Tuesday, September 25, 2007
these and these
I don't know very much about the tradition of wisdom from the Rabbis, but the little I've read is extremely attractive to me. One of the speakers at the Spirit and Nature conference I mentioned in an earlier blog was Rabbi Rami Shapiro. He was inspiring and challenging and was very conversant with Christianity.
At one point during his presentation he quoted his tradition... "Elu v'elu d'vrei Elohim Chayyim" which he said basically translates as "these and these are all the words of the Living God." The interpretation of the saying is that if God is truly infinite, then ideas about God must be plentiful and even paradoxical. Just because two ideas contradict one another does not mean that one must be wrong. It is necessary to hold the two contradicting ideas and find truth in both of them if we are to begin to truly encounter God.
As a Baptist, that doesn't feel like a foreign idea to me. As I understand my tradition, there was always room left for the conflicting opinion because there was always the possibility that God was, indeed, speaking through it. It is built into the very fabric of Christian theology. We begin with a paradox... Jesus is fully human and fully God. How can that be? And we go on from there.
At the same time, it is not a comfortable position for many Christians who see the world in a very mechanistic terms. It certainly is not a popular way of thinking among Baptists even if it is central to our tradition. No, many Christians have a theology of syllogisms: If A is true and B contradicts A, B must be not true. It makes for a predictable and comfortable god, but as the Rabbis would remind us, a god too small to be God. Paul reminded us that "now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known." Our ideas about God must always be couched in humility. We do not know everything about God, what we do know may be contradictory, and what we think we know may in fact be distorted... So for now, we look for the words of the Living God in these... and in these.