Whose Perspective?

In one of her letters to “A,” Flannery O’Connor she wrote this:

To see Christ as God and man is probably no more difficult today than is has always been, even if today there seem to be more reasons to doubt. For you it may be a matter of not being able to accept what you call a suspension of the laws of the flesh and the physical, but for my part I think that when I know what the laws of the flesh and the physical really are, then I will know what God is. We know them as we see them, not as God sees them. For me it is the virgin birth, the Incarnation, the resurrection which are the true laws of the flesh and the physical. Death, decay, destruction are the suspension of these laws. I am always astonished at the emphasis the Church places on the body. It is not the soul she says that will rise but the body, glorified. I have always thought that purity was the most mysterious of the virtues, but it occurs to me that it would never have entered the human consciousness to conceive of purity if we were not to look forward to a resurrection of the body, which will be flesh and spirit united in peace, in the way they were in Christ. The resurrection of Christ seems the high point in the law of nature.

Apparently, “A” did not understand what Flannery was getting at because she begins her next letter with a clarification:

I didn’t mean to suggest that science is unreliable, but only that we can’t judge God by the limits of our knowledge of natural things. This is a fundamental difference in your belief and mine: I see God as all perfect, all complete, all powerful. God is Love and I would not believe Love efficacious if I believed there were negative stages or imperfections in it.

Also I don’t think as you seem to suppose that to be a true Christian you believe that mutual interdependence is a conceit. This is far from Catholic doctrine; in fact it strikes me as highly Protestant, a sort of justification by faith. God became not a man, but Man. This is the mystery of the Redemption and our salvation is worked out on earth according as we love one another, see Christ in one another, etc. by works. This is one reason I am chary of using the word, love, loosely. I prefer to use it in its practical forms, such as prayer, almsgiving, visiting the sick and burying the dead and so forth.*

Madeleine L’Engle makes a similar distinction between God’s perspective and ours in yesterday’s Glimpse of Grace (from her book, The Rock that is Higher):

And as for those seven days of creation, nothing whatsoever is said in Genesis about God creating in human time. Isn’t it rather arrogant of us to think that God had to use our ordinary, daily, wristwatch time? Scripture does make it clear that God’s time and our time are not the same. The old hymn “a thousand ages in thy sight are but a moment past” reprises this. So why get upset about the idea that God might have created in divine time, not human? What kind of a fact is this that people get so upset about? Facts are static, even comfortable, even when they are wrong! Truth pushes us to look at these facts in a new way, and that is not comfortable, so it usually meets with resistance.

Then there’s Caryll Houselander, who points out in today’s Magnificat that Jesus went about His work the way His Father wanted Him to, not how we would have done it:

I always notice that Christ’s whole attitude as a man, a real man, of course, was simply one of perfect acceptance: I have come not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me: Not my will, but your will be done.

No doubt, one who loved people as he did would have longed to heal all their sickness, to enlighten all their minds, to transform the world by miracle upon miracle of love, but God did not will that for him. On the contrary, he willed that he should be, humanly speaking, a failure, should be nailed to the cross and suffer there in helplessness. Indeed, the moment in which his love was consummated, in which the crisis of his redeeming power was reached, was when the hands that could heal with a touch were nailed back out of reach! …

When we do anything in sincere desire to serve God, not one gesture or word or thought is wasted—all the love you put into what you did will be with you for ever and ever.*


* These seem to touch on that faith vs. works misunderstanding.


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