“Do you agree with Moxie?” Morris asked Blue Poorman. It was getting rather late; Grace, Suijnwe and Dr. Sage Wiseman had already gone home. The Keener household was left, then, with Able and Moxie – both permanent residents – Angelica and Morris Graver, Blue Poorman – now part-time resident and always-welcome friend – and, of course, Joy, who was still snoozing away. Effete had gone to bed shortly after tucking in Rue and Bane, and Lucent was pounding away on her keyboard in her home office.
“You mean her agnostic paradigm of life and the universe?” Blue questioned and smiled over at Moxie, who’d curled up on the couch with Joy. “Mostly, but with some significant modifications or … supplements, you might say. Certainly, I do believe in the existence of God the Creator, or Progenitor, of the Cosmos. As the British physicists and Anglican theologian, John Polkinghorne, teaches, ‘the cosmos is shot through with signs of mind and it is an attractive, though not inevitable, thought that it is indeed the mind of the creator that is (at least) partially disclosed in this way.’ Of course, I couldn’t agree more and, in fact, believe that ‘Occam’s Razor’ shaves off purely atheistic, naturalist explanations of the origin of the universe. But anyway, to the second point, of course I abhor any kind of ‘God of the gaps’ argument or thinking in general. There is no ‘God of the gaps,’ in my estimation, because God is all-in-all; that is, the Divine is pervasive and not only upholds the Cosmos like some grand stanchion. God is not the great Atlas with the world upon his back; no, the Eternal One is the Conceiver of the much-discussed Anthropic Principle. The universe is, indeed, finely tuned, delicately balanced, and ordered.”
“It is also beautiful,” Blue continued, “and beautiful in ways we don’t commonly think, such as in physics or, specifically mathematics. I remember being astonished by the well-known, mathematical physicist, Paul Davies, when he wrote in The Mind of God, ‘perhaps the laws distinguish themselves in other, more subtle ways, such as by their aesthetic value.’ He contended that many scientists actually consider ‘beauty (as) a reliable guide to truth,’ and claimed that ‘many advances in theoretical physics have been made by the theorist demanding mathematical elegance of a new theory.’ Davies admitted the bizarreness of this whole idea, the curiosity of it all, but he pointed out that ‘if beauty is entirely biologically programmed, selected for its survival value alone, it is all the more surprising to see it re-emerge in the esoteric world of fundamental physics, which has no direct connection with biology.’ Of course, beauty is more than an evolved quality.”
“And why not? What else would one expect, except perhaps the scientist who has gorged himself on the present-day idolization of science with little to no regard for the liberal arts, which tell us as much, if not more, about humanity and life and the cosmos. No, from the Extraordinary Architect, the Master Artist, the Grand Maestro one would expect beauty, yes, even elegance in mathematical physics. And all of this arises, not simply from the Supranatural One, or some Higher Power; no, we are talking about the very personal, living God … in fact, the Person par excellence from whom all personhood derives. And this leads me to conclude that we live in a personal, moral universe, admittedly filled with an abundance of evil, wickedness, cruelty and ugliness, yet far more light and life, beauty and harmony, purpose, truth and hope.”
“And since I’ve mentioned scientists, I take some comfort in those who both appreciate the limits of their discipline as well as the ironclad strength of their spiritual-religious convictions; individuals such as the ornithologist, Andrew Gosler, who remarked, ‘I have come to recognize that while humans are indeed the most destructive species on the planet, this is because of the broken relationship with God described allegorically in Genesis… The present environmental crisis (for example) is ultimately a consequence of human greed, of selfishness, of the poverty and criminality that arise from these, and of ignorance. Consequently, and contrary to the assumptions of my youth, I have found that Christ’s teachings have much to offer us by way of salvation from this crisis.’ Many similar statements could be, and have been, made by various people from various walks of life. All point toward hope, real hope, which springs forth from the soil of faith, reasonable faith, in the very real and personal, living God.”
Moxie sat up and then stood up, stretched and yawned. Able rubbed his tired eyes and thought about bed, but something told him Mox was about to rock. She spread out her hands, tilted her head slightly to the right and asked, “Well, what can I say? You’ve spoken very clearly, eloquently … cohesively and reasonably. You’ve also spoken very broadly, even, shall I say, universally. Well done!”
“Now, are you feigning compliments before you whip out your dagger, Ms. Moxie?” Blue eyed her suspiciously.
“No, I mean every word I’ve just spoken, but what you’ve presented doesn’t really … get down to earth, so to speak … certainly not down into the trenches.” Moxie shook her head. “It’s an awesome, fascinating universe. As I’ve told Able so many times, there’s an entire world out there waiting to be explored and enjoyed, so put on your wings and let’s fly! Great … wonderful, and we’re starting to do that, but you know, tragically, not everyone can do this. Not everyone can set out on an exciting, new adventure full of wonder and amazement… In fact, not everyone can quite see the universal beauty, the fine-tuning and order and harmony. Not everyone is in a position to quite grasp the … what? The very vague over-coating of the love of an allegedly very personal God. And even if they could? Even if they did, then what?”
