Holiness and Emptiness


After reading Rudolf Otto’s classic The Idea of the Holy I want to play with his idea focussed on the Wholly Other’s invasion of holiness upon a person and subsequent emptying of that person followed by the only possible response, which is awe or fear or mysterium tremendum.

With this in mind, the idea of the holy is empty of meaning of itself.  Holiness is something that comes from God; holy is not God; other than the immanence of God holiness is void of meaning.

With this in mind we can see holiness most clearly in Genesis 1 as God is dividing creation and diversifying that which God creates to the culmination of perfect balance when God creates sabbath.  This is a sort of mobile whereupon if any piece of this great diversity of God’s is removed, then the entire mobile is moved to imbalance. We also see this holiness even more clearly in “Jesus’ suffering, death, damnation, i.e., where the old order had maintained that God could not be glorified.  Thus God’s holiness is a freedom for what is far gone from holiness.” (Craig Keen from his appendix in  Mannoia and Thorsen’s The Holiness Manifesto)

This would be a sort of kenotic apocalyptic vision of holiness that engages creation as well as calls the invadee to respond and build upon the invasion and subsequent mysterium tremendum.  The seed must die to give life in the plant.  It is suffering, death and damnation that restores balance to the mobile.

Just some thoughts I’m working through.  Comments are always welcome.

Monoculture Versus Biodiversity: Holiness and Creation part 1

We have had a problem in this world for the last 75 years or so.  Farming has left the family behind and the families that used to farm have left farming behind for lies of a future in the big cities.  This was a part of the cause of monoculture farming and so-called agribusiness. The other part has been the blind allegiance that modernity has given to science.

Now, don’t hear what I’m not saying. I happen to love science. I think it is important in a lot of what we do, maybe most or all. However, blind allegiance to anything/one is just that, blind. I believe that Norman Borlaug was one of the most important (if not THE most important) people of the 20th Century. He, through genetically modified engineering of wheat and corn, saved a billion (literally) people in Africa, India, and Mexico by the time I was born.  The problem is that GMOs are not sustainable. They have served their purpose and now they have moved beyond helpful and now circled around to destructive.

How could they be destructive when GMOs helped so many people?  That’s a great question. The problem with GMOs is that they push out diversity in favor of monoculture. Because of corporate interests, companies like Monsanto and Cargill reduce the GMO to its minimum destroying diversity that God initiated at creation.

Genesis 1 is not merely some creation myth to aline ourselves with.  It is a bird’s eye view into the heart of God. It begins with chaos and singularity (or if your not reading it closely enough it begins with nothing) and God begins to speak division. It moves from  singularity to light and a diversity of light and darkness. Then, from light and darkness to sky and water. God divides water from land. From there God divides the kinds of light, separating the sun, moon, and stars. Then, God continues to diversify creation with fish and birds. Continuing diversity God creates creatures on land and humankind. Finally God creates a division in time, creating Sabath.

God moves from the monoculture of darkness and chaos to the biodiversity that is all of creation. Yet, here in the age of confusion folks decide we can do a lot better by reducing the diversity of God to monoculture in GMOs. It’s like We think we know better.

So the question is: what happens when (not if) the 90% of corn and soy in the world (Monsanto) is GMOed to a single kind of seed and becomes susceptible to a disease or insect that because of the GMO culture is indestructible?  Suddenly, the biodiversity with which God created becomes unbalanced. The perfect mobile of creation is off kilter, much as it is with sin, humankind’s way of dealing with God’s biodiversity.

The call to holiness is a call to return to God’s creation of diversity. I will post about holiness in the next few days to move these thoughts along.

Holiness and Sustainable Farming Begin with Creation

Looking at the Hebrew Bible’s accounts of creation, specifically in Genesis 1 and 2, one can see there is an incontestable connection between Creator and creature.  Therefore, one cannot separate one’s connection between Creator and created.  Because of this, creation, that is to say, all that is created, is just as incontestably connected.

Perhaps connection is not the most appropriate word to use.  Let us look to the poets for better words.  In this case, once again, we turn to Wendell Berry (A Timbered Choir, Counterpoint.  Washington, D. C.   1998):


To sit and look at light-filled leaves
May let us see, or seem to see,
Far backward as through clearer eyes
To what unsighted hope believes:
The blessed conviviality
That sang Creation’s seventh sunrise,

Time when the Maker’s radiant sight
Made radiant every thing He saw,
And every thing He saw was filled
With perfect joy and life and light.
His perfect pleasure was sole law;
No pleasure had become self-willed.

For all His creatures were His pleasures
And their whole pleasure was to be
What He made them; they sought no gain
Or growth beyond their proper measures,
Not longed for change or novelty.
The only new thing could be pain.


There is Creator and created.  One is Wholly Other and the other is other even than itself.  There is a both/and binary that must be addressed.  Binaries exist between Creator and created, but also between created and created.  Created flora is not created fauna.  Yet both flora and fauna are created and therefore substantively similar.

Creation is connected by nothing and no one less than the Creator.  We cannot simply deny that we, as humans, live separate and apart from the rest of creation.  We exist as an intermediary between creature and Creator.

Holiness and Sustainable Farming

I first discovered Wendell Berry’s poem “The Peace of Wild Things” in 1996 and have never doubted Berry since.  I still remember reading it for the first time.  Having grown up in one city or another, always near rural corn and soy covered fields, but never really that close, this peace and grace discovered “where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds” was something as foreign and mysterious as it could be to someone who spent his life around brick and concrete and steel.

It was the thought, even at 20 years of age, that there were creatures “who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief” that played in my mind.  Surely at that point I had lost two grandfathers, friends, whole cities (as I grew up moving around a lot as a pastor’s kid) and at some future point I would lose two grandmothers, a brother in-law and a son, but the very idea of coming “into the presence of still water” intrigued me.

Reconnecting with my holiness heritage in the Church of the Nazarene after spending years in pastoral ministry, systematic theology, and development work, I now realize the imperative that God’s holiness holds on our lives and the actualization and implication that holiness makes in how we connect to others, including soil, water, and the peace of wild things.

It is time for us to explore more deeply what it means to take part in responsible animal husbandry, dig our fingers into rich soil,  and share what we have with others.  I have realized recently there is something inextricably linked to the holiness to which God  calls us and living sustainably as a part (not separate from) of creation.

Join with me in this journey.  I think it will prove most fun.