Tuesday, September 19, 2006

poetics 2

Though the New Testament is filled with references to the embracing of Mystery, somehow modern man is set on a path by which all mystery has been understood, explained, codified, and finalized so that if one speaks at all concerning things he doesn’t understand, and he admits it, he is accused of rejecting truth and the revelation of God “given fully to us.” If one dares admit what Paul admitted, and say, “not that I have attained…,” he is accused of rejecting the magic potion of certitude given the elect. I can’t help it if my doctrine allows that God is so much other than me, beyond my comprehension, that I am lost in the wonder of him and have to rely on the Holy Spirit to interpret my groans and direct my supplication. Am I the last person for whom peace passes understanding? If I truly understand Lewis’ words, “The one whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow/ when I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou”, have I rejected knowledge that God has revealed to me? Or could it be that we’ve become unsatisfied with the revelation God has given us and demand to see more of him than “where he’s just passed by?” Perhaps given only this, we can only ask, “who will I say that you are?” And given an unsatisfactory answer, we set about creating our own definition that is logical, rational, reasonable, observable and repeatable and thus defendable to our logical, rational, reasonable, observable and repeatable unbelieving friends.
But the truth is, when we question the ineffable Name with our logic and reason, he answers, “who do you think you are?” and proceeds with so much poetic mystery, that I’m given to give up and accept that I can’t understand. The only reason this has ceased to be answer enough for everyone else, is that for so long it has not been the answer given.
I remember a quote from Peterson (I think he was quoting someone else), “we mustn’t pretend to know more than we do.” It is amazing how we explain away our arrogant need to pretend we know more than we do. We read the psalms pieced out, and fail to visit with the psalmist on a hillside contemplating that “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”. And when we’re confronted with this concept, we explain that the psalmist didn’t have the revelation that we’ve since received that allows us to understand God’s lofty ways.

Last year, I shared with you that I’d delivered a talk called, “Poet, Prophet, Pastor, Preacher,” which led to another talk delivered to a good many people, a good many of whom disagreed with much of what I had to say. Since I gave that talk, I’ve continued to think about shifting roles and emphasis of those who are called, gifted, and operate as such. My thinking began as a response to the oft-heard question in our changing Christian culture, “is the poet taking over the role of the preacher?” I’m not going to repeat everything I’ve said, (at least not yet) but I’ll simply say that we’ve so narrowly defined the roles of each of these by methodologies that we don’t realize that the message is common among them. Folks are once again listening to the poets because we’ve had plenty of definitions of indefinable things. We are hungry for pictures, story, descriptions and testimony. The role of the poet in the OT was preaching, but the role of preaching today is often deconstructing poetry.
The important things in life require art to mean. In all honesty, which of these would you least desire to share with someone else? This? Or this? How about this?
Likewise, after having pondered this, I am far more apt to find hope in this.
And this tiny snippet of poetry speaks not only of the mystery, but embracing it, humbly resolves that it can't be explained.

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

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