Thursday, February 11, 2010

if i wanted a circular god, i'd find a fat buddha

Theology after Google

Theology after Google does not divide up the world between the “sacred” and the “secular,” as past theologies so often did. All thought and experience bears on it, and all of one’s life manifests it. Thus the distinction between one’s “ministry” and one’s “ordinary life” is bogus. All of one’s life as a Christian is missional.. The great 15th-century theologian and mystic Nicholas of Cusa imagined God as a circle whose radius is infinite and whose center is everywhere. It only takes a second to realize that Cusa’s picture wreaks havoc on all geometries of “inside” and “outside.”

This is hardly a new idea. I was hearing this from people in the missions organization I was in several years ago. I think it's something that could be debated. For example, when God spoke to Moses in the wilderness, He called where they talked "holy ground". Wherever that perameters of that "holy ground" was, it was different than the normal ground Moses had been walking on before, and so he was told to remove his sandals. A similar thing happened later, when Moses and the people of Israel were at the mountain and God came down to them. The mountian was not to be treated by them as another mountain--the people were not to approach it, and any animal that touched it was to be killed. The Tabernacle and later the Temple were not common buildings, and even in them there was a place that was entered only once a year by the High Priest, the Holy of Holies. The Ark of the Covenant was not to be touched at all, and God killed a man who touched it, even for the theoretically good reason of keeping it from falling. The tribe of Levi was different than the others, they were not given land, but were the priests and keepers of the Tabernacle and Temple.

It's an interesting idea, perhaps not without merit, depending on what is meant by it. I think the last sentence of the paragraph quoted above gives an idea of what he means--that in trying to do away with the concepts of "inside" and outside", he's essentially sneaking in, though not so subtly, universalism. Perhaps not surprising, since TheOoze is Spencer Burke's site, and Burke has claims to be some form of universalist.

And that is where this writer's version of "no sacred or secular" falls apart. I doubt the New Testament could be more plain that there is a very real difference between those who believe and those who don't, between those who are children of God and child or wrath, the sheep who are welcomed and the goats who are condemned, the wheat and the tares, the wise virgins and the foolish ones, those in Abraham's bosom and those in Hades, those whose names are written in the Book of Life and those whose names aren't.

One can point to divisions people have made that have been silly or even stupid. But pointing those out does not mean that all divisions are wrong. And when the Bible plainly says there are those who are pleasing to God, and others who are subject to God's wrath, then it is not wise to try to dismiss those divisions simply because one doesn't like them, and simply because they do not most kind "picture".

Finally, a bit on the difference between the symbol of the circle and the more obvious Christian symbol of the cross, from Chesterton's "Orthodoxy", toward the end of chapter 2.

As we have taken the circle as the symbol of reason and madness, we may very well take the cross as the symbol at once of mystery and of health. Buddhism is centripetal, but Christianity is centrifugal: it breaks out. For the circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed for ever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller. But the cross, though it has at its heart a collision and a contradiction, can extend its four arms for ever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its centre it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross opens its arms to the four winds; it is a signpost for free travellers.

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