Infinite Rebinding II: God and (as) Subjectivity

As was briefly stated in “Infinite Rebinding: Preliminary Thoughts on Religion”, Kierkegaard took Hegelian philosophy to task for its posing as a purely objective system which holds true for all specific existing individuals.  From Kierkegaard’s standpoint, it is quite obvious why this is not possible: so long as one is a subjective individual, it is impossible to transcend one’s own subjectivity in order to achieve perfect objectivity.  To do so would require that one no longer exists as a subjective individual, for even to say that a subjective individual could attain pure objectivity is nonsense.  However, “[i]n a logical system,” Kierkegaard writes concerning Hegel’s attempt at achieving this pure objectivity through logic, which is supposed to transcend the relativities of the subjective individual who makes use of it, “nothing may be incorporated that has a relation to existence, that is not indifferent to existence”[1].  Kierkegaard goes on to write that, “[t]he infinite advantage that the logical, by being the objective, possesses over all other thinking is in turn subjectively viewed . . .”[2].  And herein lies the problem: objective or not, as soon as a logical system is employed by a subjective individual, the objectivity has been destroyed.  One may think of an analogy wherein a tree exists in the world and its existence is not contingent on being perceived by a human person[3].  However, my sensory experience of the tree and your sensory experience of the tree are by definition not the same, but subjective.  We may agree in the details of our description, but at the end of the day, my experience of the tree is uniquely my own and can never be fully and purely shared with another.  It is similar with the problem of logic.  While we may recognize the same rules of logical reasoning, not only were these rules invented at some time by a subjective individual, but as soon as we appropriate them and rifle them in the favor of our own particular argument, they have been subjectivized by the subjective individual.

Furthermore, Kierkegaard writes that “[t]he system begins with the immediate and therefore without presuppositions and therefore absolutely, that is, the beginning of the system is the absolute beginning”[4].  Again, the same problem applies: “If the system is assumed to be after existence . . . the system does indeed come afterward and consequently does not begin immediately with the immediate with which existence began . . .”[5].  In other words, to postulate the necessity of an “absolute beginning”, one is claiming that the beginning is prior to existence, as, insofar as it is absolute, it must necessarily be the beginning of existence.  However, the assumption of this necessity arises from the logic created by an already existing thing (namely, Herr Professor), and therefore an absolute beginning cannot be attained.  To do so would require one to step outside of one’s own existence in order to begin from this absolute beginning, but one must exist in order to begin from the absolute beginning!  Therefore, it is absurd.

From these objections, Kierkegaard determines that a system of existence is in fact impossible and that instead, truth must be discovered subjectively.  After all, though one may try to begin from an “absolute beginning” and thereby attain an objective system of existence, “. . . existence possesses the remarkable quality that an existing person exists whether he wants to or not”[6] – that is to say, one can try all one wants to construct a system of philosophy which requires one to deny one’s own existence as a subjective individual, but in the end it will prove impossible[7].

As was alluded to in part one, the exact critique that Kierkegaard levels against Hegel could be leveled against Christian apologetics—simply substitute Christian apologists with Hegel.  When God is made the object of deductive argumentation, s/he is no longer a subject, but, as Jaspers was previously noted as saying, a thing in the world—more specifically, a thing that can be grasped, conceptualized, made to fit within our logical systems.  However, as Jaspers goes on to say, “God is not an object of knowledge, of compelling evidence”[8] and as soon as God is presented as such, s/he does not exist.  The God of the philosophers, the God that is an object, does not exist.  Such a God is not conceptually possible, for such a God would be a conceivable God, an oxy moron.

To what, then, do we refer when we name God?  According to Kierkegaard, “God is a subject, and therefore exists only for subjectivity in inwardness.”[9]  Such a view corroborates what has been said above, i.e., that the God that is an object does not—indeed, cannot—exist.  Instead, God is a subject and can only be known subjectively.  Alternatively, Richard Kearney speaks of a God who may be—a God who is “the possibility to be, which obviates between the extremes of being and non-being.”[10]  This God says to Moses, “I am who may be if you continue to keep my word and struggle for the coming of justice”[11].  Kearney calls this a hermeneutics of the possible.  Finally, John D. Caputo, taking his inspiration from 1 John, speaks of a God who “is a how, not a what”[12] in order to articulate a theology of the event.  Such a God is not an objectively existing being above and beyond our sphere of existence, but something so intimately tied to our actions that God becomes instead a way of being—i.e., she who loves unconditionally may be said to be “God-ing”.

