St. Paul was the earliest New Testament writer. He and his early followers identified the God of Jesus Christ as the all-inclusive reality, originating everything that happens all-inclusively, pivotally embodying this all-inclusive originality through the humanly all-inclusive life of Jesus Christ:
“For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6). “From God, through God, and in God are all things” (Romans 11:36). “God is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6). “In God we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). “In Jesus Christ all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Colossians 1:19-20).
This too is how I identify the God of Jesus Christ, and how I experience God. (As a “process theist,” however, I regard God as all-empowering, not as all-controlling, though still originating everything that happens all-inclusively—a nuance that St. Paul and his earlier followers seem not to have considered.)
Indeed, in order to experience God, it’s important to think of God the way that St. Paul and his early followers did.
When I am most deeply aware of myself and my surroundings, I am aware of the noncontrolling, all-inclusive influence of all-inclusive reality. People may be aware of this without calling this God. But this is how St. Paul and his early followers thought of God.
When I am open to this influence (that’s faith), I experience it as grace and love.
When I am closed or resistant to it, I experience it as judgment.
When I participate in the continuing story of Jesus’ overcoming death-dealing hatred through unquenchable and all-reconciling love, my opening to this influence is renewed, deepened and strengthened.
Nothing I have learned about myself and my surroundings through the natural sciences threatens my opening to this all-inclusive influence of all-inclusive reality.
Nothing I have learned about how the continuing story of Jesus may first have been told and retold threatens its power to renew, deepen and strengthen my opening to this influence when I participate in this story.
When others call this opening unreasonable or downright stupid, I smile.
When others say that I have reinvented my concept of the God to suit my 21st-century sensibilities, I point to St. Paul and his early followers, and smile again.