoke to me, repeating four simple words, “I do not exist”

In that moment, all those years ago, I was not confronted with a simple atheism, for it was God who was claiming God’s non-existence. In that wasteland I was confronted with something different, I was confronted with the erasure of God by none other than God. I was confronted with the idea that, while God may not be something, that did not imply that God was nothing.

Up until then I had considered God to be just one more thing in the world, albeit the greatest. But after this event I wondered whether this was an inappropriate way of approaching God. Perhaps God ought not to be thought of as an object in the world but rather as that which transforms my interaction with all objects in the world.

What if I was being taught that every time I affirm God I simultaneously affirm something less than God? What if this God I affirm is always a delusion formed from the materials of my imagination and desires? And thus what if God ought to be thought of, not as that which I affirm but rather as the event which causes me to make the affirmation in the first place?

And so I began to wonder if it was possible to think of God otherwise than being and nothing… to think of God as speaking, as happening, as an event, as life but not as an object.

If this is the case then God is can not be thought of as the patch of Meaning which covers over the wound of our unknowing… God is the wound itself, the wound which inspires the industries that make the patch.

If this is the case then God is not to be located in the fabric of our beliefs but rather as the holes within the fabric. We must cloth ourselves in our creeds for they shelter us but these creedal garments, if we are to truly honour them, must eternally be allowed to unravel and be reformed, for they testify to God, not by the reification of their words, but by their kinetic, fluid life.

If this is the case then fidelity to our Creeds and our God will involve betraying them.

We have often thought that the cross we carry is one upon which we must be crucified, that this is the highest call of Christianity… but what if we are asked to go further. What if the cross we carry, like that carried by Simon of Cyrene, is not for ourselves but rather for that which we love more than ourselves. What if the highest call of Christianity involves crucifying our God precisely for the sake of our God?

Welcome to ikon.

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