What all three of these different ideas concerning God have in common is that they challenge the typical western Platonic assumptions that demand that God must be timeless, immutable, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc.—a list of characteristics, which, aside from being internally inconsistent, render God a wholly immobile, impersonal being who is impotent to interact with the world of subjects and subjectivity.  Instead, all three of the above thinkers challenge us to widen our concept of God, to expose God to the dangers of subjectivity, to allow God to not predetermine or dictate our lives, and to open ourselves to the inbreaking (un)kingdom of God and allow it to invade and manifest itself within our relationships, our actions, and our possibilities.  This is a God who is so real, so close, so intimately a part of our lived experience that we cannot say just what s/he is, for we cannot extract ourselves from the reality of, and look objectively at, God, nor would we be so crude as to make God the conclusion of a deductive argument.  God is much too real and, by extension, much too mysterious, for that.  Such a God may be weak and unstable in comparison to the Platonic God, but such a God is also the only God who can mean anything for our lives.

Notes


[1] Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript (in part), Nineteenth Century Philosphy, eds., Forest Baird and Walter Kaufmann (Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, 1997), 274.

[2] Ibid.

[3] This is, of course, assuming that we are not Berkeleians.

[4] Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript (in part), Nineteenth Century Philosphy, eds., Forest Baird and Walter Kaufmann (Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, 1997), 274.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. 279.

[7] One is tempted to use the term “logically impossible”, but it seems that Kierkegaard would disapprove.

[8] Karl Jaspers, “Way to Wisdom.” A Concise Dictionary of Existentialism, ed. Ralph B. Winn. (Philosophical Library: New York, 1960). 41.

[9] Soren Kierkegaard, “Concluding Unscientific Postscript.” Winn, 41.

[10] Richard Kearney, “God Who May Be: A Phenomenological Study.” Modern Theology 18.1 (2002).  75-87.

[11] Ibid.

[12] John D. Caputo, On Religion.  (New York: Routledge,  2001), 135.

In the Beginning, there was Rush Limbaugh. Thank God Kierkegaard Came Along.

If you love goodness, truth, and beauty, you should read this pretty lady’s new blog.

renegade~betty

I was raised in the stereotypical conservative evangelical Christian home. My parents had a loving and healthy marriage my entire childhood. I grew up on sunday school, Focus on the Family, and my mom’s Republican talk radio shows. At three my father taught me to say “I’m a right-wing conservative and proud of it!”. As disturbing as many of these facts may be to some of you (including myself, and probably my parents who have a somewhat different outlook on the world now), I was also raised to think for myself. I know many people think that it isn’t possible to be raised a conservative evangelical, and be raised to think for oneself, but it is, and my parents did it pretty well. In early grade school I remember asking my dad how we knew we were right about God and Hindus were wrong since both religions believed with equal…

View original post 1,194 more words

A Brief Interpretation of the Theology of J.G. Fichte

“True atheism”, J. G. Fichte writes in Divine Government of the Universe, “unbelief and godlessness in the real sense, consists in calculation of consequences” (1).  In other words, Fichte seems to be saying that it is not so much one’s abstract beliefs, but instead how one lives (which is, of course, the truest way to learn what one believes – how do they live?), and if one lives as a utilitarian–calculating consequences–Fichte would call her an atheist.   Why exactly this is the case will be considered shortly. Fichte also rejects the notion of an infinite, personal God who exists separately from our world.  His argument may be summarized thusly: When God is understood as a being that has a personality, self-consciousness, will, etc. He/She/It is no longer something completely transcendent, for such characteristics “can be employed only if what they refer to is limited and finite” (2).  After all, it seems that a necessary condition of my having a personality is that there are characteristics which differentiate me from every other individual: there are certain traits and combination of traits which no one else has and vice versa.  Furthermore, my having a specific personality, with such-and-such a trait and without such-and-such other trait obviously necessitates that in virtue of this I am not (qualitatively) infinite.  So, Fichte would say, for me to say that God also has a personality just as I do, is to create God in my own image, which, according to Xenophanes, is precisely what we humans tend to do, and precisely why our “gods” tend to not be godly at all, but merely human creations. (3)

