Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Awareness of God

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner begins his book Eyes Remade for Wonder with an analysis of the story of Moses and the burning bush. Rabbi Kushner rejects the idea that the burning bush was a miracle God performed to get Moses' attention. He says you could probably buy this trick in a Manhattan joke shop -- "Bush burns but isn't consumed, amaze your friends, life of the party, $20."

Instead, Kushner suggests, the burning bush is a test to see how well Moses can pay attention. You have to watch a burning bush closely to know it isn't being consumed. So because Moses notices, God says, "To him I would speak."

The point of all this, finally, is that the first step of spirituality, according to Kushner, is becoming aware, deeply aware, of the world around us. And then, being aware, we will see God in the world. Having become aware of God's presence around us, we will at last turn to sacred texts to seek understanding.

But at this point, a lot of Christian theologians will stand up and shout, "Nein!" Only through God's self-revelation in Christ can we know God. Before Barth, we have Luther telling us, "That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened." Luther here is directly relying on St. Paul's words in Romans 1:20ff where Paul says that those who sought to know God through creation became foolish and did not truly know God.

And so we must have a special revelation of God before we can know God. God must come to us in Word and Sacrament. Only then (if even then) can we rightly see God in the world.

And so we have a paradox. On the one hand, before we become aware of God's presence around us, we will have no regard for sacred texts or religious ceremonies. On the other hand, until God comes to us in Word and Sacrament, we cannot perceive God in the world.

And so, after the manner of Xeno, I conclude that knowledge of God is impossible.


Inheritor of Heaven said...

Isn't it really the Holy Spirit given to us in the gift of faith that brings us to knowledge of God in Christ? We do not come to Christ unless the Spirit draws us/reveals him and we do not come to the Father but by Jesus Christ.

Andy said...

Yes, the Holy Spirit. But where does the Holy Spirit meet us? The question, of course, is more than a little academic, which is why I invoked Xeno, who proved that motion is impossible. Mainly, I'm trying to use paradox as an avenue for exploration.

Inheritor of Heaven said...

The Holy Spirit meets us where we are.

Andy said...

How very true!

joy said...

Interesting- what do you think of Rabi Kushner's interpretation of the creation story?