Christianity and Paradox: Critical Studies in Twentieth- Century Theology

By Ronald W. Hepburn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
'ENCOUNTERS' (1)

1

T HEOLOGIANS who believe that it is possible to encounter God directly, and so to offer, as we have been saying, some kind of ostensive definition of him, have recently been arguing along the following lines.

If God were an object like a hidden vein of gold or a heavenly body, too small or too remote for the telescope, then observation and argument, verifying procedures and speculation might be adequate for searching him out. But if he is no object, if instead he is a person, the whole situation is changed, and quite another approach to him is demanded. We approach things in detachment, confident that they will passively suffer our scrutiny, that our discoveries about them can be corroborated by others. Persons, on the other hand, reveal themselves fully only if we renounce our detachment and enter into reciprocal relations with them. The impact a person makes upon me may be unique to the point of being incommunicable to anyone else. The abstractness of speculation or systems of ideas is quite hostile to the immediacy and concreteness of personal encounters. Even if apologists successfully demonstrated by argument that God exists, such speculation could lead only to a 'God of the philosophers', to an impersonal, remote First Principle. The living God, the God of Abraham, can be authentically known only to the man who addresses him as Thou, who finds him in the unique directness of personal contact.

-24-

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