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December 27, 2009

Christian theologian Bernard Loomer once said “We are born into mystery, we live in mystery, and we die in mystery.” He meant that religion will always be insufficient to render the divine and individual human existence fully understandable—they are too vast, deep, and diverse to explain rationally.

This sentiment frightens religious Knights because they fear it means that the presence of mystery means that God is not sufficiently known, that God’s moral rules are not sufficiently known, and therefore the mapped-out steps to reach heaven are untrustworthy. These conclusions cause Knights great anxiety since they fear ambiguity. As a result, Knights resist mystery within their own faiths—and don’t like it in others’ faiths, either.

This resistance to mystery is not limited to religious Knights. Religious or atheist, conservative or liberal, Knights see mysticism as irrational, unfounded, or dangerously naive. Furthermore, atheist Knights’ beliefs are often upended if or when they have spiritual experiences—their absolute certainty in the absence of a divine, or even something beyond the tangible, is shaken.

Loomer’s sentiment, however, consoles Gardeners, who see religious mystery as evidence of the unending robust ineffability of God—that God is far bigger than our theologies. For Gardeners, far more at ease with ambiguity, the presence of mystery indicates the presence of God.

As our rational approaches to religion continue to break down—and no rational explanation about the divine will ever be sufficient—we become far more aware that there is a deep mystery within the tangible, understandable world. For some this invokes a great dread; for others it invokes a staggering sense of wonder.

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