Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Quiz Time Again

In discussions of God, Church, theology, salvation, and the like, what's the difference between what is genuine Mystery, far beyond the limits where human reason can reach, and pure nonsense? Do you know how to tell the difference? It's important to be able to discern that difference. Because if we don't, we could believe any nonsensical interpretation of Scripture anyone proposes. We could fall for anything.


Benjamin Harju said...


Like usual you hit the nail on the head. There is such a thing as genuine Mystery. To lack it or refuse it usually lowers the bar, so to speak, of what humans expect of Christ.

I'll be interested to read your answer, if it is possible even to express the answer apart from the very experience of the Mystery itself.

Andrea said...

Hi Anastasia,

I'm not sure if you know where I'm from even...I'm from the Ev-Or group on Yahoo. :)

I must admit to not actually falling into either of these groups now. I was raised Evangelical and became Roman Catholic as an adult. That being said...I really didn't understand what Mystery was until I was adult. My upbringing was such that I honestly thought that we could understand all there is to God, salvation, belief.

I think the biggest difference between Mystery and nonsense is humility. Nonsensical interpretation of scriptures, dogma, tradition all have a great deal of hubris in them. Somewhere along the way a person says/said "This is what I think God meant". And they (or maybe their followers) won't change that opinion no matter what. It's an extremely high opinion to have of yourself or another human being.

Mystery on the other hand starts and ends with being humble before God. It starts with us saying...we don't know, we can't understand this right now (and probably won't before we stand before God), and all we can do is accept it and be thankful.

The very first idea of Mystery I had to accept as I left Evangelicalism was the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. Coming from a tradition that hold that nothing special occurs during what is called the Lord's Supper it was quite the change. I spent quite a few months trying to understand how transubstansiation works....and finally had to admit to myself, this is something that is beyond me. I'll never understand it. Just as I'll never understand a perfect God caring enough about unperfect man to send his Son, I'll never understand how Jesus is present in the Eucharist.

What Benjamin Harju said is true, to lack or refuse to acknowledge Mystery lowers what we expect of Christ. Growing up without Mystery, I had the idea of Jesus as friend/brother down well. But Jesus as Lord and God was not stressed at all. The humanity without the Godhood. Because to be both....is a Mystery.

Thank you for this interesting topic. I hope my small thoughts on it are acceptable.


s-p said...

My immediate gut reaction was "by their fruits you will know them". Nonsense ends up in narcissism, ego, vanity, vainglory or simply sin wrapped up in a human being justifying all manner of self serving behavior (including ego masquerading as altruism), and mystery ends up in true humility and virtue and repentance.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Wow. What excellent responses!

Extra credit for s-p ane/or Andrea (ev-or, really? How cool is that?!) if you'll be good enough to elaborate how this happens.

How is it that nonsense ends up "in narcissism, ego, vanity, vainglory ... and mystery ends up in true humility and virtue and repentance." ???

Also, that we may not end of in narcissism, ego, etc., how can we discern the difference in the first place? You know, of course, that some people consider it humble to swallow contradictions whole in order to be faithful to Scripture. Or rather, the interpretation of it they've been taught.

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Anastasia

When I think of mystery, I think of things I can see or sense, or things we hear from the Lord and take on trust, but I don't understand.

When I think of nonsense in theology (etc), it's usually happening when someone tries to make sense of something and fails utterly but won't admit it. By failing utterly, I mean they "make sense" of something in a way that goes against what I see or sense, or things we hear from the Lord and take on trust.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

s-p said...

Hi Anastasia, A slight elaboration by way of a story that I'll probably end up doing a podcast about: My best friend was exploring "spiritualities" and connected with a new age group through a friend who invited him to a special seminar with some woman "guru" who was the "most sharing, loving, caring, glowing, beautiful spirit on earth". My friend was quite straightforward about what he thought of potential B.S. and expressed some of it to the person who invited him. She called him the next day and said she had talked to the woman about him and she told her to tell him he could not come to the meeting because he would "mess up the energy". THAT is B.S., Christ didn't need "yes men" to go to love sinners, go to the Cross and bear the sins of humanity. That is mystery, having to have positive energy in a room to be the most beautiful person on the planet is nonsense.

Ann said...

Hi Anastasia

I'll take up the extra credit question. :)

In college as a Senior, I assisted with a freshman religion class (I attended a small ELCA--Evangelical Lutheran Church of America--college). The entire point of the class was studying the nature of humans to classify their relgious (and social, political, and most other) relationships as Us vs. Them. The goal of the course was to break down this wall and help students realize how much we all (regardless of church membership) share.

That is Mystery. That Orthodox, Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Methodist (just to name a few) share in the same mystery -- even if some won't acknowlege it. ;)

Most of my family is still strongly Evangelical. And they do " consider it humble to swallow contradictions whole in order to be faithful to Scripture. Or rather, the interpretation of it they've been taught." But that's just it...if pressed on why they believe it or if you question it, they always end with "because WE are right and YOU are wrong" Which is "narcissism, ego, vanity, vainglory" of the worst sort.

If you press me on the whys of what Catholics believe...if I know I'll answer.. But even in the answers...sometimes I just have to explain that there is no reason...just Mystery.