Moxie walked around the living room to stretch her legs while all eyes (and ears) followed, except for Joy, who only groaned a little and shifted her position on the couch.
“Look. There are thousands and tens of thousands of children starving, and it’s not their fault. There are thousands and tens of thousands of marginalized and oppressed peoples, like the Palestinians, through no fault of their own. There are elderly people by the hundreds, who were dumped off at some stinking nursing home and left to die … alone. But let’s bring this even closer to home.” Moxie moved to the middle of the room and slightly lowered her voice. “What about the little boys, who agonize over how much their mom has suffered, and who worry everyday about what’s going to happen to her and to them … and, for that matter, their friends? What about family and friends, who have been brutally abused and terrorized? Or, to turn to a lighter example, I suppose, what about the young man who lies awake night after night after night just asking this God to reveal him, or her, self? And silence is the only ‘answer’ he gets. Or the little girl, heartbroken and crying, who prays to God to have her kitty-cat come back home? Is that too hard for this loving and oh-so very personal God? Would it be breaking one of his, or her, unknown rules?”
“Amen!” Angelica responded more loudly than she intended. She put a hand up to her mouth and smiled. “Sorry … but you preach it, girl!”
“You see, it’s when you come to the imminence of God that you encounter insoluble difficulties,” Moxie continued her diatribe. “It inevitably involves the innumerable individuals who have reached out to this God, who has not reached back; the soul-suffering believers who have cried out for just one word, or one special ‘touch,’ only to be left cold and very much alone; the man who asks over and over and over again for guidance and direction in life from the God he loves and believes in and so desperately wants to serve … this God who will not respond in any way, shape, or form. And you can say, perhaps rightly, that God has answered hundreds and thousands of such prayers, but that only complicates matters more.”
“Why some prayers and not others? Is it lack of faith on the part of the suppliant? In every single case? Every single time? Or is it unforgiven sin that stands in the way? Really? Sin stands in the way for the one who’s been ‘washed in the blood of the spotless Lamb of God,’ hallelujah! And asks forgiveness for all sins, known and unknown, each and every day, probably several times a day? And yet sin stands in the way of his prayer being answered, while this same God answers the prayers of thousands upon thousands of sinners each and every day … apparently? Of course, all of these people may be asking wrongly; that’s possible, of course … but why in the world would such an imminent, loving, personal God not at least whisper in their ear, so to speak, and let them know? But thousands upon thousands of people will tell you, God doesn’t do that – or, at least, not for them – no, not even in and through the Holy Spirit, as so many Pentecostals and Charismatics claim. And why? Why the almost deafening silence? Can you tell me how someone can hunger and thirst – I mean crave God so much it literally hurts – without this God so much as offering a breath-touch in reply?”
Moxie perched herself on the armrest of the chair occupied by Angelica. “You see, this is why I can believe so much of what you’ve said about God, except in a depersonalized fashion. I think personalizing God leads to nothing more than frustration, confusion, and despair – not to mention needless arguments, fights, violence and war – all of this unless, of course, you have deluded yourself, or you really have had and continue to have an intimate, positive, personal experience with the living God … in which case, you are very rare and privileged, indeed. In the end, though, for most of us, it’s probably better and healthier to leave God in the cosmic control room and simply focus ourselves on living the best, virtuous lives of upstanding character and integrity as possible … and, if possible, enjoying life to the fullest, while helping as many other sojourners as we can along the way… After all, even if everything you’ve said is absolutely true, why continue crying out to this God who never answers?”
“In my life, I have known many people, good people … salt of the earth, ya know,” Angelica began somberly. “They were rock solid Christian folk, who prayed … lots of times, faith-filled prayers for something good, truly wholesome and pure, and ended those prayers every time ‘in Jesus’ name. Amen.’ And those prayers weren’t answered. People made excuses … hell, even they made excuses and held on to their faith, but… So many people,” tears were now running down Angelica’s face, “they asked for a fish and got a scorpion instead. They asked for an egg and got a rock… This God you’re praising, Mr. Poorman, may actually be worse than the sinful fathers Jesus was talking to so many centuries ago about the heavenly Father. Remember? He said something like, ‘If you fathers, being sinful, give what is good to your children, then how much more should you expect from your heavenly Father?’” Angelica wiped her face on her shirt sleeves while Moxie put an arm around her shoulders. “Well … I’ve damn sure learned what to expect, and if I can … from now on I think I’ll take Moxie’s advice … if I can somehow come around to living that kind of life, and I’ll damn sure welcome the peace and joy and freedom.”
Joy rolled over and sat up, ran her hands through her long, thick hair and then yawned. After rubbing her eyes, she looked around the room, now silent, and smiled.
