Monday, February 25, 2008

A Specific God

In an article on catechesis in The Marks of the Body of Christ, Robert Jenson writes:

"Finally there is theology. Folks are baptized into the name - that is, worship of and obedience to - a specific God. They have to know who that is. He is not Moloch, and therefore he does not want the blood of our children. He is not the Goddess, and therefore does not reveal himself in polymorphous sexuality. He is not the spirit of the wolf, and therefore dreams of wolves are not divine revelation. He is neither the Dialectic of History nor the Invisible Hand of the free market, and therefore life cannot be fulfilled by economic endeavor of whatever sort. And so on and on.

For my students, it is always a revelation that there are many and decidedly different candidates for the God-job, and that all of them cannot simultaneously be legitimate. Once the logic of the matter is pointed out to them, they see it. But somehow, their pastors and church teachers had not pointed it out to them.

The God of the church is Father, Son, and Spirit. For persons able to learn, warranted participation in the church's life requires fairly precise knowledge of the doctrine of the Trinity. This should not in fact require much time to teach; the time required is inversely proportional to the depth and accuracy of the teacher's knowledge.

Then, of course, since the church will be baptizing and making eucharist, those able to learn need to understand something of what the church thinks it is doing when it does these things. And again, the time required to give adequate understanding is inversely proportional to the depth of the teacher's understanding.

One more time the mystery. We first need to know who God is in order to address him. The doctrine of Trinity - and indead, by derivation, all Christian teaching - is not in the first instance a discourse in the third person, but rather in the second. It is in the first instance doxology, and only secondarily description. Therefore, when we teach would-be believers doctrine, we teach them to intrude on God."

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