Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What is God's Address?

So Asks and Answers Father Tim Moyle

Father Tim over at Where the Rubber Hits the Road has dealt here with the question of where God resides.  I have come to respect Father Tim, and his faith and insight greatly over this past year.  But, lately he has been cross posting more and writing less, and I have missed what he sees and thinks about things going on in the world.  Here he has rendered his insights into Church teaching about the God who loves us and invites us to love Him in return.  Thank you Father Tim.
Ever wonder what God’s address is? When we search for someone in the real or virtual world, we usually start with an address. Just about anyone’s home address or phone number can be found through any number of online and traditional sources. On the Internet, we search for an email address or an IP address. No matter where we search for someone, the first thing that we look for is an address.

So what is God’s address?

Much ink has been spilt by theologians and mystics over the past few millennia trying to explain where God lives. Sometimes the search begins by scanning the heavens to see if God can be found among the stars. Today, many comb our ecosystem to see if some clue to the Divine address can be discerned through understanding the patterns and designs in nature. Mystics have searched every corner of the ‘dark night’ of the soul and the ecstasies of life, laughter, and love to listen for a whispered voice revealing God’s hiding place.  These efforts have led us to discover where it is that God can be found.  He is at home in us.
Barbara Jones Taylor, a professor at Piedmont College in Georgia has perhaps said it best in her recent book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, our body is the “address of the soul.” From the moment of our conception, and more fully at the second birth of baptism, the Divine takes up residence in our body, fusing our existence with His until that day when He takes his leave. So long as believers live, God lives as well.

Alas, like so many of the truths of the Christian faith, many have lost sight of this truth.  Some interpret life through the lens of various ‘new age’ spiritualities, each a modern form of pantheism, believing that creation itself is god.  For Christians, such an understanding robs humanity of the richness of the scriptural and patristic traditions, which teach that it is this indwelling of God that establishes our fraternal relationship with Him through the person of Christ.  Christians believe that they are ‘enfleshed souls’, endowed with the essential gifts of free will, consciousness, and individuality—which together form our personality.  To use a colloquial expression familiar to many Catholics, our bodies are ‘temples of the Holy Spirit’. Just as Christ, the perfect exemplar of the hypo-static union, is fully God and fully human at one and the same time, so too do all humans share in a similar blending of the divine and the profane, at least so long as life continues.
What are the implications of this union? Fundamentally it explains our state in life—it determines how we see ourselves. Are we simply flesh and blood, neurons, and electrical charges—the product of Darwinian natural selection—or are we something more? Does our life not give God a ‘local address’ where he coexists with us who become living, breathing, walking, talking, earthly tabernacles of the Holy Spirit? If this is true, then logically each stage of life, from our experiences in the womb until our natural end, is a moment in which God's presence and grace is made manifest on earth.

Christians and Jews dare not deny Him his right of occupancy. We are fully capable of culminating our life should that be our will, but to do so out of a selfish belief that it is something that we alone possess is not an option for believers. For them, life is something that is better thought of not as ‘property’ we own, but as time leased to us for our exclusive use.  We 'signed' our lease on life at the moment of conception—that particular moment which started our headlong race from life to death. If we want out of the lease before it ends, there's going to be a cost—penalties that can only be paid in the life to come. Someone might object that this was not a 'deal' that he signed on for—and that he is therefore free to 'move out' at the date and time of his choosing. For others, existence is little more than the culmination of natural forces that exist for no particular purpose in itself. This existential nihilism is expressed well in Woody Allen's Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex but Were Afraid To Ask. ‘Existence’ is little more than the result of one individual sperm 'winning' a race from the testicles to the ovum.  Life is thus reduced to simply a matter of (good/bad) luck and (fortuitous/unfortunate) timing.  There's no more mystery to it than that. For atheists, one does not need God or the Bible to explain life—any rudimentary sex education film will suffice.

Such a belief is antithetical to orthodox Christians and Jews alike.  For them, God exists not only in the spiritual realm but in and through their existence. Thus, He exists here so long as his believers do. He is part of our familial gestalt. To deny his presence in our history is to deny the kerygma by which life, both interiorally and externally, has been formed for over 3000 years. It is this belief that fuels their passion to promote the sanctity of life from conception to its natural end. Believers understand that existence is not something that we can either pick up or put down on our own volition. One might easily enough make another person, but one cannot replicate himself. (Each person is a biological and psychological repository of the years. Each one of us is unique, meaning that the pro-life argument holds at both ends of 'life'.) To end life for no other reason than to attempt to prove ones existential sovereignty would make necessary God's 'eviction' from one's life. That is the operational definition of an atheist—one who ‘evicts’ God from his life.  For theists, God is our roommate in life. We do not have the right to 'kick him out'—even if we find him at times to be an onerous tenant.

So long as the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel live, God will always have an address here on earth. He is at home with them because they are all of one family in faith, even if they disagree on the issue of the Messiah. So long as one person believes in the biblical Covenant of the Hebrew Scriptures, God will have a home here on earth.

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