Does God communicate in symbols or do we communicate God in symbols?

Photo by Nathaniel Tetteh on Unsplash

At our last Zoom Interfaith meeting, we were looking at the chapter in the Quran titled ‘The Cow’. Then we got into language and translation in this case from Arabic to English. I noted that in the English translation it referred to Allah talking of ‘we’. The book of Genesis also at times refer to God talking in the ‘we’. Why would God use the word ‘we’ if he is one?

I read an answer that seems to satisfy me, “Allah addresses the Arabs in their own tongue, ‘we’ is an elevation of status.”

And in that perhaps ‘we’ accept that language is a tool amongst others to communicate. That being the case God also uses symbols to communicate.

So if we didn’t have language and we used symbols how would we see or hear from God?

I want to consider symbols and what do they say.

The Rainbow

What does a rainbow communicate to you?

Star and Crescent

It is usually associated with Islam yet according to Wikipedia,

“It was developed in the Greek colony of Byzantium ca. 300 BCE”

Chai and the star of David

The website https://www.learnreligions.com/chai-in-judaism-2076800 states,

“Chai (חי) is a Hebrew word and symbol that means “life,” “alive,” or “living.” It is spelled with the Hebrew letters Chet (ח) and Yud (י). Jews often wear a Chai on a necklace in the form of a medallion or amulet, sometimes along with a Hamsa, another symbol of eye embedded in the palm of an open hand, or the most prominent symbol of the Jewish faith, the Star of David. Rings and bracelets with the symbol are also popular.

In relation to the ‘Star of David’ usually associated with Judaism the website https://www.britannica.com/topic/Star-of-Davidit states,

“Star of David, Hebrew Magen David (“Shield of David”), Magen also spelled Mogen, Jewish symbol composed of two overlaid equilateral triangles that form a six-pointed star. It appears on synagogues, Jewish tombstones, and the flag of the State of Israel. The symbol — which historically was not limited to use by Jews — originated in antiquity, when, side by side with the five-pointed star, it served as a magical sign or as a decoration. In the Middle Ages the Star of David appeared with greater frequency among Jews but did not assume any special religious significance; it is found as well on some medieval cathedrals. The term Magen David, which in Jewish liturgy signifies God as the protector (shield) of David, gained currency among medieval Jewish mystics, who attached magical powers to King David’s shield just as earlier (non-Jewish) magical traditions had referred to the five-pointed star as the “seal of Solomon.” Kabbalists popularized the use of the symbol as a protection against evil spirits. The Jewish community of Prague was the first to use the Star of David as its official symbol, and from the 17th century on the six-pointed star became the official seal of many Jewish communities and a general sign of Judaism, though it has no biblical or Talmudic authority. The star was almost universally adopted by Jews in the 19th-century as a striking and simple emblem of Judaism in imitation of the cross of Christianity. The yellow badge that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe invested the Star of David with a symbolism indicating martyrdom and heroism.”

While Interfaith in outlook most of us come from within the Christian tradition so I thought it would be good to look at the symbols used by various members’ churches

The Church of England

Its website https://www.churchofengland.org/media-and-news/media-centre/logo-and-visual-identity

gives the following explanation,

“The Church of England logo exists to provide a visual identity that all parts of the Church can relate to and ‘own’. The Symbol and Namestyle are based on the Christian cross, being distinguished by an encompassing ‘e’, which implies universality.

The design itself combines the letters ‘c’ and ‘e’ (as in the Church of England) but more important is the central positioning of the cross, reflecting the centrality of the cross in the life of the Church. People will also draw other themes from the design. It is open to the world: a universal Church.”

Anglican church of Canada

The website https://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/ca_angcc.html states,

“The flag of the Anglican Church of Canada is almost identical in design to that of the arms of General Synod. The flag consists of the red cross of St. George, on a white background, with four green maple leaves in the quarters.

The red cross on a white background is the symbol of St. George, patron saint of England. The cross of St. George is widely associated with the Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Church of Canada. The four maple leaves symbolize the four ecclesiastical provinces. They are green to indicate “a youthful and vigorous church and nation”.

A flag for the national Anglican Church was first requested in a letter from the Diocese of Montreal, to the Executive Council of the General Synod, in November 1953. The Council approved the recommendation and a small sub-committee was formed and reported to the 1955 General Synod. The original design proposed by the sub-committee (the red cross of St. George on a white field with a gold maple leaf superimposed in the middle of the cross) was slightly modified by the 1995 General Synod.”

United Church of Canada

The church’s website https://united-church.ca/community-and-faith/welcome-united-church-canada/united-church-crest states,

“The crest designed for the new church is a vesica piscis, an early Christian symbol that evoked an upended fish (the initials of the phrase “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour”; in Greek: ιχθύς, ichthys, meaning “fish”). The central saltire is also the Greek letter Chi, first letter of Χριστός, Greek for “Christ”. Within three of the four quadrants are symbols of the founding churches: Presbyterianism (the Burning Bush), Methodism (the dove), and Congregationalism (the open Bible). In the bottom quadrant, the alpha and omega represents the ever-living God (Revelation 1:8). The motto Ut omnes unum sint recalls Christ’s “High Priestly Prayer” in John 17:21: “That all may be one”. The entire crest resembles the emblem of the Church of Scotland.

In 2012, the Mohawk phrase “Akwe Nia’tetewá:neren” (“All my relations”) was added to the perimeter, and the background colours of the four quadrants of the crest were changed to reflect the traditional colours of a typical First Nations medicine wheel.[17]

Southern Baptists

The Southern Baptists website doesn’t explain in language it symbol but rather writes the meaning of each symbol beside it

The image of the Bible represents ‘The Authority of Scripture’

The image of the cross represents ‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ’

The image of the world represents ‘The Global Mission Field’

Personally, the burning bush is a favourite of mine. It is taken from the third chapter of the book of Exodus when God spoke to Moses from within the burning bush yet the bush was not consumed. I like what it conveys, Almighty God represented by the fire yet not consuming the bush. Could I contain that fire and not be consumed? I hope that is the case.

The more I think about symbols I see them from Genesis to Revelation.

For many Christians, the cross is the main symbol yet it originated as a means of torture. The story of the symbol changed as the cross turned from a means of death to one of hope.

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Speaks with a Northern Irish accent, lives in Hertfordshire, England.

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Gordie Jackson

Gordie Jackson

Speaks with a Northern Irish accent, lives in Hertfordshire, England.

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