Thursday, July 10, 2014

The "Something" Out There is Personal

Michio Kaku offers an interesting take on transcendence and whether or not God exists.

Interestingly enough, this famous physicist ends up basically where I left this blog yesterday.  There is a transcendent reality, but it isn't personal.

I would like to argue that this transcendent reality is indeed a personal reality, and I would like to start with a common parable--one which I have used in my sermons a couple of times--the parable of the blind men and the elephant.

This parable is about a group of blind men who stumble upon an elephant in their path.  They strive to see the elephant.  Each touches a different part of the elephant, and then they argue about the nature of that elephant.  One argues the elephant is like a spear--he touched the tusk.  One argues the elephant is like a hose--he touched the trunk.  One argues the elephant is like a wall--he touched the torso.  One argues the elephant is like a rope--he touched the tail.  One argues the elephant is like a tree trunk--he touched the leg.  And so on and so forth.  Each believed his piece of the elephant constituted the entire reality of the elephant, but they were all wrong.  In one way, they were all right, but in another, they were all wrong.

Folks like to use this analogy/parable and apply it to religions.  Most religions worship a transcendent reality, but how does one know what that reality is like?  The parable suggests no one really knows for sure--all are blind and only "see" one part.  None has the big picture.

This might be an interesting argument to talk about the nature of religions except for one small problem--the parable doesn't work unless someone knows what the whole elephant looks like to begin with.  Only an outsider who knows what the whole elephant looks like can say, "All the guys were right, and all the guys were wrong."  Therefore, if you want to use this parable to talk about religion--and how religion views God, then you either have to admit you are blind (and only have a limited knowledge of God yourself) or that you somehow see the entire elephant.  At this point, you've actually backed yourself into the proverbial corner.

Unless there is someone who has actually seen the nature of God.  Unless there is someone who has encountered the transcendence and become immanent.

Christianity is the only religion which professes such a thing to have happened.  Christianity is the only religion which claims the transcendent reality of God took on flesh and lived among us.  Christianity is the only religion which claims we don't have to work our way up to God, but God worked His way down to us.

If we as humankind are striving to work our way up to a transcendent reality, we will never make it. We will never know what kind of transcendence is out there.  It is an impossibility.  But, if that transcendent reality has made itself known...that changes everything.

Christianity claims Jesus came to reveal the true nature of God--being fully God and fully human, and this claim grounds itself in the writings of Scripture.  Jesus claimed to be God and to know God.

The claim was radical--absolutely radical--especially given the Jewish culture to which Jesus entered into. It would have done more than raise eyebrows.  It would have been cause to see Jesus as insane, dangerous, blasphemous, even evil.  We see hints of this throughout the gospel stories.

Which brings me to the crux of the argument--if the transcendent indeed became immanent in Jesus, then the stories about Jesus must be reliable.  Are they?

Another blog topic.


ACB70 said...

This is a really good look at the transcendence in religion, thank you!

Unknown said...

good post, I heard the elephant parallel with an additional detail. Concerning the blind person who discovered the tail I was informed that he pulled on the tail and got rained on... oh well, perhaps that detail wasn't essential to make your point...

Good post.


Kevin Haug said...