It’s strange how I come to write these posts. Usually I experience or read something that causes an idea to surface suddenly — I have to capture it immediately or it gets lost. This post was triggered by a phrase I read this morning in Psalm 81 — “A voice I did not know said to me . . .” I was propelled outside myself by that phrase — how mysterious is the human mind and soul — and watched as the grand 13,000,000,000 year old story of being flashed through my mind. I’ll share my roller-coaster ride through time with you briefly.
The story arc of being
If a Hollywood Script Writer had to “pitch” the epic story of being to a Producer to get funding, he might do it like this, in 6 major film segments:
- Black screen. No sound. Only indescribable divine Being. Then brilliant flash and the story titles flash by as created being emerges, expanding into a universe pregnant with possibility. (Necessary Being — what we call God — speaks the “Word” and creates contingent being to share God’s reality.)
- A sun exploding and fragments of flaming matter swirling. A barren planet takes shape, then an ocean, then a forest. Zoom in to see insects and then zoom back to see dinosaurs. Finally pan around and see a group of ape-like savages huddled in fear. Focus on a single savage face as it morphs to a human face. Screen goes black again. (The dynamism of created reality produces the spacetime continuum then biological life. Then, in another great act of creation, God creates the first human soul as a transcendent being with freedom and self-consciousness.)
- Two humans walking in a forest. One suddenly strikes the other with a club. Cut to warfare, human sacrifice and great temples. Then cut to a desert and an old man, an arab herder who looks away into the distance, then packs his tent and family and sets out on a trek westward into the setting sun. (Man’s journey in his search for God, with God finally reaching out to Abraham as the father of true understanding in humanity.)
- Rapid scenes portraying Isaac, Joseph, Moses and the Exodus, and then the prophets and exile and return to the Promised Land. (The story of Israel’s growth in understanding about God’s presence in the world and His Plan for them)
- More rapid scenes of the familiar story of Jesus: Birth, growth, public teaching and miracles and death and resurrection. The last scene fades into twilight, but it is a dawn not evening. The new reality of “God is with us” has begun. (The story of God’s definitive entry into human affairs in Jesus)
- More rapid scenes showing the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise and fall of Christendom until finally, there is a cresendo of modern scenes representing man’s current power and dilemmas. Again the last scene is a pregnant twilight. But is it morning again — or evening? Will this story have a happy ending? Who is the storyteller? The movie leaves a question in the mind of the audience. (The story of the ‘last days’ and the transformation of creation)
A deeper level — the Human perspective versus God’s perspective
As I said, I never know where these posts will lead me. Once I completed my little account of the “story arc of being” several things occurred to me. Using the Hollywood metaphor, the story arc I have just described might be only one of an almost infinite number of ways of telling the story of being. What may make this one different is the weight of theological study of the sources for this particular Christian story. But, since the history of science advances as well, where does that leave Theology? Does theology have a privileged view of God’s mysterious Plan due to these historical sources? If we take the mystery of God seriously, then what Walter Kasper the noted German theologian wrote has some serious implications. “The believer is not better informed about God than the unbeliever, and theologians are not God’s ‘privy councillors.'” This bold statement flows directly from the nature of God according to Kasper: “God makes known his utter hiddenness and his being utterly beyond our power to manipulate and dispose of him.” We cannot claim we grasp God’s Plan any better now, in the 21st century, than Jesus’ disciples understood it when he was present in the flesh in the 1st century. Where does that leave us?
In Chapter 5 in my book Imagining Rama I wrote about our not knowing what is going on in God’s larger Plan. “The condition of being aware of something going on, in oneself and the cosmos, yet being unable to know or grasp what it is epitomizes the mystery of human freedom in the universe for me.” Put more simply, all we are left with is understanding our role in a story that God knows but we don’t — and learning this role in our situation with all its new language and new questions, depends on our relationship with the living God who is hidden yet present. We can’t go to school and study the sources, or even the Bible, and find out precisely what God’s mysterious hidden plan means to us right now, everyday. We must learn our role in the story through our relationship with God supported by the Christian community in which we grow in spiritual wisdom. That is what human freedom means to me. We have been given a free choice to relate to the living God (or not) in order to learn how to carry out the specific role created for each of us since the beginning of time. God sets the stage; we are the actors. We create the diverse possibilities for the future of Earth and perhaps the universe, which God brings, through his intimacy with us in grace, to a happy ending after eons of adventure. [See Ephesians Chapter 1 and 2:10 for St Paul’s view of this.]