The name for this blog comes from the Hebrew word merchab. Merchab is a masculine noun that appears most often in the Psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures. It means a broad or roomy place, an expansive place, a wide place. Read more...

April 14, 2009

A Response to Walker Morrow #3

Dear Walker

In an attempt to honour my commitment to more succinct posts (April 6, 2009), I will confine my response to your latest comment (Comment on “A Response to Walker Morrow #2) to four points.

1. No human being can as you suggest “ever truly grasp the truth in its entirety.” The Bible impresses upon us the limitations of the human ability to know.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:6)

O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Romans 11:33)

For now we see in a mirror, dimly… Now I know only in part. (I Corinthians 13:12)

The arrogant assumption that human rationality has absolute understanding lies at the heart of much of the triviality and dysfunction of the human community. Wherever you encounter an unshakeable conviction of absolute truth, you need to proceed cautiously. Truth is characterized more by mystery and humility than by clarity and certainty.

2. The proper goal of the human search is not to “grasp the truth in its entirety,” but to discover wisdom. We discover wisdom as we open to a reality deeper than the limited confines of human rationality. We are more than what we think. There are dimensions to human existence that cannot be contained by the mind.

Wisdom resides along the path of faith. Faith does not contradict reason, but moves beyond reason into the realm of trust, mystery and commitment. Faith opens us to the deep inner reality of the Spirit where we discover the transforming power of life lived in relationship to God. No one thinks his way into transformation. Transformation comes from the deep opening and vulnerability of surrender. As we surrender to God, we more fully reflect our true nature as beings created in the image of God.

3. To grow in our ability to live according to our true nature created in the image of God means to grow in our capacity to love, because “God is love,” (I John 4:16) and “everyone who loves…knows God.” (I John 4:7)

4. If, to love is to know God, then “Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light,” (I John 2:10) because “if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected it in us.” (I John 4:12)

Whether we like it or not, our relationship to God is inextricably bound up with our relationship to other people. We cannot “love” in the abstract. Love must be embodied. We must find a place, beyond the self-interested bonds of biological kinship, where love can be practiced. For me church is the place where I am truly challenged to grow in love.

In church I am required to see God in people in whom I might be disinclined to notice God’s presence. Church holds me faithful to the challenging practices of patience and perseverance that are essential to discovering God’s image where I may have failed to discern God’s Spirit. This is a vital discipline because, as I see God more fully in others, I grow in my awareness of God’s presence in my own life and so my capacity to love expands. By finding God more fully in you, I become more fully the person I was created to be. This is only possible with the faithful discipline of choosing to stay with you, especially at times when I find it most difficult to see God in your life.

The awkward, uncomfortable spiritual practice of choosing to remain in relationship with people who I may feel let me down, betray me, or upset me, is essential to growing deep in faith. Those who choose to love discover truth more than those who believe they think right thoughts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Christopher,
Thanks again, for your response. I'll try and reply to the four points which you raised. By the way, if you're finding that this conversation is going on for a bit too long, feel free to let me know. I'm game if you are, but I just want to make sure that I'm not making myself into a nuisance or anything.

Ok, so in response to point no. 1: I think we're pretty much in agreement. It's very hard for humanity to ever say that it has found the 'truth'. Although, I do think that we can find a sort of...I guess I would call it a subjective objective truth. Or a far as we can ever know the truth. For instance: that gravity leads to falling objects, and a lack of gravity would result in floating objects. As far as we're concerned, this is a truth, but it's entirely possible that there's something that our subjective view of the world is missing. Most of what is up, down, falling, and floating is a sort of human experience, so while gravity might well apply to us in the sense that it applies to our current understanding of up, down, falling, and floating, it's possible that there's another dimension entirely to the whole thing which we have missed.
Or at least, that's what I tend to think. Because at some point, there have to be some truths which we can base our arguments upon, you know? We have to be able to grasp onto some things as absolutes, or else we could find ourselves falling into the dangerous waters of complete relativism. There needs to be some bedrock, and some foundation, or otherwise our process of reasoning is going to have some serious problems along the way. I guess what I'm saying is that we need to realize our subjectivity without falling into relativity. That ultimately, our perceptions are subjective, and that we could be wrong, but that truth, and wisdom, and knowledge are still things which we should strive to reach.

In response to point no. 2: Again, I think we're pretty much in agreement. The question has actually occurred to me of whether the pursuit of God is not also the pursuit of objectivity; of something which we do not have in our own subjective realm.

And in regards to what you said on faith, that: 'faith does not contradict reason, but moves beyond reason into the realm of trust, mystery and committment', I am reminded of C.S. Lewis's words that faith is not so much a belief as a consistency; that faith is not so much believing in God, as it is staying true to that acceptance, and not falling prey to ( needless ) doubt. In a sense, I suppose that also signifies a surrender - to your past decisions and conclusions, remaining 'faithful' to your prior reasoning. I think that perhaps wisdom is very similar in this respect. The truer that we stay to our reasoning, building one principle upon another, and not being swayed by needless doubt, then the more wisdom we can hope to attain.

And in response to points no. 3 and 4: I'm not putting down the importance of love, but I suppose that it hasn't really been my focus of contemplation. Maybe that's to my detriment. Anyway, perhaps my reasoning can be summed up this way: I think that love is important, but that it should not give way to...enabling somebody who is clearly already struggling with something difficult. I think that patience, and temperence, and respecting the dignity and privacy of the people around us, are all good things - very good things - but that this does not always mean being 'nice'. That being said, I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, or to say that this is what you are saying. And I may not place as much importance upon love as you do ( although it's quite possible that your definition of love promotes the same behavior which I would promote for differently-named reasons ), but do think that it is important.

Also, I think after a certain point self-preservation becomes more important than love. That once things have reached a certain point, some relationships are too toxic to remain a part of, no matter the pain which will come after the separation. In that case, love cannot just be for all others, but for oneself as well. Not in a selfish, or self-absorbed way, but in a higher sort of sense, I suppose. Just as our love for one another cannot always be just about our personal relationships, or about being 'nice' to one another, but must be about something more, or perhaps a higher sort of principle.

I don't know: am I making any sense? Or am I just babbling?

Ah well. Cheers!