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Living Under Pressure

Pressure. Pressure is an important concept when it comes to theology and thinking about God. I was out in the rail yard building trains today, pressure cookerand as I had a moment or two to reflect I thought about the guys I was working with; I thought about all of the people driving by me on the Fremont bridge (the biggest bridge in Portland that traverses the Willamette River); and all of the other people in the world. I started wondering about pressure and how that relates to knowledge of God. I thought about relativism, and how that relates to pressure; particularly the type of pressure that gets exerted upon each of us as we come to consider what reality is, more pointedly, what or who God is. I mean who really cares about my ideas about God, or the people I work with and their ideas about God (or non-God as they might assert), or the people driving by on the bridge, or the rest of the people in the world?

This line of thought got me thinking; it made me think about pressure. Like what pressures or pressure is determinative towards giving shape about people’s ideas about God (or non-God) and reality? Like I said above, there is pressure that gives rise to all of our ideas; and ultimately that comes down to a pressure that is driven by my own projections and manipulations of reality for my own desired ends, or it comes down to a pressure external to us (extra nos), like from God himself. In this latter pressure then there are different ways to approach this, but for my money I think the only real way to approach this–knowledge of God–is if we allow God and the pressure of his life to shape and form the categories through which we come to know of and conceive of God. As Thomas Torrance says it of Karl Barth’s approach:

. . . Barth found his theology thrust back more and more upon its proper object, and so he set himself to think through the whole of theological knowledge in such a way that it might be consistently faithful to the concrete act of God in Jesus Christ from which it actually takes its rise in the Church, and, further, in the course of that inquiry to ask about the presuppositions and conditions on the basis of which it comes about that God is known, in order to develop from within the actual content of theology its own interior logic and its own inner criticism which will help to set theology free from every form of ideological corruption.[1]

As you peruse Torrance’s and Barth’s various works you will come across this type of approach to theology; Torrance calls it Theological Science (something he picked up from Barth among others). But this really isn’t a post about Barth or Torrance, but about where the pressure comes from when we conceive of reality in general, and God in particular.

At the end of the day I really don’t care what other people think about God, or reality; I mean I care, because I care about people. But what I mean is that what I am going to stake my life on isn’t going to be some philosopher’s creative ideas, or some theologian’s imaginative ideas about reality and/or God; I will stake my life on the God revealed by God in Christ. I will seek to allow the pressure of his life (whether that be through the teaching of Scripture and/or following out the interior logic of the Gospel) to impose itself upon all of my mused meanderings, and allow him to pressure me into his way instead of a way that pressures him into mine (no small task!).

[1] Torrance, Theological Science, 7.

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2 thoughts on “Living Under Pressure

  1. Hey Bobby, why did you choose “pressure” as the term for this? When I think about “pressure” I usually think of all the demands/responsibilities of this life–I feel like I’m “under a lot of pressure.” I find this too has a theological effect of humbling me (if I will let it) and stripping me of “my own understanding,” thus putting me in the proper posture to do any theology at all.

    It seems like you mean it more in the sense of “the unseen force exerted by external things that somehow causes things to move and take shape.” it’s kind of mysterious. we have mathematical equations to “name” and “describe” what pressure is, but it’s unseen and all around us and at bottom we don’t necessarily understand exactly what it is.

    Just some reflections as two different ideas started clanging around in my head 🙂

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  2. Because pressure connotes a reality that is inescapable and intense; it pushes things one way or the other. Because it connotes something that we don’t have any control over, and actually suggests that things aren’t really relative after all. Pressure is something that connotes a powerful and inescapable reality.

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