Friday, November 28, 2008

What I Mean by God

Consider the following quote from Martin Heidegger's "Being and Time":

"Every question is a seeking. Every seeking takes it's directions beforehand from what is sought. Questioning is a knowing search for beings in their thatness and whatness. The knowing search can become an "investigation", as the revealing determination of what the question aims at. As questioning about.....questioning has what it asks about. All asking in some way an inquiring of...Besides what is asked, what is interrogated also belongs to questioning. What is questioned is to be defined and conceptualized in the investigating, that is, the specifically theoretical, question. As what is really intended, what is to be ascertained lies in what is questioned; here questioning arrives at it's goal. As an attitude adopted by a being, the questioner, questioning has it's own character of being. Questioning can come about as "just asking around" or as an explicitly formulated question. What is peculiar to the latter is the fact that questioning first becomes lucid in advance with regard to all the above named constituitive characteristics of the question."

I often spend a considerable amount of time contemplating a working definition for what I mean by God and this clip from Heidegger often comes to mind when I make that attempt. As a result I’m always stopped dead in my tracks; would I try to end the inquiry?

Questioning has a certain eternal character to it, and likewise so does God. Where there are questions, there are answers; it seems the answers to those questions always make the questions absurd, yet questions remain. God, in this sense, is THE eternal question, one which is pondered generation after generation as not simply a seeking after [T]ruth, but a seeking after the [G]ood, after [V]irtue, after [J]ustice. This pursuit and eternal questioning seems to me to be as good a definition of God as any, and I’m happy to keep it that way for now.

I can’t help but see this as applying (Matthew Chapter 7):
7 Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. 8 For every one that asketh, receiveth: and he that seeketh, findeth: and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you, of whom if his son shall ask bread, will he reach him a stone? 10 Or if he shall ask him a fish, will he reach him a serpent? 11 If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children: how much more will your Father who is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?

Are we asking the right questions? Are we asking questions at all? When we choose to live our lives within the limits of reason, are we not simply putting a limit to our questions? If an answer to a question is not rational, does it make the question absurd? How can a question really be absurd?


  1. This is a very interesting post; it has served to spark my interest in Heidegger's "Being and Time." For a while I myself had the motto that I wouldn't require myself to answer the question, "Do you believe in God?" which--I think--is a slightly different version of what you're saying here.

    In any event, I now think differently, and I'll soon be reading Heidegger.

  2. That word God is packed full of all sorts of assumed goodies we could well do away with.