Thursday, January 06, 2005

A Startling Absence of Mystery

I guess my biggest problem with Enlightenment-era theology is the notion that everything has a rational explanation. I used to believe that, but I'm less certain now. The Bible itself affirms that for now we only know in part -- we can only see things dimly, like in a fogged up mirror. None of us knows completely.

In fact, to use the words of Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel, "Religion begins with wonder and mystery." I fear that the modern church's attempt to dispel all the mystery from Christianity has robbed us of a way of dealing with evil. Whether it is "natural evil" like a tsunami or "personal evil" like genocide in the Sudan -- saying, "Well, it must be God's will" just doesn't cut it. That is an insufficient answer for a suffering world.

The world (and the events of the world) is a mystery, a question, not an answer. Perhaps even a rhetorical question at that. Any attempt to answer a rhetorical question is really an exercise in both redundance and futility. The mystery of a Creative Genius rather than the aloof concept of power -- the God of mystery rather than the Master Mind who stands apart -- in other words, the God of the Incarnation, the God who became the Suffering Servant, the God in relation to Whom the here-and-now world derives meaning -- this is the only idea adequate.

Our admission that we do not completely understand this mystery is more honest and compelling than outlining the abstract concept of a Grand Designer. Our willingness to emulate this God by entering into the suffering of others with a firm commitment and resolve to roll up our sleeves and respond to evil with goodness (with holiness, even) -- this is the righteous response. May it be ours.