It is also worth commenting on the above qualification of Fichte’s understanding of the name “God” necessitating qualitative infinity.  Spinoza would agree; Leibniz would not.  For this reason, Fichte’s arguments must not be initially applied to all religious conceptions of God as such.  Perhaps this is the best way to understand the concept of God, but it must be allowed that it is an open question.  Some (such as Leibniz) would reject outright the notion of God’s qualitative infinity and instead affirm His/Her/Its quantitative infinity.  But such a discussion is beyond the scope of the present paper.

In the hope that the above sketch of what Fichte rejects about the notion of God has been deep enough to do so, we will move on to what it is that Fichte affirms concerning God.  Fichte writes, “This is the true faith: this moral order is the Divine which we accept.  It is constituted by acting rightly.  This is the only possible confession of faith: to do what duty prescribes” (4).  Very clearly we once again find Fichte affirming faith in God as a way of acting as opposed to an abstract belief concerning metaphysics.  He goes on to state that the “moral world order is identical with God” (5).  The moral world order is, according to Fichte, acting according to one’s conscience out of a pure, Kantian sense of duty, with no consideration for the consequences–consideration which is not moral in any meaningful sense, but simply utilitarian. Thus, the utilitarian denies the moral world order–God–and is therefore an atheist.

So, God is morality and morality is God.  Sound familiar?  According to the New Testament, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (6).  Similarly, John D. Caputo seems to apply a Fichtean concept of God to this verse: “…love is a how, not a what” (7), which means, furthermore, that “God”, too, “is a how, not a what” (8).  For Caputo, this how is unconditional love, and for Fichte, it is acting out of a Kantian sense of moral duty.  So, in this sense, God is more accurately understood as a verb as opposed to a noun.  This is what Caputo refers to as a “theology of event.”

In a way, to the mind of the present writer, this understanding of God makes beautiful sense, and, in another way, is still quite elusive and mysterious.  But perhaps this mystery too is part of the beauty – after all, according to Caputo, “Religion is for lovers” (9).  The question of whether or not this particular notion of God is plausible is admittedly sticky, for, before it can be addressed, certain preliminary questions regarding the probability of the existence of a God, and the question of which religious texts (if any) are held to contain the true writings concerning the nature and actions of this God must be answered.  Does it jive, for example, with the aforementioned passage from 1 John?  In a way, yes, but such a passage must not be extracted from its context; for, according to the tradition in which the author was writing, God does exist as a personal being, and became as personal as possible when He/She/It appeared in the form of a man (i.e. Jesus of Nazareth).  Nevertheless, John is saying quite simply that God is love, which might suggest that he saw Jesus as pure love manifested in human form.  All of this seems to suggest that God is not reducible to a personal being, in the way that, say, I am – for I am and always will be only a noun; I cannot become a verb.  But, according to this interpretation, God can.

However, this also calls into question Fichte’s notion that God must be understood as a qualitatively infinite being.  If God is love, as John says, He/She/It cannot, by nature, also be hatred.  Indeed, to allow our metaphysical abstractions to devolve into something like “Pure Being”, thinking this will defend us from the danger of a less-than-infinite God, will actually, in leading to the purest abstraction of being as such, simultaneously result in nothing.  Pure being is presumably so irreducible, so beyond the pale of particularity, that it is at the same time nothing.  Quite often, it seems, folks who think themselves incredibly pious feel the need to affirm the qualitative infinity of God in order to avoid any sentence beginning with “God cannot…” despite the contradiction.  But the contradiction is not necessary, according to 1 John.  There are such things as intrinsic impossibilities, which do not necessitate that one deny God’s omnipotence or infinitude, if this is in fact what one is hoping to defend. As C.S. Lewis explains:

His [God’s] omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. If you choose to say ‘God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it’, you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words ‘God can’. It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk about God. (10)

And this applies equally to Fichte’s God: if God is morality, God is necessarily not immorality, rendering Him/Her/It less than qualitatively infinite. It seems that Spinozistic pantheism is the only option for one who wants to affirm the qualitative infinity of God, but Fichte is clearly not arguing for Spinozism here.

