Wrestling with holiness: sharing in the travail of creation
Novello, Henry Leonard
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The purpose of this essay, which is a sequel of an earlier essay titled ‘The New Creation and Doing the Truth’ (Novello, 2010), is to show that the idea of the holy contains a surplus of meaning above and beyond the meaning of moral goodness, and that an ontological view of holiness is required to acknowledge and safeguard this surplus of meaning. It will be argued that moral commands can be fulfilled only if we are united with the reality that commands them; that is, ‘Only if being precedes that which ought-to-be, can the ought-to-be be fulfilled’ (Tillich, 1959, 142). The essay will begin by presenting Rudolf Otto’s idea of the holy as coming to awareness in the human subject through the ‘numinous’ experience of boundless awe and wonder, which has roots both in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. The second part will then discuss Christian responsibility and self-sacrifice, and will highlight in particular Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s understanding of the cost of discipleship. The final concluding section will assert the need to appreciate knowledge of holiness as ‘connatural,’ not natural, and will refute an Aristotelian view of morality and justice which is based upon the principle of proportionality.