Meditations on the Nature of Biblical Spirituality

Unlike the Greek philosophers and poets of antiquity, the ancients of Judea did not perceive God as a philosophical construct, nor as a static timeless being, nor as an impersonal cosmic process, energy, force or intelligence and certainly not as a sentimentalized ethical ideal (as expressed by Feuerbach,  Freud, and M. Kaplan). Our spiritual ancestors never apologized  for using human language in describing God.

The writers of the Psalms never hesitated utilizing human language whenever depicting the mystery and Presence of the Divine. Beneath the biblical psyche is a realization that the human drama means something to the Heart of the Divine—even despite humankind’s occasional rejection of Him. God is paradoxically bound up to human history—and even limits His freedom in how He interacts with it (cf. Gen. 6:6).

When the ancient psalmists gazed into the heavens, they did not behold an endless abyss of cosmic nothingness; rather, they beheld a God with whom they could audaciously and personally address as “You.” Unabashedly, the spiritual teachers of Judea used a host of personal pronouns and anthropomorphic metaphors to convey something profound about the mystery of God’s Presence and closeness to the world, without which God could not be known. Martin Buber notes that in addition, anthropomorphic language reflects a deeper significance than most of us realize:

Our need to preserve the concrete quality is evidenced in the encounter. . . .It is in the encounter itself that we are confronted with something compellingly anthropomorphic, something demanding reciprocity, a primary Thou. This is true of those moments of our daily life in which we become aware of the reality that is absolutely independent of us, whether it be as power or as glory, no less than of the hours of great revelation of which only a halting record has been handed down to us. [1]

This same idea runs like a current throughout the literature of the Psalms. In keeping with his ancestors’ religious experience, the psalmist never tires of exclaiming how the God Who creates the heavens and the earth, is still very much still accessible to the prayers of the most ordinary human being. Clearly, “God is close to all who call upon Him, all who call upon Him in truth.” Liberation theologian Leonardo Boff cuts through the chase and remarks, “The psalms reveal the consciousness of this divine proximity.” The visceral language of the Psalms accentuates this closeness, “Praise the LORD, my soul all my inmost being, and praise his holy name “(Psa. 103:1). From the innermost depths of our physical being, we  can encounter God’s Presence and Being. Continue reading “Meditations on the Nature of Biblical Spirituality”