The mysteries of Our Lord

What we can know, and what we can't.

Science is constantly stretching the boundaries of what we know. In looking at God’s creation, we find numerous mysteries to explore and understand better. And yet, some mysteries will remain with us forever, beyond the ability of science to penetrate.

shifting boundaries

Scientists are well aware of the boundaries of our knowledge. Significant unresolved theoretical issues persist in physics, including in our understanding of gravity (primarily based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity) and in how matter is structured as explained in quantum theory. We postulate unknowns like dark matter and dark energy to paper over mysteries and explain what we see in the cosmos. As I mentioned in a previous column, the new James Webb Telescope might provide evidence that will help us better understand the structure of our universe. While our understanding is incomplete, we have made remarkable progress and scientists continue to address unknowns.

When we look at the human brain, it is pitiful how little we know. Mental illness clearly has a biological basis, but, as we are all too painfully aware, our ability to help is often limited. Theories of consciousness and how it works are, at this point, speculative. We have hints on where and how in the brain we are self-aware, but we don’t even have good categories to explain the various aspects of our conscious awareness. Yet even here, we are making progress. Some newer techniques show great promise in helping at least some people with depression and neurological disorders. If we can figure out how to slow the onset of dementia by ten years, we will profoundly benefit many people. I am sure we will get there, though I am not sure when.

The mystery of Christ

Then there are the mysteries that will always be beyond our explanation and understanding. We are remembering and celebrating the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, a set of events beyond comprehension. We believe that Jesus was both fully human and fully God in one person and that, in his death and resurrection, he reunited us with God, removing the barrier of sin. What does it mean that Christ emptied himself to become human? How is it that the Word became flesh? How was the Trinity of the Godhead disrupted when Jesus died? What is the Holy Spirit, and how does it act today?

The two natures of Jesus, fully God and fully man, are bound up in a person who walked this earth about two millennia ago. The dual nature of Jesus is very different from the duality that some of us speak about of a body and a soul. Our duality may not be real; I may be a soul rather than having a soul. Jesus, on the other hand, is both human and divine. What happened to both these natures in his death by crucifixion and then his resurrection is something we will never be able to understand. Yet the reality of Jesus’ birth and life as an individual who walked in Palestine, who was tired, cried and slept, is evident in every page of the Gospels.

Love > answers

Unlike science mysteries, these are things we will always have to accept by faith, trusting that the love evident in God’s actions is enough for us to love each other. Just as Job gets no final answer to why misfortune happened to him, we will always stand in awe before the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of the God who emptied himself to be with us. We live in faith that we will all be united with him and each other in the holy bridal banquet one day, when all faith mysteries will be explained or perhaps fade away, as we feast amid God’s love. Hopefully we will still be able to work on the science mysteries.


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