One final point: I think Fichte offers an interesting insight into the common usage of the name, God (albeit, given an almost ironic reading). There seems to be a tendency to tack God onto our moral statements in order to give them legitimacy. Think about it: “My opinion is (X)” carries considerably less weight than “God said (X)”. Consequently, when we have strong moral beliefs on a certain issue, we find a way to spin it as the word of God, rather than our own, fallible opinions. And in this way, we do seem to conflate the idea of God with our own conscience and almost end up (unintentionally) agreeing with Fichte. And in so doing, “God” becomes nothing more than what the ideal being who perfectly embodies our personal moral views would look like. Thus, the soldier sees a warrior God, the pacifist a God of nonviolent love, the traditional soul (so to speak) a God of conserving tradition and maintaining proper authority, and the progressive soul a God of liberation and freedom from oppression.

It is not my intention to offer the above thoughts in a cynical tone. I sincerely hope that “God” is not simply a result of a Nietzschean will to power, as it were–or, more specifically, ressentiment–driving the weak to find a “metaphysical higher ground”, so to speak, over the strong by saying that it is actually an absolute authority over and above all of us which is the source of my personal moral beliefs. Such a god would be a reactionary concept and nothing more. Perhaps that is the case, but I’d like to think it is not. But then again, perhaps I am simply a naive romantic. If it is not the case, however–if we can speak of God in a meaningful sense as removed from our own ideals–how do we do so? How can we look at the concept of God outside of our cultural context? I think it was Gadamer who said something to the effect of, we cannot escape our cultural context and all of the biases that come along with it; the best we can do is recognize our biases as such and do our best to move beyond them. I think the same applies here. I may never know for sure if my concept of God is authentic or received, but I think that simply recognizing that and striving for the authentic is the best place to begin.

Notes

1. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, On the Foundation of Our Belief in A Divine Government of the Universe. Translated by Paul Edwards, reprinted in Nineteenth Century Philosophy, eds. Forrest E. Baird and Walter Kaufmann. (Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, 1997), 21.

2. Ibid., 22.

3. Xenophanes writes, “But mortals think that gods are born, and have clothes and speech and shape like their own . . . But if cows and horses or lions had hands and drew with their hands and made the things men make, then horses would draw the forms of gods like horses, cows like cows, and each would make their bodies similar in shape to their own.” (Early Greek Philosophy, Trans. and Ed. Jonathan Barnes, (London: Penguin Books, 2001), 43.)

4. Fichte, 21.

5. Ibid., 21.

6. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, 1 John 4:16b

7. John D. Caputo, On Religion.  (New York: Routledge,  2001), 134.

8. Ibid., 135.

9. Ibid., 2.

10. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain. (New York: Harper Collins, 1996), 18.

Infinte Rebinding: Preliminary Thoughts On Religion

Having explained the foundations of my political thinking, it seems worthwhile to pivot now to a discussion of religion.  I am not interested in apologetics, per se, or in making a case for why my religious views may be objectively shown to be the correct ones.  In the spirit of existentialism, I agree with the following words of Karl Jaspers: “The non-existence of God can be proved no more than his existence.  The proofs and their confutations show us only that a proved God would be no God but merely a thing in the world.”[i]  That is not to say that I discount evidentialism wholesale, but merely that I am skeptical of it as a totalizing enterprise capable of resulting in faith.  Just as Kierkegaard critiqued Hegel’s attempt at a systematic philosophy, I would critique apologists who attempt to offer a system which purports, on the grounds of objectively verifiable evidence, to prove the truth of Christianity.  As with Hegel, such a system would require that its proponents remove themselves from existence in order to systematize existence.  Once a purportedly objective system is proposed by a subjective individual (i.e., a person), however, the entire endeavor is undermined and destroyed.

What I hope to offer instead, is what might be referred to as a theopoetic understanding of the narrative of the relationship between the infinite (i.e., God) and man, and why I think this narrative, religion, deserves serious consideration, even if it is ultimately rejected.  This will require arguments of a kind, but they are arguments in favor of an interpretation rather than a system.  To those who are familiar with my views or have read other papers I have written on the subject, some of this will be old hat.  I am rehashing arguments I have made in the past, in an attempt to synthesize my basic views on the subject.

