Father Matta El-Meskeen
The Vast Bounds Of Faith In God
In this article, Fr Matta delves into the relationship between God and man, and how much His love surpasses our imagination. Here are the points which this article comprises:
1. The believer and his attitude towards the destructive forces of nature, its power and strength.
2. Harm and loss, and the general law of development: ďthe mustard seedĒ.
3. The human mind, its limits in discovering Godís wisdom in creation, and its growth in controlling natureís outbursts.
4. The apparent freedom of manís mind and Godís controlling power over it.
5. Why God does not punish the non believer and blasphemous of miracles.
6. What is the Divine wisdom of God to allow negative tendencies take place in nature?
7. The question science has not been able to answer up till now.
8. The position of faith in relation to thought and manís true joy.
The Meaning of Believing in Godís Omnipotence
To believe in God is that we believe He is omnipotent, wise, just, merciful and loving.
Faith in God requires us to have faith in every one of these attributes and follow them in our lives. Faith is not an arbitrary need to satisfy Godís power, but the secret of every oneís happiness who believes with joy and contentment. God determined faith for mankind due to love, the most important of His attributes. Having loved mankind as His distinctive creation God accordingly invited it with loving insistence to believe in Him, to enjoy His presence and fulfill the blessed purpose for which He created it. For God created man to enjoy Godís attributes that are all good and benevolent.
It is now completely clear that when faith diminished and became weak in the hearts of nations, menís griefs began to increase. The phantom of deprivation, famines, wars and destruction started to creep upon the whole world. At a certain moment the whole word will be certain that without God it is impossible for man to be happy.
Faith in Godís omnipotence is the belief in Godís supremacy over natureís forces:
This is the first characteristic, not with relation to God, because we do not know the order of Godís attributes in Him, but in relation to man who lives in a materialistic world, ruled by superior natural forces.
To begin with we must believe in Godís omnipotence over all, because God is actually such, and for the forces of nature not to terrorize us as if they had the greatest power over us concerning our lives, security and welfare. The person who believes in Godís supremacy over natureís forces is greatly comforted, especially when faced by its strength or reads about its announced might in several parts of the world. The destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, wild storms, scary floods, and devastative epidemics cannot scare the heart of the believer in Godís omnipotent power over natureís forces. He therefore is not afraid during the peak of its fury knowing that God controls all its forces within a path it cannot overstep and wisely restrains it to lead it according to His determined will and blessed purpose for which He created it. No matter the appearance of its destructive effects the purpose for its settlement after its fury inevitably carries new instruction to the earthís inhabitants for them to progress to a better state.
This Divine supremacy is to transform the loss into a greater gain:
When we believe in Godís total power and wisdom that directs all world matters, we are reassured that if the world is assailed by some sort of harm, of which a part affects us, the benefit that will result from that harm is sufficient to compensate for the loss. Nay it will increase by the amount to develop and delight millions throughout the ages in compensation for the loss of thousands within a limited period.
This is the law creation follows in all of its elements. It is the law of general development represented by the mustard seed that dies for a hundred seeds to live. Or when a womanís strong labor pains give birth to a new-born. Paul the Apostle thus assures us that all creation suffers together and goes into labor awaiting Godís adoption of mankind for a totally new position, physically and spiritually, which is what we are impatiently hoping for (see Rom 8: 22,23).
It would have been possible for God to avoid all loss in every species of creation but it would have necessitated everything remaining static and unchangeable in itself. Adam would have remained Adam, the mustard seed would have remained a single mustard seen all alone, and all creation would have remained as is, with no viable development, because development inevitably consists of a condition of change, of skinning from one stage to the other i.e. it includes an operation of death and life.
At all times less loss and greater gain:
The earth also could have remained without quakes, volcanoes and floods, but it would necessary have entailed a cease of motion, and a total prevention of heat from it, these two elements inevitably creating volcanoes, earthquakes, floods and storms. The great benefit which man consequently enjoys whether in the development of his kind and in that of other living creation, in the heat he uses in all his affairs, or the movement by which he feels his being and existence, all of these must inevitably include a law of loss and gain. But it always is: less loss and greater gain, i.e. a movement towards the better and improvement, i.e. a motion towards God!
