We live in a world driven by processes of evolution and development. Our human beings, individual and communal, have been created and shaped by more specific processes of evolution and development. In particular, our minds are shaped as we respond actively to reality in its concrete and abstract realms and aspects.
Some Medieval thinkers made a claim I would support wholeheartedly: most of what we know about God, we know through His effects in Creation. I would say: most of what we know about God, we know through His acts-of-being so far as we can see them; we respond to these acts-of-being and encapsulate them in our minds, making them part of our minds.
And, yet, we pray to God, think of God, teach and preach about God, in terms of ancient Semitic ways of knowing their world. To oversimplify, but not really distort: we pray to God, think of God, teach and preach about God, as if He were a human judge raised to an infinite size and to a level of infinite power. We should be responding to God as a Creator of all, the Source of all being.
“God as judge” makes no sense to the modern human mind, not because the modern mind has become weakened or corrupted in some ways—though I think that to be true, but rather because of the very strengths of the modern mind coming from the accomplishments of human beings in dealing with empirical realms, including the more theoretical or abstract branches of mathematics and physics and other such sciences. The modern mind sees no courtroom in which actions in fields of trial are judged; the modern mind sees those realms of concrete being shaped from more abstract forms of being by processes of evolution and development. In Christian terms, we see no courtroom but rather a Creation. It must be said we also see no factory designed by human engineers but rather a Creation, but “God as Engineer” seems an ephemeral mistake as opposed to “God as Judge” which is quite long-lasting.
As I’ve pointed out numerous times, Christians—including their leaders—have no problem accepting the world as seen by Darwinians and by modern physicists when they wish to be scanned in a search for cancer or when they wish cancer or other problems to be treated. They accept the world as one where order is evolving and developing in the economic and social realms: the Invisible Hand in Adam Smith’s terms. They have learned to be skeptical of efforts to regulate an economy or society as one might still regulate traffic on the street—robotic vehicles might eliminate the courtroom model from the streets as well. The more complex and complicated a system is, the better it is if allowed to evolve and develop, perhaps within guidelines. See my previous essay, Toward a Better Understanding of Our Human Understandings for a short discussion of the discovery that this is so by the engineers and scientists in the first decades of work in “artificial intelligence”.
Let me close by quoting one form of the Jesus Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
The above version is the one I usually pray in front of a Tabernacle holding the Body of Christ, in front of a crucifix, when entering a place of special holiness, or when I feel especially troubled.
Let me suggest a first draft of a Jesus Prayer more oriented to modern understandings of the explorable realms of our world:
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a human animal born in the natural world as a member of a species evolved from lower species and yet hoping to unite my humanity to Your humanity and my humanity to Your divinity in the World of the Resurrected.
[Readers interested in a little more detail about how I understand human knowledge can download: Four Kinds of Knowledge: Revealed Knowledge, Speculative Knowledge, Scientific Empirical Knowledge, Practical Empirical Knowledge. Many other essays as well as other downloadable books are available on this website: Acts of Being.]