Humankind has shown itself to possess quite a propensity for religion – for the rebinding of itself to the infinite.  Why exactly this is the case is anyone’s guess.  Perhaps we are inclined toward the infinite because a piece of the infinite is within us – we are created in imagio dei, as it were.  Or perhaps this infinite – the “not finite” – is simply a negation of all we know to be real and therefore actually nothing at all.  It must at least be admitted that, either way, the conceptualizing of the infinite is a peculiar thing.

As William Blake says in There is no Natural Religion, “[m]an cannot naturally perceive but through his natural or bodily organs”, and, “[f]rom a perception of only 3 senses or 3 elements none could deduce a fourth or fifth.”[ii]   Whence, then, enters the infinite, which is presumably “a fourth or fifth”?  Or, to consider an analogy, how can we understand blue if there is no other color against which to contrast it?  There is no blue if there is no non-blue.  Similarly, it would seem, there is no concept of finite if there is no infinite, and vice versa.  Again, perhaps it is simply a negation and nothing more.  Or perhaps C.S. Lewis was right in saying that, “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”[iii]  Such an argument would suggest that, not only do we have a concept of the not-finite, or not-this-world, but there is also some idea of what this world is not: namely, meaningful.  And yet, again, if physical existence as such is all that there is, and it is inherently meaningless, where could such a concept of meaning and its absence originate?

This way of thinking is consistent, to my mind, with the inter-subjective theory of consciousness.  Various formulations of the theory could be, there can be no I without a thou, or, there is no I without a not-I, or, a thou without a not-thou.  This perspective is also found in structuralism[iv], as when Saussure writes in Course in General Linguistics that, “[s]igns function, then, not through their intrinsic value but through their relative position” and “[t]heir most precise characteristic is in being what the others are not.”[v]  Again, if a thing is understood in terms of difference – what it is not – there must be positive examples of what it is not (e.g., in order for there to be blue, there must be positive examples of non-blue, and vice versa).  As Sartre would say, we must introduce “pools of nothingness” in order to understand our experience of particular things.  Obviously, this is a particular interpretation which could be challenged, but it is the interpretation to which I have tended to gravitate.

Either way, it seems that we have spent a considerable amount of our history groping in the dark to figure this out.  Some will reasonably ask: if this so-called infinite did exist, why has it left us in the dark?  But perhaps it is we who leave ourselves in the dark.  After all, we are an incredibly arrogant race.  Perhaps in the face of the infinite, which is wholly other, wholly mysterious, we realize our incapacity to understand completely, and so, rather than accepting the mystery, we shield our eyes and construct reality in such a way that we can understand and which allows us to claim Truth.  We find followers, (and, by extension, enemies), and create the infinite in our own image – in the image of the finite.  Thus does institutional religion arise, and thus theology, heresy, and philosophy[vi].  On the one hand, intelligent people will point to all of this religious nonsense and say that it is, well, nonsense, and therefore such mumbo-jumbo cannot be believed by any self-respecting intellectual.  Perhaps they are right.  But I wonder if, even though we humans have perverted this desire for rebinding-to-the-infinite (perversion of anything good being among our greatest of talents), it did not begin from a good and natural place.

And maybe, again, it is not that the infinite has hidden itself from us, but we from it.  Maybe, as the two angels of whom we are told in Acts 1[vii] advise the followers of Jesus, our mistake is that, in pursuing the infinite, we avert to an escapist mentality, in which we stare into the clouds awaiting the return of our Savior who will vindicate us in our proper theology and make fools of all of our enemies (especially the Baptists or the Catholics or the Seventh-Day Adventists, to say nothing of the atheists, communists, and Unitarians) at the expense of being-for-others in the present.  Perhaps the infinite is here among us, but so long as we fix our eyes on how, according to our particular eschatology, s/he will act at some unknown time in the future, we preclude his/her ability to act through us in the world.  Somewhere along the way we became convinced that our lives are constituted by an either/or choice between this world and the infinite and, we suppose, to pursue the infinite means to, at best, ignore this world, and at worst, to actively despise it.

