I’ve been on a quest the past year or so to understand God. Having been raised a Christian, religion and faith have always been part of my life. The greatest challenges to what I believed came from other denominations where I would simply have to defend why I worshipped differently. It hasn’t been until the past couple of years where I have felt the compulsion to delve deeper into the belief in the existence of God itself, not just religious doctrine. My book pile grew faster than I could read as I dove into this God thing. I was reading books by Christian greats such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer along with ancient scripts like the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Gnostic Gospels. It wasn’t until I picked up a book titled A History of God that a I finally realized what Christianity’s problem was with God and how off I was in my quest. Christians want God to be simple and explainable, while there is no possible way to do so.
In A History of God, Karen Armstrong walks through the 4000 year history of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity in their quest for God. In discussing the early Christian concepts of God she shares “Since religion was directed toward an ineffable reality that lay beyond normal concepts and categories, speech was limiting and confusing… certain questions were ‘improper’ or inappropriate, since they referred to realities that lay beyond the reach of words. Western Christianity would become a much more talkative religion…this would be one of it’s chief problems with God.” I like how Gregory of Nyssa put it in his Life of Moses, “the true vision and the knowledge of what we seek consists precisely of not seeing, in an awareness that our goal transcends all knowledge and is everywhere cut off from us by the darkness of incomprehensibility.”
Take for example the human characteristic of love. Can you describe the love you have for your spouse or parent or child or dog? Can you describe and put into words the compassion you have for them? The peace they give you just by seeing them? Songwriters, poets, and authors have tried for centuries to describe the depths of their love. It’s deeper than the sea, higher than the mountains, more beautiful than a thousand sunsets. All things that are unfathomable, immeasurable, and unattainable; and at first glance rather silly. Yet we insist on using that same quality to describe God, from whom love emanates since before our existence. Now compound that with peace, grace, beauty, and justice and all of a sudden what was already uncategorizeable becomes even more infinitely complex.
I believe this is the problem that many Christians are having today and what is driving people away from the church in droves. It’s why an increasing number of people call themselves spiritual, but not religious. Christianity is responding the the challenge to explain the unexplainable. We are hung up on preaching doctrine; interpreting what humans while utilizing 10% of their brain, believe the being beyond all reason intended. Makes a lot of sense when you put it that way doesn’t it? Yet we want to give you a checklist of who God is and what he does and how we can live like him. And we screw it up every single time. Then people say “this doesn’t make sense” and leave to choose a life in which they don’t have a god any longer.
As Bryan Adams put it “look into your heart. Look into your soul. And when you find me there you’ll search no more.” That analogy makes perfect sense for newlyweds who play that song at their wedding. There comes a point when logic and reason fail. And if it’s perfectly acceptable for it to fail when describing my love for my wife, how then is it considered a failure when I cannot describe the God of the universe? I’ve come to the conclusion that I will never win an argument with an Atheist regarding faith and religion, because at it’s core I believe in the existence of a God whom words cannot contain. That doesn’t mean I should give up and rest my defense. It simply means the tactics are different. And that I cannot stop searching and longing to know my God for myself, not for what I’ve been taught.