The Rhetorics of Israel


We have moments with our children that give us serious pause regarding our philosophical, religious, political, and other life commitments.  A couple of weeks ago while in corporate worship with the saints I noticed that my second oldest son, Israel (12), was not singing along with the congregation.  He looked quite melancholy as he stared out into the congregation and back into his lap where his hands were folded.  I asked him what was wrong…why he wasn’t singing along with the rest of us.  He looked down into his lap where his hands were folded and then looked up at me and said:

I don’t think I believe any of this stuff anymore.  This God and Christianity thing.

Something along those lines.  I told him not to worry.  That we’d talk later about it.

So we finally talked later on that day.  It turned out to be a very long philosophical/theological discussion.  I encountered what I like to call the rhetorics of Israel.  Not rhetoric in the popular anemic way we understand it.  But the profound performance of words that attract and persuade others to consider the direction of their lives and commitments.  In this way of talking about rhetoric Israel is a very good performer.  A sharp young man who has a very bright future (and present) in God’s world.

Israel asked:

With all that’s going on right now…I don’t know if God exists.  God seems absent in my world.  Dad…does God exist?

My ending reply:

No.  God does not exist.  God is more than existence.  God is hyper-existence.  The words we humans use to describe God pales in comparison to what it means for God to be God.  So…God does not exist in that sense.  Existence, as we humans understand it, is a very limited and finite idea.  It can never fully capture what it means to say God is.  That’s why we Christians shouldn’t bother about God’s existence.  That’s why we say God is love, is good, is faithful…and ultimately we say God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  So…son…God does not exist.  God is maker of heaven and earth.

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11 thoughts on “The Rhetorics of Israel

  1. Cool dad in didn’t know you’d post the conversation we had that was pretty awesome.Anyway I really got a general idea of what the conversation was about, which is something I really needed because you used a lot of difficult vocublary in the discussion, I did learn a thing or two about the faith of a christian and a world without the belief of god(or in other cultures a god) which in turn is a world of chaos and very rude people. So I believe that something,greater being if you will is out there, every where and there are those who choose to follow this “god” and I believe that I will be amongst them.

  2. Good that he could look to you for help and be honest and open. I’m afraid many parents would freak out and not be able to handle this kind of situation.

    God’s hyperexistence, really beyond what we humans can understand, I like that, and have caught wind of it somewhere. Maybe from LeRon Shults, but at any rate that is one big reason I like to keep reading.

  3. To be fair however, when most people ask ‘does God exist?’, they mean something along the lines of ‘is God make-believe or not?’. As long as the answer affirms God’s non-make-believe-ness, his absolute otherness/transcendance, then talk of ‘hyperexistence’ may well be helpful. Obviously, different people will mean different things when they ask the same question.
    It sounds like you did a good job of addressing your son’s concerns without freaking out. Kudos.
    Cheers,
    -Daniel-

  4. sometimes when folks, particularly our kids, ask that question i wonder if they aren’t asking, “how does God’s existance make a difference?” or better still “dad, are you here, fully present, in a way that makes a difference for me?” Bruh, I’m glad you were and continue to be. keep standing, Black man!

  5. Melvin,

    I really appreciate those kind words. I agree. My son was looking for something deeper…like what you said there. I felt that. We’ve had some really good convo since then. I was thinking about continuing that as a regular part of the blog, the rhetorics of Israel.

    pax Christi

  6. Ah, to be twelve again, discussing that common adolescent question of God’s nonexistence versus his hyperexistence. Man alive; your son is smart!

    I tried to call you today, but I’m not sure I have your phone number right. Could you call/e-mail me?

  7. Awesome response. Having a recurring rhetoric of Israel would be great. I’m the mother of a seven-year-old and a Girl Scout Leader of sixteen girls. They are seeking and asking and what you’ve done posting your conversation with Israel is a great parenting tool for me.

  8. Does God exist? Is He present? Is Dad present? Will you leave me? How shall I perform to keep you? To keep God? Will you and God be with me as I walk this “pilgrim pathway”? Even when I fail?

    Hmm… your son is well named. The cry of Israel is the cry of the Church – if not all of humanity.

    Thanks for the post, man. You almost made a brotha well up. It just reminds me that the treasure of heaven is union with God Himself.

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