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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.


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.

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