Goal Setting and the Slamming on of Brakes

So, I’m working through a book on the language of theology – I know, sounds riveting! – that is kind of rocking my world. It’s called “Hunting the Divine Fox” by Robert Farrar Capon. It’s a book of wonderful prose, curious arguments, and interesting philosphy. I came upon this quote this morning about transactional theology, you know a Purpose Driven Babel theology of law – if I do X, then Y!

The Mystery [God] does indeed manifest itself through transactions; for this is, after all, a totally transactional world. Nothing happens here that isn’t done somewhere, sometime, somehow, by somebody. If the Mystery wants to tip its hand among the likes of us, it’s going to have to work up its shtick just like everything else. And it has. The covenants – from Adam to Jesus, from the Tree of Life to the Tree of Calvary – are all pieces of business. So there is no way of escaping tansactional language when we talk about the Mystery – or transactional behavior on our part when we respond to it.

On the other hand, the Mystery is not only in the world, busy with piecework. It is also in God, totally busy just being. The Mystery as it is in God, however – before, during and after all worlds – isn’t inching its way toward a goal it hasn’t reached yet. In God, the end is fully present at the beginning; the beginning is fully realized in the end. God, in his mysterious relationship with the world, never changes his mind or his manners, never does anything he didn’t have in mind before, never drops a stitch, pulls out a row, reverses engines or slams on the brakes. And therefore while in one sense, everything he does in creation involves doing business doing business with somebody, in another sense, he never does business with anybody. He doesn’t trade. He doesn’t transact. He doesn’t haggle. He doesn’t even really do; he just “be’s.”

That sounds strange until you look at the Gospels. Then, suddenly, it sounds right: salvation as a gift given, not a bargain struck. A father who does not trade forgivenss for good behavior, but who kisses the prodigal son before he gets his confession out of his mouth. A vineyard owner who pays what he pleases, not what the laboreres earn. A shepherd who allows no sensible business consderations to keep him from leaving ninety-nine sheep in jeopardy to bring one to safety. A wheat grower who runs his farm, not for profit, but for the sake of letting everything grow as it pleases till the end. An Incarnate Word who won’t talk to Pilate; a Carpenter of Nazareth who saves the wolrd by nailing down his own hands; a Risen Lord who runs everything by going away. A God, in other words, who does all things well be doing practically nothing right, whose wisdom is foolishness, whose strength is weakness – who runs this whole operation by being no operator at all and who makes no deals because, in the high Mystery of his being, he’s got it made already.

XIR71774 Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece, detail of Christ's right hand, c.1512-16 (oil on panel) by Grunewald, Matthias (Mathis Nithart Gothart) (c.1480-1528); Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar, France; Giraudon; NOT TO BE USED FOR CARDS, POSTERS OR ADVERTISING IN FRANCE; German,  out of copyright
(XIR71774 Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece, detail of Christ’s right hand, c.1512-16 (oil on panel) by Grunewald, Matthias (Mathis Nithart Gothart) (c.1480-1528); Musee d’Unterlinden, Colmar, France; Giraudon; NOT TO BE USED FOR CARDS, POSTERS OR ADVERTISING IN FRANCE; German, out of copyright)
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Goal Setting and the Slamming on of Brakes

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