Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Unearthed chewed-on bits

Oh...that sounds like nice reading. From an interview with christian "Radical Orthodoxy" thinkers

“If God is the root of everything, the thinking goes, God is beyond definition. To define God would be to use terms God created to explain their creator. As postmodern theory, an unknowable entity that precedes existence reduces all being to self-reference. But as faith, just the contemplation of such an idea reveals at least a small part of a chain of interconnected ideas and things—an infinitely vast outline of the divine.”

Yes, the old stock statement; that God is beyond His Creation, and is not bound by dimensions or natural laws, logic, morality or aesthetics generated therein. Few of us noticed how self-referencial reasoning, epistemic circularity, existential crisis and worse - really, really bad poetry and coffee-shop prose - are the fruits of a Creation read/studied/
loved/feared only as “the Natural Universe”. We can conceive and study academically a theory of God. And if we are fortunately graced to do so, approaching missing a theory of God because of something whispered in it, something all the more awesome for the possibility that it might be so. Do you theorize on your mother and her love, demanding proof of her attributes, embracing the vacuum of possible certainty regarding proof of her being? Or do you know full well from the very seat of your logic that “on mothers, you can trust your sense perception”, your memory as well as your other knowledge-gathering gifts regarding her and her cooking and hugs. And you know intuitively (obvious exceptions aside), that only mean, or worse – deeply troubled people -- pathologically doubt their mother’s love, let alone existence. You don’t (or else you really shouldn’t), approach your mother in theory; you approach your mother in faith. NOT in blind faith but trust; trust built up from infancy, from the wisdom of childhood, trust that comes from relationship and encounter of being a son or daughter or (God willing), a parent yourself.
With God it’s very similar. You were created to bring about a set of relationships only you can - with the world and all the things in it you can grasp with your heart and soul and mind (or fend off with every ounce of your heart, soul and mind). And God created you to have a relationship with him. You miss so much by approaching your parents and friends in theory – you should approach every moment with them with a faith and trust commensurate with the depth and breadth of your relationship, with the knowledge of temporal limits on human existance. What is the appropriate degree of faith and trust in which you approach the Conscious and Caring Source of the Universe, Whom every moment –sustaining every moment?

“Milbank the student found the mix of pre- and postmodernism nothing short of revelatory. ‘If God is radically unknown, that amounts to saying there’s a dimension of everything that’s unknown,’ he reasoned, delighted to find a way of thinking by which reasoning itself was not so much informed by revelation as dependent upon it. The new approach, though, led him not to the church, but to the university. He didn’t hear the calling to be a priest. Instead, he would be a theologian.”

Of course Ein Sof, Gans Anders trysts in fields of Jewish “theology” (Kabbalah), and the way creation relates to the “Un-relate-to”-able one. “A dimension of everything that’s unknown”, yeah…And we can say more than just “a way of thinking by which reason”, we could also say “a way of living by which loving/painting/childrearing/surviving, etc, is not so much more informed by revelation as dependant on it.” Judaism would say it is such a way, with the profusion of 613 mitzvot and the mechanism of Jewish Law (Halacha), by which every moment, every aspect of creation is an opportunity for relationship (by a spectrum of abstentions as well as engagements), through it’s unknown aspect to the Unknowable (who wants you to know he loves you).

“I’m used to people saying, ‘Do you really believe in the virgin birth?’ or the resurrection, the miracles, these things liberal modernity rejected. I would say, ‘Yes, of course we believe.’ But what we’re saying is that this story is a complex theological statement that none of us fully understands. The idea that it’s nonsense, that it doesn’t fit scientific principles, is in itself a secular form of knowledge. The virgin birth is not just a metaphor. Calling it a myth, or a metaphor, assumes objective knowledge we don’t have."”

People say to him “do you really believe…”, with their conceptions of what “belief” constitutes in mind. He responds with his conceptions of what belief means. I think in addition (as opposed to Daniel, who in eternal ‘opposition’ stands on tree limbs to get a proper place to hack at them/deny them), that people must learn that they actually have beliefs regarding what belief is. If not, they will forever be bringing their conception of belief, and if converted to your belief, they will offer your belief, not you perception of your belief.
He adds “this story [possibly implying that “story” entail much more than just what is literary, LitCrit analysis, that secular borders of physical/spiritual may be breached in defining “story”] is a complex theological statement [what theological means, what a statement is; some view a proper, fit statement as being in many dimensions, very real], that none of us fully [since, while acknowledging the reality of “understanding”, we deny
The independence of understanding such that “fully understanding” isn’t possible], understands [never exhausts describing, grasping; very “Jewish” reading!].
Then the real gem,

“The idea that it’s nonsense, that it doesn’t fit scientific principles, is in itself a secular form of knowledge [which pomos deny the legitimacy of, and real scientists from the onset assert is beyond the lenses of science to engage]. The virgin birth is not just a metaphor [emphasis on “just”; he accepts the metaphor facet, but like C.S. Lewis maybe, he would add that it is all the more meaningful (considering the dimensions of real world power he would see metaphors has having), for being true*]. Calling it [just] a myth, or a metaphor, assumes objective knowledge we don’t have [objective knowledge we don’t have regarding not only the myth/metaphor dimensions of the miracle, but also myths and metaphors as such]."

* ”True?; what’s that?”, you may ask; by true, I mean that had you been in that historical place or time, you would have been yet another witness to what the narrative describes, and probably more, because the text does not exhaust the event it’s depicting; heck, we can’t even exhaust these narratives and texts after millennia of trying. And here we’re only talking about miracles, not all the other stuff told over in scripture (which seals eras of events and relationships, not to deny anything after; gemara filled with weirdness, and lower levels of prophecy continued even though the Canon of prophetic texts affectively sealed).

There are beliefs that are necessary before other beliefs to be reasonable/functional/ defensible in the marketplace of ideas; even more fundamental, there are “fundamental constant” beliefs that are the very essential foundations to creating ecosystems that gives rise to ‘X’, much like a few fundamental constants and laws that apply to matter that give rise, ultimately, to the universe and our world of life-forms. In the west, most of our most dynamic and pregnant ones are Biblical/Jewish. There are chains of successive, mandatory events(if not for__, __wouldn’t have happened, etc), relationships and “equations” that must have been, that must have happened for things to BE as they are.
Not that they couldn’t hypothetically have come about some other way, but we would exhaust ourselves in trying to fathom the variables making for these hypothetical “other ways”, and probably end up further evidencing the un-likelihood of there being things thinking on things - like we do now, as Gould says in ____ (further along in the world as it is, systems and processes are so established that the unlikely comes less likely, as processes become established, relationships/hegemony formed, evolution is constrained to microevolution, etc).
Anyways, the Torah and the interpretive culture around it, is the only narrative and the only culture to have produced the set of “fundamental constant” beliefs that gave rise to systematic empirical science, that gave rise to ethics with foundation, that gave rise to…gefilte fish?


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