Friday, March 20, 2009

U2's "No Line" part 5: a sound epistemology of faith in God, not in certainty

“It is not the place but the Presence that upholds you; This is your only certainty.”
-Erwin McManus

REM's Michael Stipe, who in this delightful video clip, finds music
--his own and U2's--
  • "epiphanal,"
  • a way out of "stasis"
  • and catalyzer of a quest to "keep learning...and not know everything" (his words in this clip) ,

seems to intuitively trust and know what it's like to be
be "borne of sound," "find grace within a sound," and to pray "let me in the sound"
(all Bono's words from "No Line" CD lyrics);

Of course, this is still the same message as the vintage:
"You know I believe it, but I still haven't found what I'm looking for."

It is wonderful to watch Stipe and Chef Mario Batali, with hands raised as to The Magnificent
as they enjoy a stageside view of U2 in the full worship flight section (3:10) of "Beautiful Day."

Stipe's zeal to "keep learning...and not know everything" rings resonant with Ty Tabor(of King's X)' s spoof of certainty:

All plans and knowledge and the reason for the war
Every mark and movement in the crack upon the floor
One day, any day, the time before the dawn
All knowledge brought before scattered on the lawn
I know everything

So, weak and tired and looking for the key?
Well look no further, you've just run into me!
We'll walk beyond that door, we'll love and dance and sing
Last time I looked around, I knew everything
I know everything

And, to the point, also one of the undercurrents of "No Line":

  • "But while I´m getting over certainty/Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady." ("Stand Up Comedy")
  • " Two souls too smart to be in the realm of certainty" ("Moment of Surrender")

Why have we (especially the 'we' still emerging from modernity/fundaconservaagelicalism)
crafted such an idol as "certainty"?

Don't we grasp, like St. David Dark's new book title:
"The Sacredness of Questioning Everything?"


"If you were to die tonight, are you absolutely certain you would go to heaven?"

Is it possible to have complete faith in Jesus, in salvation by grace through faith, and answer with the one word that is everyone's answer if they were ever honest:


Uh, I know that's not the expected answer.

And maybe it's too extreme and subversive..

But doesn't something within you relate to TonyJones' classic quote to Rev. Fundaconservagelical below:

And doesn't something within every evangelical want to agree with Jeff Keuss:
{the album suggests that] liberty is found in faith in God rather than in a certainty about God..
From Bono’s call to “get over certainty” in “Stand Up Comedy” to the acknowledgment in “Moment of Surrender” that we are “too smart to be / In the realm of certainty,” the role that faith should play is clearly contrasted to the modernist (and ultimately failing) search after certainty. In this reminder, which frames much of the album, the fact that we find our fulfillment as human beings in a relationship of faith rather than intractable certainty means that we find our hope not in our limited selves, but in the God who created us...
As Bono continues the verse, he decries choosing knowledge and will power over faith when he sings, “While I’m getting over certainty / Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady.” This double challenge—(1) dropping the search for certainty in favor of faith amid the intelligent design debates and (2) allowing God to, well, be God—becomes the liberating truth for the protagonist of the song.

Anne Lammott nails it: "The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.' This actually unleashes our epistemology to be more of what evangelicals have always claimed they are about: relational (there is a reason the KJV translated "Adam knew Eve"), as well as what we have feared it was all about: risky.

John Wimber even advocated spelling faith "R I S K."

But also it's time to consider approaching epistemology (and faith) as sound-activated, sound-sourced, sound-tracked, and as
connecting our head to our heart and life via a sound theology/experience of sound.

Do the math:

"We walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor 5:17):
It's "not by sight," so the "certainty of what we see" is moot (and "mute").

Better to trust and intuit from what/who we the sound:

"Faith comes by hearing...":

It is far too reductionist to equate this with preaching, as some Reformed folks suggest.
It's much deeper, wider; and more nonlinear and quantum than that.
It's not only that we are born/borne of sound, but that we "walk by faith, which is blind, but operates and activates by sound."

We walk by sound, not by sight; and never by certainty.

The Scripture does not/cannot say, "Do you not know; have you not seen?"
Instead, the formula is far more sound:
"Do you not know; have you not heard.."

