If I am to speak of God at all, even metaphorically, I find I must speak of two gods. This may be the reason I tend not to speak of God. Both gods speak to me as metaphors, but I have difficulty calling them by the same name.
It is not the world that my theology splits in two, nor is it truth. The world is what it is, and cares nothing for our distinctions. It is often paradoxical, but it is not dual.
Rather, I find that any theology centrally concerned with values must split the world in two, though theologians typically go to great lengths to deny that any split has taken place. This is what they call the “problem of evil.”
First–and needing to be named first–is the god of creation, of Genesis, of the Book of Job, of the all-creating and all-destroying cosmic dance of Shiva. This god, hereafter referred to as God1, can rightly be described as creative, powerful, generous, and also horrifying, indifferent at best and brutal at worst. Out of God1 emerged life, which can only continue as long as it devours itself, literally. Violence, death, disease and suffering are not occasional flukes when life gets out of balance, but central aspects of the way life works, particularly in its most highly evolved forms.
God1, the first god to be portrayed in the Bible, is a personification of the way the world presents itself to us, in all its fierceness and glory. It is not nice; in fact I would not go so far as to say it is good, though it it might be said to contain niceness and goodness. As Job learned, it is not wise to conceive of God1 as just; it has bigger fish to fry. Job’s story is not a morality tale, but a wisdom tale, in which the hero (Job, not God) learns to willingly accept the world as it is, and not as his human sense of justice tells him it should be. Justice is real and important, even moreso are love and compassion, but none are qualities of concern to God1.
God1 serves magnificently as a metaphor for the natural world and our incessant but ultimately insufficient efforts to understand it. As a model for how to treat one another, however, it falls seriously short. To treat my fellow creatures as God1 treats me would not be living up to the light within me. That light–call it Christ, Buddha, love, compassion, the living presence–is not God1. Enter God2.
Confusing these two gods is not just a harmless theological technicality, but a serious and fundamental error in most theology, providing justifications for great cruelty and insensitivity to suffering in the world and in religious practice.
In the liberal Christian tradition we are taught that God is love, that God is good, that God is the ground of all being. The logical conclusion is that everything is good. This is false. We are also taught that there is sin, which is the result of human error, and is the cause of our suffering. This is also false as a blanket statement, though it contains some element of truth. A person dying of cancer, or afflicted with a severe disability, or starving because they were born in famine, suffers at the hand of God1, and if we seek to relieve this suffering, it will have to be in the name of God2, not God1. Which is to say, it will be the best of our flawed human selves. That of God2 must seek to overcome that of God1, even though the irresistible power of God1 means we will often, and ultimately, fail.
In a sense, I must admit, all of this is false. God2 exists within God1, cannot exist outside of it. There is a grand and complete unity at the deepest level of existence, but that unity is not consonant with goodness. When we fail to distinguish between truth (that which is the case) and goodness (hard to define, but a good start would be, active compassion for all living creatures), we cannot rightly discern either.
More discussion ot this subject HERE.