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The Highest God is the Boring-est God

Here’s Eberhard Jüngel taking down Descartes’ perfectly necessary God in a rather clever way:

[T]he abstract imperishability of God above us is the expression of a God who in his abstractness (or, as Luther could say, in his nudity) is a terrible and in his terribleness ultimately a boring God. Terror without end ultimately kills all attentiveness. Even fascination at the abstract majesty of God over us results in a sense of horror which kills concrete attentiveness toward God, results in a thoroughly terrifying boredom. And for that very reason, the wordless, dumb, and perfectly abstract divine majesty does not concern us. In trying to think it through to the end, we could really only ‘unharness’ thinking, to use Nietzsche’s idea. In such a case, thought ceases to be interesting.” (God as the Mystery of the World, p.198)

I’m still mulling over whether or not I’m willing to go all (or even some) of the way with Jüngel, but nevertheless, this passage struck me as a tangential critique of some forms of neo-Calvinist piety, specifically those which equate spiritual maturity with one’s ability to appreciate God’s glory all for it’s own sake (i.e., without reference to anything God has done or said). For Jüngel, however, such a God is actually incapable of sustaining this kind of intense awe because, he argues, when God’s independence is foregrounded for its own sake, God’s practical role in thought is reduced merely to scaffolding for human existence. The consequence is that, ultimately, God will fall away, at which point we will realise that it wasn’t all that constructive to dwell on him the first place. Better, says Jüngel, to attend to the Word of God as that divine address which draws us out of ourselves so that we can rightly understand our being constituted by, rather than productive of, God.

I don’t know – if anyone in the world is still aware of this blog, I’m curious to know what you think. Basically, Jüngel is saying that the super-high awesome God is boring because he is capable of being thought outwith the context of address. Do you think this critique applies to the neoCals? Does the contemplation of God in his naked glory threaten to bore us to death? Lemme know.

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4 comments on “The Highest God is the Boring-est God

  • I think Jüngel’s on to something here. That’s why – at the risk of being labeled a heretic or just plain weird – Moltmann’s theology of God is more interesting than, say, well, I won’t name any names.

  • Hey man – take it easy – Augustine’s theology’s not that bad.

    Anyways, yeah, Jüngel is interesting. Wondering, though, if pre-modern “perfect being” stuff is as susceptible to his charges as Descartes and company might be.

  • I completely agree with Jungel here! For Barth the number one aspect that held all this theology together was the freedom of God. When we place any constraint upon God it takes from his freedom. Once his freedom is God there is no address, there is only what we can perceive in our own empirical capabilities. (Descartes, and even Kant) You basically loose transcendence. Good post!

  • I’m with Jüngel too. I’ve been reading Radical Orthodoxy lately and while they’re not boring in their critique of post/modernism, their doctrine of God is about as interesting as a clothesline.

    I’ve heard some not-as-neo-Cals say that the only place you have an unmediated encounter with God is in hell, which wouldn’t be boring … or maybe it would?

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