Our faith in Godís omnipotent power and wisdom is increased when we notice His work in creation increase beneficially in a clear and tangible manner over the years and throughout generations.
Man, Adam, was a lone, sole individual and now there are two thousand million (in 1957 when this message was written) who tread the earth, while at present in 2005 the number has reached 6000 million individuals and more. Out of Adamís death emerged unlimited and innumerable lives that cannot be assessed if all generations are to be counted. We now find that the floods that killed thousands of people in past ages have fertilized millions of acres of land to provide for millions of mankind throughout generations. The earthquakes that destroyed many old homes were a stimulant for thousands of workers to build modern towns. The volcanoes that annihilated souls and towns added greater stability to the earthís interior to insure extended years of joy to several millions.
We can therefore move on to say that the temporary losses man faces in nature are in line with Godís omnipotence. Because in-spite of it happening in frightful forms yet all transform into greater benefit through the wisdom of His superior power. This is for us to be able to say that even though Godís omnipotence imposes stronger negative situations, we sense in them (i.e. Godís power) a greater power to change all these negative forces to total benefit. We must therefore always realize logically and in practice that Godís superior power is really omnipotent to change everything in existence to the better, but in the long term.
The negative factors were not able to prevail in the world unendingly:
It is very clear that up till now not one negative factor since creation till today was able to prevail, or grow to affect the world harmfully till infinity, without control. We therefore believe for sure that behind these negative powers there exists Godís power ďthat controls allĒ, that directs the negative to profit and to a better life that is more stable and more flourishing.
We can also say, with our firm faith in Godís superior power to control the world of nature, that the inevitable good to which all natureís works and movements lead there does not exist what we name completely negative works, or what we consider as total loss, but they are needed transformations to lead lifeís course towards its final benefit.
The satisfactory proof is that since Godís creation of the world up till today it is continually developing and moving to the better and has never declined. Maybe there are complete species of animals or plants that have completely withdrawn from existence and have disappeared due to their inability to bear change in nature, but there are species instead more able to follow life replacing them.
Manís mind is one of the illustrations of Godís powers that works to the benefit of the universe:
We must also believe that Godís power and omnipotence are not two static attributes in Godís person with which he plans the movements of the universe behind this material veil that forms manís world.
Man is one of Godís distinguished creations and He endowed him with a very precise mind that has a piercing divine power to perceive the essence of matters and the material facts of life. He thus joins God in the truth of things created, for creation was made with extremely wise precision, but is not completely hidden from manís brain. As man is a Divine creation and God gave him a good part of His wisdom, having made creation with His wisdom, therefore man can daily uncover this wisdom not because he is a god but by discovering it through the truth within his brainís quintessence.
Wisdom is realized by the wise person, and truth is recognized by the searcher of truth. As man is a creature, he therefore does not discover the essence of the creative truth but discovers the method, the mere wise wonderful method by which these objects and creations were made, due to him possessing this same method. Whenever he discovers a law in life it prepares him to discover another law and thus manís knowledge of wisdom, and truth increase through absorbing the method of wisdom and truth in creation that also exists within the core of his own being.
In the same manner that God created, under very organized, precise and wise laws light, heat and motion in substances, He also created brains in man. In the same way that heat acts in the universe does manís mind work. As manís mind was allocated Divine wisdom and knowledge of truth he is thus the most qualified of all created creatures to act in developing good and contributing to happiness in creation.
In the same manner that God controls earthquakes and volcanic eruptions so as not to destroy creation, through His wise power, He also bestowed on man to act through his wise mind at putting a stop, avoiding, or diverting to the better natureís local upheavals. He thus gave him the ability through his brains to govern the beasts, and lethal microbes and various diseases.
Whenever manís mind develops and is filled with the knowledge or truth of creationís particularities and its laws, his power to control them rises and is able to move to the highest good through the same dictate and method God comprehensively uses in the general creation of the universe. But it does not cross oneís mind that man acts from his own special point of view as a free sovereign creature in directing his actions toward the good he desires or to the evil he harbors. No, manís mind is subject, as the rest of creatures, to Godís omnipotent power that controls all the aspects of his development and thought.
