Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Noetic Mystery

The universal belief of all Christians is that the “one faith” originates with God the Father, becomes available to mankind through Christ the Son, and is apportioned to persons by God the Holy Spirit. However, ask the question, "for what purpose?" or, "what is this faith inteded to produce?" And the answers start to diverge. St. Paul tells the Ephesians:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved- and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Eph 2: 4-7.

According to St Paul, the purpose for this one faith is to enable us to experience God both in the present through Christ, and in the age to come through Christ. The goal of this faith is nothing less than to produce our participation in the life of God through Christ, and thus a participation in mystery. The church uses the term mystery because we have no words that adequately convey what it means to know and be known by God, this experience is something that can only be poorly described. The term for this kind of knowledge attained by our description is called cataphatic knowledge.

The goal of faith goes beyond catapahtic knowledge to noetic knowledge. Through noetic knowledge the God of mystery made known by the fullness of experience, and by the intimate interaction that can only occur between one person and another person. When this is reality is understood our theological debates take on a completely different tone. Can we debate God with someone who does not know God? Obviously not, however, many Christians have fallen no the trap and they have done so because they believe that they can make a better argument for their points than those who do not know God. Perhaps they can make a better argument, however, the problem is that no amount of knowledge transmitted by a debate can produce intimacy with another person, especially when it comes to the God who is mystery.

The sum and substance of Christianity’s one faith is the personal experiential knowledge of the mysterious God. Why do we believe? We believe because we know God and are known by God. What do we believe? We believe what God has said. All of this shifts the emphasis from the intellect to the noetic knowldge regarding a mystery. Not that the intellect serves no purpose, it does, but its importance is small by comparison.

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