Not Yet God, I’m Reading About You
May 5, 2010
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.