I attended a funeral recently. It was a sad affair, as the passing of a friend always is, but tempered by the fact that he had lived a full and vibrant life, dying peacefully in his sleep at age 90. What saddened me more, in fact, was a comment the priest made in his homily. Many in the congregation that morning were in their 50’s and 60’s, children of the turbulent 1960’s, which brought fully into the mainstream scientific secularism and the popular notion that “God is dead.” Though many left their hippie days behind, they did not leave behind the belief that God was simply a crutch for those who refused to accept what science had shown.
So, it saddened me to hear the priest say that our faith is “rooted in mystery.” He was trying to give comfort by bridging the gap, by trying to harmonize faith and science in a way that would resonate with his listeners. He went on to express the great comfort that our faith brings, and the need for that comfort, despite the increasing importance of science and the vast increases in knowledge that science has brought. He seemed to be saying that religion didn’t need to be true – the mystery at its root could simply be accepted and embraced – because religion’s role is not to bring truth, but to bring comfort.
I know the priest meant well. Perhaps he believed what he said. But this is not the message of historic Christianity. Christianity does contain mystery, that much is true. We accept without fully understanding that our God is one but consists of three persons. We affirm that Jesus was born of a virgin. But our faith is rooted in history and in truth, not in mystery. A common definition of mystery is something that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown. The Christian faith is not rooted in secret or unknown things. It springs from the testimony of those who knew Christ, who witnessed His death and the events surrounding His resurrection. Its foundations are the oral and the written accounts of these witnesses, whose credibility was forged in blood and whose words and actions, without weapons or conquest, transformed a world.
As the Apostle Paul said, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, your faith is also in vain… and if Chirst has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-19) But if Christ is raised from the dead, then science and religion are not at odds. Science may describe how things occur, but giving meaning to them requires knowledge that only the transcendent source of Truth can provide.
Christ does not ask that we suspend reason to accept Him. His life, death and resurrection are historical events, as are the miracles He performed. He did these things so we can know the truth, so that we can love Him with our minds, as well as our hearts and souls. Our faith is rooted – indeed anchored – by these historical events, so that when our lives wind down, as they inevitably will, we can have confidence that our final resting place will be with Him.
Posted by Al Serrato