Jesus the Planner

Judgment and belief regarding actions to be performed can never attain more than a precarious probability.

William James, The Quest for Certainty

In general, people are planners. Some of us may be better or worse at it, but we all make plans for the future. But, as we have heard, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry” (adapted from the poem by Robert Burns). We’ve also heard this referred to as Murphy’s Law.

So, we make our plans and then God chuckles and says “yeaaaahh, no.” Stuff happens, and people say “it’s God’s will.”

Jesus tells us “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Does this mean that we shouldn’t bother to plan ahead by even one day?

I don’t think so. Using this quote to justify never proceeding with your life is similar to saying that the concept of Wu Wei in the Tao Te Ching tells us not to bother to get off the couch — it’s cherry-picking a quote to justify what you’ve already decided to do anyway.

Clearly Jesus made plans. In fact, if you read the Gospels, it’s pretty clear he had a plan all along. So, what are we to do about this?

Well, making plans and worrying are two different things. Worrying is useless; if you’re worried your plan won’t work, come up with a different (or contingency) plan!

You can make your plans, but be ready to improvise, adapt and overcome. Jesus was staying out of the area of Jerusalem when news reached him that his friend Lazarus was sick. He knew he was in danger if he headed to Bethany; he contemplated it for two days, then decided he needed to go. Sometimes you have to alter your plans when conditions change.

Nothing is ever certain, but that doesn’t mean you don’t make plans. Just be ready to adapt to changing circumstances.

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God is not Love

(God) is not soul or mind, nor does it posses imagination, conviction, speech, or understanding. Nor is it speech per se, understanding per se. It cannot be spoken of and it cannot be grasped by understanding. It is not number or order, greatness or smallness, equality or unequality, similarity or dissimilarity. It is not immovable, moving, or at rest. It has no power, it is not power, nor is it light. It does not live nor is it life. It is not substance, nor is it eternity or time. It cannot be grasped by the understanding since it is neither knowledge nor truth. It is not kingship. It is not wisdom. It is neither one nor oneness, divinity nor goodness. Nor is it a spirit, in the sense in which we understand that term. It is not sonship or fatherhood and it is nothing known to us or to any other being. Existing beings beings do not know it as it actually is and it does not know them as they are. There is no speaking of it, nor name nor knowledge of it. Darkness and light, error and truth — it is none of these. It is beyond assertion and denial. We make assertions and denials of what is next to it, but never of it, for it is both beyond every assertion, being the perfect and unique cause of all things, and, by virtue of its preeminently simple and absolute nature, free of every limitation, beyond every limitation; it is also beyond every denial.

Dionysius the Areopagite (aka Pseudo-Dionysius), The Mystical Theology

Dionysius the Areopagite (aka Pseudo-Dionysius) was a Christian mystic who wrote these words sometime in the 6th or 7th century. As such, he cannot have been the disciple of Paul of Tarsus (Saint Paul) as he posed to be. Even so, his words were taken very seriously and are the basis for a lot of Christian mystical thought since that time. It seems pretty clear that the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing was familiar with Dionysius’s work, as was Meister Eckhart.

Dionysius’s works are fundamental to what is called apophatic theology, which is when we approach God by stripping away everything that we have a name for. This is sometimes called negative theology, but it’s important that it not be misconstrued as somehow anti theology – this is not the case. At the core of apophatic theology is the understanding that God is beyond words. Words, as a human creation, are woefully underpowered to grasp the essence of God.

If God is beyond words, God is also beyond the word “love” — therefore, saying “God is love” is as wrong as saying “God is an aardvark.”