Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Life, the world, and everything

I write this in response to a gracious conversation here in a post that I really enjoyed - and had been looking for.

When I worked on Qohelet 3:11, I made this comment in the margin
Three mysteries remain: time, gravity, and consciousness - link them by all means but don't pretend you understand until you are also prepared to raise the dead (it did after all come through a man).
Here is the verse.
The whole he has made beautiful in its time
Even the age he has set in their heart
so that from outside the earthling does not
find out the work that this God worked
from beginning to end
How did I jump from beautiful in its time to our human love of explanation and creative theory? And then from there to resurrection? I would like to spin out the why I am no longer an atheist question - not exactly answering Bertrand Russell and answering personally the question why I am Christian. I need the negative question because the positive adjective 'Christian' has much baggage that I find blocks so much consideration of graceful - might I say 'anointed' action. In a word, I would rather meet a grace-filled decided atheist than certain folks who are ungraceful in their expression of their decided faith - whatever it is. And if it is indeed the faith of Jesus then let us take care that the spirit is not mock Spirit - for such will not be known (though let it mature). Faith that seeks power over word or person is not a faith that I want to participate in. As Qohelet 4:17 also says
Keep your footing when you go into the house of God
and more ready to hear than to give in the foolish offering
for they haven't a clue
that what they do
--- is evil
Tone that one down if you think it is politically incorrect.

So why not make the decision to be atheist? I did. I blow cold and hot, an aspect of my being that leads both to discovery and to error, to joy and to fear. What I found was that I could not handle the dislocation of my world. I did not even know what I was wanting - but when I received it I knew that I wanted this and that it was through the death of Jesus, imaged as mercy-seat, and through his resurrection. It was both like the healing stories in the Gospel and like the anointing in the Psalms. The same. Secondly, I appreciate the trial of certainty - I was not a thinking agnostic but atheist. Such a postulate 'there is no God' is provably unprovable. No system of thought is complete - certainly not mine. Even today I am in the midst of complex maintenance programming - still can't get it right 'for ever'. But beautiful in its time.

So besides the personal aspect of inexpressible life 'in God', there is the practical aspect of my limited apprehension - and by my inference, the limits on all of us, scientific or religious. Qohelet 8:17 reminds us that we are not the first to observe certain epistemological realities.
And I saw all the work of this God
for the earthling cannot find out the deed that is done
--- under the sun
in that which the earthling toils to seek,
but it will not find out
and even if the shrewd one says it knows,
it will not be able to find out
The limit stops me from one extreme. The personal invites me to another yet only partially and incompletely known. About the unity of God - it is not that there is one God that we believe or don't believe in - but that 'God is one'. That is the important thing. There is no sin - no dislocation in God. This is evident in the refrain 'and God saw that it was good'. This is also what the man Jesus illustrates. We then are not looking for 'the truth' that we might stand over it, but we are looking to be known 'in truth' and to find words to express such love and to be happy that words were found in the past that accomplished such expression. The Torah, the Psalms, the Gospels are examples of the finding of such words.

I look on the canon as being not so much fully coherent but the means whereby these examples were preserved. The canon is of course errant by its own admission, "the wind blows where it wills." If one is going to let the Bible speak, one needs to get it to say what one wants. People may and do wrench the words to their own ends. Yet there can also be both beauty and pleasure taken from them. It is more than game - it is real sport, incarnate in the one who plays and whether the value is lasting - who am I to say? I know that when one is known, it is as if forever. What is lasting, what comes after, are all aspects of time - which we know has a beginning. Who can say its end? As for theology - everything we write is in words - it almost seems to me that we cannot help but write theology. The latest theory of gravity - grave heavy with glory, weighted against us, has apparently something to do with 'information' - just the easiest way to organize entropy. This eliminates the need for an unknown elementary particle. (See pointers at Entangled states.) And consciousness - what do we do with our selves if we are as blind as the mechanics we postulate for genes? What if our dislocations and distortions actually are like living life cross-eyed with pillows over our ears,  mouth in a perpetual grimace, constantly off balance, touch petrified, and aromatic with smell?  Is there no solution? It's curious to me that I am not agnostic - many times in my prayers I hear myself say to a silent question "I don't know."  I wish sometimes I could hear the questions. Maybe I will keep listening.

Beloved, the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Let this be substantial bread -then the dead are raised and the poor have the gospel.