Sunday, May 5, 2019

Standing outside

Reinhold Niebuhr:
"He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh:
the Lord shall have them in derision."
Ps. 2:4.
This word of the Second Psalm is one of three instances in the Bible in which laughter is attributed to God. God is not frequently thought of as possessing a sense of humour, though that quality would have to be attributed to perfect personality. There are critics of religion who regard it as deficient in the sense of humour, and they can point to the fact that there is little laughter in the Bible. Why is it that Scriptural literature, though filled with rejoicings and songs of praise, is not particularly distinguished for the expression of laughter? There are many sayings of Jesus which betray a touch of ironic humour; but on the whole one must agree with the critics who do not find much humour or laughter in the Bible.

This supposed defect will, however, appear less remarkable if the relation of humour to faith is understood. Humour is, in fact, a prelude to faith; and laughter is the beginning of prayer. Laughter must be heard in the outer courts of religion, and the echoes of it should resound in the sanctuary; but there is no laughter in the holy of holies, laughter is swallowed up in prayer and humour fulfilled by faith.

The intimate relation between humour and faith is derived from the fact that both deal with the incongruities of our existence. Humour is concerned with the immediate incongruities of life and faith with the ultimate ones. Both humour and faith are expressions of the freedom of the human spirit, of its capacity to stand outside of life, and itself, and view the whole scene. But any view of the whole immediately creates the problem of how the incongruities of life are to dealt with; for the effort to understand the life, our place in it, confronts us with inconsistencies and incongruities which do not fit into any neat picture the whole. Laughter is our reaction to immediate incongruities and those which do not affect us essentially. Faith is the only possible response to the ultimate incongruities of existence which threaten very meaning of our life. .... (more)

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