Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Transcendence of God

God is Other.  Rudolf Otto referring to the transcendence of God described this as 'mysterium tremendum".  God is not more of human but plus.  Hence the mystery.  Karl Barth eschewed 'natural theology' emphasizing the Unknown God.  Soren Kierkegaard who influenced Barth described the transcendent nature of God as having 'qualitative distinction' and 'dimensional beyondness'.  Millard Erickson explains this by saying that no matter how well we refined cotton we won't get silk and that while there may be all manner of sound frequency in a room without a radio receiver we won't hear the music.  So with God, he is here always and yet we many not perceive him.  Revelation is from God and not a product of my 'work'.  I cannot discover God unless God first wants to be discovered. Thy Will Be Done, not my will, Lord.  This is the humble supplicant and not the hell raiser who would wrest an answer from God.  Job describes the transcendent quality of our relationship with God.  God is creator. We are creatures.
William James in Variety of Religious Experiences describes 'spiritual awakening'.  It's as if the darkness is there and suddenly the lights are on.  There is an 'aha' experience where we 'get it' and realize that the former view of whatever had been adequate but no longer is.  In science a former hypothesis like Newtonian physics is subsumed by Einsteinian physics which in turn is subsumed by String Theory.  Like climbing  a mountain we see further each peak experience, the former views of the valleys contained in the greater view of greater height.
The Bible is full of examples of God coming to those who aren't climbers or seekers.  Moses certainly didn't want to return to Egypt to free his people.  Paul was intent on wiping out the Christian teachings when God made known his plans for Paul.  Jonah was definitely not planning on being in a whale and yet God 'revealed' himself to these folk.
There is in the east an element of gnosticism, the acquiring of secret knowledge, to get greater power and God awareness.  Trumgpa might argue reasonably that this reflects not easter religion by the 'consumer' mind of westerners.  Westerners, especially the idle fat set, love to 'smorgasbord' religion 'parachuting' into culture and claiming it's 'sweets'.  In contrast the Hindus and Buddhist and Moslem adherents all struggle with a burden of 'rules' and 'duties' and 'obligations' no different than Christians do.  Thomas Merton compared the catholic monastic traditions with Buddhist traditions and certainly neither was particularly 'easy'.
In the discussion of 'works and faith' there are always those who say if it's 'god's will' then why shouldn't I just eat, drink, fornicate, dance and be merry until he calls me.  Jesus counteracts this by telling a parable of those waiting for the master to come and also those who are given seeds to sow.  In the east reincarnation progress depends upon the holy behaviour of individuals now. The reincarnation ideal is that the only way 'forward' or 'out' is by spiritual work now, there being no escape from any arduous task.  In contrast in the west entrance to heaven is for the faithful.  Further when one actually knows the joy of true love it's hard to accept the shadow of lust.  God is seen as a love in the Song of Songs and Thompsons, Hound of Heaven.
Transcendent God is Other and Unknown.  The interface of I and Thou is what Martin Buber describes as the road from I and It to that sacred touching of the divine.  In the story of Jesus the woman touches the hem of his cloak to be healed.  Millard Erickson describes holiness, eternity and omnipotence as being attributes of God's transcendent character whereas omnipresence is an expression of His immanence.

No comments: