BEHOLD THE MYSTERY 05-07-2015

I’m not trying to solve the mystery of the incarnation. Holy mysteries are not meant to be solved.

What I am doing is sketching a way of contemplation that honors the conviction of the mystics—a conviction that always leaves room for mystery. Science and technology try to solve everything. Theology at its best doesn’t seek to solve, but to behold. In beholding the mystery of the incarnation in all its depth and subtlety we deepen our intimacy with God.

In some ways naming Jesus’ person is like trying to name gravity. We ascribe a name to the mysterious force, but the name doesn’t explain it away. After naming it, we still don’t know what gravity actually is or why it functions as it does. It’s a scientific enigma. In the same way the incarnation eludes precise analysis. Yet, like gravity, we can name it: The Jesus Paradox (Miaphysite). We don’t know precisely what gravity or the incarnation are. We never will. Yet there are knowable things about gravity and the incarnation. We can concede a degree of ignorance, while forging ahead to understand what we can. We can concede a degree of certitude, while always honoring an element of mystery.

Jesus is the holy conundrum of Christian faith, which is neither primitive nor nonintellectual, but primal. The incarnation gets at the root mystery of God—of formlessness and complete mystery on the one hand and form and approachability on the other. When the incarnation sifts through our minds over and over, it brings us to the limits of both reason and imagination. This is the work of God—to engage our reasoning minds while honoring mystery.

Many assert that any theologizing or speculation about Jesus is archaic and quaint. But this is the spiritual poverty of the exclusively scientific mind. It writes off centuries of serious debate over theology as something out of the dark ages. Yet, in fact, exercising the imagination and the mind in search of God is humanity’s most enduring and ennobling legacy. Exercising our theological imagination can reverse the damage of unbridled reason, returning us to the awe of a child gazing in wonder at the star-lit sky. It is the loss of wonder and awe—the loss of transcendence that’s most tragic in postmodern people. We need a way of beholding the transcendent higher power. The Jesus Paradox is the best way I know—a way that’s true to the pluralistic twenty-first century and true to the legacy of Alexandrian Mystics.