Skip to main content

doing theology in reverse

Due to a hectic reading schedule and a trip to the apple orchard on my day off, I didn't have time to post anything this week, but go ahead and check out the blog I wrote for a practical theology forum here. It talks about what I have been reading lately in Christian ethics and how a different reading of the story of Cain and Abel challenged me to think about how we naturally gravitate towards positions of favour instead of willingly taking on the role of humble servant.

Comments

Anonymous said…
Perhaps the most difficult revelation to accept from the story of Cain is that his righteous acts form the initial substance of his separation from God.

Cain is first rejected because of his goodness, his inventiveness, his ingenuity, his ambition. He tills the soil with success. Cain does not need God's blessing - he can provide for himself. It is, in essence, both culture and technology that separate Cain from God. He is not naked or vulnerable before God (like Abel). He is greater than Abel.

Abel, on the the other hand, is not more righteous. From our perspective today, he is less righteous - he has no ingenuity.
But Abel is more helpless and he is forced to rely on God. God, being merciful and loving, has no choice but to show favor to Abel. Abel is not able.

When Cain kills Abel, it is man who kills the last thread of his vulnerability: man kills his need for God, his dependance on God.

Cain's line prospers as the line of culture and technology. He goes-off to form cities. His line forms bronze tools and musical instruments.

The line of Seth is that of those who "call on the name of Lord".

Like you say in your review, we are definitely Cain. From the material perspective we have absolutely no need for God. We can provide for ourselves.

Turning towards the way of Abel is impossible for us, because we are able. We would have give-up everything that constitutes our society and culture. Perhaps this is the meaning of the story for us - that we can't turn towards God, that we can't willingly give-up our place.

What then are we to do? If we can't move to dependance on God, perhaps we can first realize in what ways we aren't dependent on Him. Perhaps we should study our strength, our technology, our culture in order to see what God isn't.

Perhaps before we can hear what God wants, we should look and see where we really are.
Anonymous said…
This would be "theology in reverse".

Instead of discussing who/what God is, we should discuss what It isn't.

Because perhaps that's all we really can see/know of God - what he isn't - because all we can really see is ourselves.

The God of the Hebrews is the imminent unknowable - YHWH. He can't be discussed. But we can discuss what He isn't.

Popular posts from this blog

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.

---------------------

When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…

the movement of humility

We live in a context of stratification where much of society is ordered into separate layers or castes. We are identified as upper class, middle class, or lower class. Our language reflects this up/down (superior/inferior) paradigm. We want to be at the top of the heap, climb the ladder of success, break through the glass ceiling, be king of the hill. This same kind of thinking seeps into our theology. When we talk about humility, we think mostly think in terms of lowering ourselves, willfully participating in downward mobility. This type of up/down language is certainly present in biblical texts (James 4:10 is one example), but I believe that the kind of humility we see in Jesus requires that we step outside of a strictly up/down paradigm. Instead of viewing humility as getting down low or stepping down a notch on the ladder of society, perhaps it is more helpful to think in terms of proximity and movement.

Jesuit theologian, James Keenan, notes that virtues and vices are not really…

vertical theology

Much of the thinking and writing I have been doing for the past year or so, especially in academic settings, has to do with how hierarchy is embedded in our theology and ways of structuring communities. To me, that's not a g