“We shape our lives by what we know, but are driven forward by what we don’t know.”
From the earliest human forms of life people grew in capability to deal with every new challenge. From what they had learnt they built their communities. New circumstances always challenge the human spirit to delve into the unknown and they sought for greater understanding.
From the beginning of human history archaeology indicates that humans have always carried an intuitive hunch that there was much more than what they could observe and they spoke of some form of a greater being as part of the unknown. History has a broad story of the many, many attempts to know better what seems like the unknowable.
Every new context brought new opportunities and challenges to speak of the seemingly unknowable. The heart of the search for such knowledge is that it emphasizes the human hunger for understanding our relationship with the unknown. Its mystery is that it calls us to learn of it, to define it and to know it.
The Judaic faith from which our own developed, spoke in very human personal terms. They spoke of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses spoke of a God of a covenant of love. The prophets spoke of a God of love and mercy. Of truth and justice.
Through Jesus the earliest Christian faith spoke of God as Father who empowered his followers with Spirit.
It was in the following centuries that the most significant development took place with the proliferation of Christian writing. The growing church moved broadly through the surrounding world such as south into Africa, East into Asia and most notably north and west into the Roman Empire. It was here that the Greek way of thinking had enormous impact upon its life and thinking.
Over the early centuries the church slowly molded its understanding of the unknown in the form of Father Son and Holy Spirit. The emerging rational way of pursuing truth led to the highly sophisticated Christian creeds. Even though it was really beyond human comprehension, it was valued because it kept a tight reign on what was taught, but also safeguarded the unknowability of the fullness of God.
It served the churches purposes well by providing an umbrella structure for its people
It remained steadfast until the next most significant development in society, the printing press. It enabled the proliferation of the scriptures and as a consequence the reformation and the subsequent alternate interpretations of the notion of grace at the heart of the relationship with God.
OUR OWN DAY
In our own recent history the world has been going through one of its most significant periods of change in all history: the emergence of the scientific world and the globalization of the human race. The impact is significant. Both give fresh perspective to the way we know the world we live within and how we think of the reality we don’t know.
Science has produced both a wonderful and terrifying planet. Medical science is truly wonderful for so many. Yet we have unleashed nuclear weaponry. Science has risen to the pinnacle of knowledge and as a consequence it has pushed the notion of God to the dim distant past of antiquity. What it hasn’t done is removed the notion of the unknown.
The other significant development is the globalization of the world and with it the importance of all people, of all races, all nations, all cultures and all faiths. If the roots of the Christian faith were shaped by an amalgamation of both the Jewish and the Greek cultures then our scientific and the multi-faith traditions of other people are challenging us to re think how best we speak of both the known and unknown.
We might suggest we have two main pillars of our Christian faith. God whom we speak of as the Trinity, and Jesus whom we speak of as the Christ. Perhaps not to be unexpected, many find the challenge to Christianity in the modern world to be an enormous threat. Many fear its extinction. But this need not be the case. For every era has had to respond to new challenges of understanding, our relationship with the things we know and the things we don’t know.
What will impact upon the future, is not the withdrawal into old ways, but the determination of faith and trust in God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, as we traditionally say, to inspire us to come to newer and better understandings in the world of science and our brothers and sisters of other traditions.
Human understanding has always developed but, but such understanding remains secondary to the relationship of faith and love that we are intuitively called to.