Divine Mystery
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Discipline Five: Mystery

Jim Sherblom - Transitions

The first mystery is simply that there is a mystery. A mystery that can never be explained or understood. Only encountered from time to time. Nothing is obvious. Everything conceals something else. The Hebrew word for universe Olam comes from the word for hidden. Something of the Holy One is hidden within.  — “Honey From the Rock” by Lawrence Kushner

 My childhood faith was formed within a loving caring small town Baptist community.  But as to the nature of God, more was concealed than revealed.  As young adults Loretta and I chose to raise our kids and anchor our faith within the Unitarian Universalism of First Parish in Concord.  Its broad inclusive affirmation of the worth and dignity of every person, seeking justice, equity and compassion in human relations, and acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations fit our sense of the divine mystery.

But what do I intend to convey with words such as God or divine mystery?  The existential “God is dead” movement was popular among some Protestant theologians when I left the Baptists.  This was the death of the big white omniscient and all powerful “God in the sky when I die” metaphysics.  Such anthropomorphizing of the divine mystery no longer felt culturally appropriate.  It disavowed our participation in divine mystery while disempowering humanity.

Perhaps like quantum physicists, trying to simultaneously describe attributes and actions at the quantum scale, mystical theologians must accept that any comprehensive explanation of the nature of God limits divine mystery to our human understanding.  Any comprehensive description of God is inherently less than fully true and hence in some sense a form of idolatry.  A mystic can speak of their own experiences, or teachings of faith traditions, but neither can fully capture the entirety of that which we mean by divine mystery.


This entry was posted in: Divine Mystery


Rev. Dr. Jim Sherblom is a transcendentalist, author, mystic, theologian, entrepreneur, social impact investor, company creator and spiritual seeker. Jim holds a BA from Yale, an MBA from Harvard, and Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Andover Newton.

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