Not Yet God, I’m Reading About You

May 5, 2010

Thanks to Rod Dreher for bringing to my attention this post from The Oclophobist:

Any text about God which seeks to form our thinking about God can easily distract a person from God, and this includes Orthodox texts. It is simply more ironic, and sad, when the text which distracts one from God is a text teaching the reader about the dangers of texts distracting one from God.

…Years ago, some ROCOR monks I met at, of all places, the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo (an academic conference), told me that if one really wants to learn Orthodox theology, the first step is to cease to self-consciously attempt to learn Orthodox theology – for such is a dangerous reversal of the right ordo. The first thing to do is to learn how to pray, and if you are not to a point where you are ready to learn that sort of prayer which takes real effort (an actual prayer rule), you might start with doing the dishes for the people you are responsible to love, or trying to speak with kindness, or other similar things basic to living a human life (the idea being that it takes some softness of heart to begin any serious regimen of prayer). It seems rather common (though I know this primarily through literature, thus, I don’t really know it) that when a monk comes to the monastery, he spends years doing rather mundane things before they let him anywhere near theology.

…Without doubt or hesitation I can say that the persons I have known whose lives struck me as the least prayerful were those who cared a great deal about theology as a ‘subject,’ and that includes Orthodox whose beloved secondary literature tells them of the dangers of approaching theology as a ‘subject’ even as these very texts teach this by way of subjectivizing theology. There is such a thing as an addiction to theology as ‘subject,’ and it is ugly, turning the sufferer into a wraith. Becoming Orthodox and reading books about the dangers of approaching theology as ‘subject’ seems to have no bearing on the likelihood of developing such an addiction. Every would be theologian thinks his or her ideas are the safe ones.

This is somewhat similar to what I was trying to say in my post “I’m right and you’re wrong.” I have witnessed certain people who have so much head-knowledge about God and they are quick to let you know it, sometimes even in not-so-nice ways (admittedly, this may take place more often on the internet than in-person). I have seen people who seemingly know a lot about God, and yet I can’t help but wonder if they really actually know God. How can one know so much about God, and yet so clearly lack the fruits of the Spirit? That is what I try to shy away from. Right now I am keeping a lot of my thoughts fairly simplistic, partly because I am a mother of a toddler and I have limited time on my hands, but also because I can see the same fate befalling me.


4 Responses to “Not Yet God, I’m Reading About You”

  1. James Says:

    In Taoism they say that it is impossible to speak of the Tao because “Tao” is a word, not actual meaning. From your blog I gather that the Orthodox concept of God is similar to the concept of Tao in that God is an experience. To put it into more familiar “western” terms, speaking of God or the Tao is like retelling a joke in which “you had to be there” – the humor of the joke, the truth behind the experience, simply cannot be conveyed in words.

    I find this concept of God familiar and easy to swallow (albeit as a non-Christian I don’t like the term “God” for this concept; it simply doesn’t fit common usage).

    I hope to eventually read in your blog something that will help me form the connection between what the Orthodox say must be experienced (God), and what appear to be the more concrete beliefs of the Orthodox that cannot be experienced (i.e. the resurrection).

  2. Alicia in New Zealand Says:

    Liz thank you so much for sharing this. I told my priest that I had basically read my way to the door of the church. Since then he has basically really limited my reading, or not really stressed lots of reading. I keep bringing up books to him that I really “should read” and he just nods. More focus on living an orthodox family life. Hard work for someone who feels more secure when I have a text in my hands.


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