The God Who Forsakes Us

The God Who Forsakes Us August 3, 2010

We´ll Forsake Our Ages and Pretend We Are Children

There is freedom only in an ontologically unfinished universe.” – Zizek

have you ever run into a book without an ending? a book that doesn’t come to fruition? have you every heard a storyteller stop half-way through the narrative and end there? have you run into someone who has ever been jilted by the fact that there was no closure in their previous relationship?

we live in a world that almost thrives on the need for closure or an ending. we like happy endings in particular. this is why hollywood makes so much money, we want to believe that happy endings exist. that happy means all things work out as they are meant to be.

i think the problem with that is, is it doesn’t always work out the way it should be. and trust me, i am a romantic at heart. i want and believe and crave the pseudo-happy-endings. heck, i am an idealist!

but let’s be honest, life is more like a beautiful piece of quilted patchwork. the colors don’t always match. the lines acrosss the quilt don’t always line up. and it might be shorter than we anticipated. but, it is life.

what if christianity was meant to be more like the the quilt and less like the hollywood endings?

if we learn anything from the interaction between jesus and god on the cross its that god isn’t the end-all-to-be-all. god isn’t the roof to our house. in fact, god is the one who removes the roof to our house. when jesus, in deep physical agony, cries out ‘my god, my god, why have you forsaken me?’

jesus is saying ‘god you have let me down’ or ‘god you have betrayed my expectations’. jesus (the one that a lot of christians look to as the ontological end to all of humanities needs) is let down by god. notice jesus doesn’t use the word ‘leave’,but rather ‘forsaken’, why? people come and go and leave and return, but forsaken is when someone willingly turns their back on you. purposefully.

in one fail swoop we unlearn all the things we’ve been taught about a god who is always there when we need her and learn about a god who isn’t the ‘end of the story’, but rather a god who is much like a storyteller who ends the story in the middle of the narrative. or a god who abandons us in our hour of need.

but maybe that’s just it, our hour of need isn’t an hour of need at all.

its just an hour that passes.
its not the end of the story.

this god who doesn’t act in our most tragic moment shows us a god who isn’t the ‘answer’ we think she should be. that all peace, patience, grace and meaning to life doesn’t end in her. but that there is more to the story. or as Bono once sang “i still have found what i am looking for”. this doesn’t mean we abandon god, it means we might have to meet god once again for the first time. it could also mean that rather than seeing god confined to certain spaces, we see god as everywhere. the god in sections. the god who isn’t this solid mass of all existence who resides above us. but is more in preview of itself.

when we experience god, its not god in his fullness, its preview of a preview. its part of the quilt that is god.

this whole idea of god being beyond our way of thinking like the prophet isaiah once spoke of is so true when we come to a library like the bible. because we can’t afford to look into its pages and expect it to have the fullness of god. i think even the idea of god is quite ideologically subversive to most of our logic, and if so, then why do we approach this entity with logic and get frustrated when someone/something elses’ explanation or god herself doesn’t fit the bill?

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161 responses to “The God Who Forsakes Us”

  1. “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” – God.

    One must remember that Jesus is quoting the Psalms (22), which also includes:

    For he has not despised or disdained
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
    he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

    When we take just the bits and pieces we like (or don’t like) we can make up all sorts of things about God – god becomes just one of us.

  2. i think its also important to remember that the psalm wasn’t written by god, but by a human author who was expressing ‘a’ view on god. and here’s the other thing, we can’t get away from our subjective views of god. we are made subjective, not because its a bad thing, but because it can teach us a lot about god. this is why we must always be in search of the god beyond god.

  3. It doesn’t matter who it was written by if you are going to use part of it as a basis of authority to make some sort of theological assertion (that God forsakes us). If you are going to use that as your platform to riff from, then at least take it as a whole rather than just the bits that fit.

    Of course we are subjective. We are human.

    Jesus also said something else: If you have seen me, you have seen the Father. There is no “god beyond” this. The task before us as Christians is to learn to know and love *this* God – the one who has already revealed himself to us, and promises never to forsake us.

  4. Huh? No one is arguing that it isn’t “opinion” or anything else. I already said we are all subjective by virtue of being human. You are merely stating the obvious.

    It’s incoherent and illogical of you to assert that God forsakes us based on one passage of scripture which you use out of context and then declare that when others use use the same source of authority that it’s “subjective” and “opinion” and something that is written by man, not God.

    The ethiopian eunich is perhaps the best model for us all: How can I understand what I am reading unless I am taught? Augustine once said, the Bible is a dangerous book in the hands of untrained men.

    This is a good example of that.

  5. an issue a word like ‘trained’ is that it assumes that knowledge can only be informed dianoic elements rather than also be noetic. it also indirectly assumes that the person who might assert that people need to be trained knows the objective rubric of training necessary. it also assumes that one is only acceptable in a field of knowledge when ‘properly trained’, i have met professors who don’t know anything, and homeless people who know a heck of a lot more than me. so this is why a word like shouldn’t be used in terms of trying to determine an acceptable means of what is right and who is wrong.

