Friday, September 14, 2007


כִּי תִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ לָדַעַת אֶת-כְּבוֹד יְהוָה כַּמַּיִם יְכַסּוּ עַל-יָם.
כִּי-מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ דֵּעָה אֶת-יְהוָה כַּמַּיִם לַיָּם מְכַסִּים.

For the earth will be filled
with the knowledge [of the glory] of the LORD,
as the waters clothe the sea.

(Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14, Numbers 14:21, Jeremiah 31:23,33-34)

Do we know enough to have a 'definitive' statement of theological truth such that God must conform to it? Do we know enough to have a definitive statement of scientific truth such that science must conform to it? Both these questions have the answer 'no'. Neither God nor science comes under our definition. It's like making love. You are to have no power over your own body. The other has it. So it is with God and science. The first work of the flesh is the desire to be right. When this work fails, in our impatience, we can easily succumb to the use of power to achieve it. May it not be that the will to power motivates our serious love of words.

Are we known sufficiently to conform to the desire of the Beloved? Are we sufficiently constrained to conform to the requirements of the world as dimly perceived by us through science? The answer to the second question is a guarded 'yes' for our perception changes through the discovery of the marvellous workings of the world. But we can trust in these things and, as Phil Sumpter notes in extended conversation with others, our trust in our findings is supported by the experience recorded in the ancient texts. God has founded the world for and on understanding. Bound we are by the value of Pi, the Golden mean, the mass or lack thereof of quarks and neutrinos, and also by the mercy of God, as high as the heavens are above the earth.

The answer to the first question is of vital interest. I want to hear the words - well done, good and faithful servant, you have conquered through my blood. I do not want to hear the words: Depart from me, I never knew you. Is such knowledge measured by the sum of facts we accumulate or the number of foreign-rooted words in our vocabulary, or the confession we ascribe to? Is it subject to our slightly alkaline bio-chemical inference engine parked between our shoulders and physically suspended from fontanelle to the tips of our extremities with its obvious 1-lb processor and its no-so-obvious minute central command somewhere in the middle of our back? Is it knowable within our earthy frame?

The answer to this question is 'yes'. Through faith we enter into covenant with the maker of heaven and earth. The results are not fiction. They are truth in the inward parts. There is no hiding from this heat. Before such a face, we are open and naked, and we in turn, opened to glory, come to have such a face. So I will not run away like the kings of Psalm 68 - I would end up spread out anyway, but white as snow on what was a dark mountain. It would be cold without clothing.

Many meanderings today, stimulus from the theoblogs: Euangelion and Metacatholic and the tulip I was going to ignore.


Phil Sumpter said...

"The first work of the flesh is the desire to be right. When this work fails, in our impatience, we can easily succumb to the use of power to achieve it. May it not be that the will to power motivates our serious love of words."

That's a great quote, I hope you don't mind if I steal it ...

By the way, my PhD will be on Psalms 15 and 24, read canonically and to the end of answering theological questions. I hope so at least, there seems to be a lot of theoretical groundwork to be covered first before the Bible can speak to dogmatics.

I hope to pop into to your Psalms blog regurlary, though at the moment I know more about how to read the Psalms then the Psalms themselves, which of course is highly unsatisfactory!

Bob MacDonald said...

Phil - thanks for the comment. You are free to use any quotation of mine you like. You are doing a PhD on two psalms - bravo - there is no better study. 15 and 24 are definitely related. I have wondered just how many psalms link back to the entrenchment in Torah that Psalm 1 represents. I hope I will find out as I progress in my project.

As I have said - it is not so much that psalms are read but that they happen - sometimes it is more than fearful. But I do trust the one I wrestle with not to destroy me utterly - except to the extent that I have already been destroyed and rebuilt through his humanity. And if living in God's tent is part of the happening - Amen - it has got to be good.

Bob MacDonald said...

Phil - Another note - that word tamim occurs in Psalm 15 - I just noted it in Psalm 37 too - I think it is a key word for the theology of the Psalms.

Phil Sumpter said...

It's interesting that you note the word tammim as significant for the Psalms. It's absolutely central for the block of Psalms of which 15 and 24 are the 'boarders'. If you can read German, then Zenger and Hossfeld wrote and article on the editing of this Psalmengruppe called "Wer darf hinaufziehen zm Berg JHWHs?: Zur Redaktionsgeschichte und Theologie der Psalmengruppe 15 - 24". Based on these mostly structural observations is P. Millers far more interesting theological interpretation of this group in his "Kingship, Torah Obedience, and Prayer: The Theology of Psalms 15-24". It's well worth a read! Tammim is a central concept.

Beyond Words said...

Bob, your theology is poetry. I come here for the somatic and intuitive process--although the theoblogs tickle my heart and mind, they never quite stir my inward parts.

I think you are a Psalmist1