Friday, October 21, 2011

I seek to honor the inexpressible

Everyone who has heard of my change of mind concerning God is waiting to see what church I will start attending. Yet accepting the idea of God is not, in all honesty, identical to induction into religion.

If I take a step toward religion, it will likely involve the Christian metaphors and stories with which I am familiar. But it might not involve a new baptism, a being "born again."

After all, God is a vastly incomprehensible being who propelled into existence, and conceivably sustains, a universe about which we know barely a smidgen.

If neutrinos can indeed travel faster than light, as recent scientific news seemed to propose, then perhaps Einstein is wrong and physicists, the philosophers of our day, face searing soul-searching about the fundamentals of their field. We scarcely know anything is the genuine scientific outlook.

The adherents and professionals of religion make a crass error when they think they've got God in their pockets, just as atheists who rely on science err in proposing that we know enough to put God in the dustbin of history.

God is someone so outside our experience, so profoundly unobservable that all we are ever likely to know about her* is an intuition of a light that shines through many, many veils.

It's not like even Christians know God through Jesus.

The Galilean woodworker of the gospels was not recognizably divine to all and sundry when he walked the Earth like you and me. People were surprised when he performed wonders that we think humans cannot do. And who knows what Jesus was thinking 2,000 years ago, much less what he might be thinking now, if he is thinking at all?

In a similar vein, Islam and Judaism are attempts at approximation. Mohammed's angel and Moses' burning bush are at best literary images of inexpressible and intuitive experiences in these men's psyches. Not false images necessarily, but not likely what an empirically minded modern would accept as factual.

Christians may think Christianity is better than either one, but do Christians know definitively? No, faith is not knowledge.

This is why I was struck several days ago by words attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite: "With a wise silence we do honor to the inexpressible."

* I do not contend that God has a sex, for reasons best discussed elsewhere. To offset the use of capitalized masculine pronouns for God for the past 20,000 years or so, I propose to use uncapitalized feminine ones for the next 20,000 years or so, just for balance.

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