snubnosed in alpha

Christian reflections on the way the world is and ways the world might be

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Great Iconoclast

"Images of the Holy easily become holy images--sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are 'offended' by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not.... All reality is iconoclastic."
-C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p. 66
I first read this passage as a senior in high school. I had come to love C.S. Lewis and eagerly devoured anything he had written that I could get my hands on. When I picked up A Grief Observed I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. The book turned out to be one of the most heart wrenching I've ever worked through. In it, for those of you who've never read it, Lewis simply reflects upon working through the grief of having lost his wife to cancer.
I will always be thankful to God for having, in His good providence, placed that book in my hands so early on in my Christian walk. The passage quoted above has been ever before me throughout the course of my theological meanderings. As I've gone along, again and again my image of God has had to be shattered and repieced together. It has always been helpful to remind myself that my idea of God is not a divine idea. As Paul says, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." So long as I see in a mirror dimly and know only in part, my understandings of God, the world and everything is subject to scrutiny and revision.
As over the years I've had the Wesleyanism of my youth and the fundamentalism of my college days shattered, it has been a constant source of encouragment to remind myself that such shatterings are perhaps the very marks of His presence. They are sometimes acts of mercy by the Great Iconoclast.


Blogger Taty Gaona said...

those are really good thoughts! it is cool to think we keep getting to Him better...

11:20 PM  
Blogger Courtney said...

amen to that . . . I feel like sometimes mine are shattered DAILY. But, thank God for his grace which he lavishes on us, his patience and his love for His children. He is the author AND finisher of our faith!! I continually have to remind myself that I am NOT the flippin' fourth person of the trinity!!!

3:44 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

David I really like that. It reminds me of a story in a book I read:
'A man born blind comes to me and asks, "What is this thing called green?" How does one describe the colour green to someone who was born blind? One uses analogies. So I say, "The colour green is something like soft music." "Oh," he says, "like soft music." "Yes," I say, "soothing and soft music." So a second blind man comes to me and asks, "What is the colour green?" I tell him it's something like soft satin, very soft and soothing to the touch. So the next day I notice that the two blind men are bashing each other over the head with bottles. One is saying, "It's soft like music"; the other is saying, "It's soft like satin." And on it goes. neither of them knows what they're talking about, because if they did they'd shut up. It's as bad as that. It's even worse, because one day, say, you give sight to this blind man, and he's sitting there in the garden and he's looking all around him, and you say to him, "Well, now you know what the colour green is." And he answers, "That's true. I heard some of it this morning!"
The fact is that you're surrounded by God and you don't see God, because you "know" about God. The final barrier to your vision of God is your God concept. You miss God because you think you know. That's the terrible thing bout religion. That's what the gospels were saying, that religious people "knew," so they got rid of Jesus. The highest knowledge of God is to know God as unknowable.'
It's so frustrating that what gets in the way of me understanding the revelations God gives to me is me! Thanks for the reminder that he is Lord.
The same guy that told that story above goes on to say "When the sage points to the moon, all the idiot sees is the finger."
Why is it, too often I'm the idiot!!

5:57 AM  
Blogger snubnosed in alpha said...

Yeah, I think the trouble for us often comes in when we treat our images of God as though they were finished, unrevisable, unalterable, as though they were to be set in stone. But has He not warned us against this? "Thou shalt not make any GRAVEN image...."

6:35 AM  
Blogger Lisa said...

yeah I like that. I'd never thought about it like that before.

6:15 AM  
Blogger J. Byas said...

I certainly dig the Lewis quote. Where does this leave us as far as (as Enns puts it) our "Tethering Point"? I too have had many things shattered (I think WTS tends to do a good way) but I find myself wondering what exactly I can affirm now. In what do we trust to show us 'the way'? And can that idea also be up for revision? Any thoughts?

10:30 PM  
Blogger snubnosed in alpha said...

Hey Jared,
That is THE question, isn't it? I think I'm going to have to lay down a ground rule that nobody is allowed to ask any questions on this blog for which I do not have any impressive sounding answers ready to hand.
Alister McGrath (when in doubt, hide behind a notable Oxford theologian) offers three theses in volume 3 of his A Scientific Theology concerning the question of how can we get closure in theology:
1. Closure is an activity which takes place, to the extent that it can, within a communal context.
2. Closure is always partial, not total, in matters of Christian doctrine.
3. The extent of closure is determined by the subject matter. The nature of the object determines the extent of closure possible, according to its own distinctive nature. (p. 50)
At the end of the day, we're tradition-bound in our rationality. We can't go it alone in our theologizing but must depend on and trust one another. We'll never, this side of glory, have everything nailed down. Somethings are harder to nail down than others.
I tend to think that the more a doctrine is shared by the broader Christian tradition as a whole, the more closure I have on it. So for instance, I feel more settled in my belief in the Apostles' Creed than I do in my belief in Amillenialism. Part of that has to do with the fact that the more ecumenical the creed, the less specific. The specificity of a theological pronouncement often seems in a lot ways to be inversely proportional to the amount of revision and qualification that may be required of that pronouncement as new information comes to light. The closer a conviction is to belonging to that body of truth we may call "mere Christianity," the more sure we may be that that belief shall not be overturned. I have some more thoughts on this subject and I may post on them later.
At bottom though, the question is not "in what do we trust" but "in Whom"? 'Tis grace that hath brought me safe thus far, and grace shall lead me home.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Mark Traphagen said...

Your last comment, David, was golden. It really should have been a post by itself. Great work here, my friend. This blog is showing every promise of becoming one of my most essential reads!

1:02 AM  
Blogger snubnosed in alpha said...

Thanks again for the encouragement, Mark. I hope I won't disappoint you.

8:36 PM  

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