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New Adult Ed Series Begins – How Can We Know God?

November 5, 2010

This Sunday, Nov. 7, at 9 am (and again next Thursday, Nov. 11 at 6 pm) we begin a three-week Adult Ed series in which we will explore how we gain knowledge of God. As such, we will dig into the text of a slim book by the Episcopalian ethicist and theologian, William Stringfellow, entitled Count It All Joy. Here are some of the excerpts from that book that we will read this week, in which Stringfellow asserts that all knowledge of God is an authentic gift from God and in no way a reward, something we’ve earned based on anything we may do or have done, as individuals or as a group:

“The knowledge of God in which the truth of all existence inheres is an authentic gift and not something earned through diligence or piety, or rewarded for sacrifices of any description, or dependent upon any human initiative, or contingent upon the beliefs of people. It is a gift, and as with any genuine gift it originates wholly in the disposition of the donor and is accomplished entirely by the voluntary action of the donor…

“In American society, integrity in giving is rare. Giving has come to designate all sorts of transactions that bear little resemblance to gifts. People ‘give’ out of a sense of obligation; they describe exchanges of chattels as ‘gifts’; they contribute to charities to purchase a sense of satisfaction; they ‘give’ presents to one another in almost automatic reaction to commercial stimuli; they observe days and seasons with ritual ‘giving.’ Such vulgarities are no gifts.

“The real gift is always voluntary, spontaneous, free of expectancy either of equivalent return or gain of any kind, and representative of the giver. Actually the only thing that can be given by a person to another is oneself.

Any authentic gift is a means by which one offers to another knowledge of oneself in a way that affirms the identity of the recipient as well as declares who the donor is. A gift is a sacrament of existence in a relationship established by the initiative of the giver. The prerogative in the relationship belongs wholly to the act of giving. No one can really know me unless I give him knowledge. I cannot truly know another unless she gives that knowledge to me…

“The wisdom that constitutes knowledge of God and within that, all knowledge, is verily a gift, given to humanity by God in this world. Jesus Christ is the epitome of that gift… God is neither shy nor modest in giving knowledge of God’s self to people, for this gift is given to all people whether one welcomes or ignores it… The gift is offered in the first instance, as it were, in the event of Creation itself; but the gift is renewed in the Fall. No matter how terrible the emptiness people endure within themselves and the alienation people suffer from all other people and all things in their estrangement from God, that does not blot out the gift.” (25-27)


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