This was the great coming together for me-the breakthrough. What was life about? What was it for? Why do I exist? Why am I here? To be happy? Or to glorify God? Unspoken for years, there was in me the feeling that these two were at odds. Either you glorify God or you pursue happiness. One seemed absolutely right; the other seemed absolutely inevitable. And that is why I was confused and frustrated for so long.
Compounding the problem was that many who seemed to emphasize the glory of God in their thinking did not seem to enjoy him much. And many who seemed to enjoy God most were defective in their thinking about his glory. But now here was the greatest mind of early America, Jonathan Edwards, saying that God’s purpose for my life was that I have a passion for God’s glory and that I have a passion for my joy in that glory, and that these two are one passion.
When I saw this, I knew, at last, what a wasted life would be and how to avoid it.
God created me-and you-to live with a single, all-embracing, all-transforming passion-namely, a passion to glorify God by enjoying and displaying his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. Enjoying and displaying are both crucial. If we try to display the excellence of God without joy in it, we will display a shell of hypocrisy and create scorn or legalism. But if we claim to enjoy his excellence and do not display it for others to see and admire, we deceive ourselves, because the mark of God-enthralled joy is to overflow and expand by extending itself into the hearts of others. The wasted life is the life without a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.
Brother Andrew, God’s Smuggler, page 163.
I listened to two thirds of Brother Andrew’s book this weekend during a long drive. I was struck by this description of a Bulgarian church that the government thought they had under control, but was a great help to Brother Andrew’s missionary work. It’s a good reminder that no one-or institution- is beyond redemption.
Psalm 139:1-6 (ESV).
We studied the 139th Psalm in Sunday School class this morning. The first five verses of the Psalm outline all the ways that God knows us: our actions and thoughts (2), the direction of our lives (3), our words - before we speak them (4), indeed; us completely (1). Later in the Psalm, in the King James translation, the Psalmist says, Thine eyes did see my substance.
After laying all the knowledge that God has of us, in the sixth verse Psalmist says, that “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” What knowledge is unattainable? Self-knowledge equal to God’s. Not only are God’s thoughts about himself higher than us, but his very knowledge about us is unattainable. We can’t ever know ourselves as well as God does.
So does the Psalmist ask for greater self-knowledge? Teach me about myself, oh Lord, so that I may know what you know? On the contrary, the Psalmist invites God to widen the gap even further “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (23).
In the Psalm, there is only one action on the part of the Psalmist: praise (14). Once it is understood how much more God knows us and how we can never have perfect self knowledge, the only appropriate response is to invite him to an even deeper knowledge and then to praise him.
If we were to unchain God from the artificial strictures of preconceived rationality that reduce him to an object that either can be known and grasped like other objects or, alternatively, is completely unknowable, and if we were to allow reason to find its conditions in this unchaining, we would have to find ourselves believing in God by virtue of the compelling force of revelation’s own rationality, its capacity to illumine the meaningfulness of existence.
And if God is God, this rationality would emerge out of the faith by which one places their entire existence at God’s disposal in an attitude of complete surrender and total trust in the unconditional goodness of such a posture, taking the orientation of one’s life from this absolute starting point.
The Hebrew Bible calls this conception of truth emeth - that which is solid, firm, reliable and can be trusted with all one’s weight. Such a religious rationality is wild and daring, but it is no monster. Perhaps it is the paragon of sanity itself. What but an ultimate divine word is capable of bearing the immeasurable weight that we sense our lives to bear and of which we find time and again nothing less is worthy? What else can provide the ultimate horizon of intelligibility within which the world and our humanity find the satisfaction of truth worth living?
Chris Hackett, The problem of religious diversity and the dead-end of reason, ABC Religion & Ethics. This article is written on the eve of the annual Australasian Philosophy of Religion Association, which is themed: “Religious Diversity and Its Philosophical Significance.” The program looks quite interesting. Hackett’s address is on the interest of contemporary Continental philosophers in St. Paul, something I have recently read much about in St. Paul Among the Philosophers. Another looks at John Milbank’s critique of Jean Luc Marion. I would love to be a fly on the wall for this conference.
H/T to the Centre of Theology & Philosophy.