A good philosopher of real life begins with what he or she can know with some certainty. We know that we are stuck in time. We have come out of a now absent past, we are in some sort of continuing now, and we are now facing an unstoppable future. We have no perfect knowledge of that past, we only have fragments of memories and factual research open to many different interpretations, all of which are fragmentary at best and delusory at worst. We anticipate a future that we know will be a surprise in many, or even most, of its aspects.
So, we don’t know where we have been, or where we are, or where we are going. We do have images and perhaps careful thought and plans about all of that, but none of those rational products provide certainty. The sheer MYSTERY of it all is our only complete certainty.
Christian faith includes trusting that very MYSTERY that anyone and everyone can know about and have certainty about if they will only admit their ignorance and stop assuming total certainty for their models of thought with which they express and exclude aspects of that MYSTERY. This strange certainty that there is no complete certainty graspable by a human mind is, paradoxically, a type of certainty that we can absolutely count upon.
Trusting that this MYSTERY is friendly toward us is an additional type of certainty. It is a risk into the unknown for which we have no rational proof. But we have no rational proof that this MYSTERY is not trustworthy. Of course, we do find it true that the MYSTERY is not trustworthy to operate entirely in accord with our preferences, hopes, neuroses, plans, moralities, social conditioning, personality constructions, loves, hates, passions, intuitions, fears, anxieties, despairs, horrors, or any other aspect of our temporal modes of evaluation. Trusting the MYSTERY means surrendering all of our temporal modes of evaluation. This surrender is experienced as a kind of certainty.
Such paradoxical certainty is the key to understanding properly the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Innocence. They ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil of which Absolute Realism forbid them to eat. Our healing, rescue, or redemption from the Adam and Eve fall from innocence entails vomiting up that fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Trusting the MYSTERY means a return to full and complete ignorance about good and evil. All our choices become ambiguous. We never know if we are doing the right thing, No law is absolute. No teaching is absolute. No social conditioning is absolute. No fabric of consciousness is absolute. No intuition is absolute. No body-wisdom is absolute. Nothing! We have nothing but total ignorance on the topic of good and evil. According to Christian witnessing the Holy Name for this state of being is called “Freedom.”
Trust and Freedom are two aspects of the same Holy Spirit,
the same authentic humanity, the same primal innocence.
And a third aspect of Holy Spirit also exists as part of that Trust/Freedom state-of-being human. The name of this third aspect of Holy Spirit is “Love”—Spirit Love, Love of the MYSTERY, Love of the neighboring beings as we love our own beings, compassion to be with the joys and horrors of our own life, as well as with the joys and horrors of other people’s lives. Such Spirit Love is a deep experience, and it is a profound commandment to actually live our essential humanity. The Holy Spirit is a gift of our “creation” and Holy Spirit is a gift of our redemption or restoration to that essential humanity. Holy Spirit is simply our essential being. This Holy Spirit is simply there when all our escapes from the simply there have ceased to hide this essence. After the restoration of this gift, this Trust/Love/Freedom demands to be lived by the ones to whom this restoration has happened. Not living this gift of Holy Spirit means a return to slavery and mistrust, as well as malice, envy, avarice, greed, sloth, arrogance, pride, and every other deadliness of un-love, mistrust, and non-freedom.
So what does all this have to do with “God,” as that word is used in Christian theologizing? One of the faces of “God,” in the Christian view of God, is this Holy Spirit that we can access within our own beings. Another face of “God” is that MYSTERY we pointed to above. To call that MYSTERY by the name “God” means that we trust that MYSTERY as our ultimate devotion. It does not mean that there is a Big Person sitting back there in a second realm of things. That double-deck thinking is simply story-book talk that works somewhat for the childhood of our upbringing. As true adults, we can now be absolutely atheistic about any supposed need to believe in a second realm of Gods, Goddesses, angels, devils, and all other such supposed populations. In a true understanding of the biblical texts, “God” is simply that MYSTERY that we all face and that can be, according to the Christian good news, be understood as being for us in everything that happens to us—including our death, suffering, limitations, opportunities, joys, and our horrific as well as glorious possibilities and challenges. For Christian faith, nothing more need be said about that MYSTERY than its trustworthiness. And this trust in the trustworthiness of the MYSTERY is what Martin Luther was pointed to with his assertions that “redemption” happens not by achievements of good works but “by faith alone.” To be redeemed, nothing needs to be done by us, except trusting the trustworthiness of the Mystery.
So how is Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) also a face of “God” in the Christian elaboration of this devotional word “God.” Let us look at the literary story of Jesus (as portrayed in the fictional narratives of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John). These minimally historical narratives were composed not as biography, but simply to tell us what it looks like to live in that Trust, Love, and Freedom that results from of our trusting obedience to the MYSTERY. In these narratives we see the 12 disciples and an uncounted group of women followers becoming excited, confused, and eventually horrified by following this spirited Jesus. In the end, having experienced compete despair over what they thought they were following, they found themselves moving beyond the hell of this despair into a life that they called “resurrection”—resurrection from the dead, resurrection from the horrific estrangements of the devilish world of which they were members, resurrection form their temporal hopes (that were also temporal fears) to a new quality of hope that cannot disappoint because it is a hope for that MYSTERY to remain a MYSTERY that forgives us, supports us, and loves us completely. This basic message of good news is said to reveal the nature of the MYSTERY—that is, that this MYSTERY can be our ultimate devotion—our “God.”
In the event of encountering Jesus we meet the MYSTERY that loves us. Jesus, seen as the final coming of our essential humanity, is also a face of our ultimate devotion. Jesus Christ is a face of “God,” a never absent part of the dynamic of our ultimate devotion to the MYSTERY and to how that MYSTERY is love for us and therefore can be loved by us in return.
This ordinary, fully human, fully temporal, suffering, dying Jesus is, in spite of all of that temporal humiliation (as well as because of all of that down-to-Earth humanness), a revelation of the MYSTERY’s love for us. In that sense, Jesus showed us that the MYSTERY was God for us. In the face of Jesus these healed ones saw their God. Whoever truly sees Jesus sees God—sees the nature of the MYSTERY. This is the claim. And now on the other side of this death and this resurrection, the essence of Jesus walks among us, eats fish, feeds us fish, lives on among us as a member of our group of trusters. And get this full paradox, this trusted Jesus also lives in a “right elbow” association with the trusted MYSTERY. In other words, the Jesus-presence-among-us is understood as fully human and, you may not believe this, fully God. In so far as we share in this presence of authentic humanity depicted in Jesus as Christ, we are also, you may not believe this either, both fully human and fully God. That is, anyone who has eyes to see any one of us as a trusting person sees the trustworthiness of the MYSTERY. This human/God paradox is an essential part of the Christian revelation and an essential part of our ongoing theologizing about that revelation.
This very quick outline about “God” in the Christian sense of that word, is introductory to a project of theologizing that can fill thousands and thousands of books and centuries and centuries of living. For a further elaboration of a core part of this theologizing, see the following essay.: