Friday, December 17, 2010

Knowing vs. believing

Before he died, the great psychologist and author Carl Jung was interviewed about his view of the world -- and about God.

'Do you believe in God?', the interviewer asked. Jung hesitated for a moment. "I don't believe", Jung said. "I know".

Jung's answer is Paul's prayer: "I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:18-19)

This is knowing beyond knowing. God has given us this power to know at this very deep level, a level that Jung lived at -- and wrote from.

"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain to it." (Psalm 139:5)

We cannot attain this knowledge. Rather, we are asked to submit to it -- which is a very different project; counterintuitive and intensely countercultural. And has a power all its own.


  1. Paul's praying for others that they may know the
    love of Christ is powerful and reminds me to pray for all people, those whom I like and those whom I find hard to like. Prayer is powerful and I have been so many times witness to my prayers being answered. I have been on my knees crying out to God for healing for someone who is suffering. I always picture God saying to me "I have shown you so much evidence, yet you do not fully believe" Maybe it is because this believing surpasses knowledge. I need to sit with God in prayer and submit, just let it be; and be filled with the knowing of God. Amen.

  2. Dearly Beloved,

    I am enjoying the opportunity to participate in this discussion. It helps me to clarify and articulate for my own edification an understanding of my faith. This self examination if done faithfully in service to truth can lead to the wonder of personal discovery and the miracle of divine revelation.

    One revelation I experienced yesterday was that my astute self pronouncements seemed to convey too much certainty and not enough doubt. As Kierkegaard says "there can be no faith without doubt." Me thinks I have too much certainty. I pray that the Lord save me from the mindset of despair and release me from my dogma of blind acceptance and unequivocal certainty. Inert dogma is a dead faith. The Lord invites us to enter a ceaseless examination of ourselves in a continuously changing relationship to God. Too much certainly halts the journey of discovery. Without movement no spiritual growth can occur. Doubt is the mother of knowledge and a deeper spirituality. I know I need more doubt and I thank God for leading me to the discovery of this personal truth.

    The paradox of knowing versus believing finds parallel in the raging debate between science and religion. To me the impassioned participants in the debate both eagerly lob bombs of stale dogma. Both seem beholden to an intractable mindset of a theology infused with fundamentalist certainty.

    The exponents of science condemn the religious as imprisoned by a set of beliefs based on myth and superstition. The skeptics posit it is nothing more then old world thinking that ascribes explanation of things to supernatural causes. The metaphysical spheres are existential fictions created by an over active imagination. The rationalists assert that history has built up civilizations store of knowledge and that rational inquiry and a scientific method has replaced the need for a Biblical exegesis.

    The defenders of the faith counter that the rationalists use the "religion of science" to understand and interpret the natural world. Some assert that belief is incompatible with science and in fact the scientific critique of religion confirms the tenants of their belief that they are being crucified for their faith as foretold by their interpretation of their Holy Book.

    Intractability beholden one to a world solely colored by subjective truth. Pure subjectivity inhibits the discovery of the unknown and the possibility of receiving the revelation of deeper objective truths. Openness is a precondition to receiving. Openness connects all the yearnings and subjective desires of earths inhabitants, aligning them with the objective truth of the unconditional love of a dispassionate, "I AM THAT I AM" God.

    To quote Kierkegaard, ‘Without risk there is no faith. Faith is precisely the contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual’s inwardness and the objective uncertainty. If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast to the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith.’
    Scientists who shun experimentation and the pursuit of the unknown truths it can reveal will never experience the joy of discovery. The faithful, content to define God as a caricature of their fundamental understanding will never experience the divine mystery of revelation.

    As a person of faith I believe my God is big enough to incorporate and assimilate rational inquiry. My faith demands that all God's Children fully employ their critical faculties to experience and know the paradox of the depth and breath of the "One Who Cannot Be Known." As we sojourn on along the infinite plain of time the paradox of "The Infinite One" is our map and sure guarantee of our safe arrival at journey's end.


    Peace and Prayers to all the Beloved, jbm


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