Tuesday, October 19, 2010

God In Search of Us - Part 2 of 2

When asked how he knew the Bible was God's Word, Karl Barth, the great theologian and scholar put it this way:
“You might as well as a child how she knows her mother's voice is her mother's!”
Something inside us just knows the voice of Yahweh who birthed us into being. Somehow, it is a self-evident thing. This is a wondrous thing that only faith can appreciate.

Imagine you and I are sitting across the table from each other. We see each other, feel each other's warmth, hear each other's voices, and laugh at each other's jokes. Would it make any sense at that point to entertain arguments claiming that either one of us did not really exist? Certainly on a playing field of absolute skepticism such arguments might exhaust us without end. But if we just relax and admit what we know, we each know the other is present and real. The same is so with the soul's knowledge of Yahweh. His reality is evident within us and all around us, as he is everywhere present.

Sometimes we have to get in touch with ourselves to realize this. Self-awareness can be a rare commodity today. And if you doubt this, you are probably among those most guilty of it. It usually takes a self-encounter before someone can step outside the mental maze we get ourselves into as if chasing our own tail. When we come to this self-encounter we discover that it has only been our desire to push away Yahweh and to rule ourselves without him, that we came to block him out of our consciousness by conscious or unconscious choice. But deep down our soul knows. Make no mistake about that. And our heart bears witness to it when it hears his voice and words. It tells us what our mind has resisted: that we have come home, that this is our Source of Being and the One in whom we live and move and have our being.

I am not saying there isn't good evidence or logic for believing. But I am saying that Luther was right when he said that “reason” can often be compromised by one's flawed motives or biases. In fact he called “reason” a “whore.” Why? Because so long as one is bent on finding “reasons” to reject God, “reasons” will be found (or rationalized) and will sound quite convincing to the one who has vested their interest in a self-serving conclusion.

But once one yields to the self-evident, self-revealing Word of God, those “reasons” and objections flee like mice before the true Logos who is the Way, the Truth, and Life. Upon encountering him, we embrace him for reasons that transcend reason. Yet once he wins a heart, it comes to realize there is nothing more logical, reasonable, true, and evident than the One who makes reason possible and who is the Logos of Being. With the ancient church we realize that we do not understand in order to believe, but we have come to believe in order to understand.

Perhaps the best explanation for this phenomenon can be expressed in the words of some of Jesus' first disciples. After encountering the resurrected Christ, they thought it incredulous that it could actually have been him on that dusty roadside. But they asked each other:
“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was speaking to us on the road, while he was explaining the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)
There was a knowledge within themselves that they trusted even more than their eyes and ears and senses. What their hearts told them was more trustworthy for them than the fact that Jesus had just sat in their physical presence eating with them. Their hearts were on fire.

At an earlier time, when many of Jesus' inquirers were losing interest upon finding his teachings hard to understand, Jesus asked his followers if they too were thinking of leaving. They answered, “Lord, to whom else can we go? You alone hold the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). There is something unique and life-giving about Jesus' words that burn within the receptive heart and are not found in any other person, place or thing. It is, as Barth observed, like hearing the unmistakable voice of our mother.

If you're like my seeker friend in yesterday's blog, and wrestling with doubts about believing in God, consider this: Yahweh made not only your mind but your heart. Sometimes the heart perceives with clarity things muddled and dim to the mind. As you seek him with your mind, do not be afraid to engage your whole heart, your full soul and all your abilities. One thing is sure, those who encounter him no longer feel a need to empirically certify him for themselves, just as lovers stop doubting that love is real once they meet.

Yahweh made not only
your mind but your heart.

As odd as it may sound, many things require faith before they can be personally verified. Consider how every toddler doubts he or she can take those first steps. You may not remember it, but before you could walk, you needed enough faith to try. Likewise, we all doubted we could ride a bicycle without training wheels until we boldly casted ourselves upon our own balance. What made us to that? It began with the desire to do it. As the desire grew and we really wanted it, we found ourselves trying at whatever risk until we succeeded. Then as you lost confidence you may have toppled off your bike. As you gained confidence, your ride turned into a delight. Every personal advancement is like this, whether we're talking about swimming, hang gliding, saying “I do” at the altar, or letting Yahweh into our lives; the basics of life and happiness always involve faith hurdles.

What will your
next step look like?

If you so much as sense he may be near, take just a step in his direction and you will find each step rewarded. You may think your search is one-sided but it's not; Yahweh is in fact seeking you and the impulses you feel to search him out will in fact prove to have originated with him!

Take that toddler's step and soon you will be walking like a toddler, then riding without training wheels, then swimming, soaring, and falling in love. It starts with that first step of faith in the One extended his arms to us at Calvary's Cross. Then those who place their hand in his and find a love that's clear enough to dispel any further need to argue about it. And that in turn leads to a path where all things can become clear.

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