Fahrenheit 451: Burning Words

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Fahrenheit 451 is a book about burning words and ideas.  Instead of putting out fires, the Firemen in Fahrenheit 451 start fires, and burn books.

This book sizzles.  Its words crackle.  Listen:

It was a pleasure to burn.

It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.  With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.  With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black.  He strode in a swarm of fireflies…  While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.

Montag was a Fireman.  In the beginning, his face was gripped with a fiery smile.  But through interaction with someone who contemplated life, he realized his emptiness.  In his search for meaning, he began to steal and hide the very books he was supposed to burn.

His wife told him to find distraction in something fun.  That is what everyone does.  Don’t think, just have fun.  But Montag would not this time.  He wanted to hold onto his emptiness, he wanted to find meaning.

17470674Montag held possibly the last copy of the Bible in his part of the world.  And he knew if they found it, they would burn it.

He could hear Beatty’s voice.  “Sit down, Montag.  Watch.  Delicately, like the petals of a flower.  Light the first page, light the second page.  Each becomes a black butterfly.  Beautiful, eh?  Light the third page, from the second and so on, chain-smoking, chapter by chapter, all the silly things the words mean, all the false promises, all the secondhand notions and time-worn philosophies.”  There sat Beatty, perspiring gently, the floor littered with swarms of black moths that had died in a single storm.

They would burn the Bible, one page at a time they would destroy the words and ideas.

Montag brought the last physical copy of the Bible to Faber.

Faber’s hands itched on his knees.  “May I?”

“Sorry.”  Montag gave him the book.

“It’s been a long time.  I’m not a religious man.  But it’s been a long time.”  Faber turned the pages, stopping here and there to read.  “It’s as good as I remember.  Lord, how they’ve changed it in our ‘parlors’ these days.¹  Christ is one of the ‘family’ now.²  I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up, or is it dressed him down?  He’s a regular peppermint stick now, all sugar-crystal and saccharine when he isn’t making veiled references to certain commercial products that every worshiper absolutely needs.”  Faber sniffed the book.  “Do you know that books smell like nutmeg or some spice from a foreign land?  I loved to smell them when I was a boy.  Lord, there were a lot of lovely books once, before we let them go.”  Faber turned the pages.  “Mr. Montag, you are looking at a coward.  I saw the way things were going, a long time back.  I said nothing.  I’m one of the innocents who could have spoken up and out when no one would listen to the ‘guilty,’ but I did not speak and thus became guilty myself.  And when finally they set the structure to burn the books, using the firemen, I grunted a few times and subsided, for there were no others grunting or yelling with me, by then.  Now, it’s too late.”  Faber closed the Bible.  “Well—suppose you tell me why you came here?”

“Nobody listens any more.  I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me.³  I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls.³  I just want someone to hear what I have to say.  And maybe if I talk long enough, it’ll make sense.  And I want you to teach me to understand what I read.”

¹  Parlors are TV viewing rooms.  ²  The ‘family’ are the characters on the television programs.  ³  When Montag says “walls” he means the giant interactive TVs that are the walls of the parlor.

Montag’s experience reminds me of the so-called Church Growth Movement.  Within that movement, nobody listens, nobody pays attention.  The glowing giant television transfixes.  And nobody cares what it says, it just feels good.  It makes them feel like they are doing their part to grow the Church with their attractive sugar-crystal “Jesus.”

The world is that way too.  Everyone wants to feel good, and feel like they are important, and feel like they are making a difference.  So we play video games, watch TV, take drugs, go to church, or whatever we need to get that high feeling.  Meanwhile, we trample the truth.  We trample the real Jesus, a Jesus not of sugar but of human flesh and blood.

But every once in awhile, someone wakes up.  And they start to realize something is wrong, but because we live in an age where the truth has been almost completely obliterated, we cannot quite put our finger on it.

Fahrenheit 451 continued:

Faber examined Montag’s thin, blue-jowled face.  “How did you get shaken up?  What knocked the torch out of your hands?”

“I don’t know.  We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy.  Something’s missing.  I looked around.  The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned in ten or twelve years.  So I thought books might help.”

“You’re a hopeless romantic,” said Faber.  “It would be funny if it were not serious.  It’s not books you need, it’s some of the things that once were in books.  The same things could be in the ‘parlor families’ today.  The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not.  No, no, it’s not books at all you’re looking for! …  Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget.  There is nothing magical in them, at all.  The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.

Faber continued by saying that books like the Bible are important because they tell the truth and the whole truth, showing even the pores and dirt.

