If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Is it Possible to Know?

Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Every now and again someone asks me a question along the lines of, “With all the conflicting ideas in the world about God, isn’t it just possible that no one really knows what God wants?”

The question, of course, deals with critically important issues of faith (knowing what God wants us to believe) and morals (how God wants us to live).  Unfortunately, it’s taken me more than three decades to realize the question is far too important to reply with a knee-jerk sound-bite. It deserves and it requires a reasoned response.  How I respond might help you should someone ask you a similar question.

I base my answer on several important presuppositions – important (to me, anyway) because if any of my presuppositions are false, then anything and everything I say subsequently is fatally flawed.

1. God exists, has always existed even before time began. He will exist after time ceases to be.

2. God is omnipotent – He does what He wants, when He wants, for as often as He wants. What He shuts no one can open. What He opens, no one can shut.

3. God is omniscient – He knows everything there is to know about everything. He literally knows the number of hairs on the head of each of the 6 billion people on planet earth. He knows each person’s thoughts before even those 6 billion know it themselves. He knows the future as if it is the past and the present. As one writer put it, “God’s gaze spans the ages. Nothing catches Him by surprise.”

4. God is omnipresent – He is everywhere at all times. He is with me in Georgia as I type this, while at the same time He is with every single person who reads this. He is with the farmer outside Beijing at the same time He is with the doctor in London. More to the point, because He is outside of time and space, He is right now in the past as well as in the future as well as in the immediate present.

5. Finally, God is love. He is good and kind and loving in all His ways and in all His acts. At all times and in all situations, God is love. Not that He simply exhibits love, or demonstrates love, but that He actually ‘is’ love.

So those are the presuppositions upon which I answer the question: If everybody is getting conflicting messages from God, isn't it just possible that we really have no idea what God wants?

For example, God is love. LOVE wants to communicate with the beloved. We easily see this in the relationship between a man and woman who love each other. They want nothing more than to be in each other’s presence, to talk about everything and about nothing. And so, wanting to communicate with us, and because God is omniscient, He knows how to best communicate with His beloved. He did so through His spokesmen we call prophets and apostles. 

God’s omnipotence is also a critical element in this reasoning because, being all-powerful, He was able to ensure not only His beloved (us) get His communiqué (i.e. the Bible), but that it should be transmitted through the centuries without error with regard to doctrine (e.g. what is important for us to know about Him, and how to live to please Him).

Further, because God is love, He wants the best for His beloved. We can see this illustrated in the relationship between a parent and a child. As a father I made a number of rules for our children when they were growing up in our home -- rules to protect them from harm. And yes, I even spanked them when they needed further evidence of how serious I was about protecting them.

Likewise, God’s love requires that He give us rules by which He expects us to live – for our protection and the protection of others (e.g. our neighbors, fellow citizens) whom He also loves very deeply.  Again, those rules are set forth in His communiqué (the Bible).  And if we need evidence of how serious He is about protecting us – and our neighbors – then He will discipline us according to our need.

If necessary, the place the Bible calls Hell is God’s discipline of last resort, reserved for anyone who, despite repeated warnings and disciplines at His hand, continues to rebel against God’s rules.

Our children often did not like our rules, nor were they convinced those rules were for their good.  But that did not change the truth that our rules for them were for their good. Likewise, humanity might not like God’s rules, nor might we be convinced those rules are for our good, but that does not change the truth that God’s rules for us are for our good.

To some, I suppose my answers seem trite, maybe even pre-scientific, but they satisfy my need for an answer to the implied question: Can humanity really know God’s will regarding faith and morals? 

Yes, I am convinced we can know it.

Of course, my answer begs the question: If the Bible is in fact God’s communiqué to us, then why are there so many divergent interpretations of the Bible? How do you know your interpretation is the correct one?

This too is an important question, one which requires more than a knee-jerk sound-bite. Next time I will tell you how I answer that question.

No comments: