Thursday, May 10, 2012

Knowing God

Several Ethical Musings posts have addressed the question of what humans can know about God (e.g., Ethical Musings: Naturalism, atheism, and post-theism, Ethical Musings: The Tao and God, and Ethical Musings: In search of a deeper reality). I conclude that God is ultimately ineffable, i.e., unknowable by finite humans who necessarily rely on finite human language or who use abstract nouns such as God that lack a meaningful referent.

Instead of attempting to describe God's nature, we should seek to describe what God might have done in the world. The world’s major religions are unanimous in affirming the goodness of ultimate reality. Thus, when we observe life emerging from death, love, beauty, or other markers of goodness we perhaps concurrently discern a consequence or effect of God's presence in the world.

Is the ultimate (God) a cause, small or little, of that goodness?

Answering that question with anything but I don’t know requires a leap of faith. If God is truly the ineffable other, then nobody can prove that the correct answer is a positive or a negative reply.

The question pushes us to the mystery that underlies existence. Did the cosmos have a creator who remains actively involved with the cosmos?

Efforts to comprehend the resurrection of the Christ are similarly futile. Instead, the human knowledge of Christ's resurrection depends upon making a leap of faith that God caused the good consequences of whatever happened on the first Easter. Can one discern beauty, love, joy, or new life because of the celebration of the Christ's resurrection? If so, did God cause, at least in part, those good things to happen? (For another post on the resurrection, cf. Ethical Musings: Resurrection)

The old song, “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love,” is equally true of God: “They’ll know God by what God does.” Indeed, that is the only way to know God.

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