Life itself presses the question: What awesome
reality swallows up all our human efforts? What dread power overwhelms
our gods, what dooms our best causes to frustration and failure?
Call it fate or "reality" or just "the way things
are." Call it what you wish, but recognize that this is in
one way or another the final reality to which every man is accountable.
Suppose we do not even attempt to give this reality a name. Let
us call it merely "X." Let us speak only of the unknown
void out of which all things come and the unknown future
into which all things return. Call it the "out of which"
and the "into which." Call it the source and end of
all things, the original and final word about life. Call it whatever
you wish, but acknowledge that it is there, and against it there
is no defense. Man's life is lived within a great parenthesis
in which all created things are enclosed and circumscribed by
this final reality.
The Slayer of Our Gods. The Judeo-Christian
tradition has come to understand this slayer of their causes in
a wholly surprising way, as faithful to them. They witness to
this final enemy of our causes as having made itself known as
ultimate friend! The confidence of this community has come to
cling not to creaturely goods or finite causes, but to that enigmatic
reality from which all our values come and into which they all
return. Amazingly, they have stood aface this destroyer of all
things to celebrate: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust
him". Strangely as it may seem, they have come to put their
final reliance, not in limited values that pass away, but precisely
in this opponent of our values, this antagonist of our gods! This
community has learned to love this final reality as a lover thinks
of his beloved, and to celebrate all lesser loves in relation
to this final love.
To have confidence in this one is to understand
that all other confidences are rooted finally in despair. To trust
in this one is to trust in one who stands on the far side of all
our anxieties and guilts. To obey this one is to respond freely
to the self-disclosing now, to receive its limited value, but
without pretending that any historical good is the final good.
But what enables this terrifying destroyer to
be recognized as friend? It does not happen without a deepening
of human awareness, through which man becomes increasingly awake
to his vulnerabilities and value negations. It does not happen
without a struggle of reason and conscience, wherein man discovers
the phoniness of his gods and the way in which they tear him apart.
Faith in this one is not self-generated or merely
fabricated out of the deprived longings of one's own experience.
Faith in God is possible only as a response to his concrete self-disclosure.
Radical confidence in this enemy of our gods may have occasional
manifestations apart from the story of Israel, but this community
remembers it as having been prototypically given in certain events
through which the meaning of the whole of history is clarified.
Since faith in God has the character of response
to God's action, this community does not say that faith is something
men ought to have, but rather that when it is given it is an imcomparable
gift, a treasure hidden in a field, for which one might sell all
that he has in order to enjoy that prize.
Reference: TSOA, p. 239-240.