In your recent article, Helen, [I won’t worship a God that I might be making up, Viewpoints, Nov. 22] you spoke of a turning point. Here is your statement of what turned you around, “How do I know I’m not making this all up?” Your answer was straightforward: “I don’t.”

I wonder if you realize how much that same question turns up in so many who espouse faith in God, myself included? And, for good measure, including Martin Luther, whose adversaries pushed him to the wall with their “How do you know you’re right?”-pitting the whole weight of the 16th century western Catholic Church against him. Like you, Luther answered, “I don’t.”

His search for God was an unrelieved agony, bedeviled by his uncompromisingly honest facing of himself, until all was changed by the discovery that he was known by God, fully known and fully accepted, by the mercies of Jesus Christ.

Where you differ from Luther is in your stated decision to choose skepticism as your defining stance-if I understand you in your emphasis that this is by your deliberate, not accidental, choice. If I thought you were fully content with skepticism and only skepticism, I would regrettably regard that as smugness. I know of no thicker wall that encloses the soul and smothers it.

But I hear you going beyond any smug skepticism with a very great “if,” as you wrote: “… if a God I couldn’t have made up decides to come find me, I’m not going to shut him out.” I take your “if” seriously. And add this: Would you or anybody else make up a God who comes to us in the form of a suffering servant, an itinerant rabbi who was nailed to a Roman cross for the sins of the world? Would you invent a risen Christ who turned traitorous disciples into trustworthy witnesses with Good News to spread, down through the centuries, even to us in our time?

The gods we invent have a way of always favoring our side, looking like us, dumbed down to our well-pampered illusions, and then finally walking out on us when the chips are down. Against these gods, the Holy One of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a stumbling block, an affront to all human pride and the death of our astonishing capacity for airy unbelief and gross ingratitude. But to every soul who longs for justice to be done, for mercy to be loved, for God to be known and revered by walking humbly with him, the Good Shepherd comes. He assuredly comes. May I say this to you, Helen: He comes to you, knows you by your name, loves you with an abiding fidelity that outlasts everything.

How do you know that?

That’s the sticky word, isn’t it … “know.” Consider that for some three centuries in our western world, such knowing has been increasingly narrowed to a highly individualistic quest, with strong indicators that what cannot be probed, observed, measured, analyzed, categorized, is not reliably knowable. We’re much caught up in this post-enlightenment impoverishment. This isn’t to answer my question about knowing, but to place it in an essential setting.

In this connection, one of the amazing things that has happened in my lifetime is the emergence, south of the equator, of a newly vibrant Christianity. In many ways it comes to epistemology, this business of what we mean by “knowing,” from a different place. It is more communal than solo, more open to the spiritual than fixated on the rational, closer to the Biblical sense of knowing God as a transforming, all-embracing experience than an occasional nod to rites and rules. Problems accompany this new global fact of our time. But we have more to learn from it than we realize.

If you think it well, I want to share with you what I’ve been learning in recent conversations with hospitable people from other corners of the earth, things that can put our concerns, conversations, and fondest hopes into different perspectives, even lead to convictions and commitments via fresh paths.

Sound OK?

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