Fear, Faith & G-d
G-d’s actual reality is beyond the reach of formal, intellectual argument, but not outside human experience. As it works out, once G-d’s presence is privately known to you, formal argument is unnecessary. The questions that follow such an epiphany are ones of credibility and interpretation. Will anyone believe your experience? What did it mean?
Life in this fast-paced, hyper-technological world presents a number of barriers to our personal experience of the G-d presence: The distracting buzz from the info-swamp, the claims of ecclesial representatives to be G-d’s gatekeepers and ticket-issuers, the sharp suspicions of bruised idealism, the soul-wounds induced by weaponized doubt…these and other aspects of life-in-the-world conspire with our fears to isolate, insulate and even inoculate us from the experience of the authentically holy. This is why our personal breakthrough moments tend to happen when we are off guard – thrown from a horse as it were, or when our longing for the holy ‘other’ simply burns a hole through all barriers, piercing hardened soul, timid apprehension and cold-hearted worldliness.
Remember at least this: The most stubborn barriers between human and creator are the invisible ones of our own making. That deeper, longed-for holy reality waits for us on the other side of a false wall. The line between the numinous and mundane is a self erected psychological barrier.
Long ago, I rejected the faith-as-blind-obedience model, only to discover the power of heuristic faith. This is faith-as-enlarged apperception, the calculated, clear headed adoption of ultimate faith as the single most powerful cognitive tool that is capable of recruiting reason, esthetics and intuition in order to apprehend and integrate all reality. Heuristic faith offers the spiritual and intellectual courage to integrate the mundane, the physical, the noetic and the universal, without surrendering or ignoring any part…because of the faith-enabled intuition that, at the end of the day (of all days), these things are fruitfully integrated in the womb of ultimate creation.
The lesson boils down to this: to find G-d, ordinary faith and formal reason are not enough. Courage – essential and existential- is needed.
The single most noisesome G-d barrier of the postmodern era is the deep unease – bordering on fear – that we sophisticated ‘citizens of the world’ tend to feel when facing the prospect of being seen by a supreme moral consciousness. We sophisticates so value our autonomy and privacy that part of us actually prefers to live in a world left alone by G-d. We fear that any intimate contact with a supreme moral consciousness will require surrender of our very selfhood, submission to arbitrary/inexplicable demands, or that G-d will expect impossible perfection from us, or even that we must sacrifice our rational autonomy to some local G-d representative.
My answer to all these concerns comes from a personal and experiential perspective: The actual experience of the divine presence, the numinous level of reality, however that is described in spiritual or theological terms, is quite the opposite. My own experience and the reported numinous encounters by men and women over the millennia that I find most credible and authentic describe something ennobling and uplifting; then convey a signature sense of presence or contact with ultimate being that engenders awe, but not fear.
I am persuaded that the ancients who spoke of fear of G-d meant awe. Not surprisingly, this was the same feeling reported by the nominal atheist, Carl Sagan, in his poetic and moving description of seeing the earth as a pale blue dot in space. Awe is the beginning of wisdom and the unmistakable signature of the divine presence on the stage of human awareness.
I believe that whenever you experience the G-d encounter, you will spend many hours after the fact attempting to unpack the experience. With sufficient introspection, you will discover that deep parts of you have always longed to be with G-d. These are the very parts of you that you have secretly harbored against the world; they are your precious store, the core of your self, those tender, held-back parts. You may be surprised that they were suddenly empowered and validated in the moment of divine contact. You may have worried that they would be overwhelmed if and when you faced the being-of-all-beings.
Yet the very parts of your selfhood that the world has dragged down will be the same parts that are lifted up by G-d to become self-defining.
The human psychic encounter with G-d is a moment of profound liberation. The ancient image of deity-as-liberator, the G-d who freed a slave people in the Exodus and charged then to carry the moral law, was a precursor to that ever repeated personal encounter.
Once you, as a modern mind, have experienced the G-d presence, even once, then scripture will take on for you a new, subtly enhanced level of meanings. In a real sense, the ancient words will be seen as embedded with code in the sense that the old words and phrases were attempts to capture in poetic language the realm of reality that eluded more mundane forms of expression.
In this sense, when I now read light in the ancient scriptural accounts, I read the supreme moral consciousness. The “realm of heaven” becomes G-d’s Spaces those holy dimensions that cradle and subtend the entire creative/moral future of humankind. Grace becomes G-d’s loving attention. And Providence represents those paths out of the mundane traps into to G-d’s Space that unexpectedly appear in every individual’s world line.
Providence is a door opened by G-d.
Several insights have helped amplify my apperception of the light, grace and providence in the mundane world, among them these:
 The relationship between each person or people and G-d is developmental.
(The biblical accounts seem to track G-d’s development from tribal deity, the supreme G-d among others, to the only universal being, beyond all tribal ownership or affiliation. But the development path is not G-d’s, but that of our own growing understanding.)
 In any moment, several possible paths to G-d’s Space are available.
 We may ignore G-d, but G-d does not ignore us.
 Faith is the lens that empowers us to notice G-d’s attention and presence.
 Any moment in G-d’s felt presence is eternal.
In this light, a retelling of the ancient Kaddish of Jesuah ⁿ
Dearest creator of the world, sustainer of the holy spaces,
Holy, holy is your name.
Your holy spaces will fill the world, as you now fill the holy spaces.
Give us each day what the world provides.
Forgive us when we stray from your paths, as we forgive those among us who also stray.
Keep us from the darkness, and save us from the evil voices that would lure us there.
For you alone are the light; to you alone all holy paths lead; you alone are our liberator.
ⁿ The Jesuah reference is to Jesus, whose given name in the first Century Palestinian Jewish community of his childhood would have been the Aramaic version of Joshua. Jewish and Christian scholars are in general agreement that the Lord’s Prayer, paraphrased above, is in the form of the Kaddish. [Quick reference – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaddish ]
More in this tiny bibliography:
An Intimate Biography
The Jewish Life and Teachings That Inspired Christianity
Bruce Chilton and Jacob Neusner
Judaism In The New Testament,
Practices And Beliefs
ISBN 0-415-114843-3 (hbk) …..11844-1 (pbk)
What Crucified Jesus,
Messianism, Pharisaism, And The Development Of Christianity
ISBN 0-8074-0630-9 (pbk)Geza Vermes
The Religion Of Jesus The Jew
ISBN 0-8006-2797-0 (pbk)
Jesus The Jew,
A Historian’s Reading Of The Gospels
ISBN 0-8006-1443-7 (pbk)