God and Taking Nothing for Granted… (well, maybe just one thing)
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Me.”
What if we take nothing for granted; how do we find God, the Ultimate? Well, we must presuppose logic, in some sense. Right? For without it the inquiry can’t even get off the ground. So there it is, we presuppose logic.
If logic is presupposed, then our task is to seek for an answer to ultimacy within the structure of logic. We must seek for some foundation that anchors the endless regress of logical dependency (If X, then Y. But why X?). We find ourselves on a quest for a necessary beginning that kicks off the chain, a non-dependent initiator of all subsequent propositions. But—and here’s the problem—the idea of an un-caused cause is not possible within the structure of logic. Such a notion, in fact, breaks logic.
Thus we find that the answer to the question of ultimacy cannot come from within the logical structure of existence. Logic, it turns out, cannot be presupposed, but neither can it be avoided. This is the paradox, and it is one instance of the general paradox of existence-itself. The rationality of logic is both a part of the question as well as part of the answer. It is for this reason that the question of ultimacy, even with respect to bare logic, is birthed from the answer while at the same time the answer contains the question.
We can see here that the “answer” to the question of ultimacy is not an answer in any conventional sense (and neither is the question a conventional question!). In fact, the question of ultimacy destroys all answers just as it is present in all questions. An answer which serves as a foundation is therefore impossible. In view of this, what is needed is both the death of the quest to secure a safe foundation followed by an entirely different way of relating oneself to reality.
A paradoxical stance must be adopted to match the paradox of existence. As to the question of ultimacy, it is my suggestion that it is both “answered” and deepened in each moment we reflect on the possibilities and limits of existence. We must learn to live in the paradox that the closer we get to anything—a stone, a thunderstorm, a friend, a lover, our very selves—the deeper the mystery becomes. Can we tolerate this terrible mystery? It’s not a trivial question. To honor the mystery of reality is in a very real sense to die. It is a death that goes to the core of our very self, to all the defenses we’ve built up to keep the terrible mystery of reality at bay.
This is why most of our questions of ultimacy don’t go nearly deep enough. Instead, we stop short. We ask safe, shallow questions and accept answers which have lost the paradox of reality, that don’t negate their own pretensions (as in the desire for an answer from within the structure of logic). With respect to ultimacy, “question” and “answer” must always be one. Life, then, cannot be the quest for a settled foundation, but must ever be the project by which both question and answer are deepened.