I have made no secret of my delight with Yuval Noah Harari’s trilogy. Which is not to say I do not disagree with him at points. For example, it is clear that Harari is finished with the sky gods — Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in particular. I am not there, yet.
Yet. Because there is a sharp disconnect in my own faith, Christianity, between the crucified Palestinian Jew, whom we worship as God, and the cosmic, yet personal, God, the Creator of the universe. There is a sharp disconnect between the son of Mary and Joseph and the Word Who was with God and Who was God.
Harari notes that we all resolve these large or small inconsistencies by embracing and, more importantly, by generating narratives — stories — that round the rough edges, that create logics or syllogisms, which, when placed end to end, make sense of the stories we embrace. Ever since first reading Karl Barth (at Francis Schaeffer’s L’Abri in 1976, shortly before FAS’ passing), I have been inclined to interpret the Cosmic God in terms of the crucified Palestinian Jew, interpreting the impassible through the passible, the infinite through the finite.
This morning during Lauds another thought occurred to me, which could lend itself to a kind of Whiteheadean, process, inflection, but which I do not intend at all in this way. Everything praises . . . God. And then we sing, or chant, all of the things that are praising God. Literally everything. But I was also struck at None that God rules over all things. And I was reflecting (some would say praying) over these Psalms and it suddenly occurred to me that the sheer complexity of the Universe, but also its undeniable order, must give rise to the recognition that we are not in control. What is in control lends itself to a wide variety of narratives. But what is clear is that, we are not in control.
How would I express that we are not in control? Well, Judaism (and, if we trust history, Zoroastrianism before it) said that one (perhaps two) Things, Beings, Forces, Powers were in control.
This is not altogether too far from the scientific truth. Educated people are compelled, I think, to create a narrative that makes sense of this complexity and also the logical, relational, dependencies that extend from the very small to the very large, from the subatomic to the cosmic. We don’t call this logic God. But, if I didn’t know any better, I might call it God. It is All Powerful and, in its own way, All Knowing. And it may even, in a non-humanistic sense, be All Good.
That is the Creator God. That is the God of Romans 1-3. But it is also the Stoic God and the God of the cosmic spiritualities — the apophatic spiritualities, the non-individualist spiritualities. This disembodied, cosmic, spiritualities. Que sera, sera.
And then there is the Palestinian Jew, whose Father, according to tradition, was the Creator God; or, rather, Who was Himself the Creator God.
For me, this invokes a productive self-referentiality. Let us say that the limited, circumstribed, bracketed, Deity, Jesus, is the Cosmic God? Let us say that the hidden, secret wisdom, from the foundation of the world (I Cor. 1-2) is that God is the Palestinian Jew?
And let us say that the oppressive weight of the Cosmic God, or so it often seems, is dissipated in the Palestinian Jew? What I mean is that whatever we mean by God cannot be the impersonal, lawful, logical ineluctable movement from A=>B. What I mean by God is this man, not even Man (capital “M”). This small-case “m,” man. In other words, not humanism. But also not this-human-ism.
The Gospel in this case would not be species-centric. But it would also not be cosmic. It would instead focus intently on relations of power and subservience in and through this narrative. It would be midrash, small “m.” In this case the central tension — Palestinian Jew, cosmic God — is not so much resolved as much as superseded.