Friday, February 25, 2011

God. . . again


I am possessed by the idea of God.  As much as I’d like to say I’m an atheist, I can’t honestly claim to be one.  The idea of God is too much a part of me.

When I was with the Franciscan Friars, I was privileged to know Brother Bruno (a Friar who was not a priest).  He was very prayerful and totally humble.  One day in 1964, we had a visit from a Friar–Priest, Fr. Reginald Redlan.  Fr. Reginald had a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University in England and was considered a fine scholar.  I asked Brother Bruno if he had had a chance to talk to Fr. Reginald in the Friary.  Brother said that he had spoken with him and that Fr. Reginald was a great man.  We talked some about studies and scholarship and theologians.  Brother said that he admired the men in our Order who studied and taught about God.  But, he said, he didn’t believe he could ever know God.  “God is a mystery,” he told me, “and all I can do is believe in Him and love Him.”

As I’ve grown older, I have come to agree with Brother Bruno.  I studied classical Greek and Roman philosophy.  I studied the German philosophers.  I studied modern thinking about God.  And I studied the Scriptures during my days with the Friars and for many years after I left them.  All this mind–work brought me to the conclusion that Brother Bruno reached by prayer alone.  God is unknowable.  I should write, if God exists, God is unknowable.  The human mind and spirit want to know God.  It is a passion of all humans.  Every culture seems to come up with a version of God that suits its circumstances and needs, but, aside from each version’s non–humanity, the many versions don’t have much in common.

Yesterday, somebody posted a video about the end–of–the–world–as–we–know–it happening in 2012.  The prediction was based on religion and science.  The religious portion of the prediction, of course, was based on that horror story, the Book of Revelations, a book that I am convinced was written by Stephen King on crack.  The science was based on anomalies in our electromagnetic field and other scary–sounding “facts.”  I don’t believe a word of such predictions.  Jesus himself said that not even he knew the day or the hour.  Such predictions, to me, are just another manifestation of the human need to know God and God’s mind.  What hubris, when you think about it.  If God exists, if there is an entity who is creator of all the universe, if there is a personality who knows and loves each and every one of us creatures, how can any human being believe that he or she is capable of understanding that Entity, or knowing that God?  It seems to me that all we can do is, as Brother Bruno said, believe in God as Creator and Nurturer, and love that God.

Having studied the Scriptures, and having believed tenaciously in the faith of my fathers for many years, I have to say that I now believe that both the Scriptures and the God–figure of the Christian Church are just vain attempts to bring God down to human size.  If God exists, then God is too big to be understood by the human mind because God’s nature is so “other” from that of humanity and God’s attributes are so beyond anything that human beings can comprehend.

So I will continue to be possessed by the idea of God, and happily so.  I want to believe, I really do, but it is very difficult for me.  I want to “live the contradiction” by believing solidly in a Being whose essence my intellect can’t contain.  I move toward the end of my life satisfied with the honesty of my approach to the idea of God.  The God my struggling soul senses would be a God who would understand and honor all human weaknesses, even mine.

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