Sunday, May 3, 2009

Risking God

We are all agnostics by default, for we simply do not and can not know whether God really exists. Theism, thus, represents a risk - a wager that allows for the possibility that God be true, regardless of whether empirical science or metaphysical philosophy can confirm God's existence once and for all. The underlying cost and benefit of such an investment impacts not the divine but the self: the expense of suspending the rational may produce the inestimable fortune of encounter with God. For those of us not socialized in an environment that took God's reality for granted, the act of risking God may initially prove both counterintuitive and frightening. For all people of faith, relationship with God is inevitably fraught with doubt and hesitation - at one point or another, we find ourselves in Thomas' shoes, righteously proclaiming: "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25).

This morning's shabad from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib expresses this poetically:

ਪਾਥਰ ਕਉ ਬਹੁ ਨੀਰੁ ਪਵਾਇਆ ॥
Stones may be kept under water for a long time.
ਨਹ ਭੀਗੈ ਅਧਿਕ ਸੂਕਾਇਆ ॥
Even so, they do not absorb the water; they remain hard and dry.
[Guru Arjan Dev Ji in Raag Bhairao on Pannaa 1136]

The cynic, the nihilist, has every right to resist the absorption of spiritual water. Yet, as the passage suggests, such a disposition hardly allows God to penetrate and indwell in the soul. Importantly, as Guru Arjan Dev Ji observes, faith is about a self-softening of the heart - an opening to radical possibility. Faith neither flows from nor results in a hardening of the mind - a staying stone-like. Risking faith in the divine involves a willingness to admit that we don't know where or how God is leading us, only that God is. Dayenu - that is enough.

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1 comment:

Diane Resly said...

I think that this viewpoint really sheds some light on believers and nonbelievers, uniting them in the agnostic as well. Unlike, the aetheist, who may see himself as the risktaker by not believing in God and following the crowd, this returns the risk to those whose flexibility allows them to subject themselves to humility. I believe this would make a wonderful, controversial sermon, challenging humanists and rewarding those who dare to believe, yet acknowledging that we're actually all the same.