An inconceivable God

“He is not a male; he is not a female; he is not a neuter. He neither is, nor is not. When he is sought, he will take the form in which he is sought; but again, he will not come in such a form. …

“It is indeed difficult, to describe the name of the Lord!”

This is how God appeared to sages of the Upanishads, in not-quite-ancient India. I would update it, by adding that it neither is, nor is not, compatible with our Christian attempts at description. A Christian would not have God depersonalized to this extent, while even today, a Hindu might think this would be a good thing.

But consider, the Christian has it both ways, in the person of Jesus Christ. The Father of Christ can be — for as much as it means anything to the human understanding — more abstract. He cannot, even in principle, be seen. Christ is less abstract, and more immediately poignant, to the human person. The Bible stories present Him as within the reach of the sympathetic imagination, in a way that, for instance, a mathematical abstraction is not within reach.

“Personhood” has many implications, including the implication of reality. But then what we’ve implied is transcended, through the provision that Christ is “Very God.” Somewhere in this, we have stepped through the irresistible Indian qualifications of God, without reducing everything else to “maya.” It is, theologically, why even as an intellectual attainment, Christianity exceeds all other religions.

But was it achieved by human hands or human minds? This is where the question of Faith re-enters, in its peculiarly Christian way. Our Saviour had to declare Himself. There was no way he could have been discovered. Our Faith must be necessarily a “reckless” departure, from what can be done on our own terms, to what can be done only on His.

Without Christ, Christ is inconceivable.