Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Mysterious More

William James, in his classic book The Varieties of Religious Experience, asks, “Is there a ‘More’?” It was a good question to ask at the beginning of the 20th Century, when the western world was entering the fullness of the Enlightenment age. As science provided us more and more answers to things that previously were mysterious to us, it seemed more and more that there was no “More.” There was only “This”—the space-time world of matter and energy and all other natural forces that lay behind it. The realm of the mysterious began to shrink as the realm of the understood was enlarged. The mysterious lost its mystery. If we didn’t understand something, it was just a matter of time. Someone somewhere would unlock the secret, and we could examine it and understand it. It would all make sense. God? Increasingly the concept of god or gods seemed out of touch with modern sensibilities.

The modern worldview, with its self-contained universe, has no substantive place for God; it just doesn’t fit. For some who continued to believe, however, often their belief in God changed. Accepting the modern worldview, they simply added God on top of it. God is the one who created the space-time world of matter and energy, set the universe in motion, and remains outside of it. At times God intervenes, but that is what it seems—an intervention by something outside as opposed to the action of something within. There is the natural world, and there is the supernatural world—the prefix super- meaning above, beyond, outside of.

This rather odd mixture of an Enlightenment worldview with the idea of God results in some interesting twists. For one thing, Heaven becomes the ultimate expression of rationalism. Whatever we don’t understand here on earth, we will understand when we get to Heaven, this line of thinking says. The Scripture slogan for this is 1 Corinthians 13:12 where Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” Well, there it is. Whatever we don’t know now, we’ll know when we get to Heaven. Enlightenment Bliss!

But we better be careful. Genesis 1-11 says that the original sin was wanting to be like gods—wanting to judge what is good and what is evil for ourselves (Adam and Eve in the Garden in Gen. 3), wanting to decide who deserves to live and who deserves to die (Cain in Genesis 4), even wanting to live where God lived and have power and fame (Tower of Babel in Genesis 11). So, now we want to have omniscience too? To know all things? To know fully, to use Paul’s phrase?

He wasn’t saying that we would know everything. This statement comes at the end of Paul’s long ode to love, where he asserts that love is the greatest thing, not knowledge. “If I … understand all mysteries and all knowledge…but do not have love, I am nothing.” Love isn’t about knowing facts, it’s about knowing a person. And it is this kind of fullness of knowing to which Paul refers in verse 12: “Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

See? He’s talking about the fullness of knowing someone and being known in the biblical sense, in which knowing a person and loving a person, and being loved and being known, are so intertwined as to be inseparable—a oneness with another that we only experience fleetingly right now. It’s the mystery of the Trinity—three separate and distinct Persons, yet One inseparable God.

Heaven isn’t the place where all mysteries are explained, it is the mode of existence in which the 3-in-1 God-Mystery is fully experienced—and fully enjoyed. And in which we are fully experienced and fully enjoyed.

And if that doesn’t quite make sense, well, that’s kinda the point.

Yes, God is the More, but not the Removed. Whatever we experience with humans, we experience it More with God. That experience which we call love, when we experience God’s love in all it’s fullness, will be so much more that calling it love or agape or whatever will seem so inadequate. We won’t be able to come up with a word for it. We won’t even be able to explain it, except to say that it is so much More than we thought it would be.

It will be a Mystery that we won’t want to waste time trying to explain or understand, just soak in.

And the Good News is that we don’t have to wait until we die to enter into that mysterious relationship with God. We can begin the journey right now. All you have to do is start.

1 comment:

  1. The concept that God created the space-time world of matter and energy, set the universe in motion, and remains outside of it is of human origin. Usually it is accompanied by the notion that God's 4D creation (height, width, length, time)will be left behind and replaced by a mysterious Heaven. May we suggest another position? Go to our website, Archives, "Revelation 22: 2, Time In Heaven?" for a peek at what we think lies ahead.