Has the Jury Reached a Verdict?
God is on trial.
The issue is the identity of God (not our Catholic identity). What set of characteristics best captures the identity of God? Name them. Put them into words. Articulate the identity of God. Who is God and how do we know him? Is God a misanthrope or a philanthropist?
Many false, inaccurate and conflicting representations of God circulate through the minds of the children of Adam and Eve. The multiplicity of representations creates confusion. “This is God” some say as they point to their favorite representation of God. Others point to a different representation and say, “No, this is God.” The controversy goes on ad infinitum. Because of the confusion about the identity of God, the most Holy Trinity desired to set the record straight once and forever. They decided to clear the air. The purpose of the trial is to end the controversy - to put an end to the confusion about God. Is ending the confusion about the identity of God important? Familiarity with the identity of God is the game changer. Yes, it is of the utmost importance (John 10:5) (Psalm 69:9) (Exodus 2:22).
What role do we play in the trial? We are the jury. We render the verdict. To us, the evidence is presented to win our consent to a representation of God that best captures the reality of God. The reality of God is approximated by representations that capture it as best they can. The fidelity of representations of God to the reality of God varies across a spectrum that ranges from low to high. All representations of God are not equal. Most are defective. The defects produce inaccurate versions of God. Inaccurate versions of God produce confusion. In confusion, it is difficult to make the right decision. The power of a representation depends on its fidelity to the reality that it represents. The greater the fidelity, the greater the power. Representations with a high fidelity to the reality that they represent can influence those who come into proximity with them as forcefully as an encounter with the reality itself. In religion, when we capture the reality of God in high fidelity representations, we open portals through which God enters the world. The reality of God enters our world through high fidelity representations. Words can represent the reality of God. Saints as well. So, too, the blood and body of the most Holy Eucharist. The blood and body of the most Holy Eucharist are a perfect representation of the reality of our God. They are God. Their perfection in representation makes the most Holy Eucharist extremely powerful.
Our job as jurors is not easy. What makes our job difficult is that the testimony of the witnesses is in conflict. The conflicting testimony creates an issue of fact. Jurors resolve issues of fact according to the persuasiveness of the evidence.
The conflict in the testimony has existed since the beginning of humanity.
The serpent testified that we would become gods without God in the valley of tears (Genesis 3:5). His testimony was the sugarcoating that embellished the harshness of our passage through the valley of tears. We have a sweet tooth and the sugarcoating led us astray. God testified that, in the valley of tears, we would die (Genesis 3:3). No embellishment here.
To resolve future conflicts in the testimony amongst God, the serpent and others, figuring out whether God or the serpent were telling us the truth about deification without God in the valley of tears is important. The best way to figure it out was by letting us stew in the valley of tears for a lifetime. The valley of tears sucks. In the valley of tears, crosses of suffering nail themselves to us including the worst of the crosses, death. Stewing in the valley of tears for a lifetime enables us to reach the verdict that the serpent is a liar and that God told us the truth. The serpent bullshitted us. We do not become Gods without God in the valley of tears. Our harsh experience in the valley of tears immunizes us against the lie of the serpent. The serpent is defanged. He can never fool us again. By claiming that we can become gods without God in the valley of tears, the serpent earned his reputation as a bullshit artist. God earned his reputation as the teller of truth.
The sourness of godlessness is autodidactic. We know the sourness of godlessness because we are immersed in it. The sweetness of paradise, however, is not autodidactic. For us to know the sweetness of paradise, it must be revealed to us. The sweetness of paradise was revealed to us in his passion, death and resurrection. The sweetness of paradise is the honey that draws the bees back home to the hive. Rational creatures seek the sweetness of paradise (and flee the sourness of godlessness). It is contrary to their self-interest to do otherwise. It is crazy to do otherwise. When fueled by the truth, our rationality steers us in the right direction. When the fuel of truth is fouled by illusions, our rationality leads us astray. "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). The sweetness of paradise pulls us to the entrance of paradise. The sourness of godlessness pushes us to its exit. Jesus straddles the world of godlessness and the world of paradise like a colossus. Through his bloody wounds, we make the great leap from time to eternity (Our Lady of Quito). He is the way (John 14:6)
Since the age of Adam and Eve, the conflict in the testimony has continued . Once again, we are called upon to render a verdict. Hopefully, our first verdict in which we figured out that God has credibility and the serpent has none helps us in judging the credibility of the conflicting witnesses this time around.
Jesus took the witness stand in the vicinity of the city of Jerusalem in a region of our planet called the Middle East more than two thousand years ago. In his passion, death and resurrection, Jesus testified that God is our almighty lover. Here is his testimony. We tortured and killed him. He suffered and died. Yet, he did not stay dead and he did not stop loving us. He emerged from the dead still alive and still in love with us. That he emerged from the dead still alive is the proof of his power. Nobody emerges from the dead. He did. That he emerged from the dead still in love with us is the proof that our conception of divinity as power is incomplete. Divinity is also love. Perfection in both power and love were revealed to us in his passion, death and resurrection. Power and love constitute the set of characteristics that best captures the identity of God. His power built paradise. His love for us makes paradise sweet. Power demands respect but love demands love.
