Sunday, December 10, 2006

a god-shaped box

We want guarantees. We are desperate for them. We long to have faith in something that is unshakeable. A solid rock. A firm foundation. Something to stand on. Something to stand for. While I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with wanting these types of guarantees, a question must be asked: What are we really seeking by demanding a guarantee? I would argue that the simple answer to this complex question is our need for control and understanding. As a result, our insistence on guarantees and certainty has successfully sucked out much of the mystery of the gospels. We are left with a watered down, over-simplified, “If I do A, then God will do B”, “value-meal”, modern theology that has me not asking where the guarantee is, but asking instead, “Where is God?”

I think many of us who claim to be postmodern would say that in order to find God we must first look in the box that modernity has placed Him in. Upon opening this box, we find God missing - not even a trace of pixie dust has been left behind. Did he escape? Or could it be that He never found His way into the box in the first place? Just because modernity placed our Lord Jesus Christ in a box doesn’t mean God agreed to it.

“He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And he closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:17-21
Aw, snap! Just a regular day in the temple and then this guy walks up and says, ‘Hey, I’m the One. I’m God. Deal with it!’ How do you take a God like that and throw Him in a box marked “a safe, simple, guarantee”?
This critique is not to say anything about our very real need to try and understand God. We can all agree we have limited understanding and that our boxes or something similar to them are needed to process our feeble attempts to comprehend God. Where modernity has gotten sticky however, is how the box very quickly has become God.

So is our present state to simply pit the modern against the postmodern and spend decades battling out the correct interpretations or the correct boxes of understanding? This line is futile and again seems to take out the mystery of God. Kevin Vanhoozer in his book, "Is There Meaning in this Text?" goes back to Augustine to help us begin to remedy our troubles: “Augustine’s chief hermeneutic maxim is to ‘choose the interpretation that most fosters the love of God and neighbor.’” Easier said than done but at the very least by doing so we begin to see again the great and devastating mystery that is God.

In the end we are bound to create boxes. They are how we begin the process of grasping this un-graspable God. However, we must be willing to let go of our boxes at any moment, realizing that the contents contain only our understanding, not the actual God. The truth is that God is unshakeable. He is a solid rock, a firm foundation; it is our boxes, which are not as safe.

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