Last night Amanda and I went to Highland’s “Here With Us” at the Paramount. It was beautiful.
And, because it was beautiful, I felt my heart drawn to those same questions again—the one’s that cause art.
Because art is produced in the struggle between what is and what should be. It is formed in the crucible of human pain.
* * *
We went to the park last night and looked up at the stars and talked. Looking up at the stars distresses me because I realize just how infinite the universe is and just how tiny I am. This bothers me because—emotionally—it’s tough to picture God up there, in there, somewhere.
Doesn’t she get lonely out there in the cold? And, anyway, what kind of loving God would let earth get consumed by the sun in a few billion years? Which is why, for me, God’s transcendence is scary, but her immanence is comforting.
* * *
Now, more than ever, I reject this notion of a “personal relationship with Jesus.” I’ve talked about that some here and here. But, as is typical of most people, when faced with the difficulty of expressing a newly acquired knowledge, I tend to fall back on the language I already possess. So, in casual conversation I still talk about God as a person I can know whose Spirit is an immaterial force within me capable of “leading” me to do one thing or another.
But I don’t believe that for a second. Not really.
Because YHWH is a character in the literary drama we call the Bible.
And God is a Western concept imposed on YHWH.
And God is a metaphor for Love.
And, very well, the philosophers have me convinced about their God. The unmoved mover and such.
But the line between what the philosophers can theorize about God on one hand and what I can know of God on the other falls directly across the heart of our God-constructions.
Because, inevitably, our God constructions are predicated on our language use, a medium I know very well to be unstable. (Thanks, Derrida).
But without language, there is no knowledge. If, indeed, St. Thomas’ God is out there, then she is going to have to present herself discursively—she will have to inhabit our linguistic constructions.
Which scares the pants off of me. What kind of incarnation is that.
* * *
But what kind of faith can I possibly have?
Well, I believe the Christian story to be true. Seriously. I buy into the literal resurrection of Jesus.
But it’s not because of the merits of the historical argument, though N.T. Wright has done a good job with that.
And it’s not because I had some personal encounter with God that convinced me. Because I’m not convinced that my past “encounters” with God were anything more than my mind playing tricks on me.
My faith is altogether more contingent than that. I believe for the same reason that Tony Jones does: the aesthetic of the Christ event. To quote Jones:
Like the greatest work of art ever created, the Christ-event has completely captured my imagination. It is a concept so profound that it demands everlasting unpacking and interpretation. Actually, I would call this “revelation.” In the Christ event, so much is revealed about the nature of God and the nature of humankind that its hermeneutical challenge is infinite.
Which brings us full circle: art is produced in the struggle between what is and what should be. It is formed in the crucible of human pain.
The Christ event is the best shot we have of an artistic understanding of human pain—the most consistent reality of the human experience.
In the weeks ahead, I intend to unpack some of this a bit more. I intend to explore the aesthetic of the Christ event.