Monday, August 06, 2007
I'll have some of the mystery thanks
Mystery. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? As we embark upon a postmodern age, it is not only a good thing, but an essential in the make up of our spiritual experiences. I do not wish to give a systematic outline of why mystery is a good thing, that would defeat my purpose. Let me satisfy the evangelical urge of some and quote some scripture so that I can prove that I am on the right path. (Isn't it wonderful how we can "prove" so many things with scripture.)
Isaiah prophesied: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." St. Paul goes on to explain that the Spirit of God has revealed these things to us, but that we can not understand these things with out the Spirit of God. St. Paul often talks about the "mystery" of the gospel.
No doubt throughout the ages there have been many who have been guilty of dogmatism and who have exploited Christianity for their own power quests. Due to in most parts, the separation of church and state, the quest for power is not as great as it once was through Christianity, and so the dogmatism is not as strong as it has been in history. Although, it must be said that dogmatism certainly exists today, and people still use Christianity as a means to their power quest. Jesus told us that we must serve one another. Therefore any leader must be a servant not a power monger. What a shame it is that there are so many power mongers. "You must speak in tongues," "why were you not at church on Sunday?," "It is a sin to smoke or drink," are just a few of the modern day dogmatic requirements that exist within conservative churches. For someone to maintain their grip on power then the rules must be clear, so that they can outcast people for stepping outside the neatly defined boundaries.
Modernism brought with it a thirst for discovery and a thirst for knowledge. Embedded in this thirst for knowledge was the world view that man is capable of understanding all things and explaining all things. Science in itself is a wonderful thing, it can actually be used as a tool to expand our appreciation of the mystery. But it was the modernist approach to Science that was so dangerous. Modernists started to come out with "logical" arguments against the existence of God. Logic is a funny creature. A rather intelligent Science teacher that I know in Saskatchewan can "logically" prove that the earth is flat. Logic can be used to argue many things. I think logic works best within confined parameters. So due to the rise in the logic of modernism, a new expression of Christianity arose: Evangelicalism. The evangelical church felt compelled to explain everything in the Bible and to have a logical answer to every question that the Darwinists and Atheists came up with. Evangelicalism reduced Christianity into a science. Systematic theologies were written and the gospel was watered down into four "spiritual laws."
Recently I read a very refreshing book called "Searching for God knows what" by Donald Miller. His thesis is very simple: God created us for relationship, that relationship was lost and now he invites us back into relationship with him again. Donald Miller takes the time to describe the kind of relationship he thinks Adam and Eve would have had with God in the garden, and how desperate it was for them when this relationship was lost. Now, humans try to seek all of their approval from others and do ridiculous things to gain the approval of others. God is simply wanting to give us this approval himself. (Yes, you are right, this in itself is not particularly mysterious at all.) Everyone in life seems to be stuck in a big high school popularity contest. Donald Miller also takes the time to explain how harmful it is to reduce Christianity to a series of bullet points. He very clearly points out that someone can believe all the bullet points to be true, but never have received God's invitation for relationship.
Modernist Evangelicalism has reduced the gospel into bullet points and removed all of the mystery, that St. Paul talked about. The means to becoming a follower of Jesus are very neatly mapped out within evangelicalism. This is sad and has put God into a box. It has also created many other dangerous trends. There are many cliched pat answers to so many of life's most perplexing questions. One of the things I like about post modernism is that there is no pressure to find the answer to all the questions. I personally have the faith that God holds all the answers, but whether I need to know them all or not, is less important. I am content with some mystery in my life.
There are many people today who are on a quest for mystery in their spiritual search. Some of them were even once Christian believers, who found the trite cliched answers too much to stomach and sadly have been turned off by Christianity. To remove the mystery from Christianity is to send people away to find mystery within other religions, be it Islam, Buddhism or new age spiritualities.
God is an awesome and mysterious being. Yes, he became accessible to us as Jesus, and communicated to us the simplicity of faith that is all we need. He spent a lot of time telling us that he wanted us to "know" the father, and that he would leave the Holy Spirit with us to help us to know the father. But do we really want to know the kind of father that we can understand in 5 years at theological college, or wouldn't it be better to have a relationship with a heavenly father that will continue to reveal mystery after mystery to us throughout our own individual lives and the ages?
Religion is a sin. It panders to the human desire that we can achieve our own spiritual fulfillment and salvation. There can be a lot of false religious mystery that can be very attractive to people. This also explains why people wander into different spiritualities in a post Christian world.
God invites me into a relationship with him. In embarking on this relationship, I do not think that I will ever fully understand God. "Is God dangerous? Yes but he is good." (To quote C.S Lewis.) I find it comforting and refreshing that I am still at the very beginning of my relationship with God, that there is still an endless horizon of mystery and adventure in front of me, and that I am untangling myself from some of the dogmatism that has surrounded me in my life.
I hope God is a mystery to you. He is supposed to be. if he isn't then have another look.