“So now do you see why books are hated and feared?  They show the pores in the face of life.  The comfortable people want only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless.  We are living in a time when flowers are trying to live on flowers, instead of growing on good rain and black loam.  Even fireworks, for all their prettiness, come from the chemistry of the earth.  Yet somehow we think we can grow, feeding on flowers and fireworks, without completing the cycle back to reality.”

Finally, Faber said that not only is truth important, but just as important is the time to think and ponder.  The television and the culture tell us what to think, and they do not give us time to process what they are saying.

“If you’re not driving a hundred miles an hour, at a clip where you can’t think of anything else but the danger, then you’re playing some game or sitting in some room where you can’t argue with the four-wall televisor.  Why?  The televisor is ‘real.’  It is immediate, it has dimension.  It tells you what to think and blasts it in.  It must be right.  It seems so right.  It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, ‘What nonsense!'”

The truth has time.  The truth is real.  The truth is not afraid.  The truth brings freedom.  (John 8:32).

That is why I love the liturgy.  Its words come from the Bible, and it gives us time to ponder, years even.  For a lifetime, the words sink in, and they change us because they are always with us.  Christ promised to be with us in his word, not the latest innovative creed, manipulative video, or man-centered motivational speech masquerading as a sermon.  The truth comes to us through his clear, pure word.

Through word and sacrament alone is how he comes to us.  Our fathers fought for this principle in the Reformation.  But now those who are trading God’s word of truth for mere emotionalism and pragmatism will receive a bowl of pottage for their inheritance.  (Genesis 25:29-34).

Montag asked,

“Where do we go from here?  Would books help us?”

“Only if the third necessary thing could be given us.  Number one, as I said, quality of information.  Number two: leisure to digest it.  And number three: the right to carry out actions based on what we learn from the interaction of the first two.”

Fahrenheit 451 is about burning books and ideas.  But they do not have to burn books no one reads.  Faber admitted as much.  The Firemen were just for show.  The Firemen in Fahrenheit 451 were made possible because no one knew the truth anymore anyway.

600px-Ingsoc_logo_from_1984.svgToday, we do not burn books, instead we ignore them, or “translate” them into Ingsoc.  (Coined by George Orwell, Ingsoc is English corrupted by socialism.  An example of this corruption is the attempt to erase biological gender distinctions from the English language so that we start calling men women and women men or start saying that 2+2=5).  Ingsoc makes telling the truth impossible, and hearing the truth incomprehensible.  The purpose of deconstructing our words is not just to obscure truth, but to destroy the English language, and make it incapable of communicating the truth.

Regarding the Bible, they do not have to burn a book no one reads.  And if someone does read the Bible, they try to give us gender-confused and other Ingsoc translations to obscure the truth.  Consider for example Psalm 8:4.  The NIV (2011 version) says:

what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

Why does God care for human beings?  Why is God mindful of us?  The true answer is Christ, the son of man.  (Daniel 7:13-14).  Here is the English Standard Version:

what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Christ is the son of man.  (Daniel 7:13-14).  Christ alone is the man God cares for.  He is the righteous one.  Moses and the prophets wrote of Christ; but for him they had nothing to say.  (Luke 24:44).  But these “translators” have obscured Christ, so in the end, what they leave us with is a question without an answer:  Why does God care for human beings?

The most important question is not, Who are human beings?  Who are they?  The question God wants us to ask is, why does God care for the son of man?  Who is He?

George Orwell said, “But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”  (Politics and the English Language).

The translators of the NIV (2011 version) did not burn the masculine and feminine gendered books, but they are burning the idea one verse and one version at a time.  As Beatty would have had Montag burn the Bible one page at time, so also the ever-changing translations would surrender the English language, and obscure Christ one idea at a time, starting with certain gender-clear passages about Jesus in the Old Testament.

Christians must wake up, and stand against the intentional destruction of our language.  Do not let them burn words, mistranslate, or obscure Christ in any part of the Bible.

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On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave to the Church the gift of tongues and the understanding of languages.  (Acts 2).  The purpose of language is not to control minds and prop up totalitarianism, but rather to communicate the truth.  The truth sets us free.  (John 8:32).  Let us hold fast to Jesus, the Word of God, and the Truth.

God’s Pure Word Alone Brings Genuine Peace

In our day, many Lutherans wish to compromise the pure word of God.  They believe such compromise brings prosperity and peace with the world.  But such peace is only a temporal peace.  And the success such compromises bring is only a temporal success.  It does not last.

