living through death

"The only way that you can accept life is if you can accept death.” –Leo Buscaglia

God and Taking Nothing for Granted… (well, maybe just one thing)

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“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Me.”

What if we take nothing for granted; how do we find God, the Ultimate? Well, we must presuppose logic, in some sense. Right? For without it the inquiry can’t even get off the ground. So there it is, we presuppose logic.

If logic is presupposed, then our task is to seek for an answer to ultimacy within the structure of logic. We must seek for some foundation that anchors the endless regress of logical dependency (If X, then Y. But why X?). We find ourselves on a quest for a necessary beginning that kicks off the chain, a non-dependent initiator of all subsequent propositions. But—and here’s the problem—the idea of an un-caused cause is not possible within the structure of logic. Such a notion, in fact, breaks logic.

Thus we find that the answer to the question of ultimacy cannot come from within the logical structure of existence. Logic, it turns out, cannot be presupposed, but neither can it be avoided. This is the paradox, and it is one instance of the general paradox of existence-itself. The rationality of logic is both a part of the question as well as part of the answer. It is for this reason that the question of ultimacy, even with respect to bare logic, is birthed from the answer while at the same time the answer contains the question.

regressWe can see here that the “answer” to the question of ultimacy is not an answer in any conventional sense (and neither is the question a conventional question!). In fact, the question of ultimacy destroys all answers just as it is present in all questions. An answer which serves as a foundation is therefore impossible. In view of this, what is needed is both the death of the quest to secure a safe foundation followed by an entirely different way of relating oneself to reality.

A paradoxical stance must be adopted to match the paradox of existence. As to the question of ultimacy, it is my suggestion that it is both “answered” and deepened in each moment we reflect on the possibilities and limits of existence. We must learn to live in the paradox that the closer we get to anything—a stone, a thunderstorm, a friend, a lover, our very selves—the deeper the mystery becomes. Can we tolerate this terrible mystery? It’s not a trivial question. To honor the mystery of reality is in a very real sense to die. It is a death that goes to the core of our very self, to all the defenses we’ve built up to keep the terrible mystery of reality at bay.

This is why most of our questions of ultimacy don’t go nearly deep enough. Instead, we stop short. We ask safe, shallow questions and accept answers which have lost the paradox of reality, that don’t negate their own pretensions (as in the desire for an answer from within the structure of logic). With respect to ultimacy, “question” and “answer” must always be one. Life, then, cannot be the quest for a settled foundation, but must ever be the project by which both question and answer are deepened.


Written by Alex

June 6, 2013 at 11:27 am

Posted in Theology

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  1. I wouldn’t say that we presuppose logic exactly. I hope you didn’t take me to be speaking too broadly and loosely when we talked about this. I would say that there are some rudiments of logic that we use whenever we try to reason. But I’m thinking very, very basic. Don’t think Socrates or Euclid. Think non-contradiction.

    We’re not then seeking for an answer to ultimacy within the structure of logic. You’ve just assumed a ton—some grand logic with a structure and some grand ultimacy that is or poses a question we’ll try to answer. You’re way, way ahead of me, and we’ve veered pretty far apart.

    For one thing, I disagree that the idea of an uncaused cause is impossible within the structure of logic or breaks logic, whatever exactly you mean by that. I used to hold a perfectly logical—i.e. coherent, non-contradictory—belief that we find in the world a truthful revelation from a God who is uncaused, who is eternal, who is outside of the time and causation that He created. And while I couldn’t wrap my head around this and maybe none of us could, there was a coherent and plausible account of why that was ok. God’s ways aren’t our ways, His thoughts aren’t our thoughts, and we’re really not all that smart. Ok, cool. That works. Maybe it chafes with the grander logic you’re sparring with, but it sits fine with what I have in mind.

    I’ll stop there, because that keeps us from getting to your “thus.”


    June 28, 2013 at 10:28 pm

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