    (why not simply listen to others? why the need to challenge them against what ‘you’ (subjective) think to be true (‘objective’). to me listening rather than continually challenging is better or discussion rather than measuring seems more conduscive.)

  6. Chad – what I think you are seeing a theopoetic attempt at articulating an idea that is present in or undercurrent of the test. George is less saying ‘this is what the text says’ and is instead taking a poetic moment and building a theological reflection out of it.

    The danger comes when we assert only ‘trained men’ can read the text. While I have an MA in theological studies – proudly so – that education has taught me that ‘untrained people’ have brought important reflection to bare on the text – liberation theologies and womanist discourse in their first generations spring to mind. Why, I wonder, do you assume that a ‘properly trained person’ will only come to your conclusion?

    Georges – i think – protest is not with your use of that particular part of scripture but using it to maintain the dominant narrative. Their are other currents and possibilities present and the theological task is to ask the hard questions.

  7. thanks Jason!

    Chad: while i do use the theme of forsakeness as the backdrop of this thought, i am explaining ‘a’ passage and offering a theopoetic look into this and offering something else. although this thought might not fit into pop-theology, it is simply one take on a narrative. i am not claiming that this is ‘the’ truth, but merely sharing it as ‘a’truth.

  8. re #6 – I am listening. I just find what I am hearing to be nonsense.

    I’m not asserting that ONLY trained men can read the text. Only pointing out the obvious, that there are times when training can help one not make the same illogical mistakes George is making when using the text.
    I’m all for poetic readings of the text. I’m all for midrashin’ and riffing something new. But I’m also deeply committed to being practical and ensuring that our theological reflections are not just based on my own (or George’s) whimsical musings and have some incarnational trajectory (i.e. some flesh and bones for the church to chew on).

    When George is making a point based on his use of a passage of Scripture and then turns around and tells me, when I quote Scripture from Psalm 22 that says something different from what he is saying, he tells me “Well, man wrote that, not God.” As someone with an MA in theological studies I would think you can see the absurdity of such an argument.

  9. Chad –
    From my reading you are missing the bigger point. George is drawing out a poetic – building a theology in reflection to an idea presented in the text, either as undercurrent or as shadow-side of what is there. There is no rejection of the verses you bring up – indeed the two sets together provide a space of reflection on the complexity and diversity and plurality of the biblical text.

    George is also making another point, which you are missing. The psalms are man writeen. That is the point of them. They are poetry in the face of human experience and articulating a sense of God in the fray of human life. In this way the work George is engaged in a project in that same vein.


  10. Jason,
    If that were all George were doing I’d be amen’ing it like you are.

    Perhaps you are seeing what you want to see? That’s ok. We can agree to disagree.


  11. Chad –
    Possibly you are seeing what you want to see. Maybe you are missing what is there. And what is there is a theopoetic reflection that poses some interesting questions.

  12. Chad –
    My appologies for engaging in this conversation. I fall into old habits of engagement. As I have said before when I see you engage topics you seem to be more interested in being ‘God cop’ than in engaging the question before you.

    Read Georges post – read the conclusion. Agree or not it is an interesting question.

    George – im sorry I have taken up your wall. I need to learn to back away and not engage.


  13. Gee whiz, guys.
    I swear, the new “progressive” motto should be: “Ask questions, so long as they are on the approved list. Otherwise stfu”

  14. Jason!

    no need for apologies or any backing off. i write these to invite discussion, so the more the merrier, so please feel free to grab a cuppa’ and share your thoughts. my platform is your platform…as it is for everyone else. thank for your intriguing thoughts as well!

  15. George –
    No, i just keep falling into a personal pattern of seeking stimulation through facebook and these sort of things. Im trying to short circuit that impulse before I make a fool of myself.


  16. Encounters with God come in all kinds of experiences. The joy and comfort of assurance that God is always with us; but, also in the experience of Her absence and complete hiddenness. It boggles the mind and confounds our logic, but it should not mean that Christians should lack a discipline of our mind.

    To me the layers of meaning of Jesus on the cross are many and complex. Just a hint of this seems evident in Jesus’ experience of forsakenness while at the same time when the centurion sees his suffering and death and hears Jesus’ cry, the centurion sees the Son of God. Quite an amazing scene. One that may takes years of contemplation to come close to understanding.

    For myself, though, in whatever way we experience God, the power of our experience of God is only evident by the way in which we act transforms the lives of others, and dare I say transforms our acts into the acts of God. Where would any of us be if Moses had encountered God on the mountain and just stayed up there to glory in his experience? What if Jesus had continued to wander around the countryside amazing the crowds without ever riding into Jerusalem to confront religious and political power?

    Jesus called upon God even in his forsakenness, an encounter that continues to transform our lives.