God’s word endures forever.  (1 Peter 1:25, Isaiah 40:8).  Therefore, God’s word alone brings genuine peace.  This is because genuine peace is a lasting peace.  It lasts forever.  Christ alone gives us this peace with God in His word of promise.

*

The excerpt below is from C.F.W. Walther’s “Fourth Evening Lecture” delivered October 3, 1884:


When a theologian is asked to yield and make concessions in order that peace may at last be established in the Church, but refuses to do so even in a single point of doctrine, such an action looks to human reason like intolerable stubbornness, yea, like downright malice.  That is the reason why such theologians are loved and praised by few men during their lifetime.  Most men rather revile them as disturbers of the peace, yea, as destroyers of the kingdom of God.  They are regarded as men worthy of contempt.

clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word … in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church

But in the end it becomes manifest that this very determined, inexorable tenacity in clinging to the pure teaching of the divine Word by no means tears down the Church; on the contrary, it is just this which, in the midst of greatest dissension, builds up the Church and ultimately brings about genuine peace.

Therefore, woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who stand as watchmen on the walls of Zion, sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls, and rally to the banner of Jesus Christ for a holy war!

woe to the Church which has no men of this stripe, men who … sound the alarm whenever a foe threatens to rush the walls

Try and picture to yourselves what would have happened if Athanasius had made a slight concession in the doctrine of the deity of Christ.  He could have made a compromise with the Arians and put his conscience at ease; for the Arians declared that they, too, believed Christ to be God, only not from eternity.  They said: … “there was a time when He did not exist,” meaning, He had become God.  But they added: “Nevertheless He is to be worshiped, for He is God.”  Even at that remote time, had Athanasius yielded, the Church would have been hurled from the one Rock on which it is founded, which is none other than Jesus Christ.

Again, imagine what would have happened if Augustine had made a slight concession in the doctrine of man’s free will, or rather of the utter incapacity of man for matters spiritual.  He, too, could have made a compromise with the Pelagians and put his conscience at at ease because the Pelagians declared: “Yes, indeed; without the aid of God’s grace no man can be saved.”  But by the grace of God they meant the divine gift which is imparted to every man.  Even at that time, had Augustine yielded, the Church would have lost the core of the Gospel.  There would have been nothing left of it but the empty, hollow shell.  Aye, the Church would have retained nothing but the name of the Gospel.  For the doctrine of the Gospel that man is made righteous in the sight of God and saved by nothing but the pure grace of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, is, as everybody knows, the most important doctrine, the marrow and substance of Christian teaching.  Wherever this doctrine is not proclaimed, there is no Christ, no Gospel, no salvation; there men perish, and for such people it has been in vain that the Son of God has come into the world.

bless all the faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men

Lastly, picture to yourselves what would have happened if Luther had made a slight concession in the doctrine of the Holy Supper.  At the time of the Marburg Colloquy he could have made a compromise with Zwingli and put his conscience at ease, because the Zwinglians said: “We, too, believe in a certain presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, but not in the presence of Christ’s corporeal substance, because God does not set up such sublime, incomprehensible things for us to believe.”  By this claim Zwingli made Christianity in its entirety a questionable matter, and even Melanchthon, who was usually greatly inclined to make concessions, declared that Zwingli had relapsed into paganism.  Had Luther yielded, the Church would have become a prey to rationalism, which places man’s reason above the plain Word of God.

Let us, therefore, bless all the faithful champions who have fought for every point of Christian doctrine, unconcerned about the favor of men and disregarding their threatening.  Their ignominy, though it often was great, has not been borne in vain.  Men cursed them, but they continued bearing their testimony until death, and now they wear the crown of glory and enjoy the blissful communion of Christ and of all the angels and the elect.  Their labor and their fierce battling has not been in vain; for even now, after 1500 years, or, in the last named case, after several centuries, the Church is reaping what they sowed.

Let us, then, my friends, likewise hold fast the treasure of the pure doctrine.  Do not consider it strange if on that account you must bear reproach the same as they did.

— C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel,
Concordia Publishing House, 1929, 1986,
pages 28-30.


Jesus said:

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.  Do not fear what you are about to suffer.  Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.  Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

— Revelation 2:9-10, ESV.

Remembering September 11

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On September 11, 2001, Islamists attacked us in spectacular fashion.  They brought their 1,400-year never-ending religious war to our shores.

We had no choice but to enter their religious war.  However, we refused to recognize their religious motivations.  We insisted their beliefs were peaceful.  It would be as if our fathers had sought to defeat the Nazis without defeating Nazism.  Or if they had sought to defeat Imperial Japan without defeating Japanese Imperialism.

