Brian Wilcox. 'Heart Open To The World'
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A skeptic who liked to argue religion asked the Sage, "Does God exists or not?" The Sage stated, "One can reply 'Yes' or 'No,' and both answers be right and wrong." "I'm confused," came the reply. "Again, does or doesn't God exists?" The Sage remarked, "Since I can't know what you mean by 'exist,' how can I affirm or deny God's existence?" "I mean," said the man, "is there a God or not?" The Sage rejoined, "Since I don't know what you mean by 'God,' how can I affirm or deny that 'God' exists?" The man responded angrily, "You know what I mean?!" The Sage said, "I'm going to take a walk, would you like to join me?" The man, not a little irritated, walked away.
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When still a Christian pastor, I sat before a group of mostly male clergypersons of a leading evangelical Christian sect. They were investigating me, to see if I was fit theologically to serve as a pastor in churches of their denomination. One of these men asked me a trick question, "Is the God of Christianity and of Islam the same God?" Most persons and most clergypersons in that sect would say the Christian "God" is the true one, that of Islam not God at all. I could not reply the God was any different, for how could God be different in one faith from another faith and God be God. Does God unbecome God from Christianity to Islam? Bahai to Sikhism? Yet, in the realm of the God-talk, persons play with words, and in playing with words, they often show their prejudices and small-mindedness, but betray and defame what they claim to believe in. My thought, as I look back on that question and group - silly, cheap talk, like asking, "Is the water in a bucket the water in a lake?" Of course! water is water is water. One of the ways to conceal our ignorance and, thereby, respect the Infinite is to be silent about It. Yet, if we must talk of the Mystery, at least let us do so with respect - more, reverence -, for the Infinite we can never know by being a believer and, yes, not by being a talker. In fact, the more one intimately knows this Supreme, if he or she speaks of It, the more he or she does so with caution and, again, reverence.
One could logically reply, "But we don't know what water is either?" Yet, water is water. "Water" is indicative, is representational. Systems of religion and spirituality are the same; they are suggestive. We are word-beings. Ritual is part of our life together.
However, as with "water," "God," and all said of That and all ritual and act regarding It, is metaphorical. So, I could have said that day before the clergypersons, "The God in any religion is not God." Yet, the Infinite is represented in all religious faith. The same Eternal is in every religion, yet the Eternal of any one religion or all religions is not the Eternal. This even as the God of theism, atheism, nontheism, and agnosticism is not God. The atheist cannot deny God, for the same reason the theist cannot affirm God.
One could say, "Then, we are left with nothing, with cynicism." No. We are left with God, the God that cannot be our God, their God, or anyone's God. By God, we return to God, though our idea of That is at an infinite distance from the Infinite that God is. Silence before this Mystery, then, is the supreme creed, the primal and pristine confession of faith.
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I am not discouraging God-talk, when it is appropriate. God-talk, in fact, leads us beyond God-talk. Also, I encourage persons to believe to the end of belief, so to drop off into the loving abyss of Not-Knowing. One must think he or she knows before knowing arises.