Remember Peter Rollins? Well, let's see if we can't work through a bit more of How (Not) to Speak of God. If you remember, I was working through some of this fantastic book. Let's see if we can't work through the rest of it in the next couple of weeks. If you want to read from the beginning, go here, here, here, and here.
Continuing in Chapter 2, Rollins proposes this notion of God as hyper-present, super-present. "It means that God not only overflows and overwhelms our understanding but also overflows and overwhelms our experience (pg. 23)." So often, people talk about this notion of God being close, yet distant. This has to do with the realization that while we try to talk about God and know God, we come to realize that we can't capture God, and that even our best attempts to talk about God are limited. So in one sense there seems to be distance. Yet, in this distance, followers of Jesus also try to talk about God's immanence, the notion that God is not far away, and that God is intimately involved in the events of today. Yet it is hard to reconcile these notions of God being both distant and yet close at the same time.
So as Rollins describes God as hyper-present, the distance we feel or sense in our understanding of God is not because God is actually far away, but in reality, it is because our understanding of God is saturate with "a blinding presence (24.)." God is super-present, or "hypernonymous" in that God is so close, the presence of God in our midst overwhelms our senses and reality and we can only take in so much (24). This acknowledgment of God as hyper-present rests in the belief that God is the "absolute subject before whom we are the object (23)." In this sense, we are the object before God to be known, and rather than the other way around.
Rollins again clarifies saying that, "In this reading, Christ, as the image of the invisible God, both reveals and conceals God: rendering God known while simultaneously maintaining divine mystery. Here the God testified to in Christianity is affirmed as an un/known God (25)." If you sense a tinge of Eastern Orthodox and apophatic theology coming through...it is beautifully mysterious isn't it? I had written a paper on Pseudo-Dionysius in the spring about the notion of knowing God in our unknowing, and Rollins articulates both the point of view of PD and the aftermath of theology in writing: " Pseudo-Dionysius argues that this knowing unknowing acknowledges its profound finitude and inability to grasp that to which the religious individual intends. This divine darkness represents a type of supra-darkness that stands in sharp contradistinction to the sub-darkness of desolate nihilism. While one is brought about by an absolute excess of light, the other results from a total absence; while one represents a higher form of unknowing that subverts reasoning, the other signals mere ignorance (28)." An absolute excess of light...that is a beautiful vision.
So to wrap up this monster post, and Chapter 2, we have talked before about our need to both speak about God, yet realize the limitations in out talk about God, and the need to realize that when we speak about God we are not capturing God with our thoughts, as though God is the object of whom we can capture. Instead, we recognize our need for an "epistemological silence" and as Rollins writes, "We must speak and yet we must maintain our silence, we maintain distance amidst the proximity of God, and we must worship while being careful not to make God into the object of our worship: for God is the subject before whom we worship (30)." Amen.