And, as usual, I don’t know anything for certain.
I don’t have much to say today that I haven’t said before, but perhaps re-framing it will help remind me of my choice.
* * *
I believe in the God of the philosophers. I am convinced by the argument of the unmoved mover. If science wasn’t so certain of the Big Bang, I might be tempted to think of the universe as eternally existing. But there was a beginning. A first cause. I am willing to call this first cause “God.”
But even though I assent to the ontological reality of God, the term “God” is functionally an abstraction. It’s like the terms “Jupiter” or “Iran.” I assent to the existence of both of these places, but I have no direct knowledge. They are no more real to me than Gandalf is.
For all of the Christian or Muslim or Jewish apologists who want to start with the existence of God, don’t bother. There is a hard line between abstraction and revelation, and to go from Plato to religion is incomprehensible to me.
And I reluctantly assent to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus because I trust the historical scholarship of N.T. Wright. There is probably more evidence that Jesus rose from the dead then there is evidence that Caesar crossed the Rubicon. But the resurrection (as a sensory experience) is no more real to me than is Caesar crossing the Rubicon.
The reality of God and the probable resurrection of Jesus are strong points in favor of Christian doctrine, but the rest of Christian doctrine does not logically flow from these two reasonable (in my mind) positions.
Yes, the likely resurrection of Jesus is evidence of some sort of miraculous power at work, but miracles in themselves are not testimony of doctrinal correctness. I don’t know if I believe miracles (the violation of natural laws) occur, but there are plenty of claims of miracles throughout time and the world. Not all of them are Christians. Even in the bible, people besides Christians and Jews could do miracles.
But I don’t think knowing matters a whole lot.
* * *
Some people will say (I know these people and count them as dear friends) that they know God is there because God communicates with them. That’s all well and good, and I won’t disagree. Indeed, it is well within God’s power to communicate with people.
But s/he doesn’t talk to me. And I’m pretty well over thinking that it’s my fault.
I have faith, though. I have faith in the Gospel. In the cross-shaped story of Jesus of Nazareth. I have faith deep within me. I suppose my faith could just be my own psyche playing tricks. If that’s the case, so be it. I don’t really care.
My faith is the opposite of certainty because it is rooted in hope and gives flower to love. Certainty is rooted in evidence and gives flower to arrogance.
The point of the Gospel–that all people come to love their neighbors and thus achieve the reconciliation of all things–requires faith, not certainty; hope, not evidence; love, not arrogance.
Whether Jesus will return at the end of time to reign as the king of peace, I do not know. But I hope so. Even if I am wrong, surely hope in a future reign of eternal peace already begun in my heart better equips me to love than filling my heart with the dark void of empty space.
* * *
If you had to put me in a category, you might say that I am a religious pluralist. Or a Christian inclusivist. I am not out to turn anybody into Christians. I just want people to truly love each other. If that is better achieved for a person through Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Jainism, Atheism, etc, then more power to them. And I think Jesus would agree.
I’m not saying every religion is equally right. I don’t think they could be.
And I’m certainly not saying that all religions teach basically the same thing. Because they do not.
But I am saying that the measure of any organization or system is how well it fosters love.
* * *
There is something more to us and this world than what science can measure and categorize. I choose to believe that the world is soaked in the Spirit of God.
I trust in the deep magic of the world–in the power of resurrection and redemption and renewal.
And along the way I will participate in this life as a Christian. I will inhale my strength from the liturgies, prayers, and sacraments of the church. I will exhale love in tandem with the brothers and sisters that I know.
And that will be enough for me.
* * *
Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of
faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain that which
thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost
command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and
reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.