Abstracting the heart of God

Obeying God has to be done from the basis of our conscience before the Lord, not in rules or principals that have been boiled enough to be written down, even if they’re true and good. God has put eternity in our hearts. Part of our heart touches the bare metal (excuse the software terminology) of God’s will and what is right and wrong. The more layers of abstraction we wrap it in, the more likely we are to actually end up actually missing it. Wrapping things in abstraction is absolutely necessary for teaching and understanding and any kind of written communication, but when that dictates our actions, we miss the heart of God, either a little or a lot.

The bible itself is abstract from the heart of God, wrapped in the OT law and squeezed into the restraints of words and language. (Theology writings and commentary even more so). It’s the best thing we have and everything we need to know about him is in there, but it’s still not him. Knowing him in theory is wise, and a doorway for many. But we must know him in our hearts. Conscience is a good place to start.

If, in trying to do the will of God, we always seek the highest abstract standard of perfection, we show that there is still much we need to learn about the will of God. For God does not demand that every man attain to what is theoretically highest and best. It is better to be a good street sweeper than a bad writer, better to be a good bartender than a bad doctor, and the repentant thief who died with Jesus on Calvary was far more perfect than the holy ones who had Him nailed to the cross.

And yet, abstractly speaking, what is more holy than the priesthood and less holy than the state of a criminal? The dying thief had, perhaps, disobeyed the will of God in many things: but in the most important event of his life He listened and obeyed. The Pharisees had kept the law to the letter and had spent their lives in the pursuit of a most scrupulous perfection. But they were so intent upon perfection as a abstraction that when God manifested His will and His perfection in a concrete and definite way [Jesus] they had no choice but to reject it.

-Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island, Ch.4 Sec.13

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