But, it must be asked, if this world is so irreversibly wretched, what is the infinite’s game in abandoning us to it?  And why does religion still purport to offer some infinite-instituted morality for our daily lives?  It seems absurd that our being-with-others should matter at all if the only true purpose of life is gaining a proper understanding of the infinite so that we may be rewarded in the life to come.  Such an attitude seems to fly in the face of someone like Jesus coming and teaching an explicitly social ethic – a social ethic which has sadly been ignored in favor of the aforementioned escapism in much of Christianity.  The common obsession with the comforting thought of an afterlife has come at the expense of living the radical, terrifying, and perhaps even counter-intuitive way of Jesus in this life[viii].  But if the afterlife is all that following Jesus is really about, one must wonder why he spent so much time teaching his followers how to live in this life.

I am not here to offer a prescription or one-size-fits-all solution to the problems laid out above.  But I am bold enough to submit my suggestion.  First of all, I would propose humility.  Without a humble recognition that we, as finite beings, can never attain a perfect understanding of the infinite and a willingness to acknowledge that our particular religious methods might simply be wrong, if not all of the time, at least some of the time, we will never be able to fully actuate what I would offer as my second suggestion: being-with- and -for-others.  (Here I must speak from my own theological beliefs, but I do not mean it in a necessarily exclusive manner.)  If we take Jesus to be God-incarnate, but do not take his social-ethical teachings seriously, or we do not take the author of 1 John seriously (that God is love, and that God abides in the one who abides in love)[ix], I think our pursuit of the infinite would be little more than a waste of time.  We are social creatures and therefore must assume that, if we are made in imagio dei, our infinite creator specifically instituted the community as a necessary part of our living out this infinite image in which we are made.  And with humility and community in mind, perhaps we can follow Rilke’s advice in Letters to a Young Poet:

[H]ave patience toward all that is unsolved in your heart.  Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers.  They cannot be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything.  At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.[x]

Notes


[i] Karl Jaspers, “Way To Wisdom”, A Concise Dictionary of Existentialism, Ed. Ralph B. Winn (New York: Philosophical Library, 1960),  41.

[ii] William Blake, From There is No Natural Religion in The Norton Anthology of English Literature (New York: Norton, 2006), 80.

[iii] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HaperCollins, 2001), 39.

[iv] I don’t necessarily consider myself a structuralist any more than a post-structuralist, etc.  My preferred method in such matters is that of cherry picking.

[v] Ferdinand de Saussure, From Course in General Linguistics in Literary Theory: an Anthology, ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 68-69.

[vi] As Walter Kaufmann says in The Faith of a Heretic, “One may view the history of philosophy as a history of heresy.”

[vii] Acts 1:10-11

[viii] A literal reading of the Sermon on the Mount shows a social ethic which runs contrary to the overwhelming majority of western thought (including much of western Christianity).

[ix] 1 John 4: 16

[x] Rainier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (New York: MJF Books, 2000), 35.

Why the greys?

First of all, I chose grey over gray, because grey just looks and feels more grey to me.  I think about an old TLC special I watched called The World of Dogs or something like that, and remember the segment on greyhounds being augmented by a background of fog and an overcast sky.  Just one more way the media is infiltrating my life and conditioning my thinking, and years down the road at that.

The greys are also what I see much more of in life than blacks and whites.  In fact, I think the greys permeate and even constitute our thinking on the most important things: theology, philosophy, politics, art, etc.  If this were not the case, it seems to me, there would a lot less arguing in the academies and churches and polities.

But it’s a fine line.  I find the greys both liberating and exciting and a bit terrifying.  After all, they simultaneously provide the freedom to explore and question and live a philosophical life, but they also demand humility and a recognition of the fact that I might just be dead wrong.  In fact, I am dead wrong.  On a lot of things.  Which ones?  I couldn’t tell you.  I am a very opinionated person and neither accept nor abandon commitments easily, but I must be willing to allow that, as a fallible, finite human being, some of my most deeply held beliefs are probably wrong.  But I, just like everyone else, am doing the best that I can with what I have, and I am convinced that that is enough.

As Derek Webb laments in “The Truth”: “Maybe there’s no grey and I was wrong to tell ’em so.”  A frightening thought, but I think there is some grey.  And there is grace and redemption in the face of our misplaced trust and unjustifiable opinions and failure to recognize the greys for what they are, and maybe even a black and white or two.  After all, as Mr. Webb concludes, “The truth’s not contingent on me.”

I take great comfort in that.