He that looks on a plant, or the parts of the bodies of animals, or any other works of nature, at a great distance where he has but an obscure sight of it, may see something in it wonderful and beyond his comprehension, but he that is nearer to it and views them narrowly indeed understands more about them, has a clearer and distinct sight of them, and yet the number of things that are wonderful and mysterious in them that appear to him are much more than before, and, if he views them with a microscope, the number of the wonders that he sees will be much increased still, but yet the microscope gives him more of a true knowledge concerning them. (Jonathan Edwards)
So it is with the divine.
And yet, the beauty in mystery has been tarnished. Perhaps by acknowledging mystery, we risk acknowledging a meaning in life that surpasses our immediate observations. We are scared to pursue that which we cannot fully understand. We live in a world where nothing seems worth living for and nothing seems worth dying for – a world where truth is relative, where meaning and purpose are but hollow terms mocking our naïve hope that something in this world matters. We find ourselves trapped in day-to-day existences, so incredibly disconnected from any wider understanding of life. In the absence of a story that connects us to what is going on around us, we find that any sort of yearning for purpose is quickly replaced by a frenzied and arbitrary pursuit of desires. The Christian faith leads us elsewhere.
In this edition of The Ichthus, we invite you to pursue the mystery that envelopes Christianity. We pose a series of questions: why were we created? Why do we exist? And why is our existence stained by pain and suffering if God is indeed good? Why have hope or joy at all? And of the Christian, we must ask: why have faith? Why Jesus? Why obey, and why pray? Undoubtedly, we will fail to provide wholly satisfactory answers; that is not our intent. Rather, we hope to provoke you to begin to ask questions. We hope to compel you to consider the tantalizing mystery that is inherent in man’s very being.
But make no mistake; the existence of mystery in the Christian faith does not diminish the reality of its truth. Mystery is not equivalent to fiction. Rather, the mystery and unfathomable sense of awe generated by the Christian faith better reveal the splendor of the truth that Jesus Christ, God’s son, provides us with a story that transcends this world, transcends history, and gives meaning to our lives and hope for the future. The history of Christ is the enigmatic story whose meaning transcends that which can be bound up in raw prose and whose truth has marvelous implications for a human experience that runs deeper than the spoken word. It is in this story that we realize how beautifully Jesus’ life and death make sense of our own.
No eye has seen and no ear has heard and no heart has entered this mystery, except by which God has revealed it unto man and allowed faith to become known. The word of God reveals mysteries more glorious and wonderful than would otherwise be realized.
Might I remind you, that increased knowledge rarely leads to decreased mystery; rather the contrary. Indeed, you may be left with more questions than answers. If you are searching for truth, but aren’t sure it can be found: I pray of you, keep searching. And, if you are asking why, and are still unsatisfied, I pray of you, keep asking.
May you seek the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3).
Roshni Patel is the 2012-13 editor-in-chief of The Harvard Ichthus. This piece was excerpted from the Fall 2012 issue, Why.apologetics, beauty, Christianity, faith, hope, Jonathan Edwards, joy, love, mystery, suffering, truth