Saturday, October 07, 2006

Theological Cliff Diving

If my previous post which talked about "Bungee Jumps for the Mind" was a little overstated, then it might have been more properly attached to some of the ideas I would now like to throw out there. In keeping with my penchant for the exaggeration and to maintain the metaphor, I present the following thoughts as what feels like "theological cliff-diving."

Just a couple actually. These come out of the reading group I am in, where we are discussing in depth the section in Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics on "The Election of God":

  • In the Garden with the forbidden tree, God wasn't giving humans a choice between life with God and some other sort of less-preferable life. The choice was between life with God or no life at all. The fact that they chose the latter should have resulted in death immediately, but we are now living in the time of God's delayed judgment, when we face the aftermath in real-time, but should understand that there is great delay in order to give us the opportunity for redemption. Barth talks about election as God's divine "Yes" to humanity, which we responded to with ingratefulness and rejection to which God in turn responds to with a "No". However, in Christ we are also given a "Nevertheless."
  • God's judgment is often thought of as a future event (which it ultimately is), but it actually came on day one when God created and called it GOOD. He didn't create bad, but by calling what he made "good" he was also saying that to not see it or accept it as good would thereafter be "bad" and totally unacceptable.
  • We haven't talked much about annhialationism and hell and all that yet, but the Great One (a character in our group) made a very intriguing point to me in our walk home: We think of annhialation as preferable to hell and hence have a debate about which one a loving God would opt for, but perhaps when truth-be-told from God's perfect perspective hell is actually in some way "better" than annhialation altogether.

That last one's a doozy. See what I mean about "cliff diving"? There may or may not be safe water below but the whole enterprise of this kind of thought is pretty edgy and scary. But with confidence in the veracity of our Guide and His Word this stuff is something I find quite exciting.


Tony Tanti said...

Interesting, I have some trouble with the last one. How can a place with weeping and gnashing of teeth be better than annhialation? I guess if suffering is better than not existing. Interesting.

I don't think this needs to be considered 'cliff diving' though I know what you mean. I think the far more dangerous thing to do with the Word is to think we have it all figured out rather than having dialogue about it.

Coutts said...

Good comment on what's more dangerous. I agree. I should stop it with the catchy titles when they do that.

I found the point odd and hard to swallow (about hell and annhialation), but at the same time, there are some interesting points to it. His thought was that God affirms the worth, or goodness, of his creatures by not annhialating them. Better to suffer as a creature than to not exist at all. I can appreciate that point, and also the one that reminds me that we only see through a glass darkly ... but yeah, I'm not sure about that one.