Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Vulnerability and Glory

In the midst of all the noise that came through every media outlet since late last night, I found this excerpt as a welcomed respite:
"The purpose of life before God is not to surpass vulnerability, but, in the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, to glorify and enjoy God.* That, in turn, requires receiving and sharing life as a vulnerable yet glorious gift of God and bearing it toward the full glory of God. Life before God is a field of multiple transformations, a moving space of tensions and conversions, that involves both ongoing resistance and ongoing affirmation. Testimonies to and collective participation in the grace and glory of God are received, shaped, and shared as vulnerable creatures live with and for others and before God. This account of vulnerability and glory contrasts with both sectarian and triumphalist options: the call and testimony of resistance and the itinerary of delight and gratitude are not lived solely within Christian communities and traditions - although they ought to be shaped and exemplified there - but also in everyday ways and in the whole of life.

Vulnerability is part of being creatures who are interdependent with other persons, living creatures, and the cosmos. The complexity of vulnerability is indicated in the story of Jacob at the ford of the river Jabbock, wrestling through the night with a mysterious stranger, who leaves Jacob both limping and transformed. It is found at the very heart of the Christian gospel in the story of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Persons and communities remain susceptible to harm and therefore are almost inevitably marked by suffering and wrong, sometimes by unfathomable tragedy or brutality. And yet, even at the depths of suffering and devastation, human creatures and communities are always also vulnerable to transformation. Vulnerability is the situation in which earthly existence may be harmed and degraded; it is also the situation in which persons and communities may receive and bear the glory of God."

- Kristine Culp, Vulnerability and Glory, 181.

*I believe that this first line of the Westminster Catechism is problematic for a variety of reasons. The theistic language offers no witness to the particularity of God's self-revelation as Triune. Moreover, I find various aspects of reformed speech in relation to the doctrine of God to be incredibly patriarchal in terms of elevating the glory of God at the expense of speech about His love. But nonetheless, this excerpt was beautiful.

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