Beyond Deconstruction (Graham Warren)

  (21 May 17)

Beyond Deconstruction

 


  

By Graham Warren. This is an edited version of his "immediate and instinctual" response to Greg Spearritt’s 2002 review of Scott Cowdell’s A God for This World.

 

This response is coloured by the fact that as I sit here now reading and writing the sun rises to the east and the air is hard with frost. It is easier at such times to see more clearly; later in the busyness of the day I may respond differently.

It is exceedingly hard, indeed as hard a task as I have ever ventured upon, to confront the reality or substance of ’God’. You will note that I still use the capital letter but it is probably habit. For several years now - and the beginning coincided, I think, with abandoning my priestly formation training - I have moved further and further into what can only be described as a desert of the spirit. What has been happening to me in that time?

The Cowdell review has spoken aloud the intuitions that have surfaced in that desert. It is difficult to articulate these journeyings, thoughts and imaginings as it is so, so easy to have it mistaken for nihilism. It is not negative nor desperate. It is exciting but strange.

Increasingly, I find, Scott Cowdell and others like him speak more of GOD as an other and incomprehensible intellectual construct and less of the person of Jesus of Nazareth, despite the fact that they insist on being Christian. Indeed, what does it mean to have a Christian understanding of God?

What I see happening, even with Scott’s book, is a constant referral backwards to what has been and is understood already, that which has been incorporated into our history and thought paradigms, and that which has been subsequently rejected as doctrine, heresy or whatever. It is a backward look at the known and therefore the comfortable. It is easy to debunk, revise, reject, rewrite or adhere to, but it will never take us forward. If we agree on nothing else we surely agree that we are in need of guidance into the future. It may even be that we are in need of rescue. But I agree with you. WE ARE ALONE - radically alone, but not fearful. And it is this which is the beginning of salvation.

To know and assimilate this potentially frightening thought is to be reborn. It is not hubris, but dawning revelation to know that we stand here on the edge of our world and all we are and will become is entrusted to our selves as the most exciting mandate we can be given. We are not alone, we have each other. God belongs to a world of our past when out of fear and uncertainty we constructed bulwarks against the unknown. We then spent time deconstructing him, relegating him to the gaps and finally squeezing out of the gaps as the tectonic plates of experience collided and crashed with reality. I see no evidence at all that (as Cowdell suggests) the “ontological gaps that would never be closable, are wedged open forever by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle”. (I confess at this point that I have little respect or liking for Heisenberg, knowing as I do that he was an apologist for the Nazis and came perilously close to providing them with the ultimate weapon of mass destruction - the atomic bomb.)

What I am saying is that our discussion of God is always a revisionist argument deconstructing that which has been created but is no longer sustainable. How much harder is it to begin from this moment, naked and alone, and ask what I see before me?

What is it my senses, intuition, shared communication and compassion tell me about the nature and substance of the cosmos? Does it require the indwelling presence of a humanoid personal father figure who doubles on his day off as a policeman, to make it tolerable? We need each other now as never before. We need ourselves as trusted vessels and companions as never before. We need compassion now as never before. We need courage now as never before. We are alone but not alone. We have each other. Jesus of Nazareth understood this and tried to show us a new way to be with each other. "A new commandment I give unto you—that you love one another as I have loved you." This, and this alone for me, is why I still call myself a Christian.

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