Monday, June 28, 2010

The God Who Questions

Why is that at our most difficult times, when we have the most questions of God, He does not answer us?  Certainly the One who is from all eternity has the answers we want.  Certainly He could dispel all our doubts and anxiety with but a word.  But more often than not when we cry out our questions we are met with a nagging silence.  It's nagging because somehow, somewhere, deep down inside of us, we wonder if maybe we have asked the wrong question or even are not entitled to ask the question in the first place.

Like many things with God, I believe the solution lies in relationship.  We too often get our relationship with God wrong.  He is not the Object of our quest but rather He is the Subject.  We are not outside of God examining Him.  He is examining us.  He is testing us.  He is determining our metal, trying our imperfections, setting us in right relationship to him.

Peter Kreeft in his excellent book on the Wisdom literature of the Bible, "Three Philosophies of Life", says that the answer as to why God does not directly answer Job's questions of him is that it is not about who Job is but rather who God is.
"Because of what God is, he cannot show up in answer to Job's questions, in function of Job's needs.  God will not answer Job because God is not the Answer Man.  He is not the Answerer, the Responder.  He is the Initiator, the Questioner."
How often does Jesus answer the questions of the Pharisees or his Disciples with not an answer but a question?  "Should we stone this woman?"  "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."  Our questions of God are typically of the kind that ask what kind of God He is.  Is He truly all powerful, is He truly all good, etc.?  What God often responds is, "Who are you?"

Who am I?  Am I someone who desires God above all else?  Even above the answer to my question?  Do I long to see God's face or am I simply satisfied with His back?  Will I allow Him to question me and lay bare my soul so that I may be made whole?  When God shows up and responds to Job, not with answers but with questions, Job answers
"Before, I knew you only by hearsay but now, having seen you with my own eyes, I retract what I have said, and repent in dust and ashes." Job 42:5-6
 Job has his answer, finally.  God is. And that is enough.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Quest for Higher Purpose

In his ground-breaking book "The Quest for Community", Traditional Conservative sociologist Robert A. Nisbit wrote,
"Is not the most appealing popular religious literature of the day that which presents religion, not in its timeless role of sharpening man's awareness of the omnipresence of evil and the difficulties of salvation, but as a means of relief from anxiety and frustration?  It enjoins not virtue but adjustment.  Are not the popular areas of psychology and ethics those involving either the theoretical principles or the therapeutic techniques of status and adjustment for the disinherited and insecure?  'In what other period of human existence,' asks Isaiah Berlin, 'has so much effort been devoted not to the painfully difficult task of looking for light, but to the protection . . . of individuals from the intellectual burden of facing problems that may be too deep or complex?'  Every age has its literature of regeneration.  Our own, however, is directed not to the ancient desire of man for higher virtue but to the obsessive craving of men for tranquillity and belonging. (emphasis mine)
This last line has caused me to think a little about how we order our daily lives.  "Quest for Community" is now 55 years old.  Yet I believe that Nisbit was almost prophetic in describing our detached, isolated, Facebook obsessed culture.  Last night I posted the final line of the above quote and began discussing the topic on-line with a friend of mine.  I love getting into these discussions with her since she often challenges me to be clear about what I am saying (something that Priests and philosophers can, notoriously, be bad at).

She simply asked me whether or not I thought that the quote about the craving for tranquillity and belonging was a good or bad thing.  On the face of it, these seem to be desirable commodities.  They evoke warm, comfortable feelings.  We can imagine ourselves sitting upon a green hill in the lush countryside, leaning against our beloved, firm in his or her embrace.  If we listen closely we can almost hear the sound of song birds in the distance.  These are good things, right?  However, Nisbit was not using these terms in this way.  Instead, he is using the terms as precisely as can be in order to evoke in us a visceral reaction to their textbook definitions.

Monday, May 24, 2010

And the Beat Goes On I'm 43 years old today.  Opening my Facebook this morning showed me just how much one life touches and is touched by others.  I have a huge smile on my face because, until you see it down on (digitized) paper, you have no idea how many friends you have.