The testimony of other witnesses besides Jesus, however, does not agree. Other witnesses testify against God. The testimony of the other witnesses contradicts the allegation that God is our almighty lover. The argument goes like this: If our God were our almighty lover, would he let us suffer so much as we pass through the valley of tears (the problem of evil)? When adversity takes the witness stand, she testifies that God does not exist or that God does not care. The sickness and death of an innocent child testifies that God is our foe not our friend.
There is a cacophony of conflicting testimony. We are inundated by confusion. We drown in the conflict.
What role does the Church play in the trial of God? The Church is God's advocate. His passion, death and resurrection are the most persuasive evidence that proves that God is our almighty lover. The Church's job is to present his passion, death and resurrection to persuade the jury about the identity of God - to persuade the jury that God is our almighty lover. The presentation of his passion, death and resurrection is the primary means of persuasion. Furthermore, as advocate for God, the Church is responsible for the cross-examination of the adverse witnesses. Adversity takes the witness stand again and again to testify against God. The testimony of adversity is powerful testimony that contradicts the testimony of his passion, death and resurrection. The testimony of adversity is highly persuasive. Yet, from his passion, death and resurrection, we know that adversity is lying about God. Adversity is not telling the truth (Exodus 20:16). The job of the Church, therefore, is to demonstrate that adversity is not a proper platform from which to jump to a conclusion about God. Adversity does not give testimony about God. Adversity gives testimony about us. Adversity and how we handle it are the platform from which we jump to touchdown on our identity not the identity of God.
Reconciliation of the conflicting testimony is not an easy job. It requires a solution to the problem of evil. To reconcile the conflicting testimony, we must look at the big picture. We must familiarize ourselves with God's plan to rescue us from our dire predicament in the valley of tears. Without an understanding of God's plan to rescue us from our dire predicament in the valley of tears, the conflicting testimony would leave us forever in a state of utter confusion. Here is the evidence that reconciles the conflicting testimony. Here is the solution to the problem of evil.
God did not place us in our dire predicament in the valley of tears. The serpent did. The serpent, not God, is the culprit. The serpent, not God, is to blame. The only knock against God is that he does not rescue us from our dire predicament in the valley of tears quickly enough. He lets us stew in the valley of tears for a lifetime. Why do you wait, O Lord, to rescue us? Why do you delay (Psalm 70)? Why?
Our conception of rescue is different than God's conception of rescue (Isaiah 55:8-9). We want God to eliminate the crosses that nail themselves to us as we pass through the valley of tears. God, on the other hand, does not want to eliminate them. God wants us to learn to manage them. He prefers that we learn to manage adversity. We prefer that he eliminates adversity. There is a difference in opinions. His prevails.
Why does God prefer that we learn to manage adversity instead of eliminating it?
Indeed, the ship of godlessness is sinking. God, however, has no interest in saving the ship. God is only interested in saving the passengers. God has no interest in turning the valley of tears into a better, more hospitable place for godless people to live. God wants us to run the course and finish the race (2 Timothy 4:7). He wants the grist to go through the mill. God practices a severe pedagogy. He throws us off the pier into the water to teach us how to swim. Sink or swim is the severe pedagogy of our God.
Why such a severe pedagogy?
We receive a benefit from trying to manage adversity - a priceless benefit. When we learn the secret of managing adversity, we transform ourselves into God. With God, we achieve deification here on earth.
But, how does God want us to manage adversity? What is the methodology that God wants us to use?
To manage adversity, Jesus brought from heaven to earth "grease" for the wheels of our passage through the valley of tears. The "grease" is the technology of applying love to suffering. Love is the tool that mitigates the harshness of our passage through the valley of tears. Suffering tends to transmogrify us into the most miserable and hideous of loveless beasts. It robs us of the resemblance we bear to God (Genesis 1:27). However, we can deny this natural tendency. By holding onto love, we deny ourselves. Love enables us to pick up and carry our crosses (Matthew 16:24). Love turns us into superman. Jesus hung from his Cross to teach us how to hang from our crosses. The Son of God was so confident in the technology of applying love to suffering that he let us impale him on the Cross to demonstrate to us that the technology works. He donned the jetpack and flew to show us that we too can fly. What a crazy daredevil this Jesus was! When you hang as Jesus hung, cling as Jesus clung, love as Jesus loved. Hold tight and refuse to let go of love, suffering's invincible foe. Only love kicks suffering's ass. Love is our act of defiance. By loving, we point the middle finger at the crosses that nail themselves to us. When we defy them, we become God - divinization takes place.
Yes, the pedagogy of God is severe. For the children of Adam and Eve, he inserts a delay between the gift of life and the gift of paradise. The delay in his gift-giving, however, is brief. God limits it to a lifetime. A lifetime no matter how long is an infinitesimally thin slice of time compared to the thickness of eternity. During the delay, we pass through the valley of tears. Our passage through the valley of tears is harsh but effective medicine. God prescribes the harsh medicine because of its effectiveness. When the gift of paradise is given to us, we will keep it. We will not fumble the ball as Lucifer did, as the gaggle of angels who follow Lucifer did, as Eve did and as Adam did. The prodigal son is never going back to the pig sty and neither are we. We now know better.
What is the big picture of Christianity? God is trying to procreate. He is trying to reproduce. It's all about making babies. Love is the seed. We are the egg. God is trying to fertilize the egg with love. The Church is the midwife who helps in the birth of "little Gods" who, like children, frolic and play in his kingdom with hearts filled to the brim with love (Matthew 18:2-4).