Saturday, October 17, 2009

Relationship vs. Research

God offers himself in terms of relationship. We rather like to believe he offers an academic discipline. Relationship requires personal risk and investment of soul. God lends himself in relationship but we approach him in terms of research. We would read up on God and get the facts. We would know about God. In fact, there is no lack of motivation here. We are genuinely curious and interested in learning about him.
Systematic theology is a pleasant and agreeable thing to us because it suggests God can be approached and understood systematically. This is comforting. We can master God if he is systematic. We will break him down into parts and subparts then systematically digest him. And if he can be systematically digested, he is relieved of divine mystery while we are released from obligation to a faith-based approach to God.
Faith seems less concrete. It’s like holding on to a wet bar of soap. One must hold on, but with less than absolute containment. Faith seems more fluid than fact-based investigation. Faith allows for unanswered questions, logical contradictions, dichotomy. Reason insists on resolution while relationship can abide enduring dialectical tension. Cool-headed observation at arm’s length offers a supposed and venerated objectivity, but personal engagement and vulnerability are required for relationship.
Factual analysis seems less risky than faith. Rational inquiry is not as sticky as the vulnerability required for relationship. If I observe God with emotional distance I can protect my heart. I can suppress the engagement of subjective feelings. I cannot be hurt (and I cannot be helped). I look, but I will not be looked upon. I investigate, but will not be investigated. I judge, but will not be judged. I am looking for answers, but I am not honest about my questions. I am dishonest in my pursuit of the Holy because honest pursuit requires an openness of self which offends my sense of privacy and self-preservation. Open my heart in pursuit of a lover? Open my heart with obvious desire clouding objective thinking? And if I am open, can’t I be hurt?

If I really want to know God, I must brave the risk of vulnerable transparency and be prepared for the unexpected.

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