“Quite the heavy, late-night conversation we’re having, huh? Mind if I jump in with just a few tidbits of my own?”
Everybody kind of laughed and shook their heads. “I don’t think any of us realized you were even awake,” Able remarked rather surprised.
“Well, how could I possibly sleep with such philosophical-theological and intimately personal stimulation surrounding me … sometimes at a rather high volume?” Everyone smiled but also looked sheepish. “Anyway, big subject for my foggy brain, especially at this hour, but I’d like to kind of give a rundown, summary response, if I may, taking it from the top.” Joy breathed in deeply and everyone was attentive, especially Angelica and Morris.
“First, I agree with Blue, and so far as ‘de-personalizing’ God is concerned: a) If God is Person, then God is Person. Period. Deal with it. b) If God is not Person, then there remains the whole question of the origin of self-awareness and the concomitant personality that attends self-awareness. Occam’s Razor would seem to slice of the atheistic-naturalist explanation for this; however, c) Whether you ‘de-personalize’ God, which is an impossibility anyway, or not, you are still left with personhood and all of the positives and negatives that go along with being a person. I completely fail to see how an obscure, impersonal, supranatural force helps one iota in dealing with personal problems common unto humanity, in this life, in this world.
“Second, you touched upon many reasons given for prayers not being answered, Moxie; however, that in no way disproves answered prayers. You only provided reasons why some, or perhaps many, prayers have gone unanswered. Now, with that in mind, let’s look at some of those reasons, such as: a) the suppliant does not have enough faith. Faith is fundamental in all major world religions and, truth be told, is actually fundamental to humanity in almost every area of life. It nearly goes without saying, then, that when one prayers one must have faith, must believe. It also stands to reason that there is a fairly good probability that some who pray do not, in fact, pray in faith or, as Angelica put, pray a faith-filled prayer. Consequently, their prayers go unanswered. b) Sin stands in the way. Now you, Moxie, said ‘unforgiven’ sin, but let me correct you, especially since you followed that with a rather caustic remark about being covered in the holy blood of the spotless Lamb of God. We are not talking about unforgiven, but unrepented sin; that is, sin that is known but unaddressed, unlamented, and un-amended. Lack of full and genuine repentance stands in the way not only of prayer, but the very relationship of that individual with God. c) Some suppliants ask wrongly. This is quite evidently true; trust me, I know! And why does God not whisper in their ear and tell them they’re asking wrongly? Because chances are, deep down inside, they already know, so in essence God has already answered them. He’s answered them through their own deep intuition.
“Third, and I’ll be rather brief about this, but those who reach and reach and continually reach out for God, but seem to be met only with silence and loneliness is an altogether different matter. It is foreign territory of which you, Ms. Moxie Keener, know nothing whatsoever. Yes, there have been those and there are those, but until you have experienced something of this yourself, or at the very least until you’ve read St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Dame Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton and others … well, it’s best you leave the subject lie and not speak about it at all.
“Finally, Angelica, I won’t set myself up to be God’s great defender tonight – and I seriously doubt God needs one anyway – but let me be very clear on at least two points: a) Fen Sloughheart, and Fen Sloughheart alone, terribly abused, misused, and terrorized you and Morris. God did not commit those horrific acts, nor did God approve of those horrific acts. We may ask why God allowed it to happen, and that’s a very tough and legitimate question, but God did not commit the crimes. b) God did provide full and free forgiveness,” Joy looked at Morris, “and God did provide help when you, Angelica, desperately needed help, and that help was procured by the woman lying in a hospital bed due to a gunshot wound in her back… God has also flooded you with genuine love, concern, counsel, encouragement and support from people you didn’t even really know two weeks ago … people who also happen to be Christians. Oh, and Sloughheart is in ICU fighting for his life, and rather painfully at that, which is something to keep in mind, too. You’ve told me more than once just how thankful you are for all I’ve supposedly done; well … I just want to be sure to let you know that everything I’ve done – along with Sage, Lucent, Grace and Suijnwe – has been done by the strength of the Spirit, in the blessed Name of Christ, to the glory of almighty God, whose nature really and truly is love.”
“Now, that’s enough of me for tonight. I’ve given you my two-cents worth, and I’m going to bed now, which means this couch … which means, of course, good night to each of you… Hint, hint.” And the hint was well-taken. Everybody rose to their feet. “Hopefully, after such an in-depth, provocative, late-night discussion, I’ve managed to give you all something worthwhile pondering. If not, blame it on the medications and forgive me.”
Everyone just laughed, made their rounds hugging and hand-shaking, saying ‘good-night.’ In the space of a few short moments, then, Joy was left alone in the dark of her living room couch bed, pondering the day God had just given … and what God had taken. God will have his day… Had he? Her eyes slowly closed, her breathing grew deep, and she felt an unusual peace as she drifted off to sleep.