We need to resume our look at LeRon Shults, Reforming the Doctrine of God. He speaks of God’s infinity and Trinity and futurity, and I have called this the “in-God and un-God” because his study deals with terms like infinity and unfathomable. In our post today we look at chp 5 on infinity.
What do we mean when we say God is Infinite? Do we mean God is miles and miles more of what we are? A kind of mathematical infinity? Or, do we mean that our language, our mind, and our heart can’t come to term with God — that God is absolutey different in a different way? That God is so unlike us and at the same time so like us? What do we mean by infinity?
Here’s my thesis: a genuine sense of infinity makes the chest swell with presence; a mathematical sense of infinity makes mind the crack.
I believe the emerging movement is more willing than most to ponder an emerging understanding of God — and is willing to tap into the resources of the whole Church, including the great intuitions of the Eastern fathers — and along with this exploration and rediscovery is the opportunity to come to terms with the in-term-unable: God’s infinity as a tapping into the mystery of God’s utter holiness.
LeRon Shults finds plenty of resources for retrieving a true infinity, a concept of infinity that is both biblical and which avoids the “extensive” infinity of modernity. The latter focuses on infinity as being mathematical, and he wants to retrieve a theory of infinity that is both metaphysical and intensive. None of this, of course, is easy to define, but at times we glimpse the grandeur of God’s infinity and it strikes home with us.
Here are some observations:
God is not just sui generis but beyond ‘generic’ definition altogether.
God is not merely one reality in relation to another (creation) but an absolute fullness that ‘contains’ all things.
God’s immensity embraces all things.
We cannot know God the way we know finite things — true knowledge of God involves being known by God in the intensity of mystical and contemplative experience.
He examines early theology, then dips into medieval theology, and then he studies Barth, Gunton, Moltmann, and then on to Jenson, Jungel, Pannenberg, and then on to Rahner and Zizioulias.
He finds danger in overemphasizing transcendence and falling into pantheism — and he speaks of the dangers of the way many have moved into panentheism. The best approach to God’s infinity will articulate in intrinsically relational terms and will do so under the category of Trinity. Here’s a final flourish from LeRon:
“We need a concept of the Absolute that is essentially relational, an eternal being-in-relation that constitutes the finite by distinguishing it from the infinite, incursively upholding the structures of the finite and evocatively opening up the finite to an intensification of its differentiated union with the infinite” (132).