To See God: I Believe in Order to Understand

To See God: I Believe in Order to Understand April 8, 2017

800px-Europe_a_Prophecy,_copy_D,_object_1_(Bentley_1,_Erdman_i,_Keynes_i)_British_Museum_optPeople know there is a Divine so deeply that it frustrates us. God is so obvious that if you try denying the truth, you end up spending all your energy fighting Him. Check any secular website and you will find content that is God obsessed. Yet one need not be in the tiny, fading minority that denies the Divine to long to see and know more about God.

God is. God is good and even the hint that this much goodness is out there fills us with desire. Goodness is beautiful and beauty stirs love. Imagine perfect goodness and beauty and then realize that we could experience piercing joy.

If God is, then the mere hint means that any romantic cannot rest until he sees this Beloved: this known Unknown. Anselm says:

I have never seen thee, O Lord, my God; I do not know thy form. What, O most high Lord, shall this man do, an exile far from thee? What shall thy servant do, anxious in his love of thee, and cast out afar from thy face? He pants to see thee, and thy face is too far from him. He longs to come to thee, and thy dwelling-place is inaccessible. He is eager to find thee, and knows not thy place. He desires to seek thee, and does not know thy face. Lord, thou art my God, and thou art my Lord, and never have I seen thee. It is thou that hast made me, and hast made me anew, and hast bestowed upon me all the blessing I enjoy; and not yet do I know thee. Finally, I was created to see thee, and not yet have I done that for which I was made.*

We need more romance in our lives, but we do not really do what it would take. We settle for small loves, petty pleasures, even religious ones. We are content with “fellowship” when called to communion. This makes sense, because we are not as romantic as we think we are nor do we love wisdom as much as we claim.

Socrates (as pictured by Plato) loved wisdom, yet wisdom is very, very great, mighty, and hard to grasp. Socrates and his student often became bewildered, a bit lost in the discussion. Sadly, that is where so many of us quit. We can be Christians and love God, but seeking God can still be confusing. Why? Just as in the pursuit of wisdom, this is a test for our souls . . . love’s test . . . to see if we really want what we say we want.  Anselm says:

I sought blessings, and lo! confusion. I strove toward God, and I stumbled on myself. I sought calm in privacy, and I found tribulation and grief, in my inmost thoughts. I wished to smile in the joy of my mind, and I am compelled to frown by the sorrow of my heart. Gladness was hoped for, and lo! a source of frequent sighs! (Kindle Locations 551-553).

I find this hopeful. If Anselm, a bishop and sage, could be lost, then my being lost may be a stage and not a permanent condition! Anselm persists through confusion:

Thou dost invite us; do thou help us. I beseech thee, O Lord, that I may not lose hope in sighs, but may breathe anew in hope. (Kindle Locations 557-558).

If the greatest of the virtues is love, then (perhaps) the least is hope, yet hope is also foundational. Hope persists in seeking wisdom or God, not because hope is irrational, but because hope is willing to take a chance. Faith needs probability, but hope needs only possibility and desire. The hopeful person persists despite disappointment, because what else can she do? She has seen hints of God and the very hope of God is enough motivation to persist.

We look for roadmaps or images to help us see God. Nature is one such icon, because God made nature. Still nature is not God, so the image is imperfect. Nothing in nature is eternal. We look to ideas or numbers, because they too exist and like God are eternal, but ideas like numbers are impersonal. They are like God, but not God. I should be able to know myself and see the clearest image of God, humankind being created in His image, but sadly:

Lord, I acknowledge and I thank thee that thou hast created me in this thine image, in order that I may be mindful of thee, may conceive of thee, and love thee; but that image has been so consumed and wasted away by vices, and obscured by the smoke of wrong-doing, that it cannot achieve that for which it was made, except thou renew it, and create it anew. (Kindle Locations 565-568).

We are broken and so our broken souls prevent a clear vision of God. We need grace and mercy from God. In fact, we need God to come and become a man so that we can see the image of God unbroken. We cannot see God as God, that is too grand. In our present state, we would burn up from the pleasure! The good news is this . . . we are not called to be irrational, but we are called to believe in order to understand. We do not have belief in order to call up more belief: that would be irrational. We do not have belief in order to stop thinking: that would be unloving. Love never stops wanting to know about the beloved Instead, we believer in order to understand. Again Anselm:

For I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe,—that unless I believed, I should not understand. (Kindle Locations 569-570).

We commit ourselves to love, persist, and then we see.


*Saint Anselm (2009-06-09). Proslogium; Monologium; An Appendix in Behalf of the Fool by Gaunilon; and Cur Deus Homo – Enhanced Version (Kindle Locations 534-539). Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Kindle Edition.

This is based on a devotional at The College at The Saint Constantine School 


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