blind man walking

15 Apr

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imagesGround zero of all good theology is humility.
It is the recognition that I am blind.
Which simply means that we recognize our common ground with Paul – who saw more in the three days during which he was completely blind than he did in as many seeing decades sitting under the best theologians of his generation.

Richard Steele draws the parallel between our situation and that of the blind man healed by Jesus in Mark 8 – healed not all at once, but in stages. He sees nothing until that first saliva-smearing touch of Jesus on his eyes. Then his vision was distorted (perhaps a no-brainer considering it was a saliva-smearing touch!) as he now saw “men walking as trees” (aka “ents”).

Steele observes:51Xk9QlNK5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The situation of the theologian is like that of the blind man during that strange moment between the first touch of Jesus and the second: more able to see than before, but only well enough to know that his sight is still blurry and out of focus. And like it or not, the theologian soon learns that he is permanently in that condition, at least on this side of heaven. The one thing he learns to see with absolute clarity is how badly he and everyone else needs the divine ophthalmology.

Good theologians remember they ever labor in the space between the two touches.

And when you realize your vision is distorted, if you are wise, there will be a certain tentativeness in your steps, particularly the farther ahead you attempt to look, the more sweeping the gaze. We can only be certain of the step immediately before us – unless we have attempted to memorize the path like Blythe “The Forger” in The Great Escape who tried to dupe his comrades into believing that he could see by memorizing his moves.

Bad theologians try to memorize their moves as they try to convince others (and themselves!) that they can see better than they really do.

Good theologians don’t memorize moves, nor do they try to kid anyone that they can ever do more than “see through a glass darkly.”

Nothing is more absurd than a theologian who pretends to be an “expert” or “authority” on God – as if God weren’t high and lifted up above all human knowing, as if God weren’t elusive, mysterious, transcendent, and incomprehensible. (Steele, again).

Or, as Augustine of Hippo observed, “Si comprehenderis non est Deus.”

If you can understand it, it’s not God.

Such a perspective continually reawakens a humble yieldedness in our arguments and conclusions in which we hold more with an open hand than closed – in fact, when walking with distorted vision between the two touches, wisdom would dictate primarily an open-handed approach as we move forward over uncertain terrain, ready to grapple with whatever reality we encounter along the way.

And moving with such yielding gait, it will not be a bold, assuming “I have this under control” YAWP that will be heard coming from our throats (theologians? control issues? naaaaaaah), but one that resembles more a continual appeal for assistance.

And, of course, before she does much audible “yawping” at all, she’ll be standing still in silence, listening first, always…



Posted by on April 15, 2015 in haverings, theology


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2 responses to “blind man walking

  1. ThinkingItOver

    April 17, 2015 at 5:34 am

    So “nicely put. I like it better than just calling everything “messy”. But then that comes from a compulsive obsessive neat wanta-be. I think you also believe there are “some” absolute truths from which you launch your musings/findings/searchings???? Would you share those with me?

  2. wordhaver

    April 17, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Absolutely! That certainly is a big bite there! Rather than providing you with a list of what I consider absolutes, I would probably first state that this post has more to do with how we hold the truths we see, how we carry the knowledge we possess. “If anyone thinks he knows anything, he doesn’t know anything yet as he ought, but he who loves God is known by God.” It’s that. Truth by definition is absolute. It is reality. It’s our perceptions of reality that get tricky. The hard rock of reality that my life has been built upon is the historic reality of Christ as affirmed in such a statement as the Apostle’s Creed. Or perhaps even more simply in the words of that ancient hymn found within the pages of of the New Testament: “God appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by messengers, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” It’s hard to surpass those six rhyming stanzas in that ancient Greek hymn for their eloquence, completeness, and conciseness. Yes, beyond all controversy, beyond all dispute, “great is the mystery of godliness.” That is my core. Absolutely. And oh the depths of it that I can only now begin to dip my toes into…


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