the holy other


I love the movie Solaris, both the 1972 and 2002 versions. Looking up the the imdb links for these movies I found out there is a novel that these movies were based on a novel which I need to read it and I will probably like it to. The movies are about humans having contact with alien life and that alien life being so foreign that contact with it drives the humans crazy. I love it because of the movies’ focus on otherness. It reminds me that coming into contact with the truly other is a dangerous thing.

God is referred to in some theology as the Holy Other. It is a way of speaking of God’s transcendent nature. In Christian theology God is consider both transcendent and immanent. Here are two quick definitions

  • transcendent – God is beyond creation/time.
  • immanent – God is in creation/time

As transcendent God is beyond our understanding. He is therefore not discovered but revealed. That’s why scripture is called revelation. God reveals Himself to us through the immanence of Himself in Jesus Christ. This is important because it speaks of the nature of God and how we interact with Him. Because of His transcendent nature we can never know Him apart from what He reveals of Himself through His immanence. We know Him on His terms and even then He is still a mystery to us. This is why I love Isaiah 6:1-9 so much. In this passage Isaiah sees God and almost immediately his vision of God is clouded by the smoke that fills the room. That brief glimpse of God that is revealed to him shakes him to the core. Because of that vision Isaiah, already God’s prophet, ends up calling out that he is ruined because he is “a man of unclean lips” and he has seen the Holy Other.

Christmas is all about the immanence of the transcendent God through the Incarnation. The Holy Other came to earth as a babe and dwelt among us. I love the way Eugene Peterson conveys it in the Message. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” I hope your Christmas was a celebration of the revelation of the One Who is unknowable a part from His choice to reveal Himself. I hope we are all driven a little crazy by our contact with the Holy Other.

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