God is dead! Uhh, which one?

Paul Ricoeur is my new found friend.

Everyone is familiar with the famous expression of the madman in The Gay Science: “God is dead.” But the true question is to know, first of all, which god is dead; then who has killed him (if it is true that this death is a murder); and finally what sort of authority belongs to the announcement of this death. These three questions qualify the atheism of Nietzsche and Freud as opposed to that of British empiricism or French positivism, whose methods are neither exegetical nor genealogical…

Which god is dead? We can now reply: the god of metaphysics and also the god of theology, insofar as theology rests on the metaphysics of the first cause, necessary being, and the prime mover, conceived as the source of values and as the absolute good. Let us say that it is the god of onto-theology, to use the expression that was coined by Heidegger, following Kant.

Ricouer, Religion, Atheism, and Faith, 445.

…everything still remains open after Nietzsche.

Ricoeur, Religion, Atheism, and Faith, 447.

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Hymn 25 – Symeon the New Theologian

–But, Oh, what intoxication of light, Oh, what

movements of fire!

Oh, what swirlings of the flame in me, miserable one

that I am,

coming from You and Your glory!

The glory I know it and I say it is Your Holy Spirit,

who has the same nature with You and the same

honor, O Word

He is of the same race, the same glory,

of the same essence, He alone with Your Father

and with You, O Christ, O God of the universe!

I fall down in adoration before You.

I thank You that You have made me worthy to know,

however little it may be,

the power of your divinity.

I thank You that You, even when I was sitting in

darkness,

revealed Yourself to me, You enlightened me,

You granted me to see the light of Your countenance

that is unbearable to all.

I remained seated in the middle of the darkness, I

know,

but, white I was there surrounded by darkness,

You appeared as light, illuminating me completely

from Your total light.

And I became light in the night, I who was found in

the midst of darkness.

Neither the darkness extinguished Your light

completely,

nor did the light dissipate the visible darkness,

but they were together, yet completely separate,

without confusion, far from each other,surely not at

all mixed,

except in the same spot where they filled everything.

So I am in the light, yet I am found in the middle of

the darkness.

So I am in the darkness, yet I am in the middle of

the light.

–How can darkness receive within itself a light

and, without being dissipated by light

it still remains in the middle of the light?

O awesome wonder which I see doubly,

with my two sets of eyes, of the body and of

the soul.

From Maloney and de Catanzaro’s translation of The Discourses (The Classics of Western Spirituality)

Dialoge on the Hidden God – Nicholas of Cusa – Pt 3

Read part one and part two.

Cusa’s dialogue between the Christian and the Pagan presents some challenging questions for contemporary Christians’ language about knowledge, certainty, faith, and how one speaks about God. I find the Christian in the dialogue to be very different from mainstream Christianity’s desire for certainty, rational proofs for the existence of God, and other efforts that inadvertently express to the wider world a degree of epistemological arrogance. (I recognize that to some degree this is a generalization.) More to it, admitting that one does not know something about God (or any other matter of faith) is seen as weakness, laziness, a lack of faith, a rejection of the Bible as a source of knowledge, and a lack of confidence in God. At worst, admitting that one doesn’t know something is seen as a sinful ignorance. Additionally, agnosticism is a target of polemical apologetics. Agnostics are, like atheists, people who’ve got it all wrong. They need to be corrected. To be shown true knowledge. While I’m not disputing the fact that agnosticism is often a mask for apathy or disinterest, I am saying that the inherent value of agnosticism for the Christian faith is underestimated. Again, some observations.

So, back to the Christian and the Pagan.

Where I last left off, the Christian had said something very peculiar about his God: “I know that everything I know is not God and that everything I conceive is not like God…” That is to say, the Christian recognizes that his intellect cannot conceive of anything like God on its own. Even if faith, which amplifies and enlightens reason, allowing one to go beyond reason, is brought into the equation, I think that this simple detail, God’s incomprehensibility, remains true.

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Dialogue on the Hidden God – Nicholas of Cusa – Pt 2

Read Part One.

Where we last left off, the Pagan had asked how the Christian would explain our ability to distinguish between a human being and a stone. The Christian was explaining to the Pagan how we really don’t know the essence of something even though we may claim to. The best example of this is to try to answer the question “What is a stone?” Our intellect cannot exhaust the essence of a stone (if there is an essence at all). But again, how is it that we know something is a stone and not a human being and vice versa?

Christian. …That you know that a human is not a stone does not result from a knowledge by which you know a human and a stone and their difference, but it results from accident, from a difference in the ways of operating and their shapes, to which you discern them, you impose different names.

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Dialogue on the Hidden God – Nicholas of Cusa – Pt 1

Dialogue On the Hidden God (1444) is a short conversation, written by Nicholas of Cusa, between a Pagan and a Christian on the topic of God, specifically on how we might know, or not know, God. A Pagan comes across someone engaged in the act of worship, prostrate and weeping, and is curious. What is this person doing? Who are they worshipping? Why are they worshipping? The Pagan finds out that this person is a Christian and begins to probe as to what sort of God the Christian worships.

Pagan. What are you worshipping?

Christian. God.

Pagan. Who is the God you worship?

Christian. I do not know.

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