Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Night of the Confessor: Objective, Subjective, and God

Night of the Confessor: Christian Faith in an Age of UncertaintyNight of the Confessor: Christian Faith in an Age of Uncertainty by Tomas Halik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a dense book ... so much so, as far as I can tell, that even the back cover blurb forces the reader to slow down, absorb it, and think.

Night of the Confessor is rich and deep, with somehow simple ideas. Just when the author says something that I have a knee-jerk reaction of "that's not how faith works" he goes further and deeper so that I understand the reasons behind the surface statement ... and usually agree. This is thoughtful and thought provoking writing which I am letting sink in. And it is enriching my internal life.

I'm only about halfway through so this is not a final review although I may not be able to ever adequately describe it except to say that it is amazing me every few pages. Tomas Halik's observations about "Christianity in an Age of Uncertainty" hit the mark time after time. In one sense, one must simply sit back and take in the view, letting his writing wash over you until the point is reached; at which point, I dive in and mentally wrestle with the content. Occasionally I may disagree with him, but that is fairly rare and even when I do disagree it is because we have a different perspective. I can always see his point of view and it is not a non-Catholic one but just is different from my own. Which is also valid, as I believe Halik himself would say.

I am going to begin sharing nibbles of this beginning today. This is actually fairly lengthy so "nibble" may not be the right term, but I want you to get an adequate sample.
When reality was separated into the "objective" and the "subjective" at the beginning of the modern era, God was made homeless. Any attempt to place Him into one or another of the categories always resulted in "the death of God." God did not belong in the world of things, the world of visible, measurable, provable, and above all, manipulable "realities." But nor is God a "feeling," a "thought," or an "idea," even if human thoughts and feelings can become attached to Him (until they eventually discover that not even they can penetrate His mystery, and at best they can just about touch the "hem of his garment").

"My Kingdom does not belong to this world." God's place is in the "kingdom of the impossible," in the "kingdom of absurdity," somewhere where a totally different logic applies than in "this world" -- the logic of the paradox: if you want to be bigger, then be the least, be the servant of all; whoever loses his life will gain it; those who have will receive, while from those who have not, even what they have will be taken away; the laborer hired for the last hour will receive the same wage as the one that has "borne the day's burden and the heat"; the master from whom the "dishonest steward" has stolen, praised him for acting prudently; the father shows more feeling toward the prodigal son than toward the son who has been faithful and obedient; the Son of the Most High is born in a stable and executed on a cross with felons; the dead come to life, the blind see, and those who say "we see" have become blind.

Is that any basis for some system, logic, or morality, for some rational, healthy, and successful "lifestyle"?  It's impossible. Viewed "from here" it is the "kingdom of the impossible." "For human beings it is impossible," Jesus often enjoyed saying, "but for God all things are possible." "Nothing is impossible for God." What is impossible for humans is possible for God--and we can see God only in "what is impossible for people." People's attempts to penetrate the mystery of God's essence inevitably go astray; maybe there is only one path where we might conceivably encounter the ever astonishing kingdom of the impossible that is coming. That path is the path of paradox.

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