Although man sometimes purports evil on purpose as well as destructive works to his kind that seem widespread, and behind which devastation seems to exist in a terrible way, such as his invention of annihilating war implements, yet evil doing as such cannot escape the control of Godís omnipotent hand. He is finally the One who directs him to good in the same way He directs frightening earthquakes.
Because the human mind tends, when it distances itself from God, to the left, towards destructiveness, it is therefore forced to rally under impotent creation that is always in need of Godís wisdom and direction.
This last reason is therefore the most conducive for us to believe, depend, and trust in the importance of Godís omnipotent power and wisdom, and for manís mind, as it was since the beginning, not to become the reason to spoil life for himself, and form in paradise the nucleus of rebellion.
In spite of the outward freedom that man seems to possess for himself in this universe yet we can say that manís mind is controlled by Godís fantastic power that acts extensively and is far reaching, subject to the inner circle of Godís wisdom and eternal purpose. At the same time manís mind moves within a self limited circle within which he acts as if he were free and as if he possesses a special will he directs as he wants whether negatively or positively. It is the same as the earth that rotates around itself in its special sphere, and at the same time rotates subject to the sunís sphere, and is actually not free in its movement that appears as if special i.e. its daily motion; because the source of its special motion is also acquired from the sunís power of attraction and its direct influence over it.
How does God accept that His name be blasphemed and His existence denied in spite of His omnipotence?
Sometimes manís mind errs in doubt, with its limited abilities, lost in understanding subjects and grasping simple matters that occur within the range of his moderate capabilities. So he consequently denies the Superior Wisdom behind all creation and Godís omnipotence, publicly blaspheming His great name. Then people become perplexed: how does God accept His name to be blasphemed and His existence denied, although it is within His ability to show His superior power by punishing the heretic or for instance annulling the allegerís blasphemy through a miracle!
But it escapes people that any claim of a negative procedure God takes towards those who deny His existence and blaspheme Him is in fact a diminishment of His great attribute, i.e. His omnipotence. If God vindictively punishes man for his blasphemy it means that God is defending His Divine power, as if His Divine power could be attacked by evil or harm, which is impossible because Godís power cannot be diminished by any factor, no matter what it may be. For that reason He is named ĎOmnipotentí.
God also does not annul the claim of those who blaspheme Him by proving His existence through a miracle for instance, because that also would be a type of self defense. God Forbid! Godís power is firm since the beginning and is eternal. Instead with time peopleís blasphemy and calumny increases its certainty and permanence. Does manís unbelief annul Godís existence?
Godís omnipotence is apparent in transforming the evil of heretics to beneficial endings:
Godís omnipotence has another work to fulfill from which it is clear that it is actually superior and absolute in every sense, by transforming evil, accomplished by heretics through their heresy and unbelief, to a beneficial end. In accordance to the extent atheists practically and intellectually compete to present proofs of Godís non existence, all the forces of good and faith are repulsed in believers making them exceed in their work bearing greater witness which deepens manís realization of God throughout time.
Thus whenever atheistic numbers leave the human rows inching towards God, manís consciousness of God increases in depth and bond, with at the end Godís existence in manís world increasing in power and certainty.
Man was created to become itself in the end a good creation, a witness to Godís good. His abilities were created for the good purpose of the universe in which he works, knowing that God does not punish man just for the sake of punishment, for punishment does not go with Godís attribute of omnipotence nor does it suit His purpose in creating man. Godís absolute power is stimulated only against the negative tendencies that arise in the universe, whether general or single, whether in inanimate creation or in rational creation, so as to absorb the evil within it and direct it to good, transforming it throughout time to better. We have previously mentioned that the negative upheavals in nature, earthquakes and floods, can be considered a kind of beneficial activity if we widen our view-point to include the positive results on which they are based.
We can also look at mankindís revolutionary ideas against truth and God, whether it be an individual expressing his anger against God, or a group expressing its theory of denying His existence, as a type of negative intellectual activity. God does not smother it as if He were powerless, but guides it within the calm of His absolute power in the same way He directs a destructive earthquake to produce out of it extremely stable and fertile fruits of faith, but over the long term.
