“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16b, NIV
In the television series “Star Trek,” of the 1960s, normal communication was sometimes not enough to find out everything the cast members needed to know. When that happened, Spock, an alien, Vulcan crew-member, filled the void. Using a technique called the “mind meld,” he would plumb the depths of consciousness of humans and aliens alike in search of answers. He was not limited to the humanoid species. In one memorable episode, “The Devil in the Dark,” Spock even managed to mind meld with a living rock life form, a Horta.
Of course, this is all play acting. Vulcan mind melds are the product of the fanciful imagination of Gene Rodenberry, the creator of “Star Trek.” The series was a product of a society that envisioned space adventure as the province of scantily-clad women and heroic men striving together against unknown dangers. For several decades the allure of tantalizingly libidinous women and shocking alien encounters has continued to keep fans tuning in. Most fans can recall the salacious “7 of 9” or the menace of the Borg Collective. Throughout its several iterations, the Star Trek franchise has often used the Vulcan mind meld technique to find answers otherwise hidden.
Christians have similarly had a special communication method throughout their history. When considering the nature of their faith and their divine interactions, the need for such an enhancer may become self-evident. God is omnipresent in space and time. In other words, He is present every time and everywhere. Far from that, human beings are limited in conscious perception to one point in time and space. That point has a linear progression through space over time, but still remains extremely finite, limited as it is by our birth and our death.
Because of those limits we are unable to adequately even perceive deity, let alone properly communicate with it. This is not a problem for deity as by definition a conscious being present every time in every place would also be omniscient. Not only would it understand how to communicate with us. It would also know all about us, even though we would know little of it. This of course implies that communication which normally requires two or more parties to complete would be largely a one-way street as little could be said by us that God would not already know. But does this obviate the need for communication? Perhaps not.
Perhaps we have an innate ability to grow in understanding and mental ability. What better foil for that growth than interaction with an infinite being, the depths of whose knowledge would be impossible to exhaust. Today we have smart phones we carry about with us that can potentially tap into the world’s vast knowledge base via the internet. While having so much information available within mere seconds seems staggering, what is that compared to the infinite knowledge base presented by the every time, everywhereness of God.
Does this mean that we should be able to tap into that information and through a massive download become godlike ourselves? Maybe the story of Genesis, chapter three, is a metaphor for the dangers of that. Simply plugging into the source and letting it rip may not be wise. Perhaps it’s not even possible. Perhaps deity includes responsibility inherent in being in the more powerful position in a relationship – a responsibility to control interaction to prevent harmful consequences. When we open communication, controls may be in place to limit our experience.[i]
Even though the experience may be controlled to protect us, still communication would be possible. Because of our limited understanding, the experience may be multi-tiered. On one level, God may communicate with us and a literal meaning can be clearly derived from what has been shared. For example, “Thou shalt not steal,”[ii] is pretty straight forward and easily understood on a literal level. Many of what we consider commandments of God can be understood on this level. This makes sense as God’s expectation of us would require communication that could be easily and clearly understood.
On another level, allegory and metaphor may be more appropriate as the ideas may not easily be communicated from infinite to finite. We find this in the parables of Jesus. Often we find that at this level the communication may have both a literal and a metaphorical application. Lest we be tempted to emphasize one over the other we should be careful. Like double stops on a violin or fiddle, both may be necessary for a complete understanding of the harmony within the message.
On still another level, there may be no adequate way to explain what is being communicated. When that level of communication takes place, we tend to simply marvel at the miracle we cannot explain or understand. When Moses parted the water,[iii] when Elijah made a spectacular offering on Mount Carmel,[iv] or when Jesus raised Lazarus from death,[v] these were events outside the realm of common human experience -- unexplainable yet witnessed as true. These and many events like them in the Bible are often referred to as miracles. While some might question the whole idea of miracles, the idea of multiple dimensions commonly argued by physicists appears to demand that miracles exist, for many things that would take place in a higher dimension would appear miraculous to those limited to a lower dimensional perspective.
A God present everywhere and at every time should not be limited by time or place when it comes to miracles. They should continue to take place. Some might doubt the possibility because they have never, to their knowledge, experienced a miracle. Perhaps this goes back to the responsibility of the more powerful party to control the communication as opposed to the weaker party. Maybe when we attempt to assert control over the communication, we actually prevent concepts too large for our understanding from coming through. In such an event, our belief that there are no miracles becomes self-fulfilling, not because miracles do not exist, but because we stymie their arrival.
To put it allegorically, imagine we have a short-wave radio in the United States. We choose a frequency where we can talk to people from South America, and we talk with many people over several weeks. Then someone tells us that we can talk to people from Europe on a different frequency. We try the frequency several times and get nothing, so we come to the conclusion it is not possible and return to the frequency that worked for us and continue to communicate with South America, and over time we forget about Europe. However, what we failed to realize is that the time zone differential between North America and South America is very slight compared with that between North America and Europe. The reason we could not find anyone on the short-wave frequency we tried was that we were trying to reach them at the same time we normally would contact our South American friends, but at that time, our potential European friends were in bed asleep.
While this story is only an allegory and falls short for that reason, perhaps it can help us to understand that previous experience may be inadequate to define our behavior when dealing with infinite deity. Maybe a more appropriate behavior would be to have an ongoing attitude of prayer. A continual openness to divine communication might surprise us with what comes over the channel. At the very least, the opening up of the stricture at our end would enhance the possibility of human/divine interaction. This would be similar to leaving the radio in the allegory set to the European frequency even if we hear nothing. Eventually, we would hear someone, and we would have the joy of new friends. To be open to the idea of an ongoing attitude of prayer, we need only allow ourselves to admit to the infinite number of possibilities inherent in God.
We might wish to take God out of the box of anthropomorphism we have placed Him in. When we give God too much humanity, we could tend to speak less of His possibilities and more of His probabilities. Those probabilities from our human perspective are greatly limited. For instance we have the ability to understand the concept of vengeance and sometimes portray God as a vengeful being ready to smite anyone who steps out of line. But this is not God. This is a strange act for Him.[vi] It is not very understandable for a being that is omnipresent. While we may feel that evil is eradicated in this way, it continues to dwell in God’s presence in the past even though it may no longer exist in our finite linear present.
If this seems confusing, perhaps it is better to simply understand God’s character in what He has revealed. He has little interest in judgment as opposed to salvation.[vii] His rewards are not based on our behavior, but on His compassion.[viii] In other words, God does what He does because of who He is, not because of who we are. That’s a God I love communicating with. He never fails to surprise me with His compassion.
[i] 1 Corinthians 10:13
[ii] Exodus 20:15
[iii] Ibid., chapter 14
[iv] 1 Kings 18
[v] John 11:1-44
[vi] Isaiah 28:21
[vii] John 3:17
[viii] Matthew 20:1-15