Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A better definition of "mystery"

Lutherans love to talk about mystery, paradox, dialectic. Often we don't actually know what we mean when we use these words in sentences. They sound cool, and lend a useful obscurity to our speech.

Gregory A. Walter of St. Olaf College, in a recent collection of essays, Johann Georg Hamann: Religion und Gesellschaft, and inspired by Hamann's concept of "public mystery," offers an alternative definition of mystery to the typical.

Mystery is not elusiveness but capaciousness; it does not hide from view, rather it gives greater depth and more and more harmony to eve things most alien to each other. This amounts to an alternative conception of mystery than that employed in modern theology; no longer does mystery point to limits--in the sense of unbridgeable distance and horizon--of human reasons or the veiled conditions of human speech but articulates a public that enables the diversity of things, ideas, political bodies, histories, and all in all to signify. Hamann challenges theology to discover how these signify the one Christ (306).

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