-Daybreak at the Desert Retreat House'
One of the things I enjoy most about writing a daily reflection on my blog are the comments I get after the article is posted. Each day I try to address the various questions and observations people often make online.
Yesterday I received a very thought-provoking comment as someone told me how exasperated he was that his two sons who grew up in the church had now become agnostics. My first thought was that maybe being an "agnostic" was not such a bad thing.
An agnostic is someone who says "I don't know" when it comes to "God." Agnostics are people who believe that nothing about "God" can ever be known or explained. The thing is that "agnostics" are in pretty good company because, historically speaking, the most prominent theologians in Christendom have essentially been "agnostics."
Back in the 4th century the renowned theologian, Saint Augustine, argued that "God" is essentially unknowable.
In talking about God, if you claim to understand what you are talking about,
then, what you have 'understood' is not God.
In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas, who arguably wrote more words about "God" than any other theologian in history, ultimately admitted that all his many books and tomes and words were nothing more than "a pile of straw," because "God" is unknown and unknowable. His avalanche of words, intricate ideas and complicated theological explanations were just feeble attempts at "getting at" a great unknowable mystery.
Contemporary theologian, Elizabeth Johnson puts it this way:
God is outside of all classes and categories
and beyond the possibility of being imagined or conceived.
As I think about it, in one sense, "agnosticism" is the goal of all religious thought. When you can finally be aware enough to understand that "transcendence" can never be neatly bottled up into categories and classifications, you arrive at a deeper wisdom.
It all reminds me of the Buddhist notion of "Beginner's Mind" as a goal of wisdom. When you have finally arrived at the point in life where all your answers turn into questions, when all your expertise and experience leads you to the point of saying "I don't know," you have acquired the greater wisdom of a "Beginner's Mind." Now every day is a new beginning and every moment is brimming with surprises.
The desert where I live is a place that fosters "an agnostic spirituality." The desert is a wild and untamed place of excruciating beauty. I get up every morning and gaze upon the sun rising over the eastern mountains and I turn into an "agnostic." How can I possibly ever claim to "know" or understand the" Great Mystery" I experience every day?
Maybe a song, maybe a poem might help me "get at" the experience, a theology book isn't much help.
So I just sit in the moment - a time of sacred silence. I bask in the experience of a Presence far beyond my comprehension, and I try not to give it a name.