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April 11, 2011

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Brad Jersak

Hi Logan,

I think you've nailed an important point here. I am inclined to want my cake and eat it too.

On the one hand, I find the level of certitude in our own projections of God, interpretations of Scripture, and conceptions of what constitutes non-negotiable dogma (among the new Calvinists, for example), to be dangerously presumptuous... To the point where we see a polarization between those who believe questions are out of bounds and those who do not. On this front, I believe we could stand to be much more curious, charitable and even agnostic. There is a reverence and humility to saying, 'I don't know' and an intelligence in sincerely questioning inherited belief systems. Here I resonate with Meister Eckhart, who pursued a knowledge of God as God really is, not just as he imagined God to be. He could see there might be a difference. Can we?

HOWEVER, Logan has reminded us that our belief, our faith, our salvation transcends the capacity to ask questions. It has content, a focus and a locus. As Christians, we ought perhaps to ask more questions and diet from so much 'telling' ... but a 'Christian' is surely more than a good asker. We do believe in a God who revealed himself as self-giving love though Jesus of Nazareth. And we do (supposedly*) believe that he has called us to believe and respond in faith and action to his life, teachings, death and resurrection. Apart from this kind of content, what IS our practice of prayer, meditation, and contemplation? From where do we derive our moral and ethical base, public or private?

When Martin Heidegger developed his beautiful Eckhartian teachings on 'thinking' as contemplation BUT then refused to direct his gaze on God, what happened? He looking for 'Being' [but not God] to emerge and unfold in time, unconcealed as the great 'regioning of that which regions' to which we resolve to lay ourselves open (and so on). By giving himself to something bearing a LOT of divine attributes but refusing to acknowledge God as the content of his belief, one of the century's greatest thinkers does what? He joins the Nazi party (for a time). Hmm.

Closer to home, I'm thinking about folks who practice meditation in pursuit of inner peace without any correlative focus of belief (of which they are aware). I am glad that meditative practices calm the body down and bring people's minds to greater stillness. Very good. But as a 'spiritual' practice, without any content beyond one's own breath or a candle in the room or an Om on the tongue, what is it we're opening ourselves to? No, NOT always demons. But I'm unconvinced that we're necessarily experiencing anything more than a sort of spiritual masturbation.

But this also speaks to Dark's point. When our worship and our doctrine and our faith is overly focused on MY commitment, MY doctrine, MY belief, MY passion, etc., the degree to which that content might be self-generated (or adopted from some other donor), we might still be making spiritual love to ourselves. That needs to be checked and purged.

Dark doesn't take us down that path... he's deconstructing presumption and making space for repressed questions to be asked more openly. But Logan has, rightly I think, seen the Achilles heal in his argument: questioning everything is permissible but insufficient for 'Christian belief.'

bj

*though I'm troubled how some of the same folks who would condemn Gandhi to hell are resistant to preaching obedience to the Sermon on the Mount.

Logan R

"Maybe we're only called on to be honest." the sentence is boggling my mind. perhaps I am reading my own temptations into this but this sounds like romanticism not gospel.

interesting that a retreat from certitude involves a reduction of the breadth of what kingdom life demands to one narrow aspect of it. if the felt need for certainty indicates a lack of faith in God's grace this reduction comes across the same way to me.

it seems to break the paradox of what Jesus is calling for in John 11 when he remarks on how belief is a prerequisite to seeing the resurrection, and then raises Lazarus even though they still clearly do not have close to an idea of what they are too believe. it would be a mistake to read his grace as a negation of his earlier emphasis on belief.

in peace

Eric H Janzen

Ahhhhh!!!!! There's a log in my eye!?!?

ha ha ha...so true...so true.

Simone Weil...was there anything she didn't know?

cheers,
eric

Brad

Even, is your brother in error? Look at the log in your own eye first.

Not love the sinner, hate the sin. But, love the sinner and hate your own sin. Once you've cleared that up...

Of course, some think they have.

Brad Jersak

“Christ likes us to prefer truth to himself, because before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go towards the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.” (Simone Weil)

Eric H Janzen

I realize that more context is needed, and my response was tempered for that very reason. However, I decided to respond since the post is very public and it is the only context we have to go on in this locale. As you say, Brad, I believe in the sacredness of the question very much as you know. I've often advised people to ask the hard questions of God, to approach him with total honesty, and I do so myself.

"there is a kind of idolatry of certitude that is simply based in pride and presumption (a counterfeit to the confidence you have) that then becomes a measuring stick for who is in, out, right, and wrong ... always with ME being the in one and the right one. And this is as true of those who identify 'presence' with their own sense of rightness (think Pharisees)."

No argument whatsoever. The idolatry of certitude (great phrase by the way!)that you describe here is distinctly un-Christian at its very core. My thought is that at the moment you use your 'faith' as a basis for judging others to be 'out' and 'wrong' you have left the Faith. We are not called to judge, but to Love. Something like: Is your brother in error? Love him. Not: Is your brother in error? Bomb him. Does that make sense?

Questions are not to be feared and they are sacred. I don't know where Mr. Dark lands since I haven't read his book, but God gave us the gift of the Question because He is The Truth. All Truth has its source in Him and therefore he fears no question and actually, unlike us, has the answers.

cheers,
eric

Brad Jersak

Some good points Eric, but as you suggested, context is everything and an excerpt can't quite do it justice. My sense overall, and I get this from Meister Eckhart as well, is that there is a kind of idolatry of certitude that is simply based in pride and presumption (a counterfeit to the confidence you have) that then becomes a measuring stick for who is in, out, right, and wrong ... always with ME being the in one and the right one. And this is as true of those who identify 'presence' with their own sense of rightness (think Pharisees). Dark's agenda is clear from the outset: asking questions has been treated as rebellion and as unholiness, but there is actually something sacred and prophetic about it. In fact, I believe that you have actually honoured and demonstrated the importance of his thesis by questioning it.

Eric H Janzen

Sounds interesting. I'm going to guess that I would agree with much that the author says in his book, however I think this little paragraph could have born some more explanation:
"The business of having to feel a particular way or to feel a sense of absolute confidence in God or to pretend to know that God is there all the time is one of the things I've actually been saved--and am being saved--from..."

First, we don't 'have' to feel a certain way, true. But the Bible tells us that those who walk with God will experience his peace, grace, mercy, and Love...all things that do indeed 'feel' a certain way.
Second, salvation itself is not dependent on an intellectual confidence in God, true. But when you know God, when you walk with Jesus, a natural confidence in him grows in your spirit that is not 'pretend' but incredibly genuine...indeed it is one of the deepest joys of the spiritual life. Third, why another voice opposing the Presence of God? This statement seems at odds with what it sounds like the author's book is about. Jesus said that he was ascending to be with his Father so that he could send Holy Spirit to us, to make his home in us. I agree that pretending to be aware of God's presence is useless. But for goodness sake that should inspire Christians to seek his Presence, which is indeed always present. Our own spiritual senses can, by Grace and Love, be opened to see and hear him. Christians have suffered because they have been drawn into an either/or situation. Either you believe in Jesus based on the Bible and faith alone or you believe in Jesus because you have experienced the reality of Him. This is an illusion. It has always been both. We believe because we have met Him, and our faith deepens because we learn about Him from the Bible, from the saints that have gone before us, from one another in Community, and from Jesus Himself who teaches and reveals many things to us by His Spirit indwelling us.

Hopefully the author of the book does not hold to such a narrow view of God and the potential richness of a genuine spiritual life lived with Jesus, for that would make for an odd read on a book that sounds like it aims to find a fuller and deeper view of God.

cheers,
eric h janzen

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