I recently read an article in which a woman dismissed belief in God as “magical thinking.” She preferred the world of science, of certainty. I took the words in. And then I thought, “Wow, what a fundamental misunderstanding of faith.” I’m sure the author would not have appreciated this take-away, but there it is. Belief in God has nothing to do with magic. Mystery, yes. But not magic.
Trying to explain faith is a lot like trying to explain love (not a coincidence since God = Love). Why does love happen? Why does it endure? Who knows? Certainly trying to justify belief in an all-powerful, all-good God presents similar conundrums: Why does God allow disasters to occur? Why does God let children die? What kind of God slaps his Chosen People in the face with a Holocaust?
Those are tough questions, questions centuries of scholars and saints have struggled to answer. I fully understand if someone doesn’t find these answers acceptable; they were, after all, formulated by fallible beings for fallible beings. God has not given us the real answers, and for good reason. Like Tom Cruise in that movie everybody quotes, we can’t handle the truth. It would be like trying to explain calculus to toddlers.
The truth is that believing in God demands not magical thinking, but a radical acceptance of mystery. Science cannot explicate everything. In fact, when it comes to faith, it cannot explicate anything at all. Mystery permeates human existence. That faith in God exists at all is a mystery. Yet it has endured, in myriad faces and guises, over all of time and history. Belief in That Than Which Nothing Greater Can Be Thought precedes and supersedes any scientific theory one can conceive.
I don’t know how to explain why bad things happen to good people, why those we love die young or tragically, why storms ravage and earthquakes consume. It’s not my job to explain, or even to understand. And if that’s your sticking point, I can only say this: I’m sorry. Not everything is explicable. Some things are mysteries. Human beings are fated — by our very humanity — to living with mystery. All the science in the world can’t fix that.
But guess what does help? You guessed it: Faith.