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In God We Trust?
29 December 2006

If one believes in God, one also probably believes all wisdom ultimately finds its source in God. If we take up any strand of beauty and truth and goodness and follow it, eventually we wend our way out of the labyrinth and its obscurity and find ourselves standing in the full light of Day.

Call this an article of faith for the moment, but if you grant that, if such a Being as God exists, surely there would be nothing more excellent than Him. No idea, no wisdom, no discoverable or created thing could surpass Him. Nor would anything be unknown to Him Who should be called Wisdom and Truth.

Is it possible for Deity to know something less than Himself, though, something good, right, true, beautiful, without at the same time willing it into being? If there is anything in the way of wisdom in the world, God wills it to be here – He does not oppose it, does not obliterate it utterly from our reality. Which is to say, in some way, it is connected back to the Deity who sustains it by His will, His desire, and allows it to be inasmuch as anything can be said “to be” in this world of flux.

We’ll not broach the question of whether He wills and sustains evil and stupidity too, except to say, with Plotinus and St. Augustine, that evil is not a form of being, it is a lack of being, an imperfection in something that exists. If God sustains evil and stupidity, perhaps it is only because He is merciful and does not destroy those people and things that are, while good in themselves, plagued with imperfections of a high degree.

There is a Congressman who wished to take his informal oath of office on The Holy Koran just as many Christians take it on various versions of Holy Scriptures that include the New Testament, just as many Jews take it on The Torah, Mormons on The Book of Mormon, and so on. And there is another Congressman who whipped and is whipping his constituency up into a frenzy, pretending that some great wickedness is being done if a man simply takes his oath on that Sacred Law he cherishes and which guides him to wish to do the right and avoid the wrong.

Wishing to do right and avoid wrong is a part of human wisdom; being unashamed of one’s religious convictions (or lack thereof) and conscience is also a sign of wisdom. Tolerance and appreciation for diversity are virtues just as surely as courage is; they involve justice and a proper sort of fairness. Wishing to live in peace with one’s neighbors is certainly a sign of virtue, respecting others and retraining oneself from being obnoxious, even to those with whom one disagrees.

Virtue is most certainly a kind of wisdom – perhaps the best sort in the human world. Ask yourself: Is our Congressman who is so offended by his Muslim brother’s convictions being virtuous and dignified when he complains out loud that taking an oath on the Muslim scriptures will lead to the downfall of the nation?

Which Congressman, the Muslim or the Christian, is closer, it seems, to wisdom? Whose actions are such as would please the Father of us all?

It may not be utterly as clear for everyone as it is for me, so allow me to add this question: Which of you would like to stand and claim the Holy Koran contains absolutely no truth, no beauty, no goodness, and so is the very opposite of wisdom? In other words, who would like to tell me these scriptures are absolutely corrupt and beyond redemption, that there is nothing like decency and honor and gentleness to be learned from the Suras?

Of those who would stand and tell me this, which of you has actually read The Koran? Have you ever asked a Muslim what he or she believes about how to live and what to value? And I don’t mean Osama bin Laden; I mean the family of Islamic faith in your neighborhood.

There have been many, many great people who have walked the Earth who have been Muslims or influenced by and appreciative of The Koran. The great Sufi mystic, Rumi comes immediately to mind. Go read his poems – you will not find a more tolerant, gentle, benevolent soul; he hungered and thirsted after righteousness and after God Himself. He wanted all people to do the same, regardless of religion. He wanted nothing different than the Christ Himself taught: “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind, and love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Jesus, being Jewish of course, was speaking as many good rabbis had before Him.

Wisdom comes from God and leads to God; it is the ladder of Jacob’s dream with the angels going up and down to Heaven. Wisdom comes into the world out of the mouths and actions of all people who, knowingly or not, are doing the will of the Almighty. It doesn’t matter whether they are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Pagans, . . . ; or even atheists. God knows and judges realities, not appearances, and these differences in religion (or lack of religion) are the product of the great varieties of human experience and culture and philosophy and opinion and time and geography. But inasmuch as all religions of worth contain wisdom, they receive it of God.

It is not anyone’s place to second-guess why God was so merciful as to grant His blessings and wisdom to the whole world and not to allow one special group to hoard it for themselves alone.

Wisdom is not a human product. It comes from God. It demands from us, on our part, humility, not the persecution of our brothers and sisters who merely want to say a simple oath on that book of scripture which the Lord Our God saw fit to give them, even if that book is not ours.





Richard Van Ingram
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