Exploring Our Matrix
The Blog of Dr. James F. McGrath, Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, Indianapolis
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Another insightful and challenging cartoon from David Hayward.
I’d have said pointless and hackneyed rather than insightful and challenging, myself.
It probably should be self-evident and thus trite, but there have always been people – sometimes a majority – who have thought of God or gods as entities that can be grasped by human thinking and words. So the point still seems to need to be made.
I said “pointless and hackneyed” because the religious have been telling us for millennia that God cannot “be grasped by human thoughts or words”. But if that is the case, why go on talking about it? It seems to me that the only consistent thing for apophatic religious believers to do is to take a vow of silence with respect to the divine.
That would be more consistent, as might remaining silent rather than saying “words cannot express my love for you” or “I have no words that can do justice to the beauty of this music.” But many of us find that symbols and metaphors are more useful than merely responding to questions about our values and convictions with a wink and a smile.
You keep talking about “symbols” and “metaphors”. Symbols and metaphors of what? Unless we have some idea what they are supposed to be symbols and metaphors of, those terms make no sense.
The Ultimate. Everything.
Ah. Its Immanence the Absolute.
You seem to me like the sort of person who has an air of superiority about not getting the fuss that other silly people make about art, or poetry, or music.
You’re wrong. Nothing you say about “the Ultimate” has any poetic quality whatever.
Then that is a serious criticism.
I think that takes it a little too far. I think it is more accurate to say to our ideas of love, beauty, goodness, and truth all find their ultimate expression in God but that everything we could say about them for a thousand years does not come close to describing everything God is.
To use Saint Gregory Palamas’ analogy, the rays of the sun can be said to contain the qualities of the sun (heat and light) within them. And when the sun shines upon us, we are warmed and illuminated by these same qualities- but the rays are not the sun, the sun is so much more, and we cannot even look upon it. In the same way, we can know God by His “energies,” qualities of faith, hope, love, etc. and we can be imbued and transformed by them, but we cannot thus say that we know God in his essence, except only by faint analogy from the energies.
In addition, although Palamas would likely consider him a bit too radical here, I always come back to how CS Lewis answered the question, “Does God have personality?” He says that just as a cube is made of squares yet is something greater than a square, so God is “made up of” qualities which we would describe as “personal,” but God is so much more. He is “beyond personality.”
Palamas’ analogy doesn’t work: the sun is real while God, being purely a human creation, is necessarily within the compass of human thought.
If you insist on begging the question like a Philistine, sure.
“*Assuming* God exists, then God is like the sun in such manner…”
Better, Mr. Obtuse?
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