Tuesday, June 20, 2006


The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is an extremely clever man who sometimes uses words in a way that, it seems to me, goes beyond articulacy and borders on what some might consider lunacy. By the way respect to my boss's, boss's boss and all that and the thongs of whose sandals I am not fit to etc etc but muse on this for a moment:

'... a structured wholeness nuanced enough to contain what appear to be contradictions.'

This is his guidance on producing a synthesis to resolve disputes, as reported in the Guardian last Saturday. Does it say any more than 'agree to differ?'

Now I love words even though they are but a metaphor of reality. However, sometimes we don't want to find a structured wholeness nuanced enough to contain apparent contradictions. We want to say, 'This is right; that is wrong.' We want to go down one route at a time. We want to kick chairs. How many apparent contradictions can one body contain?

And then I thought of my Bible and this quote from Pete Rollins in his excellent book How (Not) to Speak of God. 'The Bible itself is a dynamic text full of poetry, prose, history, law and myth all clashing together in a cacophony of voices. We are presented with a warrior God and a peacemaker, a God of territorial allegiance and a God who transcends all territorial divides, an unchanging God and a God who can be redirected, a God of peace and a God of war, a God who is always watching the world and a God who fails to notice the oppression against Israel in Egypt.'

He goes on to say that the surprise is not that these contradictions exist but that we know about them and that the Bible simply (ha) includes them without comment.

Perhaps it is a structured wholeness nuanced enough to contain what appear to be contradictions.

He (Rollins) also muses on the idea of God not as anonymous but as hypernonymous. So totally present we are blinded by him, like looking at the sun. 'Instead of being limited by the poverty of absence we are short-circuited by the excess of presence.'

I need to go away and get more cleverer.


Anonymous said...

If you want a musical equivalent of God as a cacophony of voices listen to the finale of Charles Ives Symphony no.2. Ives does not choose the conventional approach; he does not choose one theme to form the climax, but rather throws all three together at the audience. On the sleeve it describes this as the biggest custard pie in the face of the audience. Perhaps God does have a sense of humour and is a bit like that.

Martin said...

Musicals often throw together many themes for first act finales, so Charles Ives is not alone (might be earlier though - pioneering the technique - not sure though as don't know when he wrote this symphony).

I think our view of God will contain contradiction, because while on this earth we'll never fully understand him. The confusion in revelation is amazingly describing in parts a time when we will actually have the confusion end as we see God face to face. Wierd the way confusion and sense seem to end up the wrong way round.