Why Won’t God Be God?
[This was originally written for my bereavement group in Fredericksburg Virginia. It is the first serious work I have done since my Wife Angelina passed on September 18th of last year,]
As we listened to Gloria read Kurt’s very brief but blunt words dealing with his bleak outlook due to his grief, then Connie’s inspiring, positive account of her vacation, and then in turn, each of the remainder of us with our separate approaches to the task of saying ‘Yes to Life’ with whatever amount of thanks we needed to show, punctuated again by Gloria’s recounting Dwight’s painful declaration of what was his denial of the existence of God, I was struck with a question. Why won’t God be God?
What would resonate within me to prompt that question for the entire time we each read and wrote and read again?
It wasn’t necessarily Kurt’s bluntness, nor was it Dwight’s denial of God, both of which were completely understandable within the construct of the task and their feelings of grief. Can any of us deny we haven’t had similar thoughts of being abandoned at a time of desperate need?
Neither was it necessarily Connie’s inspiring leap forward in taking her vacation by herself. The first since her husband passed.
Though it did have something to do with each of our stories I know. It wouldn’t just foment in my head for no reason. Surely, Teresa’s continued search for an answer to the question her father’s suicide poses for her entire family also had something to do with my question as well.
Still, anyone who knows me fairly well would tell you, while I am a reasonably intelligent guy, I’m not the intellectual sort. Not the scholarly egghead anyway. But, they would also tell you, I am prone to ask myself questions that will present answers loaded with land mines forcing me to back myself into places where escape or comfort may not be possible. I fear this might be one of those times.
That being said, for most of us I presume living a life without questioning why we exist is a virtual impossibility. Yet, mere existence raises so many questions about how any one individual has a part in the grand scheme of things, the answers would fill a mountain range of grains of possibilities equaling all the sands of every beach and desert on the earth and then some.
What’s puzzling is all those possibilities boil down to one argument. Always have. Always will. Is this planet, this solar system, this universe, this galaxy and beyond the result of higher intelligence (I am talking about God) or, is it an incredible marvelous, frightening accident?
Now then, our wonderful group leader, Gloria, devious as she is, allowed me to pose the question which I in my inimitable style, or maybe lack thereof, assumed would make an absorbing talk for the next week, then gave me all the time I needed for the next week to hang myself with my own words. Therefore without further ado I will attempt something of a response, hopefully, without the lynching.
We will start with an old parable about two unlikely, yet dear friends. One of them was an atheist, the other a priest (or if you prefer, a rabbi, a deacon, or a minister.)
The two friends, quite naturally carried on for years what appeared was an unwinnable debate. The atheist was adamant there was no God– convinced the fact could never be proven with science, theology or just plain logic. The priest insisted logic alone demanded there had to be intelligent thought in the creation of the universe and everything in it.
The argument continued for years until both were quite old. Then, one day the priest, while visiting a favorite odds and ends store, spotted a wonderful item, a curiosity contained in what appeared to be a glass box displaying an astronomically accurate depiction of the earth’s sun with all of its planets, earth’s moon, the rings of Saturn, everything, all orbiting around the sun in the precise locations they would be in any one year, in ten years, all the way up to several thousand years. The mathematics alone for such an endeavor was enormous and ingenious, not to mention the engineering, the artistic sculpturing, and of course the magical way the artisan had managed to hide whatever method he used to keep the planets suspended and moving correctly in space.
It was fairly large but not so that it could not fit into his car. So, the priest negotiated a price and drove back to his retirement apartment and set it on the coffee table for anyone to admire. Naturally he called his dear atheist friend to come over to see it.
Without a doubt the atheist so admired the beautiful work of scientifically aesthetic perfection he had a number of questions he had to ask.
The priest explained all he knew about the beautiful piece until the atheist asked, "So who’s the artist?"
The priest answered, "Artist? What do you mean?"
"Oh come now," the atheist said, "who made it?"
The priest looked questioningly at the atheist and shook his head as if he was confused by the question.
The atheist was becoming annoyed at what he perceived as the priest’s reticence to give him an answer for what he needed to know.
"Look, surely you’re not telling me you didn’t bother to get the name of the artist who conceived this? Something this magnificent wasn’t created out of thin air."
The priest allowed himself a small amount of further confusion and then smiled thinly, and said, "My old friend, you absolutely astound me with your perception.
"You have no problem whatsoever acknowledging that this humble manmade effort at an infinitesimal portion of an enormous galaxy of universes, stars, moons, and planets cannot exist without a creator, an artisan whose name you need to know. Yet, you insist for all these many years that the actual reality of the universe around you simply popped into being without thought, intelligence, scientific order, and absolute logic. Please explain that to me."
I chose to start there just to capture your interest in what I believe encapsulates what further arguments the atheist and the priest might have from that point. That extension of contemplation has to center itself around my topic. Yet, if that logic is true , then why at this point with the condition we have managed to put the world into without God’s help for two-thousand-eleven-years will He not now step in to redeem us, or to destroy us and start all over again, or do something to save us from our self inflicted insanities?
In other words "why won’t God be God?
Therein lies our conundrum. We are set in a challenge or circumstance for which the rules, apparently, do not permit answers to so many questions we believe should have definitive answers.
Possible explanations we attempt to outline in several ways. We relate stories as I have above, we make axioms and postulates in order to prove our theories, we even make laws and regulations to control our own actions to prevent us from completely devastating ourselves before we do get the answers. And sometimes we even come up with answers to some of the puzzle. Often, however, what we are left with after the answers are more questions. Is this fair?
Well, my guess would be, to ask the question, ‘why won’t God be God? demands an answer we can’t be privy to because the challenge or the circumstance we are in hasn’t reached the point of providing the answer. If it did, there would be no point in continuing. We would have reached the point where all the answers to all those grains of possibilities had been sorted and organized and our understanding, individually and collectively, would be of a single mind.
And what we all know, if we know nothing else, is individually and collectively, with all the knowledge available to us we still don’t have it right. For starters, there are so many of us who don’t know what the questions are yet that we have a great amount of work ahead for just the preparation to understand what exactly they are. There is scientific debate, historical debate, spiritual debate, almost any kind of debate which can be named in order to ask the right questions. No we can’t be ready for answers to questions we don’t yet understand.
All very confusing. Yet there is some modicum of hope. Each of us in our own way will leave behind us a legacy of lessons learned, most of the lessons are hard ones to digest, particularly if we fail to recognize what the promise was for our having lived in our period of challenge or our circumstances. Like it or not, that promise cannot be realized in this small segment of our existence. It can only be attained after each circumstance and each challenge has been met, all the questions are understood, and the answers finally learned.
Don’t misunderstand, this is not a game we are playing. We are many lifetimes of students, preparing for the kind of understanding that will permit humanity to live together without the fear of war, famine, disease, and cataclysmic disasters which are unavoidable at this stage of our growth. Neither are we guinea pigs, we, you and I, and legions of others, have a free pass to what very well could be called a perfect universe. I call it Heaven.
Now I think I should stop at this point only because I have raised more questions for myself for which I have no clue of the answers. END
D. Kenneth Ross