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FINDING OUR WAY IN A SECULAR WORLD

2 October 2018 No Comment

FINDING OUR WAY IN A SECULAR WORLD
Father John Walsh

We are surrounded by a secular culture in which few people publicly make mention of God. Today, God is shelved into history. In our Western culture people can live and see themselves thriving without any reference to God. The culture has voided God. The question still begs to be asked: who is the God we have abandoned? Many people express the thought that the God they believed in let them down. Prayers were not answered when people pleaded with God to help them. Life was seen as better without God; people who feared God no longer lived under the threat of punishment. Freedom reigned. Humans were now in charge of life; they alone could make the difference to life on planet earth. People rejected the idea of a transcendent God who lives in a supernatural world apart from the natural world in which humans live out their existence. The God religions taught people as children remains for many and no longer corresponded to their experience. Education of the masses of people causes people to question, Who is God? Philosophers and theologians wrestle with the understanding of God as offered in the Bible, the Qo’ran and the scriptures of all faith communities. Ordinary people living in the everyday world turned away from the scriptures judged as being archaic and meaningless. Theism or Deism fails for many when it proposes a God who intervenes in the world to cure illnesses, to be providential over the lives of earthlings, to avert human tragedies and natural disasters. God was not credible. There was a time it was said, God is dead.
The question begs to be addressed. Who is the God in whom we could believe? The answer is crucial. The waning numbers of people who believe comes from a lack of credibility in the God proposed. Those who continue to believe in God speak of the emptiness of the rites and rituals. Faith is reduced to a cultural faith, a vestige of past religious traditions that are repeated without personal attachment to any deeper truths to make it a way of life. The answer to our question grapples with our imagination: Who is the God in whom we believe? God is infinite, ineffable, the “mysterium tremendum,’” inexhaustible, a God who will remain hidden in the world. Do we understand God differently in a very different world? Science today ventures into the far-reaches of space and plummets the minutiae of particle physics, dives into the ocean’s mystery and explores the mind as never before. Is God compatible with a world of the scientific?
The thinkers of the world are writing a new human narrative. Karen Armstrong in The Bible — A Biography writes: Instead of quoting eh Bible in order to denigrate homosexuals, liberals or women priests, we should recall Augustine’s rue of faith: an exegete (an interpreter of the Bible) must always seek the most charitable interpretation of a text. Instead of using a biblical passage to back up a bygone orthodoxy, modern hermeneutics could bear in mind the original meaning of midrash: “to go in search of.” Exegesis is a quest for something new. Buber said that each reader should stand before the Bible as Moses stood before the burning bush, listening intently and preparing for a revelation that will force him or her to lay aside former preconceptions. The development of a more compassionate hermeneutics could provide an important counter-narrative in our discordant world.
Harvey Cox in How to read the bible says that it is not enough to read the bible to know who God is. He writes: The Bible also helps us to head the counsel of Socrates to ”know thyself,” and the wisdom of all religious traditions teaches that the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are inseparable.
The answer to our question, Who is God? is a Socratic question: What do I know about myself?

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