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Friday, May 12, 2006

The ancient days

There are a great deal of marked differences between the ancient biblical writer’s conception of reality and the modern/post-modern view.  It seems to be our lot in life to impose our contemporary culture’s views upon the biblical text.  This was certainly the case in Modern times as we scoured the Scriptures for all the answers to life.  We sought finality and certainty.  After all, that’s what every Modern person wanted.  If that’s what we wanted, then certainly the Bible had to have it, right?  

No one is exempt from imposing his or her cultural views on the biblical text.  For example, if the post-modern wants to create their own messages and their own reality, then surely the Scriptures could help them do that.  After all, if that’s what we want, then that’s what we get.

I want to appreciate the lessons of ancient thoughts and minds.  In particular I want to understand the lives of the biblical writers.  No one can completely return to the past.  That’s impossible.  The ancient days are gone.  We can never go back to their world or even completely understand and grasp it.  But through the text some of their lessons and views come to life.  We have lessons and inspirations in various places.  Little nuggets and gems to be found if we could only listen, and listen well.

As for me, I want to return to a time when humankind was not obsessed with trying to explain their feelings and spiritual inclinations in terms of physiological or biological impulses in an obsessive compulsive-like need to ratify the evolutionary and materialistic nature of the world.  I want to return to a time when men and women explored the mystery and paradox of the divine presence without the constant chidings of the enlightened scientific community reminding them that there really is no such thing as divinity.  Science and biology proves it.  What would it look like if we once again stretched out our souls to a real God and reached beyond the visible, material world?  Not in some anti-rationalistic leap of faith, but as a way of life.  What if we could once again take it for granted that there was a deep reality beyond the molecules and chemicals that compose the material world.

What would we find if we began to conceive of God in terms of his Realness and Presence, and spent less time trying to define Elohim in theological categories?  I want to return to a place of meditation where I can bow in the majesty of the presence of the one who said, “There is no one like me,” and really begin to understand what that means.  Where is the place where I can become completely lost in Majesty and Sovereignty until I begin to shake with fear and declare, “There is no god like you”?  Where is the place where answers to questions fade to the background and the chorus of praise and worship begins to drown out my mind’s incessant need for explanation?  I think it is in this place that my heart feels a terrible and restless peace.  Peace because my post-modern culture’s obsession with doubt, uncertainty, and irrelevance has lost its grip and allowed me to explore the Reality of Divine Fear.  But a terrible restlessness has taken its place and it pierces my heart with the understanding that my life’s quest is not in an arrival, but in becoming.  I want to become.

What does it mean to become a whole person again?  What would it look like for me to no longer conceive of myself in categories?  A mind.  A body.  A soul.  A spirit.  Feeling.  Thinking.  Faith.  Reason.  Faith.  Works.  What if we returned to the pre-Modern and pre-Scholastic conceptions of holistic personhood?  What would it look like to view myself in wholeness and not in compartments?  Would we feel more whole?  Would we feel less conflicted?  Maybe we could move beyond the point where everything in our lives – all of our emotional, mental, and spiritual confusion – has a psychological explanation:  Where I can be explained in terms of the masses of people.  Where I can be explained in terms of generic categories and generic psychological diagnosis.  Where I can be explained in terms of the observations of psychologists who know how to deal with people like me.  What if I were unique again?  Like in the ancient times – a whole person who was simply in the process of becoming and discovering.  Reaching out to the vast spiritual dimension to understand my finitude.

What would it look like to conceive much less of myself?  To view the earth as the LORD’s?  To think of myself as very small in comparison with the Divine plan and the activity of God?  Can I ever again look at myself as a smaller one if I am bombarded every day with marketing campaigns designed to cater to me, the customer?  I am a consumer and you must give me what I want.  I am in control.  I am the center of economic activity.  If you ignore my power of purchase and choice you will suffer the consequence.  Because my world revolves around me.  I choose you to become part of my world if you can give to me.  If I can take from you without giving more than I choose.  I work where and when I want to work.  And if I don’t work then I deserve to receive, nonetheless.  Because I was born to consume.  I will marry her, but I will also unmarry her if she is not what I thought.  It’s all about the pros and cons.  It’s my world.  It’s my world and I have become a self-destructive chasm of darkness and confusion.  I have collapsed under the weight of my own interests.  I have become too big.  I have lost a sense of Dependence.  I have lost touch with the Other.  

My world can be explained and I am its Master and Commander.  But what would happen if I could no longer command?  What would happen if I no longer mastered?  What would happen if I were not a “Master” of the biblical text, but the biblical text mastered me?  What would happen if the biblical text made me feel my place in the world?  And I conceived much less of myself?  What if I were undone by the Greatness of the Great One?  I am “post-modern” and I have no anchor.  I need no anchor.  The Modern Man was pleased by his anchor.  Science.  Certainty.  A Bible full of answers.  These were delusions of grandeur.  I have no anchor.  I need no anchor.  But I am still not becoming.  I am still no closer to the Divine Greatness of Elohim.  I am still no closer to understanding that “there is no one like you.”  Because I don’t feel inspired.  I chase inspiration where I find it, or at least when I want to feel it.  The ancients didn’t seem to need an anchor, but they did understand paradox.  And they understood the Divine mystery.