When Martin Heidegger was asked why he wouldn’t use general media, TV, radio, schools, textbooks etc. to propagate his philosophy he would say that this new type of thinking simply cannot be taught. You can’t put it in a textbook, you can’t systematically study it, and it has little or no content. The new type of thinking can only be demonstrated – it is revealed in a conversation. You can only discover it.
Conversation, by nature, is a spontaneous thing. Any attempt to structure a conversation will lead to its death, ultimately. If you try to structure your conversations with your wife, or friends, or children you will get anything but an organic interaction. Until our theology becomes conversational – live interaction with God and each other – it will continue leading us into a dead end. True theology (and philosophy) is a live conversation. It may not teach anything but it can reveal something. It may have no systematic content to be analyzed but it could demonstrate something.
Take, for instance, synergy, which is the theological concept describing God’s way of cooperation with man. Catholics and Orthodox love the concept, though view it differently. Protestants reject it – as Luther did. Is it possible to get a clear answer to this dilemma using a purely academic theological approach? Each side will have its arguments. And you can argue about it endlessly. As has been happening throughout the history. But what if the answer to this dilemma cannot be not deduced but is revealed in a conversation with God?
What if it cannot be put in a textbook, cannot be systematically studied, what if there’s no identifiable content etc.? What if it cannot be taught but may be revealed? If you ask God: “How do you cooperate with me?” the most common answer you will get is: “The Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing.” Or: “No branch can bear fruit by itself.” These are not support texts, not Bible-based arguments, but what God reveals experientially – if you ask.
If you try to understand these words through the lens of academic theology, the picture is that of a total human passivity. As in no synergy. God is doing everything. The branch can do nothing to continue existing. The Son can do nothing by himself. However, anyone who has any conversational intimacy with God, knows it’s not true. When you talk to God you are keenly aware of an experiential paradox: however many things you do, these things never originate in you. Other people may object: “Well, you do this and that”, but you say: “Guys, have not done a thing on my own.”
All the commands given in the Bible are a derivative from an encounter with God. This “passivity”, “rest in God”, “renouncing your own works” is the only soil that will produce true activity. Synergy is then born out of our passivity before God. Out of our rest in him. The most striking of all metaphors for this rest is, perhaps, this statement: “The Lord will fight for you, you need ONLY to be still.”
In the Old Testament, this passivity is brought to the highest possible degree of absurdity. The Israelites are told to be still and do nothing in the face of a raging enemy. The grotesque of the Old Testament stories is God’s way to show how laughable our human attempts to do anything on our own are. It is sheer absurdity to tell Gideon to go to war with a handful of soldiers. It is sheer absurdity to wait till Abraham is too old to have children. Jericho falls under most absurd of circumstances imaginable. God comes in the world in the most absurd of forms. But the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.
Whether synergy exists or not is not the point. Until we experience it in our life with God we will not know. In our day to day interactions with him, the biblical metaphors will start making sense. We will actually see that “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure, so work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” An empty vessel will be filled. Rest in God and you will act as he wants you to.