Friday, April 15, 2011
Mystery or Majesty
It occurs to me also that most of what the Church has said about God has begun from the negative -- God is NOT... Instead of saying who or what God is (beyond Scripture anyway) the Church has been forced by heretics and apostasy to say who or what God is NOT. The point of this has not been to unpack God's mystery but to protect that mystery -- to ensure that what we say about God is what God has said about Himself -- no more and no less.
One time when the Church did make a radical departure from this was the introduction of the word homoousias into the creed (of one substance with the Father). This was not without its own controversy and yet it was a word coined to express the mystery of what God has revealed about Himself.
Most of what God has told us of Himself falls within the range of apparent or even seemingly obvious contradictions. What of Jesus who says in John's Gospel on one hand that "I and the Father are one" and on the other hand says "the Father is greater than I?" Yet this is part of God's revelation of Himself and part of His testament which creed and confession must affirm to be orthodox. It is our great temptation to try to unpack this and dissect this aspect of the mystery but I think we do this at some peril. On one hand, the great fallacy is that we can ever fully understand or express in human language the fullness of the Divine mystery and majesty (except to affirm what Scripture says). On the other hand, the fallacy is that God gives us enough words about Himself so that there are cracks in His mystery and therefore invitations for our speculation.
Yet the point of God's revelation is not to explain Himself or make Himself predictable or even understandable to us. Rather God tells us of Himself that we might worship Him. He shows us Himself in glimpses that neither explain nor completely reveal. He shows enough of Himself to save us -- to address us with the grace that imparts new life to us lost creatures, forgiveness for all our sin and guilt, and righteousness to cover up all our flaws and failings.
You do not need to be a theologian to be tempted to define God in such way that God is understandable or predictable to us. The great bulk of Christian books at the local bookstore attempt to do that in some way and yet these books are not meant for the theologian but to inform the daily life of prayer and worship of the ordinary Christian. We must be wary of such attempts and we must challenge those who would go far beyond what God has made known to us of Himself. Instead, we live within the constant tension of "Lord, I believe -- Lord, help my unbelief." And in the midst of that tension is the attitude and perspective of worship and prayer.
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence....Fides autem catholica haec est: ut unum Deum in Trinitate, et Trinitatem in unitate veneremur. If we forget this, God will neither be more accessible to us nor will He deign to be limited to our definition of who He is or what He has done. Worse, we will be left with pure and raw speculation instead of fact and worship a God who is more idol (make that mere idol) than real deity.