Posted by: jadanzzy | May 28, 2008

The Lord Was Not…

** This is largely inspired by Peter Rollins **

In chapter 19 of 1 Kings, Elijah, before his God, pleads for mercy upon his life by those who desire to kill him and God’s prophets. The LORD tells Elijah to stand on the mount and to wait. However, the LORD evades Elijah’s expectations of visitation several times before finally the LORD meets Elijah in silence, in a whisper. Throughout the passage, the phrase ‘The LORD was not…” is repeated as if to imply that we cannot expect God to be where we we think God should be.

I’m an idealist. I dream about living in fantastical worlds imagined by Salvador Dali and Gogo Dodo from Tiny Toon Adventures. Experimental music and art films capture my attention because of all the loose ends and endless interpretations that can be derived from it. I revel in artistic uncertainty. But all this adventure crumbled in the face of my theological exploration. I found that I had drawn thick black lines of theological certainty around biblical concepts. Not only had I settled for static notions of God, but I actually reveled in its supposed steadfastness. In this epistemological world, permeability was heresy.

In the story of God, however, there’s always redemption. As it turns out, I was redeemed of my stasis. Dramatic.

And these thoughts form… (I shall endeavor to remain fluid in my grasp, or un-grasp, of God)

Maybe God would rather me have fight to believe rather than accepting the horrible “God said it. I believe it. That settles it” paradigm. We see uncertainty played out through the scriptures. We experience betrayal and rejection. We see atrocity committed by the very people we believe should be examples of faith. Abraham questions God. Jacob wrestles with God. God permits thousands of deaths. Jonah runs from God. Jesus meets the people, only to run away later. He heals them, then instructs them not to tell of his miracles. He is God, yet He dies on a lowly cross. He resurrects, only to disappear later. Kill me now. Here we see God challenging our very notions of how God is supposed to be. Indeed, God challenges our very notion of why we believe in God at all.

Scripture does not establish certainty, but rather, faith in tension. God doesn’t give logical reasons for why we must have unwavering faith in him. He gives us stories of how we fail to understand and will always fail to understand; nevertheless he tells us to maintain hope. Might we, then, have to reject our concepts of God and truly let our words be few? Maybe, as Kierkegaard said, we have to let our actions speak rather than engage in rationalistic discourse. Maybe we have to reject our notions of church to believe in church again. Maybe we have to drive nails through Jesus again so that we see him resurrected in our lives in a new way.

What, then, does this look like in faith lived out? What implications does Meister Eckhart’s prayer of “God, rid me of God” have in our everyday lives? Or in our faith communities? What do we do when we recognize that our theology, our idolatry of static ideas, all crumble in the face of our finitude? Truly, in our finitude, everything becomes mere interpretation. This, however is not cause for panic. Truth does not fall in the face of our interpretation. Truth, as Paul Ricoeur says, is that which unifies us in the midst of our fragmented interpretations.

And thus, God still remains God.

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Responses

  1. Jadanzzy, thank you for this wonderful post. I think we all rest in the safety and assurance of foundational, static truths. It is SO difficult when those foundations begin to bend. It makes me want to stop thinking and jump off a cliff.

  2. I have been thinking about similar issues – thanks for putting words to my thoughts. For me, the potential for irreverence found in Meister Eckhart’s prayer changes when our image of God moves from stasis to mystery. When our image of God remains static we create images like God as Zeus (or Santa Claus) – an old, bearded, white guy sitting on top of a cloud. However, when our image of God moves toward mystery we find difficulty in having only one image of God – or having ANY image representing YWH.

  3. you know that i jive with all of this, so the spirit of my questions is not to undermine but to refine the ideas for further thought and hopefully application to, at least, my own life

    1. isn’t there a great danger in abstracting too far, to the point where God’s unknown-ness massively outweighs the glimpses we can have of Him?

    2. and doesn’t God’s great mystery and the tension of wrestling with infinite truth (which will never fit into finite minds) have the potential to launch us towards utter ignorance? in other words, maybe we can’t know everything, but if we can’t know SOMETHING for sure, then might it be that we know nothing at all? and i think that God invites us to know Him, even if our finitude prevents us from knowing Him “fully”

    ————

    might we exist in two modes, one where we interact on a level with the personhood of God that is understandable and reliable, but in another mode at the exact same time, we fully acknowledge and are blown away by His mystery and we wrestle and grapple with his infinity? i know rollins sort of looks at this, too, although i haven’t finished (or started) his most recent book that is giving rise to a lot of these thoughts, but i think that while we need not be foundationalist and we need not adhere to the rules of ultra-rational modernity, there is a level where we have to make concepts at least partially digestable, right?

    and does not God Himself take on that task as He communicates Himself to humankind?

  4. Brilliant post. Thanks for sharing your worthy ideas. God bless.


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