I’ve been thinking about Daniel Dennett’s observation that much (all?) of theology is based use-mention errors or their second cousins. In fact, I’ve been thinking about this longer than I’ve been aware that Dennett was thinking about it.
Today over at Ancient Hebrew Poetry, John Hobbins was kind enough to provide a rather obvious example from Abraham Heschel. John quotes from Heschel’s The Prophets.
There are two pitfalls in our religious understanding; the humanization of God and the anesthetization of God. Both threaten our understanding of the ethical integrity of God’s will. Humanization leads to the conception of God as the ally of the people; whether they do right or wrong, God would not fail his people. The idea of the divine anger shatters such horrible complacency. [emphasis added]
Here Heschel mentions the idea of divine anger. Now, while I don’t believe in divine anger, I sure believe in the idea of divine anger. Simply put, the idea of divine anger and divine anger are not the same thing. They aren’t even close to being the same thing. And yet, if I am even close to understanding either John or Heschel correctly, it seems that I should learn something about God from the idea of divine anger.
Now John quotes more from Heschel than just the paragraph I cited above but each of those additional quotations appear to me to repeat the same error with differing levels of subtlety and obfuscation.