Today’s ponderings come from a very famous Christian theologian, writer, and priest, Meister Eckhart (1260-1328).
it’s a short reflection so I’m just going to share the whole thing with you.
God is above all understanding
by Meister Eckhart
God is nameless, for no man can either say or understand aught about Him. If I say, God is good, it is not true; nay more; I am good, God is not good. I may even say, I am better than God; for whatever is good, may become better, and whatever may become better, may become best. Now, God is not good, for He cannot become better. And if He cannot become better He cannot become best, for these three things, good better, and best, are far from God, since He is above all. If I also say, God is wise, it is not true; I am wiser than He. If I also say, God is a Being, it is not true; He is transcendent Being and super-essential Nothingness. Concerning this St. Augustine says: “the best thing that man can say about God is to be able to be silent about Him, from the wisdom of his inner judgement. Therefore be silent and prate not about God, for whenever thou dost prate about God thou liest and committest sin. If thou wilt be without sin, prate not about God. Thou canst understand nought about God, for He is above all understanding. A master saith: “If I had a God whom I could understand, I would never hold Him to be God.”
Cool, so what I like about this is the open. Basically he’s bringing up that our human language can’t actually define God. Because if God is good, then something else can be better, etc. Sure, I get that, but I challenge this on a couple levels.
First, to say that God is good is not to say that God is only good. God can be good, better, and best. In fact, He is!
Second, this reminds me of a guy I spoke with a long time ago, I think it was at Columbia Theological Seminary back in Georgia (but I could be wrong. It could have been someone in Christchurch. who knows. doesn’t really matter). Anyway, he was saying that when someone asks, “how are you?” he doesn’t answer with “good” because he came to the realisation that we misuse that word – much like how we misuse the word ‘love.’ He said we don’t tend to understand the theological implication of the word. He referred to Gen 1 – God made the world and saw that it was good. Good, then, means close to perfect. And to nonchalantly say, “oh, yeah, I’m good.” is to relegate the full meaning of the word, because we, and all creation was deemed “good” before the fall. Therefore, how then can we still be good?
I thought it a profound take on the word and the way we greet each other. So, while I like, and understand Eckhart’s take, I might argue with him that ‘good’ might mean more than we give it credit for.
Regardless, Eckhart’s point is that we talk too much about God, and we presume we know things that we cannot know, and that we use words with standard, human, finite meanings that, in comparison, are lies about God. And, drawing on Augustine, he suggests the wisest thing to do when talking about God is to be silent, so we do not make fools of ourselves and a fool of God.
What’s your take on that? Do we talk nonsense about God? How else are we supposed to talk about God? If we don’t talk about God how can we be witnesses, servants, and apostles of Christ? How can we make disciples? Is ‘God’ a word that loses it’s meaning like ‘good’ or ‘love’ because we throw it around too much and too easily?
oh yeah, that last line of Eckhart reminds me of the As Cities Burn song I posted the other day, but I have another song to supplement today’s reflection, and the whole week really. Especially the words of the choruses, “I don’t know why, but still I try to wrap my mind around you. Your thoughts are higher, Your ways are better, and I’m in awe. So bring me up to where you are.” and then later…”I don’t know why, still I try to bring something of worth. My words are fleeting. They’re flawed, depleting and You’re leaving me in awe. So bring me up to where You are.”
It’s from Propaganda with friends, Braille, Odd Thomas, and Joel from Ascend the Hill…