Christianity and Paradox: Critical Studies in Twentieth- Century Theology

By Ronald W. Hepburn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
'ENCOUNTERS' (2)

S OMEONE ( White) at this point might object.

White: You have failed to do justice to the fact that one does not need to know a great deal about a person in order to be able to encounter him personally. One need know very little indeed. Buber may yet be right: 'It is not necessary to know something about God in order really to believe in him'; one may still 'know how to talk to God', although not about him.1

We could imagine a situation (fantastic, but no matter) where we make contact with someone about whom we know practically nothing. We are told, say, by a person we trust, to go by night to the edge of a wood and to address someone whom we shall not see or hear. It will be to our advantage, nonetheless, to enter upon I-Thou relations with him. These will be direct I-Thou relations, free from any interposing of ideas or speculation, as we have no ideas about the person at all. What would prevent us from faithfully saying Thou into the darkness?

Black: Nothing would prevent us. But saying Thou is not establishing an I-Thou relation of the sort Buber describes. Think how far it would be from the relation of child to parent, friend to friend. Instead of meeting a unique personality, I am addressing simply 'the man in the dark'. Compare (on the score of im personality!) 'the man who takes my train-ticket', 'the man who delivers the milk'. Buber himself sees that anyone who can be

____________________
1
Eclipse of God ( London: Gollancz, 1953), p. 40.

-49-

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