Sermon Ideas For 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 Part 4
Just about everyone is familiar with the Rodin's famous sculpture, The Thinker. Human thought seems to be the theme embodied in this naked man, seated, head resting in hand.
Originally, The Thinker was a part of a larger work titled, The Gates of Hell. This composition was commissioned by the state for the door for the future Museum of Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Rodin spent 20 years on these bronze gates without finishing them. However, this composition spawned a number of works that are recognized independently of the original context.
As a part of the Gates of Hell, The Thinker is located at the top, on the threshold above the actual doorway. Below, on the doors themselves, are a multitude of twisting human shapes of torment. The Thinker presides over the misery below like a helpless, brooding sovereign, a replacement Christ who cannot save. In this context, The Thinker hardly denotes the power of reason. The meaning now embraces the limits of reason the frustration of humankind to think its way out of its dilemmas.
The limits of Christian knowledge is dealt with in Paul's admonishments to the Corinthians. In this letter, particularly in chapter eight, the early Christian church is admonished to use its knowledge to build up community rather than flaunt such knowledge. Knowledge in the Corinthian church threatens to divide rather than unite. Knowledge in that case will become a destructive thing, as declared in verse 11: "So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed."
The author of the spiritual classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, makes this point very clear.
Every single rational creature has two faculties: the power of knowledge and the power of love. God is always quite unable to be comprehended by the first faculty, that of intelligence, but he is totally and perfectly comprehensible by the second, the power of love.1
Knowledge and reason serve faith well when they are placed in the context of a community ruled first by Christ love. WH Auden in the poem, Amor Loci writes of a failure to imagine a paradise of the past (Eden) or future (New Jerusalem). These images don't seem real enough in the world constructed in this poem. But what is imagined, with some force—is a love that has substance.
How, but with some real focus of desolation could I, by analogy, imagine a love that, however often smeared, shrugged at, abandoned by a frivolous worlding, does not abandon?2
I like that expression and explanation of Christ love: "abandoned…does not abandon." In this, human knowledge and reason is undone by that which surpasses
1. Norman F. Cantor, ed, The Medieval Reader (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1994), p. 303. 2. Donald Davie, ed. The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), p. 280.