Meaning of Mystery
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the word mystery has two basic meanings.¹ One is “a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand.” The other meaning is “something not understood or beyond understanding.” One mystery that has perplexed humanity since time immemorial is why life exists, that is, why are we humans here on Earth?
Our Mysterious Universe
Additionally, have you ever wondered about our universe? For example, how did the Earth come into being? How old is it? Will it ever end? And what else exists in the universe apart from our solar system (i.e., our sun and planets revolving around the sun)? According to Space.com,² there could be about 100 million to 100 billion stars in the “average” galaxy. And depending on which study we consult, there could be 2 to 10 trillion galaxies in the “observable” universe. Moreover, the universe appears to have been expanding since The Big Bang – that is, for the last 13.8 billion years! Obviously this is unfathomable. Thus, the size of our universe is another great mystery!
Is God Obsolete?
Yet, there is another mystery in which, sadly, many people have lost interest. That is the Mystery of God. I speculate that this was a consequence of the Enlightenment.³ After all, theology used to consume a great deal of learned men’s thought and interest prior to the 1700s. The Enlightenment brought about the development of the scientific method. The scientific method, in turn, ushered in the modern period with its promise to separate fact from myth and dogma. Prior to this, the Roman Catholic Church was in control of education and religious orthodoxy along with the monarchs of that time. The impetus for the Enlightenment was the need to check the powers of the institutionalized Church and the powers of monarchs. Many of the Church’s doctrines were seriously challenged during this period as well as the divine right of kings. While the influence of the Church and monarchs were successfully challenged and the liberty and equality of individuals championed, this period also seems to have brought about thinking that God was no longer needed, antiquated, or obsolete.
Nonetheless, as I wrote in an earlier article, we are not in a time where God has been disproven! In fact, this is close to impossible. Neither is the existence of God close to being proven true for that matter. Thus it seems to me presumptuous to the point of arrogance for people to look down upon people of faith. As I’ve written before, we must all learn to hold our beliefs humbly. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. Now, having laid the groundwork for appreciating mysteries, I would like to turn our attention to The Mystery of God. This is especially suitable at this time because we are in the Church’s season of Lent and awaiting the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The Mystery of God
In his book Mysteries of Faith4 Mark McIntosh writes about the theological journey. The first stage in this journey is daring to see things differently. That is, we have to see our lives as occurring within the larger context of God’s life. This involves purposefully opening ourselves to hearing God’s speech in the universe. Among other things, it means opening ourselves up to the stories in the Bible. After all, as people of faith, we believe that God spoke the entire universe into being. Further McIntosh writes, “God [spoke] the Word into our time and space as the historical human being Jesus.” Again, God is the Speaker; and in the Gospel of John, Jesus is God’s Word who entered history as a human being to make God present to us and to atone for the sins of all humanity. McIntosh writes, “…[it is] the Holy Spirit, who has from eternity been the Love who draws the Speaker into speech, and fills the Word with yearning to speak the Speaker’s Meaning, to do the will of the Father.” Here we receive a glimpse into the Mystery of the Triune God.
In this essay, I explained that a mystery is something that is difficult to understand and may never be completely understood. I brought up the mystery of life, itself, and the mystery of the size of the universe as examples. Then I pointed to another mystery – the Mystery of God. Unfortunately, as a result of the success of the Enlightenment in checking the abuses of the Church and monarchs, many people today think as if God had been proven not to exist. Nothing of the sort occurred. The idea of God as an explanation for the existence of the universe and everything in it IS just as rational today as it was in the Middle Ages. Then I described the Mystery of God as God in three Persons. God the Father spoke Jesus Christ into our historical world. The Holy Spirit in which God speaks is the Spirit of Love that exists between the Father and the Son. The Son is the Word (or the Meaning) of the Father’s speech. All three Persons of God live in a relationship in blissful Communion. This is the Life of Love to which God invites each and every one of us to participate. But first, we must dare to see things differently.
¹”Mystery.” Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed March 11, 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mystery.
²Howell, Elizabeth. “How Many Stars Are In The Universe?” Space.com. Accessed March 11, 2018. https://www.space.com/26078-how-many-stars-are-there.html.
³History.com Staff. “Enlightenment.” History.com. 2009. Accessed March 11, 2018. https://www.history.com/topics/enlightenment.
4McIntosh, Mark Allen. Mysteries of faith. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.