More Sublime than Agnosticism

(written 1/3/2020)


Moses encountered God. At the burning bush. The Lord revealed His own name. The tetragrammaton. A word which pious Jews will not pronounce. Obscure ancient Hebrew, with a practically indecipherable meaning. We talked about it a couple weeks ago. Yahweh: “I am Who am.” [Spanish]

Now, if anyone else said something like this, we might wonder about his or her social skills. “Hi. Nice to meet you, I’m Father Mark. And you are?” “I am Who am!” “Okay…”

But God is God. We cannot comprehend Him. We cannot claim to know the ‘god-ness’ of God. He is He Who is. Which makes exactly as much–and as little—sense to us as it should.

Who are we to demand more information from the One Who made us out of nothing? After all, if He were not Who He is, we wouldn’t be who we are. We wouldn’t exist, if God did not freely give us existence. There wouldn’t be any air, much less trees, and the earth, and milkshakes and snow and stuff. God the incomprehensible gives life and being to every comprehensible thing that exists and lives.

When God said, My name is Yahweh, He meant: Don’t claim to know what you don’t know about Me. Don’t drink any religious Kool-Aid. Don’t buy the patter of the charlatans and snake-oil salesmen who claim to know how to make get-rich-quick deals with Almighty God. He Who Is has no need to make any deals with anyone. When anyone says they know something about Him: remain skeptical.

Don’t get me wrong. He Who is makes perfect sense. To the holy angels. But we human beings don’t have the intellectual wattage to grasp just how much God makes sense. God makes so much sense that He makes the things that make sense to us seem like they don’t make any sense at all. Remember: Blessed are the poor, the hungry, the thirsty, those who mourn, the meek, and the persecuted. The way of life is the Way of the Cross.

Now, if God had stopped speaking to mankind after He told Moses His mysterious name, then every intellectually honest person would have to be an agnostic. We would have to regard religion skeptically. We would hesitate to accept anyone’s claims about the unknowable God. We would simply distrust all the pagan priests and fortune tellers and tea-leaf readers of this world.

But the unknowable God did not stop teaching us about Himself after giving Moses His name. To the contrary, that episode at the burning bush marked a beginning.

The ancient Israelites who followed Moses held fast to their faith in the unknowable, transcendent God. And they did what honest agnostics have to do, too: They waited for a moment when the Unknown might make Himself more known. After all, a true skeptic cannot deny God the prerogative to reveal Himself if He so chooses, when He chooses, in the way He chooses. A true skeptic doubts religious claims. And a true skeptic doubts sacrilegious claims, too.

Yahweh Hebrew
The ancient Tetragrammaton

So the Israelites waited, eschewing the nonsense of their worldly neighbors. And then God did what no one expected. He Personally became a human being. He Who is is a man, born of a woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Nazareth in Galilee. The Unknown made Himself known, by becoming Jesus.

Consistent agnosticism requires a lot of intellectual discipline. But believing in the Incarnation requires much, much more. We believe in the God-man. If it hadn’t happened, we would keep a skeptical distance from “organized religion.” But it did happen. God revealed His own divine light, a light brighter than ten million gazillion suns. And that light shines on the face of Jesus. That light shines through Jesus’ eyes.

God has eyes and hands and feet. God has what we have—all of it, except sin. God could have continued to dwell in mysterious obscurity, remaining the ineffable “He Who is” forever. But He chose to become a child, a boy, a carpenter, a rabbi, an innocent man wrongly condemned, a victim of cruel crucifixion, a dead man, and a man who rose from the dead.

The unknowable God reveals Himself. We believe in Jesus. His kingdom is not of this world. Nothing could be more intellectually demanding than believing in this incarnate God. Which, to any true skeptic, makes it all the more convincing that all of it is absolutely true.

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