Because we have refused to fight against the motivations of our enemies, we are losing this war.  They have resolve.  They have goals.  They know what they want.

We, on the other hand, do not know what we are fighting against.  Our borders are wide open to invasion.  We bring hordes of people who espouse the views of our enemies to our shores en masse.  And our incompetent and cowardly leaders think we can win this war by showing how nice we are, so that our enemies will like us.

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When the Islamists took American slaves, and demanded tribute, our Founding Fathers sent ships to destroy them.  They defended our freedom.  They knew what they believed in, and they fought for it.

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Free men cannot live forever with slavers and slavery.  Sometimes, free men must fight for freedom.

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However, the idea that all cultures are equal in value has made us timid and weak.  We are afraid to stand up for freedom.  We are afraid to stand up for the foundation of freedom.  The very concept of truth is the foundation of freedom.  We are afraid to speak the truth.

The truth sets free.  (John 8:32).  Unfortunately, some powerful Americans deny that truth even exists.  The greatest threat to America is not force of arms, but rather force of nefarious ideas.  Will America succumb to lies, or again seek freedom and truth?

The Courage Award

True courage faces reality.  True courage does not deny reality.

He did not have the courage to be a man.  He did not have the courage to be what he was.  He did not have the courage to face reality.  He did not have the courage to be himself; so he hid under a facade, a new name, a new face, a new gender.  Ashamed of who he was, afraid of who he was, he hid.

“I am a woman,” he said.

“We admire and award your courage,” they said.  “You denied reality, and sacrificed your own body on the altar of idolatry.  That took courage.”

And so one lie betrothed another.  The ultimate act of cowardice, running from oneself, denying one’s own body, is called “courageous.”  Only a culture possessed of hellish madness could engage so brazen a lie.  A lie against nature, a lie against the very self.

You couldn’t face or accept your own body, so you hid, you ran away; and they called you “courageous.”

Madness.

Perspective And Truth

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One of the reasons I enjoy photography is the ability to explore and share different perspectives.

This Spring, I was hiking with a friend, and we stopped by a footbridge that was under construction over a creek.  We chatted briefly with the gentleman who was building the footbridge.  While there, I spotted a tree with these tiny little flowers, and snapped a few photographs.  My friend thought I was taking pictures of the footbridge, and did not even notice the tree.

They were small flowers.

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Even if no mortal ever saw these flowers or those particular blooms, they did exist.  The truth exists outside of ourselves and our perceptions.

God sees every perspective in the world; he sees everything.  “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”  (2 Peter 3:8, ESV).  Imagine if you had a thousand years to explore every day.  Vernal blooms, warm Summer rains, Autumn leaves, every snowflake, and every sunset would last a long time.  Babies grow up quickly, but if we could savor a thousand years of family relationships every day, maybe, just maybe we could fully appreciate one another.

Then again, we live in an imperfect world corrupted by sin.  All that is, is passing away.  The grass of the field, the birds of the air, and even family in our homes are here today, and then one day they are gone.  That is the truth, this world is passing away.  The defining truth of this world is death.

But there is truth that is eternal, his name is Jesus, and he is not passing away.  He conquered sin and death.  In him, in heaven, a thousand years will be like a day, and a day will be like a thousand years.  And there will be no sad days because the defining truth of Christ is not death, but life.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6, ESV).  He is the truth, forever.

New Comment Policy: No Ingsoc

600px-Ingsoc_logo_from_1984.svg“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.”

— George Orwell, 1984.

The last post, Liars’ Language of Lies, discussed how certain radical and totalitarian movements in our society are seeking to subvert the truth by manipulating language.  Almost immediately, a scold appeared to lecture about the definition of truth, saying:

Truth is entirely personal and subjective, based on and permanently biased by your own individual experience.  Your truth isn’t my truth, and can’t ever be, no matter how many things we may choose to agree on.

I could not tell if this person was seriously confused or a troll.  Anyway, the new comment policy is that all comments must be in English.  Comments written in Ingsoc are not allowed.  Ingsoc is the name for the invented manipulative language of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.  Ingsoc was designed to foster confusion, doublethink, and slavery by making it impossible for people who spoke and thought in Ingsoc to think or speak clearly.  The most famous slogan in Ingsoc was this:

War is peace.
Freedom is slavery.
Ignorance is strength.

— George Orwell, 1984.

