Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Gap

God put on skin and lived with us. Ordinarily, this is thought of as a bridge between the mundane and the transcendent.

What is the gap between God and people made out of? The Greeks put deities up on a mountain, or underground, beyond the river Styx. Ancient Mesopotamians built ziggurats so that the gods could come down into their cities and bring them favor; they'd even build shrines at the top of these ziggurats, with a cot and snacks, so that the gods could take a break on their way down.

In the myths, the gods had the personalities of Jerry Springer guests; man made gods in his own image. Gods would go to the bathrooms, take naps, go on holiday at the beach. Wars were caused by divine domestic disputes. In the Akkadian flood myth, Enlil started a deluge, because there were too many noisy people, so he had trouble sleeping.

The gap is simple; the gods are just big people with superpowers.

From Or else, what?

God put on skin and lived with us. God drank wine, he partied, he felt pity. God went to the bathroom, he took naps, and he went on holiday at the beach. He didn't look very big. He used his superpowers not as if they were the thing that separated him from us, but what made it so we could coexist with him. The gap was still there.

What was the gap, then?


  1. This might be my favorite post of yours ever. I think the gap might be how he used those superpowers, compared to how we would.

  2. Whoa! Deep stuff, bro. I think St. John of Damascus spent a long time thinking about this one... (and St. Maximos the Confessor as well...)

    Doesn't, though, God by taking on human flesh through Mary, show for all that the cause of our separation is not just that we are born with bodies, but because of our choice? Otherwise we might take fault with him saying, "Oh, if only you had not given us these bodies, because then we could be free of sin."

    The gap is more than sin, I think. For instance, Church tradition has it that by grace Mary lived sinlessly; but while being the birthgiver of God she was not God.

    Alex, I think that this is an incredibly deep question that can not be answered simply.

    The incarnation is an ineffable mystery that reveals that above all things, we ain't got no clue what God really is! John Damascene says to the effect of, God is in his essence ineffable, invisible, infinite.. etc. God clearly became man. How is that the infinite became contained in a body? We don't know! But yet, we know that it is.

    A lot of John's work is defeating philosophical constructions about the incarnation (and about God himself.) Arianism and Monophysitism for instance derive from thinking of God's nature as being like a human nature, and thus you can't have 'two natures' in one thing. But John notes that we don't know what God's nature IS, other than that it is a nature (properties common to anything of that kind) and thus this statement is just anthropomorphizing God as just being a 'super-perfect human' or 'infinite human', etc. Paganism, humanism, basically.

    Also, Phil, isn't it tautological to say that the gap is sin? Can the sun turn away from itself? Can the source of goodness be its deprivation? How can God turn away from himself?

    Just a thought.

  3. I just finished reading St. John of Damascus' defense of icon veneration. While I still don't dig icon veneration, I thought it was an excellent book, his christology is inspiring. Garth, I think we're thinking similarly on this.

  4. sweet post - think I want to ponder this one for awhile.

    I think Tim's comment has interesting insight.

    I am reminded of Christ's phrase on the cross (which C.S. Lewis appears to have been fascinated with for good reason): 'Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani'

    how can God turn His back on God? If ever there were an impossible set of questions...they would be concerning the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Christ's Death & Resurrection.

    Gotta say I love this post!

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