Thursday, March 03, 2011

Agnostos Theos (Precision in Thought pt 2)

Matthew comes home around 4:30 and I check out. He watches the babies and I put on my Arabic discs, which is a nightmare for him because he's trying to switch his mind over to Spanish. I wash dishes and tell my imaginary companions that I am going to eat dinner with my youngest daughter in Damascus at nine, and that my husband has rented a car and will come when he's done with work. I tell them I spent the day shopping and bought a mosque, because I always mistake it for the word newspaper.
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Matthew holds a kid or two and cooks and I turn off Pimsleur once the table is set. I never noticed that he was listening too. Last night we curled up in bed and he said to me "Smaa u ait." (Listen and repeat.) He grinned at me. "That man sounds like a potato. Out of all the people in Syria, why did they choose a man who sounds like a potato?" I laughed. He really does. "Smaa u ait. Every time you play that disc, I picture a sleepy potato suddenly breaking into the recording session. Hella uul..." Silence. I could feel him thinking about it. "Smaa u ait." He snickered.
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"It's like white" he said. What is? I asked. "Smah white." It's three words, I told him. "Oh. Smah oh white?" he asked.
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He went from doing a dead-on impression of an Arab man who sounds like a potato to speaking with midwestern accent, all because he had written it out in his head. He picked out the closest letters he could find, and then pronounced them.
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Our minds find the nearest thing and substitute in the familiar for the unfamiliar. It's like coloring a picture of a sunset with a box of eight crayons: you can only get so close. It bears some representation, but it's off.
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As much as our sounds can be distorted versions of real words, our words can be distortions of concepts. Oprah, discussing a book she read, said that man makes God in his own image: that we can't understand him in his fullness, so we substitute in the familiar for the unfamiliar. We "reduce him" to the God of the Bible.
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She said that she came to this realization after hearing a sermon where the preacher said that God is a jealous God. "God is jealous of me?" she asked. The word of and for: who thinks of even defining that? God is jealous for us, like a lovesick husband whose wife has left him for another man. Even that terminology carries room for error: we think of a man who can't wait to get his woman back to slap her around, leave some bruises, remind her that she's his. We don't picture a man who would literally do anything to win back the woman who has been unfaithful to him, who is not capable of loving him like he deserves. He is jealous for her love because he loves her.
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She misunderstood a word, and so she has misunderstood God.
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And now Rob Bell has a video out where he demands that the listener reconcile the terms love and hell (and appears to have done so by pouring contempt on the cross.)
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He is the pastor of Mars Hill Church, which is named after the place where Paul pointed to an altar inscribed with the words "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD" and spoke the words found in Acts 17. The New Testament is full of his letters describing this unfathomable God.
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The word logos means both word and concept: God, help us make them align.




...
"And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, might have the power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and high and long and deep is the love of Christ,
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge,
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." -Ephesians 3:17b-19

12 comments:

B said...

interesting! i need to write a post someday on rob (bell). he sort of singlehandedly salvaged my faith. well, actually, it was all God. but God through some things rob said when I had lots of questions (not that I don't still!)...and it wasn't even answers--it was this sense that God is and was so much bigger and kinder than i ever realized. -bp

The Goodfellas said...

I desperately want his book to be amazing, for it to lift our eyes towards Christ. His tone in the video was so disgusted, disgusted at the assertion that we need Jesus. And part of me balks at that and weeps at that, and part of me completely understands it.

The Goodfellas said...
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The Goodfellas said...

My point (which I have failed to make clearly) is that we fall away when we fail to understand God's love, or his jealousy, or his holiness, or his wrath. Our understanding of him falls short, it always does. We try to pin down a word, an aspect of him, and we end up distorting him. We are unable to conceive of all his attributes simultaneously.

I thought that I could. I thought that the cross accomplished that: we could see his justice and his love, and neither was lessened. And yet now Bell raises questions of sovereignty and will and ignorance and sin and I'm left again with realities that I cannot reconcile together.

And basically I return to the original thought that I am incapable of imagining him. I cannot hold him in my head, I see contradictions: it is my imperfection, not his.

rolli grove said...
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rolli grove said...

Dear Iron, I really loved this post. And your comments.

I have high hopes for the book, too! I thought the video made the book sound like it could go in so many directions, and I don't want to take the hearsay of a blogger who read it. Maybe he's reading it wrong? It is possible! So many are curious. In the end it doesn't matter all that much, in the end Christ Is.

Your post (specifically the part about the way our minds work) makes me want to cry out to see, hear, and know clearly, absolutely. But yeah, Paul mentioned that, (1Cor13:12)......sigh, our frail human minds. (And now, I'll probably post my old YMCA video, because that little song speaks the burdens of my heart better than I can speak it, even now, 13 years later.)

Lisa said...

I love how you make me think in vivid clear pictures that use a billion crayon colors, but leaves just one color missing that makes me search my own self to complete the whole picture. You are such a gifted writer! I miss seeing you at church!

My husband & I have been Rob Bell fans for awhile - we used the Nooma videos in studies & thought they were excellent sources. I'm not sure what to expect with the book, though.

The Goodfellas said...

r- you are talking about this? http://www.youtube.com/user/ningyoko?blend=2&ob=1#p/u/7/5WKVguIXh9A
took me a while, i thought you were talking about disco. ;)

lisa- what are the nooma videos about?

rolli grove said...

yeah, that one says it best, even though it's imperfect--that's kinda the point...

Lisa said...

The Nooma Videos is a series of these short films that are very well done (totally not typical cheese ball Christian role playing videos) that are accompanied with a study guide and really get you thinking deeply about your beliefs and your relationship with Christ. We used them in our mini church about 3 or 4 years ago and some still stick in my mind as quite impacting. I know AAC has the series, not sure if libraries would have them to borrow or not. Otherwise, here's the website:

http://nooma.com/

Lisa said...

PS: In case you haven't come across this yet, here's a video of Rob Bell defending himself/church - not sure where part 2 is, or even if there is a part 2 - haven't come across it yet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIKkvmSNUCY

The Goodfellas said...

yeah, i saw that clip actually. but it's from august of 2008, so i don't know that he still thinks the same way. i would assume not. we'll see! are you going to read his book?