Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Limits of "Why"

Normal dialogue between my three year-old son and I:

"Yes son"
"Why do we have mouths?"
"To eat"
"Why do we have arms?"
"To carry things"
"Why do we have heads?"
"To think with"

...but yesterday, he added this one to the list:

"Why do we have God?"

I paused, and my other children started to offer answers such as "to keep us safe" and "to make sure we have what we need."  But I still wasn't too quick to answer, or even to comment on my other children's answers.  Most people are aware that younger children function from an "ego-centric" point of view; they tend to see the world from their own perspective alone.  So these kind of questions are not out of place.

But I was taken aback because many times our questions about God are framed from this same point of view.  "Why does God allow this?"  "How could God do this?" "Why doesn't God make himself more clear?" The only answer my son can accept about "why we have eyes" would be an answer that speaks to its utility to him.  I could try to tell him that why is not as important as how we use them, or explain that the purpose developed  out of a need, or any number of deeper points.  For him it is just a functional question- what does this mean for me?

If our primary questions about God center on the concern of "what does this mean for me" then the only answers we will ever have ears to hear are the answers that speaks to Gods utility for us.  To really begin to understand the reality of God and to fully understand what it means for us we must get beyond ourselves and open up to the bigger reality that God was not created for humanity, but humanity for God.

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