“What do I love when I love God?” And with that, I will be interested in moving past the first page of John D. Caputo’s, On Religion. Caputo reminds the reader this was one of the “big” questions for Augustine in the Confessions. Thanks to David who spotted this recent addition to my Amazon “Wish List” and had it sent over as a “Birthday” gift. The temptation will be very real to push a couple other reads I am into aside and trek through this new one. We will see.
A post noting that I look forward to reading Caputo would spur my favorite college history professor (while at OBU) to say something like, “Wow you still think about A Rumor of War?” He would be thinking of the January term he taught on Vietnam. While it is not that Caputo, the idea of writing about a personal experience in a novel would be an interesting notion one day. And, you could say the ongoing wrestling with life and faith – meaning ongoing growth and “reformation” – implies a bit of an internal war.
Writing about it, much less talking about is, makes many nervous. For instance, a few years ago I mentioned reading Walter Brueggemann favorably. I received a note from a fellow Southern Baptist pastor who wondered what I was doing reading Bruegemman. The Prophetic Imagination is worth reading over and again. Imagine the reaction to noting a Southern Baptist pastor is reading Continental philosopher John D. Caputo and it would certainly spark a rumor of war.
Another illustration of such scandalous behavior came during a conversation about preaching and loose ends. We really have a tough time when Jesus does not so neatly fill out the meaning of parables or statements. Hanging like the smoke from a smoldering fire, we want to get more water on it so we don’t have to wrestle too long over it. I mentioned it was presumptuous of us, when on those occasions Jesus seems to intend the hearer to ponder and linger, to feel the need to draw summary conclusions with daft certainty. For an illustration of the complexity of the parables of Jesus one need look no further than the monster volume, Stories with Intent.
To my way of thinking that is a move away from faith. It is not that we should not work to better understand – and, this was my admonition rather than simply to leave things “hanging.” No, the matter is that when we human beings arrive at certainty we then codify and calcify our vision of God. We then “have settled” all those questions. A matter the history of Christianity undermines if we would give it an honest look see. If Christians have been wrestling for centuries over the intersection of life and faith to presume we now “have” it nearly rises to the level of arrogance. It is as if the Spirit of God finds we who live today somehow more adept mentally and spiritually than those who lived centuries before.
Faith prods us to move into the liminal space assured of what we have committed to in the revealing of God in Jesus, the Christ. The space where our finitude encounters the Infinite. To suggest we “know” with the kind of absolute certainty betrays the language of “faith.”
Very real people are still asking the question Augustine sought to answer, and faithfully to the revelation of God in Jesus. Upon an encounter with Jesus, there will most certainly be more than a rumor of war. I am certain reading through On Religion will provoke something of an internal war of sorts. But, everyone knows we Baptists always enjoy a good battle. Just not often “this” kind.