Cohen and Max both went to their respective doctors today. This is hardly abnormal for a couple of toddlers who seem ripe for something that is going around. They both have battled ear infections, though this time their maladies are distinct not similar. We do not mind if doctors practice on us, just not the grandsons.
Over the last month I have written little and thought much. My mind wants to unload many of the things that have been swirling there. I may sleep better if I get it down rather than keep it spinning. My heart however is not so sure. The familiarity with the ups and downs of a toddler’s heath creates enough insecurity that the course of action, getting it on paper or on the screen, will actually put an end to the ongoing pensive practices.
Several men stopped in this morning. They represent some of our most dedicated laborers. The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonian Christians that, “love labors” and that he [Paul] always, “Thanked God for them.” Picking up food in a 15-passenger van, unloading it, weighing it, and helping put it away is not the stuff that makes most marquees. But it does help provide perspective.
Before they left for their pick up we briefly ventured into the realm of speculative theology. Now, had they any idea that this was what we were doing; they would not have sat down in the inner sanctum to become party to my mind full of stuff.
One friend brought up a book he was reading. I made it through about three-fourths of the book before skimming to the end in a bit of disgust. We talked about it. I raised the question of the way we talk about God and just what we can get our minds around. It was not to invite them into my crashing synapses but to get clear that when we talk about God we do need a guide, a filter if you will. Otherwise it is surely speculation. We cannot but help to talk about Jesus.
At that point another wondered if when we talk about Jesus if we can say in back of Jesus is a God much larger, bigger, more powerful. That depends. Representational language may point to some Ideal, a la Plato. But then it seems we would be in great need of some approximation of that Ideal and then we must follow that up with, “Does it make sense to need something larger, bigger, more powerful when we talk about God?” Or, is Jesus enough.
The shift, for me, is to move from objectifying God to make him the Subject, the Subject. David Fitch suggested I read Kallenberg’s, Ethics As Grammar, if I wanted some idea what Wittgenstein might be doing that would be helpful for theological discourse. I have not finished Kallenberg. But, I do get the idea that we have made much of speculative theology because we make God the Object, rather than the Subject.
Upon winding down our conversation I talked about the trajectory of Church History and how the conversations about God worked themselves out among those early Church leaders. I wondered aloud if their formulations about the Object, God, could stand up to the dizzying differences in how language works to shape our understandings. One of my friends, theo-nerdy type, challenges the idea of ousia as a good way to talk about Being, God, today. We know more today about what constitutes reality and there is some question created by the lack of nailing down the substance. If we cannot nail down the substance of our own being, how may we faithfully talk about the Substance, God?
Yes, had I ventured down this road the fellows would have looked at me as though I had three eyes. And maybe they should. Just before leaving one of my friends suggested that speculation does little but point out what we cannot fathom. So let’s just do what we know to do. I could not agree more. When we read the things that seemed to get Jesus into trouble, it was less about what he speculated and more about what he did.
At that point I begin July wondering if embracing in/security is not more faithful to Jesus.
Yesterday’s Gospel text from the Revised Common Lectionary (Luke 9:51-62) takes us to what Reverend Russell referred to as, Jesus the Jerk. Now before you shout blasphemy, let this be a lesson in the way language works and how provocation gets you to thinking. One who wanted to follow Jesus asked to first take care of a bereaved family to which Jesus retorted, “Let the dead bury the dead.” Try that the next time a congregant asks if the church is available for a funeral/memorial service. If you do not hear, “Jerk!” I will be shocked.
Of the string of three would-be-Jesus-followers ,I am as intrigued by the first and Jesus’ response as any of the three. Jesus prepares the inquirer for a life of insecurity. Just the opposite of what we think comes when we commit to Jesus and his Way. “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Animals experience more stability and security – foxes have dens and birds have nests. What? Jesus points out the in-security of discipleship?
Martin Heidegger offered a philosophical, phenomenological, reading of Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, The Phenomenology of Religious Life. I make no inference that I completely understand Heidegger. But I am in a summer reading group led by a couple of fellows who seem to exegete some of Radical Theology’s formative voices quite well and do so with the novice in mind. One focal point for Heidegger became the way in which Paul seemed to be more insecure than secure.
There is no security for Christian life; the constant insecurity is also characteristic for what is fundamentally significant in factical life. The uncertainty is no coincidental; rather it is necessary. This necessity is not a logical one, more is it of natural necessity. In order to see this clearly, one must reflect on one’s own life and its enactment. Those “who speak of peace and security” (5:3) spend themselves on what life brings them, occupy themselves with whatever tasks of life. They are caught up in what life offers; they are in the dark, with respect to knowledge of themselves. The believers, on the contrary, are sons of the light and of the day. (p.73-74)
Call me stunned. Startled. That is not quite the way I learned to read Paul.
I listened harder, more closely. The mediators of the philosophical giant pointed out the times where Paul wrote with hope about the future, even his own. I have learned that hope cannot escape faith and that certainty requires neither. If God is Object, once I become certain, I control the Name. Read Joel B. Green (NICNT)on Luke 8 and the Garasene demoniac. Pay particular attention to the discussion on the power of having the name.
But, if God is Subject, hope and faith become necessary as the breadth of the subject becomes uncontainable. I wonder if reading the insecurity of the Son of Man is a way of pointing up how much we ought to be given to Jesus. That is, if the Named God that lies in back of Jesus is larger, bigger, more powerful, then my access to such a Subject is in need of mediation. Image of the Invisible God. Exact representation of His Nature. Or, could it be that Jesus rightly and appropriately mediates the Named God that makes the need for a larger, bigger, more powerful Deity moot? Sufficiency anyone?
Here we are in July. The temperatures here in flyover Country are cooler than normal. And, I start the month thinking that embracing insecurity is more faithful to Jesus than any expectations that this life is made more secure by Jesus. And, that picking up food to be given to those in need in the Name of Jesus may be a better place for our energy.
More to come . . .