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Posts Tagged ‘Faith’

“Finitude includes doubt. The true is the whole (Hegel). But no finite being has the whole; therefore, it is an expression of the acceptance of his finitude that he accepts the fact that doubt belongs to his essential being.” (Tillich, ST 1, p. 10).

A text from the Epistle of Peter opened the service in the Middle Ages on the eight day after Easter. The day is therefore known by opening words of the Latin translation of the text: Quasi modo geniti infantes. Although the introitus would normally be chosen from the Psalms of the Old Testament, during Eastertide the text often came from the New Testament, like today:

“Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”

Coming out of baptism at the Easter Vigil, the words would definitely make sense. That night the newly baptised Christian would partake in the Holy Eucharist for the first time, and they would certainly taste that the Lord is good (Ps. 34).Mortensrud kirke

The day is also known as the day of the apostle Thomas (aram. twin), because he on the 8th day, according to the Gospel of John, met the risen Lord and believed. While Judas did not believe, Thomas, despite his doubts, came to believe that the Lord was risen and once again among his apostles. Paul Tillich has tried to stress the fact that somehow faith always includes doubt in some form or other. Doubt may be described as the twin of faith. Thomas is according to John 20:24 also called Dydimus (i.e. “Twin, called the twin”). What kind of doubt is it that Thomas displays? How can he be a help to the newborn Christian, barely come out of the baptism a week before? Thomas displays a curious and healthy scepticism that is required by all people of faith. It is a scepticism that is founded in trust as a basic phenomenon on one hand (the Lord is good!) and on the other hand the struggle to grow intellectually, spiritually and humanly. That is why the exhortation of Paul the apostle on leaving the childishness behind does not necessarily contradicts the word of Jesus Christ on becoming children.

To put it differently, Thomas’ doubt is not total doubt (Tillich, The Courage to Be, p. 48), which Tillich describes as existential despair. That is the way of Judas, not Thomas.

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As I’m really busy these days and don’t have much time to read and study, but I’m still reading Williams book on Dostoevsky (which is really a gem). Here is another great quote:

“To settle for “the truth” in the sense of that ensamble of finished propositions we can securely defend is one of the ways of removing ourselves from the narrative continuum of our lives; to opt for Christ in the face of this is to accept that we shall not arrive within history at a stage where there are no choices and no commitments to be made. The truth of defensible propositions, a truth demanding assent as if belief were caused by facts, generates a diminished view of what is human; it educates us in ignoring aspects of human narrative that we disapprove of or find impenetrable. Meaning comes by the exercise of freedom – but not any sort of exercise of freedom. By taking the step of loving attention in the mundane requirements of live together, something is disclosed. But that step is itself enabled by a prior disclosure, the presence of gratuity in and behind the phenomena of the world: of some unconditional love. The narrative of Christ sets that before us, and the concrete historical reality of Christ is what has communicated to human nature a new capacity for reflecting and echoing that love” (p. 43f)

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Søren Kierkegaard writes, as mentioned in the last post, that the reason is love. He puts it like this:

“If he [God] moves himself, not by need, what then that moves him is what else but love; because it is precisely not moved by the satisfaction of need outside itself, but in itself”.

Although there is no need in God, there is a desire to, in love, to make that which is infinitely different equal. One of my teachers at my alma mater, professor Jan-Olav Henriksen, has a forthcoming book on Eerdmanns called Desire, Gift and Recognition : Christology and Postmodern Philosophy. Although not published I’ve had a look at an abridged popularised book in Norwegian called Jesus: Gave og begjær (Jesus: Gift and Desire). The book attempts to make Jesus known and understood through new categories (like desire, and not the traditional categories of sin and guilt).
Henriksen uses a philosophical and phenomenological concept, mainly picked up from the Irish-American philosopher Richard Kearney (and Hegel), of desire to contextualise Christology in a post-modern context. Henriksen points to the ambiguous character of desire (e.g. fear of the uncontrollable), and makes several points on the concept:

  • desire (together with the concept of gift) makes possible a Christology that corresponds to human experience
  • that desire connects us to the surrounding world – it something that we uses to internalise the culture around us and aids us in our individuation
  • it is therefore pre-subjective (it forms us and moulds us already before we as subjects actively takes part in this forming), it is both nature and culture
  • in the story of Jesus we encounter both this open and closed desire, especially in his proclamation of the Kingdom of God

Henriksen often points to the ambiguous character of the Jesus story, as he moves through the narrative reading it in light of the concept of gift and desire. He makes a lot of interesting points; the main point is that the God that gives and desires in and through the story of Jesus, is a generous god. He closes the last chapter, on the resurrection, on the character of faith as gift and desire:

“Faith is not an expression of the desire for control over a closed and controllable world, but expression of the hope of something that is more than we can desire. Faith is created by facing something that is more than ourselves. In this manner, faith is also the gift that enables us to receive the gift. The resurrection is the utmost expression of the future that faith opens up; not something we can or should control. Faith is to let go of control, and resurrection is life that is fully and completely gift, uncontrolled by us and what we have earned. Thus, are faith, freedom and resurrection also interconnected, because the faith in the resurrection expresses that we can receive a gift where we are freed from the desire for control and possession. Then we can also be able to receive the Other, either the Other be God or the envoy of God, and either if this envoy are other people or the true image of God, that meets us as Jesus – He that is God, as God is when God is a human.

The incarnation and resurrection is what God desires and freely gives the humans. And the humans, in faith, surrender their desires and open up for the eschatological desire and the gift of salvation in it’s fullest sense.

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