Saturday, August 13, 2011

For better

     "Your first wife married you for better or for worse.  Your second wife, particularly if you were sixty and she was a twenty-eight-year-old number like Serenawhy kid yourself?she married you for better."

     Tom Wolfe, A man in full (New York, NY:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), 135.

Morning prayer the morning after seeing Werner Herzog's "Cave of forgotten dreams"

When I look at the heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which thou has established;
what is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou dost care for him?

Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
and dost crown him with glory and honor.
chamber, North wall, c. 30,000 BCE.
Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the sea.

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is thy name in all the earth!

Ps 8:3-9, RSV.

(Actually, I slipped up and read the wrong office, but how providential!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

"although he takes back his word, although he breaks his promise, although he takes back what he gave, although he envelops his goodness in the hidden, in contradiction"

"Abraham is not [just] anyone who must give [up] his child; [it is] not something, albeit the most beloved [of things], [that] Abraham must give [up], no, [it is] God—[it is] God [that] he must give back to God, the trusted, gracious, tried-and-true God [who] discloses everything to him, [it is] th[is God that] he must give back to God! This is the whole harshness of the story, as Israel perceived it: God against God; God himself here takes his promise back, himself slams shut everything that he had once opened, places in question with all sharpness the hope and expectation that he himself had aroused in Abraham. [It is n]ot the loss of an only child [that] stands here in play, no, of Abraham is here expected the renunciation of the graciously-inclined God, the salvation-creating God of Israel. Of Abraham is expected—and indeed by God himself!—the renunciation of the God on whose word Abraham had staked his life. This is the depth and the unfathomability of this story, that God contradicts himself on the field of the experience of Israel! That he takes back [the already] given, [fully] realized nearness of meaning and salvation, that he takes from Israel everything, that he takes from th[is] man everything that he had given him, and no one is able to prevent this—and yet in this, too, remains his God!—[this is an] awareness of God in a depth of experience to which we moderns in blasphemous over-self-valuation do not again, not even from afar, attain. 'Sadistic,' 'cruel,' 'hostile to life,' 'one who strikes out at the defenseless'—these, I believe, are all, however, completely inappropriate, completely anthropomorphic, reductionistic, completely inapplicable concepts for what happens in Genesis 22: the mysterious, dark, night-saturated unreasonable demand of God that [Abraham] remain with him, go on [hand] in his hand, although he takes back his word, although he breaks his promise, although he takes [back] what he gave, although he envelops his goodness in the hidden, in contradiction."

Odil Hannes Steck, "Ist Gott grausam? Über Isaaks Opferung aus der Sicht des alten Testaments," Ist Gott grausam? Eine Stellungnahme zu Tilmann Mosers 'Gottesvergiftung', hrsg. Wolfgang Böhme (Stuttgart: Evangelisches Verlagswerk, 1977), 87 (75-95).