Thursday, December 17, 2009

The ZigZag Café

We will be convening here at the ZigZag café, Suisse, on Thursdays for conversation and dialogue. I invite you to stop by every Thursday for the question of the day. Your thoughts and participation are most welcome. Pull up a stool, avec un café, un thé, ou un chocolat chaud, et un croissant, and join in here on Thursday at the ZZ café.

For today:

Do you believe that God hides?

9 comments:

Lukas und Céline Kuhs said...

The bible tells us the opposite. Hebr 1,1-2 for example.

If we do not look at the right place, we will not see it though. (Might be considered as not fair...)

Greg said...

Lukas,
Thanks. Someone, I imagine might say, "Well, there are many passages in the Bible where God seems to be absent - perhaps in Genesis 3 for starters. If you appeal to one passage, such as Hebrews for presence, why not the others, that would seem to imply absence?"

Or, another might say, "The Bible is not authoritative, so can you please support your case otherwise?" Then what?

renea mac said...

Buechner puts it so well that, forgive me, I wish to quote him at length. From his book, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale:

The world hides God from us, or we hide ourselves from God, or for reasons of his own God hides himself from us, but however you account for it, he is often more conspicuous by his absence than by his presence, and his absence is much of what we labor under and are heavy laden by. Just as sacramental theology speaks of a doctrine of the Real Presence, maybe it should speak also of a doctrine of the Real Absence because absence can be sacramental, too, a door left open, a chamber of the heart kept ready and waiting.

[...]

There would be argument for saying that much of the most powerful preaching of our time is the preaching of the poets, playwrights, novelists because it is often they better than the rest of us who speak with awful honesty about the absence of God in the world and about the storm of his absence, both without and within, which, because it is unendurable, unlivable, drives us to look to the eye of the storm. I think of King Lear especially with its tragic vision of a world in which the good and the bad alike go down to dusty and, it would seem, equally meaningless death with no God to intervene on their behalf, and yet with its vision of a world in which the naked and helpless ones, the victims and fools, become at least truly alive before they die and thus touch however briefly on something that lies beyond the power of death. It is the worldly ones, the ones wise as the world understands wisdom and strong in the way the world understands strength, who are utterly doomed. This is so much the central paradox of Lear that the whole play can be read as a gloss if not a homily on that passage in First Corinthians where Paul expresses the same paradox in almost the same terms by writing, "God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are" (1 Cor. 1:27-28), thus pointing as Shakespeare points to the apparent emptiness of the world where God belongs and to how the emptiness starts to echo like an empty shell after a while until you can hear it in the still, small voice of the sea, hear strength in weakness, victory in defeat, presence in absence.

[...]

They preach the word of human tragedy, of a world where men can at best see God only dimly and from afar, because it is truth and because it is a word which must be spoken as prelude if the other word is to become sacramental and real, too, which is the word that God has overcome the dark world---the word of divine comedy. (42-45, 47)

In a word, it seems Buechner is pointing to the reality that even in his hiding, the God who is there is being revealed, like the photo in its negative.

Greg said...

Renea,
Thanks. Brilliant.

Something of this absence and presence tension seems almost inevitable if we are in community with God. Being in community somehow goes much deeper and is more salient than "a sense of presence." Perhaps, it is also a longing for a fullness, a completion, that is restless, and should be, within us. Maybe we're the kind of beings that would get too comfortable and complacent with a consistent sense of presence and therefore God has our best interests at heart in appearing to be absent?

renea mac said...

I think you're right. In our fallen state (which is of course the Gospel as tragedy) we would no doubt become complacent, or we might be all the more tempted to use him as our Cosmic Therapist, that is, if we could even handle the searing Presence in the first place.

God has our best interest in heart and mind when he doesn't show---whatever the reason.

Micha said...

Interesting thought that the novelists and poets reveal Gods present absence but we should also listen to Aesop:
The Seaside Travelers

Some travelers, journeying along the sea-shore, climbed to the summit of a tall cliff, and from thence looking over the sea, saw in the distance what they thought was a large ship, and waited in the hope of seeing it enter the harbor. But as the object on which they looked was driven by the wind nearer to the shore, they found that it could at the most be a small boat, and not a ship. When, however, it reached the beach, they discovered that it was only a large fagot of sticks, and one of them said to his companions: "We have waited for no purpose, for after all there is nothing to see but a fagot."

Greg said...

Micha,
Thanks. I guess 'seeing' and believing will always bring some surprises and that it's equally true that not 'seeing' and believing will be the same. I assume trust and expectations play a role in both.

harry coe maynard said...

Hi Greg,

The fact that we even recognize His absence is interesting, many seem afraid He might exist and forever try to convice you He doesn't.

You know in Gen 3 Adam and Eve hid knowing where God was. Johna ran from God (more my experience)
Other try to give His name a different meaning.

I love that part where Samuel is called by God, and He hadn't spken in a long time.

Harry

Greg said...

Harry coe,
True. Those long times of waiting can be instructive.