One of the most rugged realities of human and Christian existence finds best expression in words like darkness and separation. Those who dispute the value of the word “sin” or the reality of a “fall” fail, so I think, to plumb the realities of existence. The ancient world was much more at home in the reality of darkness, of human sinfulness, and in the comprehensive story of tragedy — just read the Greeks — than we are today. So, when Edith Humphrey, in Ecstasy and Intimacy, sketches (in chp B of part 1) spirituality through the theme of separation from God her treatment brushes up against the ancients and against human reality.
Spirituality, Edith tells us, is not about us; it is about God’s approach to us through the Spirit to draw our spirit into communion with God. Why?
Because humans are separated from God. And here she dances through a variety of themes that permits her to bring to the surface a number of texts. Here are some nice statements, and your comments are welcome on a spirituality that fully embraces failure, sinfulness, separation, and darkness.
“The divine answer to the arrogant self-reliance of humanity … is to allow the limitations of creatureliness to be felt in full strength” (35).
“This paradox — that humanity was made for communion with God, but that this communion is no longer natural to them — finds its subtle expression in the many stories of Israel” (39).
“Some contemporary expressions of Christianity have forgotten, or are embarrassed by, this moment of dark reflection [in the laments of the Psalms], and instead espouse an unrealistic and warped view of spiritual victory”.
And this statement stunned me: “the relentlessly upbeat, both in song and in prayer, is the norm.” “Just as an earlier generation missed the fullness of the gospel by concentration upon judgment and duty, so today’s typical (Western) ‘seeker-friendly’ worship services frequently pull the congregants into a place of false security and canned joy” (41).
What role does music and tone play in the shaping of our perception of the norm of the Christian life? of Christianity itself? And are we capable of transforming the darkness theme into something more than individual? Are we expounding it at the group, community, and larger llevels? Did the Bible? (Did it!)
I could go on. Much to chew on in this chp.