"Know" and "hear" are here placed in a Hebrew poetic parallelism, suggesting they are largely synonymous.


"I turned to see the voice of Jesus," John wrote of his Patmos experience (Rev. 1:13).
"I will watch to see what the Lord will say, Habakkuk (2:1-3) journals.

I noted from Bono's recent interviews that the "vision over visibility".. line has long been part of his lexicon and life: "It's like Martin Luther King's speech - the moment when you see the place, but you can't see yet how to get there."

But I was recently reminded that the phrase traces as far back as his "Introduction to the Psalms,
where in another parallelism, equates/translates "vision over visibility" as "instinct over intellect":

Explaining belief has always been difficult. How do you explain a love and logic at the heart of the universe when the world is so out of kilter with this? Has free will got us crucified? And what about the dodgy characters who inhabit the tome known as the Bible, who hear the voice of God? Explaining faith is impossible: vision over visibility; instinct over intellect. A songwriter plays a chord with the faith that he will hear the next one in his head.

"Faith that he will hear..."

Faith hears.

It's all about sound.

And instinct over intellect.

Epistemologically, this is certainly not about certainty.

If that's the case, we don't know anything unless we refuse and defuse intellect and sight as we know it, and trust our blinks, The Sound... and synesthesia;

indeed, could it be that we live by, incarnate, and at heart are sound:

By framing the human condition musically (“We are people borne of sound”) rather than imminently (winners of “the DNA lottery”), and by embodying hope, faith, and love rather than purveying some objective doctrine that merely affirms those traits, U2 is calling humanity to a comedic revolution par excellence. As music, we embrace a kenotic release from the fixation of self and are freed from isolation and estrangement. As song, we see ourselves as imminent and transcendent, neither bound to this world nor the world that is yet to come. The protagonist in “Get on Your Boots” kicks at the door of the music (“Let me in the sound”), and this refrain is repeated as a sample in the musical prelude for “FEZ—Being Born,” but as the album begins to close, “Breathe” reminds us that this “sound,” this liminal mystical union with that which never fades and is sustained on the voices of generations, is what we are to the very core. We are beautiful, we are sound, and ultimately, we are loved.
-Jeff Keuss, link
When my brother and I were in college, for a leadership class, he had to navigate a whole day
around campus blindfolded. The intent was empathy for the blind, realizing reliance on others, and...well, "getting over certainty" because he literally needed help crossing the road.
I helped him like a little old lady.

I remember attempting to help him drink the juice during a chapel communion, and our attempt to hold back our laughter as he accidentally slurped a bit. The memory of that sound, and the remembrance of my irreverent (? I wasn't even a Christian yet) quip, "tastes good, huh?," ..but mostly my recall of the poorly suppressed laughter moves me to this day.
Bruce had to rely on sound and others.

So do I.
So do you.
So do U2.

That is a certain statement of faith.

Kierkegaard often gets the last word around here:

Thus everything is assumed to be in order with regard to the Holy Scriptures--what then? has the person who did not believe come a single stop closer to faith? No, not a single step. Faith does not result from straightforward scholarly deliberation, nor does it come directly; on the contrary, in this objectivity one loses that infinite, personal, impassioned interestedness, which is the condition of faith, the ubique et nusquam [everywhere and nowhere] in which faith can come into existence.
Has the person who did believe gained anything with regard to the power and strength of faith? No, not in the least; in this prolix knowledge, in this certainty that lurks at faith's door and craves for it, he is rather in such a precarious position that much effort, much fear and trembling will indeed be needed lest he fall into temptation and confuse knowledge with faith. Where as up to now faith has had a beneficial taskmaster in uncertainty, it would have its worst enemy in this certainty. This is, if passion is taken away, faith no longer exists, and certainty and passion do not hitch up as a team.

-Soren Kierkegaard,
Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments
lifted from Tommy's blog


* U2's "No Line": 5 meta motifs (and a sign from God)-part 1:

o U2's "No Line": 5 meta motifs, part 2: non linear and no yet:

+ U2's "No Line": 5 motifs-part 3: she spoke in tongues in my ear:

# U2's "No Line": 5 motifs-part 4: walk by sound, not by faith:

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