Last Sunday I preached on the Prophet Habakuk and at one point spoke of reaping what you sow. One of the messages of Habakuk is that if you oppress and exploit the poor, God may eventually allow someone more powerful than you to oppress and exploit you.
After the homily, one of my bright catechumens, asked me: “So then what’s the difference between ‘reap what you sow’ and deism. If bad things automatically happen as a result of bad and good things because of good, then it sounds like the Great Clock wound by God and left alone that the deists suggested.
While there are many ways I could have responded to this, what I actually said was something like this: the universe is like a great clock wound by God in the beginning. It is also like God is intimately involved (immanent) in every on-going detail of the universe. It is also like God has left a great deal up to human free will. And it is also like God has predestined everything.
We are talking about God, after all. Why should it surprise us that true statements about God and His relation to us and the universe are contradictory? God is ineffable. That means there are no words to describe Him. God is inconceivable. That means there are no concepts that can encompass Him. To speak of God, as several Church Fathers have said, is to lie. God does not fit into a conceptual box, into a category, into a scheme. God is God.
Nevertheless, God is known, really known. Yet God is not completely known, for God is unknowable. Fr. Thomas Hopko puts it this way: “God is unknowable, but you have to know Him first to know that.” God reveals Himself, but the limitations of the creature are such that knowledge of the Creator can only be in bits. True bits, but true bits that do not fit into any rational pattern, scheme or category that would enable us to approach God without faith.
We come to God with faith. We know bits, but really only enough to suggest to us how very much we don’t know. We come with faith to the God who orders all things, and grants us freedom. We come with faith to the God who allows us to reap what we sow and does not deal with us as our sins deserve. We entrust ourselves to the God we know we don’t know. Any other conceivable god wouldn’t be God.