Sunday, April 1, 2007

God as Mystery...

Presently, God is guiding me through an exploration of the Orthodox Church (OC). My first serious bit of research in this area has taken me to a quick read of Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith by Peter Gillquist. He was part of a group of Campus Crusade staffers whose frustration with evangelicalism led them to explore how faithful evangelicals are to "The Faith Once for All Delivered." This exploration led them home to the OC. After that enjoyable read, I am now perusing The Orthodox Way by Bishop Kallistos Ware. Each chapter of this book describes the theological distinctives of The Orthodox Church. The OC argues however, that those realities we would describe as theologically distinct, are really just distinctively Christian. The first of these realities describes God as Mystery.

Professing Christians of the evangelical flavor, usually fail to embrace this foundational principle. Furthermore, the way theology is often taught in such churches, it's as if God is something we place under the microscope, examine, research and come to some sort of synthetic summary. Once again the post-Enlightenment church is worshipping in the sanctuary of the laboratory where the scientist who practices his method rules as priest. The OC, however, confesses, “A God who is comprehensible is not God.” We must remind others and ourselves that we will never fully comprehend God, because “A God…whom we claim to understand exhaustively through the resources of our reasoning brain turns out to be no more than an idol, fashioned in our own image.” I believe that when we embrace God as mystery, we do not mean that he is somehow unable to be understood, rather, we believe that he is so “completely other” that we will never grasp anything true about him unless he so chooses to reveal that reality. This confession will also lead us to a lifestyle that pursues continual communion with God as an end in itself. Instead of studying my Bible to increase my knowledge so I can pass some Bible literacy exam, I work to pursue its study because I am offered the grace of fellowship with our Holy and Immortal God. Bishop Ware describes well how the Greek Fathers embrace God as Mystery.

“The Greek Fathers liken man’s encounter with God to the experience of someone walking over the mountains in the mist: he takes a step forward and suddenly finds that he is on the edge of a precipice, with no solid ground beneath his foot but only a bottomless abyss” (pg. 13).

Sadly, I have previously viewed the study of God as a discipline to be conquered. On the contrary, my reading of the Sacred Text, the Creeds, the Fathers, etc. must remind me that I am a helpless wretch who must plead for the kind mercy of the Triune God, but who also has been invited into a fellowship of love with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Father is my hope; the Son is my refuge; the Holy Spirit is my protector. O All-holy Trinity, glory to thee. Please provide the grace of divine illumination on this journey.


Floyd Edwards said...

Pope Gregory the Great said, "Almost everything said of God is unworthy, for the very reason that it is capable of being said.”

A lesser mortal (myself) once wrote, "Trying to explain God is like trying to explain a kiss. You can check the dictionary definition: 'A caress with the lips; a gentle touch or contact.' But does that really capture the essence of what a kiss is? Does that describe what a mother does when she tenderly places her lips on the forehead of her newborn child? Just as words cannot completely capture all that is involved in what we know by experience and attempt to describe as a 'kiss,' we also cannot fully comprehend, explain, or define 'God.'

David B. Johnson said...

Amen. Amen. "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." Romans 11.33-36