Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Peniel

If this blog had another name, that would be it: Peniel. Is that not, "one who wrestles with God." Something close. That would be me.

It's strange, since I began writing about Brian's book (and I am not done, as you will see) I have cut the personal content here, as if I suddenly found myself in the book review pages of a newspaper. Posh. I must remind myself this is not publication, this is a web log.

The hardest thing about this activity is the lack of community sense. I need to put a counter up; I surely get very few comments, nearly none. Writing into the void. Rather existential.

I had my vasectomy Friday, finally. Stayed home from work Monday (though I thought I would not have to beforehand). I am sore, and the stitches are bugging the heck out of me, but it was not that bad. I will say, when they ask, "would you like a valium IV?" say yes. I did. Almost worth the surgery. My friend Allen who drove me there and then home (very kind of him) said he was so jealous of my elevation he was going home to have a martini. And he did, so I am told.

I am sleeping in the spare room as there is no way I can sleep on my side or stomach yet, and I snore no matter what, but I snore on my back very much. And here: Peniel.

Peeking in at Sandalstraps today brought me into Debunking Christianity, a blog I have been to before, still visit from time to time. I read some intelligent and passionate articles there on suffering. Also, I saw an article, well an interview, with a nobel laureaute physicist who went on about human beings not needing a God explanation anymore. We have cracked enough of the universe's particle code. I continue to find the first argument against theism, the problem of human suffering, profound; the second, that a grasp of the natural processes which underlie phenomenon lead us away from intelligent design or a Creator, I find very weak.

I do not know why there is childhood cancer. Or adult cancer, for that matter. Nor does the suffering of any innocent make sense to me as a Christian (if I held to karma, and samsara, this would be an utterly different issue). Nor do I know why God does not answer all prayer, nor heal when he is asked to heal (in most cases, at least). I do know this, and I think atheists who highlight the fact of so many unanswered prayers for healing or relief from physical pain should consider it: if God healed even one person, let me say, even one person, things stack out much differently. the argument against theism is done. We could say such a God, who heals only rarely or singularly, is a God we do not like, but he is something well Beyond us nonetheless. If he is also Creator (and here I admit I make a leap) we must question his actions carefully. I wish I could say I have been physically healed in some clearly miraculous way. This has not happened. I had one very powerful experience praying about my OCD, well, two, but my final relief from that came from a mix of simple therapeutic techniques and deeper therapeutic healing (and God's role...perhaps that too; I have already written about this). I have also written on this blog, in the On Holy Ground posts, about the closest I, and those close to me, have come to a direct experience of the Divine: One story comes to mind, my friend David, did I include it? it is thought-provoking indeed...so much so, I will tell it again.

My friend David still brings a copy of the letter from time to time. I have seen the original. About twenty years ago David was baptized and received his first communion (as an adult; he was raised Jewish). I wish I had the letter to post, but he believed that when he went forward to the altar rail (and certainly one's first communion would be, or might be, a dramatic emotional event) he believed he saw some kind of energy force in front of the altar. I would have to let him describe it, but it was something like that, an energetic presence or cloud of light-energy. Now, I am willing to believe someone in a deeply spiritual state could have this experience by himself. But what is odd is the letter the organist wrote to David after his communion. The one I read to myself. Something like: I have never sent a letter to anyone after a first communion before, but I wanted to tell you I thought I saw some kind of spiritual presence in front of the altar (and now I know I need to get the actual wording from the letter)...I spoke with a friend who is also sensitive to such things, and she saw it too...

Now, the friend may have been influenced; no way for me to know. I do not know if that friend is still living; the organist, whom I knew briefly, is dead. But what am I to make of such a story? A God who may manifest himself so subtly, like shifting light...no thunderbolt, no floating angelic beings...a brief Vision like the scene from Lewis' Till We Have Faces where Orual sees the Palace of the god through the mysts...but only briefly! One brief revelation is all...that is so like my friend's story, maybe like my story. Why?

This I cannot say. God, apparently, will not allow himself to be tested in a laboratory. That seems clear fact. Even Jesus wrote no book himself, at least nothing has survived and there is no reliable tradition of any written Christ material. Why would God ask for faith? Why would he not leave himself open to a full and rational inquiry? Why do we still suffer; why do most who are prayed for still die (I have yet to write off the entire gospel record: in my view, many were healed by Jesus, even raised from the dead). I do not have answers. But with miracles, all it takes is one. One. And the entire weight of argument shifts in a new direction, or some new direction.

And on intelligent design:

The universe is full of extraordinary things. Matter. Gravity. Predictable motion. Biology. The mechanics of stars. The fact that we can describe how more and more of these things work says nothing to me, and I speak honestly, about God's existence or lack thereof. If anything, the striking precision of the entire thing, the fact that unliving chemistry and movement has brought about reflective life...even if these processes are someday finally and fully understood as "natural"...can be described from singularity to human consciousness....the question of where the processes originated, of why they are here, of where the "stuff" and its mechanisms come from...that is not answered. The only problem, the only problem (and it is a bloody real one) with seeing an intelligent, and marvelous, Creator behind all of it is human suffering, animal suffering. That, and perhaps also, the fact that the Creator has left us to our own devices without communication. Christians believe, of course, he has communicated in the form of a unique person.

That is enough for now. The Teaching Company Series on Luther (who is the professor, Carey?) is simply remarkable and surprisingly relevant to my thoughts on EMC. Likewise Lewis' book The Discarded Image, though in a much different way. I really do have more things to say. Right now I'm getting my wife through her last semester in grad school, surviving, and striving, within some very tough battles and questions at work, and waiting for my nuts to heal.

Could be one hell of a lot worse, and I know it.

Love to all, faith or no. Any reasonable person can agree on that, even me, finally.

No time or energy to edit. Apologies.