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7.2 Between otherness and humanity of God
What we have said so far allows us to affirm that relating to a hypothetical religious “you” is not a mere idle game, but an activity that demonstrates profound matches in human nature, able to suggest us hidden truths. This obviously shows nothing about the possibility that this religious “you” actually exists: the human tendency to personify only demonstrates the existence of itself and nothing else; but I want to add right now that, actually, it doesn’t even matter whether this external “you” actually exists: it will never be possible to ascertain it in such a penetrating way as to be able to escape any skepticism, any opposing criticism. On the other hand, otherwise, we would have done nothing but return to Aristotelian metaphysics: if we cannot establish the existence of a reality external to our mind, there is no reason why this should become possible with the idea of God. In this perspective, the theology of Karl Barth, in favor of a God to be conceived as “totally other”, can also appear as a relapse into the typical objectification of Aristotelian metaphysics: saying that he is “totally other” can be a an elegant way to remove as much as possible the idea that he is a production of our mind.
This critical reasoning about the objective existence of God, when compared with the desire of the heart to relate to him, cannot but make seem strange the situation of those who turn to their God while being accompanied by so much uncertainty about his existence. How could an intense, profound, not superficial, not purely intellectual relationship exist in these terms? Evidently, the perspective that arises, let’s say, from the outside, that is from the critical reason, will never allow this relationship to be something touching, not limited to rationality, but able to involve the whole person. Therefore, it will be a question about composing in harmony this external critical perspective with the affective internal one, that is, with that deriving from a decision to join, dictated by a lived experience.
Once the nature of the difficulty has emerged, it is possible, on the other hand, to suspect that the fervent relationship with God, as we have imagined it so far, takes a little romanticism. As if to say that the idea of a prayer that is all absorbed and concentrated, all taken from love for God, is more an imaginative desire than an experience to be considered as the maximum to aspire to. And yet, even bearing in mind this critical observation, the doubt about the existence of this “you” continues to appear as an unjust brake against a possible more intense deployment of the relationship, which nonetheless would seem to be pursued with all forces, even if we still don’t know exactly how. Actually, it is possible to observe, if we apply the hermeneutics of becoming that we have seen in Eràclito, that this deployment of intensity in prayer is never permanent, but alwaysmeets its fluctuating course, its ups and downs. Then, the strength of a relationship will have to find its source not in the absence of any doubt, but in the continuous realization of new experiences or spiritual acquisitions. Thus we find ourselves returned to the need for a walking.
Reflection on this alternation leads us to another thought: if God exists in our life in this way, that is, at times, now visiting us now abandoning us, then faith must necessarily be a coexistence with atheism, since it is not possible to believe in Lord if he abandons us. This perspective reminds us of the inevitability of having to go through desperation in our lives, without being able to escape it, but also opens us to the hope that we will be revisited and brought back to life at any time; a life which, as a return, can no longer be the same as before, precisely because each time it adds to itself the memory of coming from a death which, by itself, was hopeless.
According to this line of thought, it would open the possibility of deciding, for our own life, to let our own belief be totally guided by the experience of God actually lived and not by our own intellectual research efforts; this would mean deciding not to want to keep up in moments of death, but to cross this death in all that it is; it implies that in every moment of life we are also listening to how God comes to visit us and what experience of his presence (or absence) calls us to live. That is like saying to ourselves: if a God exists, I want to expeerience him as he is, listening to his actual presence, with all the willingness to let myself be involved in its planning action, including the courage to live death during this same life, without wanting to get life by myself. In this sense it is possible to glimpse a hidden meaning in the episode of Abraham, who would seem stupidly called to bet on the possibility of giving his son death; the hidden meaning consists in this challenge to ourselves: if I have chosen to follow God, I will follow him with all my life dedicated to him, without trying to protect myself by relying in my solutions, especially if I realize that the sacrifice of life is part of his plan. If God wants my son’s life, only he will have to save it, certainly not me; only God must be able to save me from God, not me. In this sense it can be understood that it was not only God putting Abraham to the test, but also Abraham tested God. But how can such a relationship with God be guaranteed from falling into a blind fanaticism? The solution could be simpler than we might think: faith must be lived in a continuous dialogue, within ourselves, among different perspectives cohabiting. This coexistence is possible only in a perception of the experience of faith that is realized in different times. A theology of the experience of faith that contains the hidden desire for a unitary, global, holistic vision will inevitably lead to this problem of dialogue between experiential, affective choice, therefore interior, decisive choice, and the need for critical vision claimed by reason, which also lives in us and is indispensable to protect us from any fanaticism. Instead, an experience of faith seen as a course allows the coexistence of the two components, since it allows us to give the necessary space, at different times in personal history, now to the emotional momentum, now to criticism.