The basic premise of every sentence in that slogan is: “Truth is relative.”  If “Truth is entirely personal and subjective,” then maybe war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.  Further, the commentator’s entire point was self-defeating doublethink because he asserted, as objective truth, that “Truth is entirely personal and subjective.”

“You are a slow learner, Winston.”

“How can I help it?  How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes?  Two and two are four.”

“Sometimes, Winston.  Sometimes they are five.  Sometimes they are three.  Sometimes they are all of them at once.  You must try harder.  It is not easy to become sane.”

― George Orwell, 1984.

Without objective truth there can be no freedom or reality.  Thus, the new comment policy reads as follows:

All comments must be in English.  Comments written in Ingsoc or Newspeak, or comments attempting to “correct” normal English with Ingsoc definitions are subject to deletion without comment or explanation.

If you wish to speak another language, have at it, but be honest, and do not pretend you are speaking English.  If you wish to comment here, learn to use an English dictionary.

“Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.”

― George Orwell, 1984.

The purpose of communication is to reveal truth.  It is the truth that sets us free.  (John 8:32).  There is a person who claimed to be the truth.  His name is Jesus.  He said, “I am the truth.”  (John 14:6).

Liars’ Language of Lies

Even people who contend for the truth often get caught in a web of language lies.  For example, they will often say something like this:

“I know it’s not politically correct to say this, but two men are not designed to have sex with each other, so they can’t get married.”

The picture is correct (two men are not designed to have sex), but the frame lies.  The true statement is framed as being “not politically correct” or “not … correct.”  Why do we put that frame around a true statement?

Is it politically correct to say that two men can get married?  No.  It is politically radical to say that.  Saying that two men can get married is a radical departure from what is and always has been.

The phrase “politically correct” itself is a lie.  What does politics have to do with correctness?  Nothing.  Politics do not determine what is correct.  The truth is objectively true.  Politics are irrelevant to the truth.  The very phrase “politically correct” assumes a totalitarian world where man and his will to power are the measure of truth.

Unfortunately, liars are making our language turbid through their constant use of lying words and phrases.  They put euphemisms on every evil thing, and after a while “war” does start to sound like “peace.”  (1984).

When we use their words, we participate in their lies.

Jesus said it best:

“When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

— John 8:44, NIV1978.

“Be serious!  Be alert!”  (1 Peter 5:8, HCSB).  Test “everything; hold fast what is good.  Abstain from every form of evil.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, ESV).

A Photograph and A Confessional Meme

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What can a picture say?

What does the above picture show?  First, the book is not sitting on a shelf.  Second, it is open, and being held open for reading.  Third, it has a bookmark showing that it is being studied.  Fourth, it is a copy of The Lutheran Confessions.  Fifth, light shines on the book from above.  The Lutheran Confessions reflect the light.  God’s word alone is the light of the world and the judge of all confessions.  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights …”  (James 1:17, ESV).

To confess means to breathe out words of belief.  It is to say, “This is what I believe because this is true.”  It is a restatement of truth.

Unfortunately, most “Lutherans” in America do not even know what our Confessions say.  Our “unity” is not based on a common confession of truth, but rather our “unity” is based on politics or history.

However, a confession means nothing if it is not confessed, if it is not lived, or if it is not even known.  We should know our Confessions, and if we believe, then we should confess them in our practice.

Can a simple picture say that much?

Recently, someone used my photo to create an internet meme:

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True theological unity is based on a common confession of truth.  It is not based on setting aside theological differences, and promising to be united.

The meme didn’t give me any credit for the original photo, but I’m glad that the truth is being promoted.  It is a good meme, and my thumb is proud to be a part of it.

Big Sunset

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Sometimes the sunset is too big for the camera lens.

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The truth is beautiful, and when beauty and truth are more than we can grasp, we are left in awe and wonder.

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The world God created reflects His order and His infinity.  It is incomprehensibly large, and full of things that are incomprehensibly small.

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So no matter how much we learn, a full understanding of God and His logical creation will always be beyond our grasp.  It will always be beyond our ability to fully know.  We will always be left in awe and wonder.

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If the logical creation leaves us in wonder, how much more so the Infinite Creator?

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Yet, just as a camera can catch part of a sunset, so also we can understand and receive in part.

That is why God comes to us in means.  Means are ways we can understand and receive God.  Jesus Christ is the one true God.  He comes to us in words that we can understand and sacraments we can see, taste, and feel.

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May we always appreciate the gifts of God, always grow in learning, and always stand in awe of His infinite wonder (both great and small).