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God is the question

What does it mean to accept that God is not the answer to anything, but remains the unanswerable question?

In his open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, commending three reasons for Dr Williams to be cheerful, Dairmaid MacCulloch ends on an intriguing note. The Oxford church historian tells of a 'wise old Dominican friar' who informed him that God is not the answer. Rather, God is the question.

I presume that friar was Herbert McCabe, an intellectual with wide influence, from Terry Eagleton to our very own Andrew Brown. McCabe's succinct books on faith and life are fantastically stimulating, even if you don't share his view on faith and life. But what did he mean by God being the question?

First you've got to ask what you mean by the word 'God'. And there is a quick answer: we don't know what we mean by the word 'God'. God is a mystery. 'The word "God" is a label for something we do not know,' McCabe writes. Now this already reads like as much obfuscation to the sceptic. But bear with it and ask a second question too: what is a mystery?

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