Thursday, May 7, 2009

God Incomprehensible

"The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. [...] This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved."
-from "The Creed of Saint Athanasius," from The Book of Common Prayer

"There is in God (some say) / a deep but dazzling darkness...." -Henry Vaughan, from The Night

"I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you / which shall be the darkness of God." -T.S. Eliot, from East Corker
It is often taught (and correctly so) that the great tragedy and angst of modern man was the loss of God in the midst of the senseless brutality and chaos that was the 20th century. That, however, is the secular reading of events. A sacred reading is far more peculiar (and interesting).
For the Christian, two facts must be realized above all else in regards to that cruel, cruel century: (1) many things came out of it: atheists, agnostics, absurdists, existentialists, nihilists, etc.; and (2) God yet remained in spite of it all. Even after all of those other ideologues went in and out of fashion, each stating in their own way the apparent obviousness of a God-less, senseless, purposeless, absurd universe, God Himself stubborning refused to bow out like a good little boy when He was supposed to. Perhaps it can be argued that we would be much happier if, in the face of 20th century atrocity and mayhem, God had just died like Nietzsche predicted before he himself descended into madness. At least then we would not be left to face the awful burden of trying to reconcile the facts of His character with the facts of our modern lives.
He did not die, however. He is still here, in churches, in classrooms, in debates, in papers, in blogs, in the subconscious, in mouths, and on lips. We are caught in the horrible conundrum of having both the 20th century (with all its inhumanity) and God (with all His holiness) standing side by side, daring us to explain them away, and our reason will fail us yet again in the attempt.
However, God's refusal to go away when history seemingly deemed that He should, His lingering presence in spite of it all, is the salvation of modern society. The God that our parents so easily boxed in, explaining and/or explaining away, has left those boxes in shattered fragments on the ground. Suddenly, the saviors of the modern world (i.e., our meager and limited human reason and science) could no longer serve or save us, as the terrible Almighty is no longer so easily tamed. Whether we believed in Him or not, we thought we had Him wrapped around our finger, safely categorized and defined, and put away in our upper desk drawer. Now, perhaps, with fear and trembling, the realization is dawning on us in the form of a question: if God is still there, even after all that has happened, what are we to do? How can we explain it? The holy places have indeed become dark places, and we are lost in their shadow.
It is this darkness, this necessary element of mystery, that could very well be the salvation of our current generation. It is possible that the Emergents (for all of their heresy) are actually right, though not quite like they planned. Uncertainty, mystery, can possibly bring back our sense of worship, our capacity for pleasure and pain. Not uncertainty per se, but rather the radically orthodox ascertain that (aside from what He reveals to us) the ways of God are actually mysterious, with the end game hidden deep within the shadow of the Almighty. Christianity has traditionally always been comfortable with the incomprehensible; perhaps it's time we passed that comfort around.
The reasserting by the Church of the mystery of God may be the very spark of the sun that sends a piercing stab of light into the prison-like dark ages that is modernity. We have often been caught with our pants down as we frantically try to explain (as our parents did) the absolute uttermost of the divine mind. As necessary as I find apologetics, perhaps they have deadened us to the fact that God (as He is now revealed to us) is not completely knowable. In light of this, perhaps what this world needs more of is not lengthy and desperate explanations about things that we don't know, but rather the reassertion of some facts that we do know; namely, that we are indeed in the hand of the living God, whose "thoughts are unsearchable" and whose "ways are past finding out" (Rom. 11:33).
Come, brothers and sisters, and let the awesome mystery of God silence the skepticism of fools. Let the horror of His great darkness confound the disillusioned self-confidence of the post-modern wise-man, and let the "foolishness of preaching" once again save many (I Cor. 1:21). God has never let his people get away with easy belief. He will seemingly stack the deck against Himself, all the while eyeing us intently, refusing to explain Himself, and constantly asking, "Do you trust me?" What this world needs is the reassertion of faith; not blind ignorance, but rather the trust in the mysterious God who is still there and is still not silent.

-Jon Vowell


rthling said...

Amen, hon!
When you get a church to pastor, let me know. I'm so there!

rthling said...

('course, I'll have my dictionary with me...)

Jonathan Vowell said...

"Open your Bibles to the Gospel of John and your dictionaries to 'L,' 'P,' 'W,' and 'Z'."