Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Real Walking in Real Light (A Philosophy of Potatoes, Part III)

"...let us walk in the light of the Lord." Isaiah 2:5b

God is highly interested and invested in the integration of the subjective (individual) and the objective (universal or transcendent). This is a highly practical point of metaphysics, because the relationship between the subjective and the objective has long perplexed philosophy (especially modern philosophy). The conundrum lies in exactly how one gives due deference to objectivity (e.g., absolute truth) while not simultaneously denigrating subjectivity (e.g., our individual lives, circumstances, and experiences) or vice versa. This is a great mystery that has elicited many confused and confusing answers. Many say that we must choose one reality over the other, settling for either the tyranny of lonely objectivity or the chaos of lonely subjectivity.

Of course, we reject this forced choice between either total petrification or total fragmentation, as we should: both are equally repulsive and evil. The truth is that we do not want to choose between objective reference and subjective experience. We want both. We want our individual lives and experiences to matter in their individual uniqueness and have true significance and direction. To put it another way, we want both infinite constellations overhead to guide us and an infinite ocean to explore. Or as G.K. Chesterton put it, we want both the "authority" and the "adventure". Mere absolutism or relativism leaves us incomplete, precisely because we were not meant for either. The choice between the two is a false choice, for there is a third option, a distinctly Christian option: integration, communion, revelation, incarnation. In God (who He is and what He does), the objective and the subjective are wedded together in His trinitarian dance. God is the objective referent who validates and gives significance to our subjectivity by integrating it with His objectivity, whether by giving us the law or the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In short, God's objective reality was never meant to loom. Rather, it was meant to be worked out through the fingertips, just as it did when He walked the earth as a man all those years ago.

This is not just a New Testament idea. It is central to the Old Testament as well. God is not a God who is uninterested in the activities of the world. He is consistently intruding, interrupting, and injecting Himself down to the smallest scruple of daily life. And no one in the Old Testament found this strange. In fact, it was the way things ought to be. For example, the first four verses of Isaiah 2 give a picture of the "last days," i.e., the days after the final judgment when the earth will be restored to the rule of God. Here you find the exact same pattern. First, we have the establishment of an objective referent: "...the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains and shall be exalted above the hills...." Then, we have the point of objective revelation to subjective reality: "...He will teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law...." Finally, we have the practical, subjective realization and integration of that objectivity: "....He shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." All the steps are there, and all the steps are vital.

They are vital for these reasons: If there was mere reference with no revelation and realization, then the reference is useless to us (which is the position of deism and agnosticism). If there was only reference and revelation with no realization, then the reference and revelation become meaningless and inconsequential (which is the position of formalism and most of the Western Church). We need them all: objective reference, objective to subjective revelation, and subjective realization. They all make a complete picture. They all make a complete humanity, for we were not made to wander without guidance nor to sit without searching.

That is truly the wonder of it all as well as the utter satisfaction of all our intellectual and emotional quandaries. We are neither on a journey without a destination nor at a destination without the hope of a journey. We are not meant to be either lost or bound, for life is neither a ramble nor a dictation but rather a story, one with real activity and real adventure told by a real Author who has a real direction and real end in mind. He has not left us in the silence, for He has spoken to us; and His word is not dead text but living breath, breathing into every hollow void life and beauty and adventure and truth. His objective reality is not static but organic: personal, relational, revelational, and incarnational. His light is living and intentional, and we were meant to walk in it and be known by it and be infused with it like steel in a furnace, until we all shine like stars amidst a single sky, infinite facets in the crown jewel of God.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012

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