Some modern people have a difficult time in believing some parts of (what they think is) the message of Christianity. And some modern Christians make the difficulty even greater by focusing on those parts in a way that seems calculated to confuse and annoy those on the outside looking in.
Modern man finds it hard to imagine and thus to believe that God, if there is one who therefore must be Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer of all that physically exists, with everything else He has to manage, would have time to interact with, not only a small planet like earth but, even with individuals.
It’s easy to understand how primitive man could have come up with ideas of such a personal, man-befriending God. For them, the earth was the firm, flat ground they dwelt on, the sky a curved vault that must touch down somewhere, the heavenly bodies lights fixed or wandering celestial spheres.
I can remember the day when, as a young child, I stopped and looked at the sky and where it ended on the horizon and asked myself, what it must look like where it touches land far away. I can remember the night when I took my new flashlight and shined it straight up to cast light on clouds overhead.
I too was a primitive man once, maybe still am, because though I know and accept the discoveries of modern science, I have never had a difficult time in believing in the existence and the presence of a God who is so intimate that He was in the room where I slept as a child, and is with me now as I write.
I searched for a miracle and waited patiently for the day when I would literally see an angel or a saint appearing to me, or for that moment when His voice would speak directly to my ear from the outside, but it never happened. But He did open my eyes and ears to see and hear Him as He reveals Himself.
So much for me and other primitive men, but that will not be good enough for the modern. He could have told me I was foolish to search for a miracle, wait for a sign, or listen for the audible voice of God. But he will be impatient with me if I try to tell him how the God of all personally reveals Himself.
For that is the real meaning of miracle and sign, that is the real voice. Scriptures tell us of it—not just the Bible, but every other book deemed holy by men—and that compass of the human soul, the conscience, also testifies universally if we would only listen, that the heavenly God is the same as God within us,
that the Power who initiated the vast universe from a seed so small, the singularity, unites Himself with us in a communication of Divine energies that not only animates our bodies, making us alive, but emanates our minds, making us share in the Divine Logos, in reason itself, and therefore immortality.
All this is still lost on the modern man, who has gotten stuck at the impasse where Adam, Eve and the snake, and where Noah’s animal-filled ark, the near-sacrifice of Isaac, and worst of all, the resurrection of Jesus—in his estimation equally incomprehensible—block his way. And then, of course, there’s sin.
The God who, if He exists, runs the whole show would certainly not be bothered to burden us, the humblest of His creatures, with standards of right and wrong, especially ones as arbitrary as we find in the Bible. Especially He wouldn’t be bothered to be so fussy about the use of our sexual urges.
Yes, modern people, at least some of them, certainly have a lot working against them. The trick is—and those who need it most are most likely to miss it—the trick is, to understand that the same line of reasoning that dismisses the personal God also dismisses human reasoning, and to just really look.
Look at what? They’ve told us. They’ve already looked at the whole universe and have admitted that there may be a God behind it all, but that’s the limit. They say we can know nothing more, and are pleased to linger at the half-way house of agnostic knowledge, a surer oxymoron if there ever was one.
Some of the ancients, faced with the same dilemma, resigned themselves to polytheism, designed themselves gods to handle this or that, since they too couldn’t conceive of a God that could do everything and be everywhere at once. Mankind is very ingenious in coming up with solutions.
All of this is the result of our inability or maybe our refusal to accept that there really is no border between us and the Divine nature, between man and God. There is no border, but we all have erected a wall to mark it out, as individuals, as nations, as religions. God must stay on His side of the wall.
Lest we perish, for it is written, ‘Man may not look upon God, and live.’ We interpret the Ten Commandments, if we accept them, in the safest possible way when it comes to one, two, and three. We don’t realize that the making of idols means hiding behind the walls we make against Him.
It has nothing to do with, never has had anything to do with—except in our imaginations—statuary or icons or images of any sort in the Temple of God. Its import is that we enter the Divine presence with nothing except our offering, and that no offering is acceptable except one only—ourselves.
And that border that we keep trying to maintain between us and God—whether we believe in Him or not, we all do it, just the same—for some modern men, Christians included, the unbearable fright is not even things like the resurrection which blur the distinction between the dead and the living.
It is the fact of the Divine incarnation. The birth of the man Jesus of Nazareth blurred once and for all the distinction between man and God, for here is an individual who is fully one and the Other, and who has lit a bonfire on earth to burn down our fence of separation—it was only grass after all—from God.
Back to those modern people we started out with, who stumble over inconceivables and are abetted by the unbelievables. Let it go, let it all go. God is no enemy of your mental processes—He created and sustains them—nor even of your learning, for discipline is designed to produce good results.
You have made a start. You have learned to think, but the organ inside your head is—as you will admit—capable of much more than you use it for. Your physical eyes are its tangible ports and extensions, and the primary function of that organ is to see, but not only what the eyes see. It is designed to see God.
When you have grasped this fact, your eyes will really be open, the eyes of your mind. The light will be so bright, it might hurt your eyes, but that’s only because you may have never used them before, or at least not since you were a very small child, for we all enter the world with those eyes open.
As you begin to see, some things you used to see so well will become blurry, out of focus, some may disappear entirely, and one fine morning you will wake up and read the morning psalm, ‘For me the reward of virtue is to see Your face, and, on waking, to gaze my fill on Your likeness’ (Psalm 17).
And you will know what it means.