It is precisely because we are already engaged in the apocalyptic struggle that we are called upon to do work as theologians. Our task is to oppose the atheistic and anti-God attitude, which surrounds us like a viscosity, with a responsible and conscious profession of Christian truth… Unbelieving knowledge of Christianity is not objective knowledge, but rather some kind of anti-theology. There is in it so much passion, at times blind, often obscure and malignant… Here again, theology is called not only to judge, but also to heal. It is necessary to enter into this world of doubt, illusion and lies, in order to answer doubt as well as reproach. But we must enter into this world with the sign of the Cross in our heart and the name of Jesus in our spirit, because this is a world of mystical wanderings, where everything is fragmentalized, decomposed and refracted as it were through a set of mirrors.
One of the most fascinating claims of Orthodox Theology is that when we attempt to conceptualize God we invariably fashion an idol. I find that a dark saying, I admit; I have puzzled over it long and often. (I have spent much of my life waiting for the dawning of dark sayings.) But today I ran across this in Eckhart, and I take it to expand the dark saying (without, alas, making it brighter):
Man’s last and highest parting occurs when, for God’s sake, he takes leave of god. St. Paul took leave of god for God’s sake and gave up all that he might get from god, as well as all he might give–together with every idea of god. In parting with these, he parted with god for God’s sake and yet God remained to him as God is in his own nature–not as he is conceived by anyone to be–nor yet as something to be achieved–but more as an “is-ness”, as God really is.
Puzzle me that.
“And was made man.” What is the ultimate connotation of this creedal statement? Or, in other words, who was Jesus, the Christ and the Lord? What does it mean, in the language of the Council of Chalcedon, that the same Jesus was “perfect man” and “perfect God,” yet a single and unique personality? “Modern man” is usually very critical of that definition of Chalcedon. It fails to convey any meaning to him. The “imagery” of the creed is for him nothing more than a piece of poetry, if anything at all. The whole approach, I think, is wrong. The “definition” of Chalcedon is not a metaphysical statement, and was never meant to be treated as such. Nor was the mystery of the Incarnation just a “metaphysical miracle.” The formula of Chalcedon was a statement of faith, and therefore cannot be understood when taken out of the total experience of the church. In fact, it is an “existential statement.” Chalcedon’s formula is, as it were, an intellectual contour of the mystery which is apprehended by faith. Our Redeemer is not a man, but God himself. Here lies the existential emphasis of the statement. Our Redeemer is one who “came down” and who, by “being made man,” identified himself with men in the fellowship of a truly human life and nature. Not only the initiative was divine, but the Captain of Salvation was a divine Person. The fullness of the human nature of Christ means simply the adequacy and truth of this redeeming identification. God enters human history and becomes a historical person.
This sounds paradoxical. Indeed there is a mystery: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifested in the flesh.” But this mystery was a revelation; the true character of God had been disclosed in the Incarnation. God was so much and so intimately concerned with the destiny of man (and precisely with the destiny of every one of “the little ones”) as to intervene in person in the chaos and misery of the lost life. The divine providence therefore is not merely an omnipotent ruling of the universe from an august distance by the divine majesty, but a kenosis, a “selfhumiliation” of the God of glory. There is a personal relationship between God and man.
A little neo-Socratic essay on the cataphatic/apophatic distinction. Still in progress (still…one of these years I may decide it is finished or may write it off as hopeless).