The Joy of Unknowing
Here is what I mean -- or rather, Voegelin means. As alluded to yesterday, one of the purposes of scripture -- or of a closed canon, more precisely -- is to protect and preserve the insights disclosed by the revelation.
You can't let just anything into the canon, or the revelation will become as diluted and undiscerning as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I mean, Billy Joel? C'mon. And what's Miles Davis doing in there? Talk about mixing up revelations. While you're at it, why not put Babe Ruth in the football hall of fame?
For Christian R & D there was a two-pronged challenge: first, to reconcile it with the existing scripture, second, to the wider world (or vice versa, if you like, i.e., world to revelation). With regard to the latter, for various reasons it was necessary to develop "a theology that mobilized for the defense of truth the arms of the intellectually superior and for that reason most serious competitor, of Hellenistic-Roman philosophy" (Voegelin).
In other words, man has -- and in many ways is -- a mind, and has every right to a revelation that speaks to its depths, and certainly doesn't devalue it. So early Christians went about the task of assimilating both Athens and Jerusalem to the new revelation.
A similar thing occurred with Judaism in the form of Philo Judaeus, who was not only a contemporary of Christ (though there is no evidence he knew of him) but a later influence on many of the early Fathers. (Then again, according to McGinn, "Christian legend has him meeting St. Peter in Rome!")
As Andrew Louth writes, "Starting from an idea of God without parallel in his philosophical milieu, Philo develops an understanding of the Word that sees meditation on Scripture, that is, God's self-disclosure, as central to the soul's search for God. This is quite new -- something that the Christian Fathers were to take up and make their own."
One of the reasons for this is Philo's emphasis on the Divine Word, i.e., Logos, "as an intermediary between the absolutely transcendent and unknowable God and the human soul" (McGinn).
The following passage by Philo is pretty striking if you're into cosmic coonspiracy theories: "To his chief messenger and most venerable Logos, the Father who engendered the universe has granted the singular gift to stand between and separate the creature from Creator." This Logos-gift is "midway between the two extremes, serving as a pledge for both."
The logos is God turned toward -- and in a way into -- man, so to speak. It is "immanent in all things, but in a special way in the human mind," i.e., "within the higher dimension or nous" (ibid).
McGinn agrees that Philo "was the first figure in Western history to wed the Greek contemplative ideal to the monotheistic faith of the Bible," a feat which some have welcomed, others have condemned. Me, I welcome truth in whatever form it comes my way.
Philo obviously had the same liberal attitude. He made no apologies for using "the best Greek philosophy both apologetically, that is, to prove that Judaism was the true religion, and speculatively, that is, to draw out [its] inner meaning..."
This "reconciliation was achieved not only by seeking a deeper and more universal meaning in the scriptures, but also by transforming Platonic contemplation into a more personalistic mode" (ibid.).
Universal and personalistic. I'm all over that. This itself is a provocative and spicy combination of modes that one might think of as being at antipodes.
In other words, to say "universal" is to exclude the particular, and the individual is nothing if not particular. I always compare it to jazz, which takes the universals of music and expresses them in a uniquely individual way via spontaneous composition, i.e., improvisation. So when I say I'm "winging it" here, that's actually what I mean. I try to work with universals but give them my own spin -- which is a way of understanding them from the inside-out, with the whole of one's being.
It's like a quest or something. An adventure of consciousness. But "there is no guarantee of success on the quest: for God must reveal Himself, and the soul can do nothing to elicit this disclosure -- it can only prepare. But even so, the quest by itself is sufficient satisfaction. One might say that the quest is the goal and the goal is the quest" (Louth).
And as Voegelin is at pains to emphasize vis-a-vis our "in between" status, "the quest is never-ending -- the goal is always beyond because God is infinite and incomprehensible." Nevertheless, "the quest is joy in itself." As such, "Philo can be seen to have developed a mysticism of love and yearning for God in himself, in his unknowability" (ibid).