Outer Faith & Inner Faith

Relating to a silent God.

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The question that children ask about why God no longer speaks has given rise, in itself, to a new kind of theology. Because we no longer find God evident in the world, because science has stripped away so many of God's functions, we no longer look to locate God in the outer world but in the inner world. God is found not in the sky but in the soul.

In one way, this is returning to the roots of faith. The most important declaration the Bible makes is that human beings are created in God's image. That affirms not only that there is a God but that we are, somehow, God's reflection. When the world no longer seems the arena of the Divine, however, all that is left is the reflection. Inside is the index of truth.

Even a text, because it is outside of us, is to many an invalid standard of truth. How can a book encompass the godliness within me? I am asked. Am I not unique, a sparkle thrown up by the cosmos that no general treatise can encompass?

These are serious concerns. They grow out of the recognition that religious traditions are so various because people are so various, that the old model of a monopoly on truth, which all the Western traditions claimed, is made ever more difficult to sustain in the face of burgeoning awareness of the forms of human experience. (Is there anyone at this late date still comfortable maintaining that a billion Chinese are simply deluded, a billion Hindus frankly mistaken? Is the pluralistic model of religious truth--that God is a destination with many paths--seriously doubted by most people with learning and experience?)

With the external measures gone, let us each be his own measure. When God no longer speaks out of the sky, let God whisper up through our souls.

Yet we have lost much when God becomes, as the French philosopher Cioran put it, "a nuance." Seekers all, how can we not miss storms and certainty? Who is not, in some corner of the soul, disappointed at the need to attune oneself to a still, small voice amid the clamor of modernity?

So we join together, in sacred space or cyberspace, hoping for the light. In the meantime, we may envy ages that were untroubled by such doubts. Yet each age has its own blessings and challenges. In the wonders of our age, there may be heard, amid the whir of gadgetry, a whisper of God. We can still seek God in the places where God is found: in the wonder of the natural world, in the eyes of another, in the miraculous history of our faith. Although our technology is different, our souls are the same as our ancestors'--and inside them, if we seek, we may find the seed that sprouts into hope.

Perhaps the task of our age is to listen through the silence, feel presence even in absence, and renew our search for the reality of God in an age of concealment.

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Rabbi David Wolpe

David Wolpe is the rabbi of Temple Sinai in Los Angeles and the author of several books on Jewish belief.