Thursday, June 28, 2007

V The Human Experience of God at Turning Points: A Theological Expose of Spiritual Counterfeits

[With apologies that the version of Blogger for Mac doesn't do accents or even italic]

Here we come to the essence of biblical epistemology: if you lust to grasp and control and turn into object (this is the true definition of the words lust and rape, which are counterfeits of sexuality), you obviate any possiblity of receiving the wisdom of what you have lusted after. You may end up with certain so-called empirical data, but only in the humility of relationship can there be wisdom and reciprocal self-emptying love.

By contrast, in the context of spatial thinking it becomes more possible to have a language of clear distinction that at the same time does not destroy engagement. The danger arises when linear thinking becomes so dominant and exclusionary that it creates a closed system. A closed system is a trap, and salvation is opening and liberating from traps. There is no salvation in a closed system.

A hierarchical system that has become master instead of servant feeds on or rejects everything around itself in order to support and perpetuate its self-inflation. It does not compromise. Instead, it violates all with which it comes in contact. A dominating hierarchical system is self-reflective; it decorates itself to distract observers from the glaring fact that, like evil, it has no substance and generates no energy of its own. As its energies diffuse, it is in a constant state of collapse. Like evil, a closed hierarchical system accuses, devalues and divides in order to maintain its structure. Such a system is noisy, because in the Silence of still-prayer we come to truth, and this hierarchy gone amok has an enormous stake in our believing that there is only one way, the hierarchy’s way, of perceiving “truth”.

The nuclear stalemate is a classic example of this kind of hierarchy at work. Absolute power not only corrupts absolutely, but possession of nuclear weapons is absolute power in terms of the destruction of all life as we know it. The mere possession of nuclear weapons is inherently and insidiously corrupting. In the churches—all of them, not just Rome—there are always those people who insist that our loving God is the demonic puppetmaster at the top of this sort of hierarchy. They insist that this god zaps byzantine emperors off their horses and gives people AIDS.

That some who call themselves Christian adhere to this model of God is particularly ironic since Jesus spent his ministry undermining the authority of those in Judaism who had bound the people of the God of mercy with the shackles of the law.
The puppet-master rules by fear, and it is fear that drives us into the illusory security of a closed system, which is death. When we worship the puppetmaster, we try to control the illusory Controller. Presumptuous control beyond the capacity of the creature is the sin of the Garden.

The French philosopher René Girard has pointed out that the pursuit of the sacred is too often this pursuit of the demonic, the pursuit of control and being controlled, the pursuit of force and violence and the sacrifice of scapegoats. And the Greeks do not have sole claim on this controlling god: it appears as a strand in both Hebrew and Christian scripture that is often used to enforce the grim rigorism of puritanical and legalistic closed systems; it appears in every human group and every human heart, the projection of our fear, our violence, and our greed.

The antidote to religion become demonic is the model of power that is the humility of Christ. It is the humility of Christ that is our center and stillness in the chaos of our turning and conversion. It is the humility of Christ that shows us a God willingly wounded in the mystery of the divine kenosis, shown in the Word spoken for us who is both First and Last. “God is most God on the Cross and most Man in the resurrection,” wrote Karl Barth. It is in the cry of dereliction that God is most deeply revealed, for dereliction is God’s experience of God. Even God has to let go God’s ultimate idea of God in the divine kenosis.

It is as if God’s speech is a wound in God, within which the creation comes to be and is cradled. God’s willing woundedness is without hope of healing, as we commonly understand that word—for healing is the sign of finitude. In the Apocalypse, one of the heads of the beast has a mortal wound that is healed, and all follow it in wonder. Of course this does not mean we should not seek healing for our hurts and ills. But too often we use so-called healing to shore up our hyperreality, to reinforce our denial of death.

Mere turning will bring healing, but it is a willing and permanent commitment to conversion, to entering our wounds so that they may be united with Christ’s, that enables transfiguration. In resurrection Christ’s wounds are open. The wound into which Thomas is invited to thrust his hand is not covered over or closed or scarred or fixed up, but open and deep and glorified. The resurrection is the sign and celebration of the transfiguration being wrought by God’s willing woundedness in the crucifixion of the Word.


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