With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on. -- William Morris

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

On Idolatry

From times of old, we have been told,
An idol -- we should not create.
They should not be bought or sold,
For our souls, they do not sate.

But when we opine on the nature of God,
And bind others to our philosophical construction,
Demanding it to be followed with threat of a rod,
We have devised a new idol: it leads to destruction.

Ineffable, transcendent, beyond compare,
Our God is incapable of being limited to our supposition.
What we make of Him He does not spare,
It all goes to the flame, turned to ash in the devestation.

But, weary heart, do not hold any thoughts of despair,
We might not be able to describe God with our words,
But He is there, do not ever forget -- He is there,
Leading us beyond the shallow idols unto Himself.

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  • At 9/06/2006 10:11 AM, Blogger The Lesser Thomas said…

    Thanks for the poem. I like it.

  • At 9/07/2006 6:43 AM, Blogger Henry Karlson said…

    Thanks -- I wrote it last year, and thought it was worth putting up on here. It shows my general apophatic approach to God, though, in itself,I admit such an approach is incomplete. There has to be a counter-balance where we do try to discuss God, knowing the limits of such discussion, because the human spirit could not live long with a mysterious unknown as its guide and goal.

  • At 9/10/2006 12:37 PM, Anonymous Jacqueline Y. said…

    Wouldn't the counter-balance be found in God's self-revelation to us poor creatures? I'm thinking of Hebrews, chapter 1. Even the apophatic Greek Fathers have this indispensible backdrop.

  • At 9/12/2006 5:46 PM, Blogger Brendan Sammon said…


    If I may be permitted to kindly respond to your insightful remark, I would fully agree: Divine Revelation would at least be the "backdrop" to a positive approach to the divine.
    But even here, it is only a backdrop - by which I mean it is the plenitude that overflows with the promise of ever greater determination. As such it still requires a negative movement.

    Consider the history of dogmatic formulations, for instance. We see how even our most sacred dogmas were most often decreed in relation to what the given council intended to condemn. Thus, the negative movement of opposing heresies becomes the positive force of defining dogmas.

    Take Nicea I (325): here, the Fathers worked out the true divinity of the Son of God in response to Arius. Such a doctrine, it might be said, was present in ovo in the extant baptismal creed without being explicitly stated. Arius comes along talking 'bout, "Christ wasn't truly God," or some such thing. The council, in response, "releases" (let us say) what was densely compacted in the baptismal creed.

    Or consider Chalcedon, wherein the Fathers vindicated Pope Leo I and (re)condemned Eutyches, by affirming the two natures in Christ. Once again, they allow the previous councils, which hand on the living tradition of the Body of Christ, to buttress a newly defined proposition. This proposition was not explicit, but rather contained in ovo, in this tradition.

    And this, I would submit, is the very manifestation of Hebrews 1, when it states: "but in these days he (God) has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds."
    Christ is risen and alive IN the church, which continues this speaking.

    I suppose this is also why the Church is very broad in its definitions, and very specific in its condemnations. Seems to me that there is something of the apophatic-cataphatic relation involved here.

  • At 9/12/2006 5:46 PM, Blogger Brendan Sammon said…

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