Awareness of the divine begins with wonder. It is the result of what man does with his higher incomprehension. The greatest hindrance to such awareness is our adjustment to conventional notions, to mental cliches. Wonder or radical amazement, the state of maladjustment to words and notions, is therefore a prerequisite for an authentic awareness of that which is.I agree with this assessment. Awe, wonder and radical amazement are the taproot of the religious experience. But what I find interesting is in how different we are in our experiences of wonder. There are varieties of awe.
...The way to faith leads through acts of wonder and radical amazement...
For example, a couple of weeks ago a friend of mine expressed something along these lines: "Sometimes, when I contemplate the power of God, how God could just totally wipe us out and destroy us, I just feel the need to fall on my face and worship."
I've often wondered about the emotional appeal of Reformed theology. I think my friend captured it. For some people the vision of a holy, sovereign, and omnipotent God fills the soul with awe and wonder. And, trying to instill this awe in others, you'll often hear people describe the power and majesty of God in these terrible and awful terms. And I'm using the terms "terrible" and "awful" in precise ways here. "Terrible" and "awful" as in omnipotent and unapproachable majesty.
The trouble was, when my friend was describing the power of God in this way I felt a chill run down my spine. The notion that God could or would "wipe me out" doesn't move me to awe. I find that vision, well, awful, only this time I mean "unappealing" rather than "full of awe."
To be clear, I'm not saying one view is more right than the other. I'm just saying that people differ in what prompts radical amazement. And truth be told, I think that's the main problem I have with Reformed theology. There is an emotional disjoint. I just don't find the God pictured in Reformed theology as something wonderful, awe-inspiring, or worthy of worship. Raw power isn't anything that moves me to worship, emotionally speaking. More, I think you become what you worship. So I worry about worshiping power, even if awe-inspiring.
So were do I find radical amazement? Mainly in this: I find radical amazement in the delicate, poignant, fragile, particularity of human life.
I find it remarkable that you exist. How did you coalesce out of stardust? What a remarkable string of contingent events led to your being here. And there you stand, so fragile, so breakable, so rare, so precious, so unique.
The fact that you and I are here at all fills me with radical amazement.
That is a very different kind of amazement from bowing down before power. It is an amazement found in what is delicate, fleeting, frail, and weak. It is an amazement at flowers, seasons, sunsets, clouds, rain showers, laughter, tears, friendship, kindness, the young, the old, grief, loss and love.
That is what fills me with awe.