Friday, February 16, 2007

God in Search of Man

If you are exceptionally perceptive, you have noticed that it has been awhile since I have posted a book review. The reason for this is not a lack of effort, but due to the fact that the book was kicking my butt. Not only is "God In Search of Man" 426 pages, it is also extremely dense.

I love reading because I like getting inside the mind of a genius. In my opinion, there are two type of geniuses when it comes to writing.

1. An author who writes with such clarity and simplicity that you can fool yourself into thinking you could have written the book. These authors make connections and create paths that seem to have always been there, but you just were not able to see them. Henri Nouwen is an excellent example of this type of genius.

2. An author who writes about such complex issues that most of the time you do not even understand what you are reading. However, you know the person is a genius because if you labor over the text, your mind will eventually be lifted above the clouds so that you are able to catch a glimpse of beauty. Abraham Heschel definitely falls into this category.

His book is a magnificent exploration into the identity of God, humans, and Judaism. I do not recall much of what I read, but I will take away two main ideas:

1. God is seeking after humans.
"The Bible speaks not only of man's search for God but also of God's search for man. "Thou dost hunt me like a lion," exclaimed Job (10:16)...It is as if God were unwilling to be alone, and He had chosen man to serve Him. Our seeking Him is not only man's but also His concern, and must not be considered an exclusively human affair. His will is involved in our yearnings. All of human history as described in the Bible may be summarized in one phrase: God is in search of man. Faith in God is a response to God's question."

2. We do not hear the words of God, but rather through the Bible we learn to see the words of God. Thus, we learn about God experientially.
"To sense the presence of God in the Bible, one must learn to be present to God in the Bible. Presence is not a concept, but a situation. To understand love it is not enough to read tales about it. One must be involved in the prophets to understand the prophets. One must be inspired to understand inspiration. Just as we cannot test thinking without thinking, we cannot sense holiness without being holy. Presence is not disclosed to those who are unattached and try to judge, to those who have no power to go beyond the values they cherish; to those who sense the story, not the pathos; the idea, not the realness of God. The Bible is the frontier of the spirit where we must move an live in order to discover and explore. It is open to him who gives himself to it, who lives with it intimately. "

Deep stuff. Definitely one of those books you want to pick up later in life and reread to catch all that you missed the first time.

1 comment:

Tom said...

You just finished one of my favorite writers; I just bought a used copy of The Prophets by Heschel. (I never completed reading God in Search of Man, but the first few chapters gave me enought to think about for a long time.)

"...we learn about God experientially" seems to capture the essence of Rabbi Heschel's work; it's a needed view in this age of Reason.

Cheers, Tom