Four Personal Replies
How do we as individuals know that God exists?
The existence of God is a problem in philosophy in a different way than it is a problem in every human life. In the latter, in my case for example, it has and does produce Angst. It seems to me that I experience "God" spontaneously and that's an end to the matter. But the "problems" in my ordinary experience are that (a) I experience evil and (b) I experience myself as a sinner, and (c) I experience myself as a doubting. I can't solve those problems in my ordinary experience, can't reconcile the God I know and love with a, b and c. Am I talking into a vacuum and hoping for an answer? Thus, Angst. Then I turn to philosophers and search for wisdom, and what do they tell me? Not much. At their best, most of them want to help with rearranging my language and "locating" my REAL problem!
William Shea, firstname.lastname@example.org
Faith is conditioned by the realization of my full humanity with all its paradoxes: my doubts, insecurities, sense of unrealized dreams, yet my faith in God always comes to me in my helplessness. This God comes to me always as a surprise. It is when I stop searching that God becomes present. It is when I abandon my identifying tools that this God comes to me in an unrecognizable face. Is that not how God always becomes the God of humor?
I have realized that it is when I speak of this God that defies the intellectualism of my career that I convey this God the most to myself and to the other.
SimonMary Aihiokhai, email@example.com
Doubt is part of any faith. I had doubts for many years, mainly on the basis that God did not answer my questions. But now God can ask me questions, like:
- Do you remember when you were totally destitute, without income and no job prospect, and you got through the mail a job offer with room and board to start immediately?
- Do you remember when you were totally out of money, facing bankruptcy and the prospect of losing your home, and I mailed you a $7,000 check out of the blue?
- Enough, God! I get your point.
Does God exist? No, if you look at the wrong places. Yes, if you search with Meister Eckhart, the author of the Cloud of Unknowing, and the mystics of East and West. Then you will see God in the mystery of the stars while astronomers only see dark matter. God is not a thing or a concept, but inner hope and light. There is no light without darkness, but ultimately light outshines the night – if we patiently search in the night at the right places.
Long ago, the catechism teaching of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit captivated my nine-year old mind which was ripe for some connection to a larger Love and saner discipline than I had ever dreamed. From saintly Sister Grace Lawrence and her sharing of the lives of the saints, I learned the discipline of love calling me to recognize and use my own gifts and power as a child. Yes, I had to obey my parents and teachers, but I was not deprived of the right to discern the just and holy use of that authority.
I now realize that it has been this very structure of the "discipline of power in relationship" that keeps me tethered to Catholicism. Granted, our Catholic Church has no dibs on the virtuous exercise of the discipline of power and authority, but it continues to struggle with this challenge, if only because of the Holy Spirit and the "doctrine" of "sensus fidei". As the Church struggles in its relationship with the People of God, so do I fall and struggle in my relationships with others, with G-d, and with the Catholic Church.
Lea Hunter, firstname.lastname@example.org
Augustine sees faith as setting out on a journey without knowing where you are going, trusting God to guide the way through a surrender to the questions. He said he resolved to follow the questions wherever they led him and would not adhere mindlessly to any particular philosophical doctrine. In the Confessions he says that when he surrendered to the questions he had already surrendered to Christ herself, the true wisdom of God.
God is not the answer to all our questions but the question to all our answers. Surrender to the questions is surrender to God. (Our answers are always finite, it is our questions that keep us open to the infinite.) To be possessed by the question is to be possessed by God. It is the divine compulsion to self-transcendence that drives all human inquiry and human integrity.
Augustine begins The Trinity by asking: How can I seek the God I do not know? How could one know that one had found God if you don't know who God is? His answer: The God we seek is the God who is present in our seeking, seducing us into seeking him. Conversion is "turning around" or looking inward to our memories and seeing God was there all along. That is the story of his Confessions.
I too had intuitively felt the presence of God in my life from the time I was four or five years old.
Darrell Fasching, email@example.com
- How do you personally know that God exists?
- How do you personally cope with your perceived absence of God?