Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Problem of Mystery

“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
They are higher than the heavens—what can you do?
They are deeper than the depths of the grave—what can you know?
Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea."    Job 11:7-9
Atheist Richard Dawkins contends that “the ultimate goal of science is to remove all mystery.” Mystery annoys Dawkins, legitimizing, for him, the role of science.  For Dawkins, everything that can be known, must be.

I sometimes wonder if we, as Christians, slowly and unwittingly begin to buy in to this diefication of science.  Dawkinology. And whether or not we have, without really thinking about it, begun to gradually demote our faith journey to a mere discipline of study, thinking that if we study long and hard enough we might eventually nail it...God now just another notch in our intellectual belt, one more mystery solved.  
What is our problem with mystery?  Have we bought in to science’s presumption that mystery must go? And anyway, is it even possible that the study of created things could ever chip away at God's infinity?  
We have become uneasy with mystery.  Mystery has become, for us, sinister and untrustworthy.  We have made it so. And it is this sinisterization of mystery that has led many to agree with Dawkins’ assertion that mystery is the enemy.  For the person of faith, however, mystery is not the enemy. 

“If all you can trust and have faith in is the God you can comprehend and understand, then who are you worshiping?” Leonard Sweet, Soul Salsa.
Where does this leave mystery, then, for those who believe in God?  Should we regard mystery as a tolerated necessity of faith, just accepting it as the way it is?  Or should we, in fact, celebrate the mystery of faith, knowing that we can never fathom God?
And if we promote mystery from neutral status (a facet of faith we simply regard as un-objectionable) to a position of esteem (a celebrated tenet of faith), we must ask ourselves, what is the role of discovery in the journey of faith?  Are the very endeavors of discovery and learning counter to what we have just said is axiomatic to our faith?  If so, dare we strive to know more?
On the other hand, what is intrinsically wrong with wanting to solve mystery?  Is our opinion of God affected by how much we know about Him?  “We live by faith, not by sight,” we are told (2Cor. 5:7).  But might not "sight" and experiences and discovery be able to boost and strengthen our faith?
So where does this leave us, knowing that our tiny, finite minds can never grasp all that is true about God?  What can be known about Him and does He want us to know it?  Might God melt under the heat lamp of human scrutiny, lessened just a bit with every piece of evidence revealed?  Is God sweating it out, worried that we will someday have Him pegged?  If not…. if God is beyond measure, dare we try to measure Him?  
Or is it just possible God wants us to know more about Him than we now know?

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