Examples of Godís power to transform evil into beneficial results:
Didaclesí terrible persecution of Christianity in the world, or the movement of scientific atheism that arose against religion in the eighteenth century did not move God to kill the despot or annihilate the scientists of a whole century, but God was forgiving with the works of this one and the abuse of others. He was preparing for those who were martyred crowns of everlasting glory, and was patient with the pagan world to deplete its force. At the same time and in these contradictory circumstances strong movements of faith became active in the Christian world which fed the world and still do. It is as if Didacles and the other despots, of which generations are full of, are destructive floods leaving behind them fertile land that feeds the world throughout generations.
Thus even if man corrupts his way, his punishment is transformed whether sooner or later to good, and to the development of humankind around him. God is ever the victor to manís benefit.
There might exist individual cases in which man acquired a type of punishment due to his blasphemy of God, denying His work or lying to Him, such as Herod who did not glorify God, or Hanania and Saphira or Simon the magician etc. In all we find none was punishment a kind of revenge, God forbid. God is not vengeful with evil. It is a form of temporary judgment that gives an image of the truth, of final judgment, that of annulling the negative for the sake of the positive.
Godís superior power and the depth of His eternal wisdom cannot be mentally fathomed:
True, manís mind is a good implement to get to know Godís superior power and eternal wisdom in the universe, but it is not suited to encompass it, because the mind is Ďpartí of Godís powerful and wise work and not Ďallí. Therefore his sphere of knowledge is just limited to the circle of his perception and will not one day exceed that which is above his realization. It is obvious that there exist matters, even in the physical world, that exceed manís perception, as for instance the beginning of life, or what will life become after death?
Even that which is within the mind of humankindís perceptive sphere, man will not be able to perceive except for its manifestations and conduct. As for the law of causes it is more difficult than to be analyzed by the brain. Man knows how a plant lives and grows but why does it live? Why does it grow? It is as if it has a strong pressing will that drives it from the earth and lifts it high against the strong forces of the earthís gravity.
We also know how we think, speak, work and live but why do we live? This is the problem of philosophers which no human mind was able to express. Thus no matter how much the human mind delves into creation to research the details of the universe and its creatures it will not discover except the laws by which it lives if living or its natural characteristics if inanimate.
Science can attain the analysis of every thing and get to know its inherent power. It can analyze the minutest existing atom, discover its characteristics and use its inherent power either for good or evil, but will not know why the atom was created. We cannot belittle the value of the law of causes in relation to the law of conduct. Regardless of the laws we discover the world follows, the qualifications we use of materials we inspect and analyze, and the knowledge we get of the characteristics and nature of living creatures; then fail in knowing why the world and that which is in it was created, and why we were created; all that other knowledge is thus deficient. Nay it lacks the most important element of manís perception which is the reason of existence forming one of the reasons hindering manís happiness in this lifeís age. In spite of its inherent knowledge and wisdom the mind will never be able to realize through its special analysis of material matters the law of causes or rather, Godís purpose in creation.
As a consequence we must not expect our knowledge of matters to lead us to the knowledge of Godís power and wisdom, but the opposite is true, our faith in Godís omnipotence and wisdom prepares us, through contemplating creation, to discover the truth on which the work of His hands is based. Our faith in Godís power will thus increase as well as certainty in all His promises.
In spite of the inscrutability of the complete essence of Godís inscrutable will as the book says: ďO depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!Ē (Ro 11: 33,34) ďFor who has the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?Ē (I Co 2: 16) This is relative to manís personal possibilities. But all Godís works and His will are scrutinized by Godís Spirit and through faith in Him:
ďa secret and hidden wisdom ÖFor the Spirit searches everything, even the depth of God Öno one comprehends the Spirit of God the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God ÖGod has revealed to us through the Spirit.Ē (I Co 2: 7, 10, 11, 10)
ďfor he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time.Ē (Eph 1: 9)
ďIf you will not believe, surely you shall not be established.Ē (Is 7: 9)
ďAnd so Ö we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.Ē (Col 1: 9)
ďFor the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.Ē (Ha 2: 14)
We thus find that it is not right to depend on mental analysis to resolve the secret of faith in Godís superior power and wisdom. The incapacity with which the mind is blocked, in understanding the law of the cause for existence of everything in creation, is reason enough for faith to be the basis of thought in attaining the perception of God, not mental analysis. This is inevitable to ensure manís happiness with God and to extend his knowledge of the truth, lifeís secrets, and a sense of existence and its cause.