Holy week came along I was bent on doing a series
of pieces on the notions of covenant and election.
Try as I might, I have not been able to recapture
the thread of development that I hoped to follow.
Instead, I want to ask you to perform a
couple of thought experiments with me.
that you are on the absolute tippy top of the world's
highest mountain, so high up that nothing lives there
or grows there. Imagine further that, despite the
height, there is no wind. What do you hear?
that you are on the far side of the moon, where, literally,
the sun don't shine. If you turn your back to the
horizon, facing the utter darkness of a sunless world,
what do you see?
to both of these questions might well be nothing.
might be God.
is no created sound or when there is no creature visible,
does God go away? Does he cease to exist? Or does
he remain the only thing to see or hear?
These are experiments in what old Greek theologians
called apophatic theology. AT is the exact
opposite of emphatic theology. The latter insists
on the truth of what is said. The former insists that
the truth lies in what is not said
what is not say-able, in-effable.
It is our
common assumption that omnipotence is just more power
than human; omniscience, just more savvy; eternity,
just time wide open at each end. AT insists that what
is truly divine is so beyond our ability to know,
see, grasp or hear that all of these is as good as
ignorance compared to the truth of God.
wisdom knows all that is, all that could be, all that
is not, and all that can be asked of these things,
then, even our questioning and our doubting are already
gateways into God's wisdom.
power is such that it can overcome the apparent contradiction
between power and powerlessness, then even our most
frustrating failures, our most disgusting diseases,
and our deepest self-doubts become windows into his
word is so perfect that it can embrace also the silence
that separates that word from all other words, then
our apo-phasia, our non-saying, conveys the
not want to push this too far; what is wrong is never
going to become right. But it is terribly important
to realize that Truth is bigger than knowledge, (even
if we can't express it) and we should never believe
only what we know (and, still less what we think).
theology keeps us humble. It also offers us a reason
to live by faith even when we cannot tell where our
faith is based. It's like holding a hand in the dark.
learned about this as a kid. I read a little verse
that commented on a Psalm:
as darkness/ Are all around you/ And night, enveloping
me/ I find you.
and truly and benightedly yours,