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God in Pain
A Letter to Euwyn Goh on Ontological Incompleteness
The following is the beginning of a series of open letters betweenand me on theology and philosophy. We endlessly debate these issues over a pint at some dingy pub in Melbourne and, afterwards, maniacally write on them in our solipsistic bubbles but, until now, never have made an effort to write directly to each other. So here goes.
PS. The sign of a true friendship is that one doesn’t have to constantly remind the other of how much we love them. So, I will not embarrass Euwyne by being overly sentimental with superfluous compliments and niceties in our public correspondences.
Before delving into esoteric theosophy, I should first share my intimations on life because it’s impossible to speak of God while ignoring the fact that a human being is doing the speaking. My spontaneous reaction towards life is that it’s shit. We, humans, are thrown into existence; none of us asks to be born, but on an arbitrary day, we subjectively register we’re a self within Other-selves. That is, realising, “Fuck it! I exist!” and “Fuck it even more! Others exist!” Now, we have to make decisions and partake in a social reality with its own symbolic meanings, i.e. customs, laws, cultural norms, rituals, rules, traditions, unspoken background practices and other signifiers I’m unaware of and never will be. Firstly, as Kafka’s The Trial metaphorises best, modern life is absurd. We pretend our social reality has a substantial meaning when we’re all aware that it has no metaphysical scaffoldings; we act on a groundless stage performing for an inexistent master. No wonder then our time is properly Kafkaesque with its most obscene elements seen in the political domain, e.g. scandals in the British royal family, Trumpism, the rise of the alt-rightists and Andrew Tate cultists, etc. Secondly, who the hell signed up for this?! I didn’t, and I wager, nor did most people. The worst part of our thrown-ness is we can’t step outside of our symbolic reality even if we’re fully aware of its impotence and absurdity. When one rebels against society, it’s always done in relation to the established social order; that is, rebellion isn’t an authentic expression of some deeper, truer self but can only exist in so far as the Other (e.g. society, culture, etc.) gives it validity. So, unlike Hollywood’s fantasy, we can’t take a red pill and escape the Matrix, the network that structures our reality or the “big Other” in Lacanian jargon. Case in point is online-right-wingers who boldly claim to have seen the truth of the so-called “globalist elite” wanting to control us and now, having been “red-pilled,” spend their time resentfully whinging about feminism, trans people or Jordan Peterson’s boogyman: postmodern neo-Marxism. The irony, of course, is those who claim to have escaped ideology are the most ideological of them all; these rightists are nothing more than conservative reactionaries living in the quasi-Facsist dream of the 20th century to have modernity without its discontents. Lacan rightly points at the paradox of les non-dupes errent [those who are not duped error most]: to think you are not caught in the symbolic fiction that lets you become a socialised subject makes you the biggest idiot of us all.
Despite the unavoidable shitness of life, I’m not a defeatist nihilist. Similar to Kierkegaard’s remark that fundamentalists are those who missed the comical character of Christianity, nihilists have missed the bizarre comedy of life: we exist within the paradox of being fully aware that our social reality is a fiction, and that human beings are horrid creatures amidst a cold, bare universe indifferent to us but also we cannot become a self without it because we see its lack, barrenness and castration only through this symbolic fiction, not by stepping outside of it. Or in Hegelese, the self finds its self-consciousness by seeing itself in the Other. In that vein, the atheist nihilist is no different from the bible-bashing fundamentalist; they both have no faith in the symbolic reality but claim to know the truth directly; immediate knowledge replaces belief, and perhaps above all, they miss life’s comic paradoxes and ironies. Tony Johnson (Ricky Gervais) from After Life makes the right choice: when his wife dies from breast cancer, he becomes depressed and plans to commit suicide. But on realising he has to feed the dog, he decides not to split his wrist at the last moment. As the show goes, while Tony remains his cantankerous, cynical and depressed self, he decides that perhaps life is still worth living, not for humanity but for the idiots around him whom he loves (or at least his dog). Gervais’s character captures the spirit of our times accurately for people living without transcendent meaning; in postmodernity, we live to feed our pets, pick up a stupid hobby and fill up our time with any triviality, all the while knowing that putting a bullet in one’s head won’t make any cosmic difference. For modern people, the universe is a disenchanted place. And we’re right! Nature is desolate, weak and exists for no one’s sake. Nature isn’t beautiful but wicked at worst and stupid at best. All of religion and culture is an attempt to disavow the reality that humanity is a mistake made in nature’s impotence. Humanity is the result of God’s condom breaking during a one-night stand with Mother Nature. In any case, to reiterate - Johnson has the right existential orientation. He fully embraced the Pascalian wager, which, simply put, makes a pragmatic, game-theoretic argument for belief in God:
If there is a God and you believe in Him, there’s an infinite reward, but if you don’t believe, you’ll receive infinite punishment by being condemned to hell. On the other hand, if there’s no God and you believe in Him, you may have the temporal inconvenience of being a Christian, but given your life is ephemeral, it doesn’t matter regardless; if you don’t believe, then you can temporarily enjoy the worldly pleasures of not following Christian morality.
As Žižek highlights, Blaise Pascal is the ultimate “Fake it until you make it…” philosopher; he had insight into our structure of belief well before Nietzsche, Freud and Marx. That is,  we believe retroactively, and  belief is never direct; we have to believe through the Other or else the over-proximity to believing directly is too traumatic to bear. When Pascal tells us to believe in God and partake in all the Christian rituals of praying, going to Church, being among the congregants, etc., one discovers in retrospect that God exists, and they believe! Our belief functions in a Kierkegaardian “self-referential causality”, where we never believe at first, be it in Christianity or Capitalism, but by pretending to believe, our belief is substantiated. We then stand on the object of belief we posit, which, while being completely contingent, appears fully necessitated to our subjectivity. Moreover, proper belief isn’t immediate: we transpose our ideological belief onto the Other. Within a church, no one directly believes in the object of belief, be it God or Christian doctrines, but believes because the Other (e.g. the priest, pastor, other churchgoers, etc.) believes, and the Other believes because we, in this case, the Other’s Other, believes. Authentic belief is a complex, self-relating ideological network irreducible to a specific individual. The problem with the atheistic nihilist and the Christian fundamentalist is they recognise themselves fully with the symbolic fiction; they both lack the minimal distance towards the fantasy, thus missing the ironies, absurdities, paradoxes, and antagonisms structuring our reality—psychoanalytically speaking, this is the clinical structure of perversion. The Žižekian-Lacanian pervert has nothing to do with social perversity or immoral sexual acts but resides in how they relate to truth and language directly without the gap other subjects have. They see direct access to the big Other (all the way from God, the state, science, etc., to their partner’s desire) so that they can act directly as the instrument of the big Other’s will (e.g. Jihadists, Nazis, etc.), dispelling ambiguity or inherent contradictions. Time after time, we’ve seen the problem of knowledge replacing belief as the atheistic nihilist and the fundamentalist leave no room for the ontological unfathomable gap of being.
Johnson from After Life is a Pascalian existentialist. Despite rationally being aware of life’s meaningless and how suicide may be the easiest exit from the pain of living after the death of his beloved wife when, in the last moment as his dog, in an entirely contingent event, interrupts his wrist-splitting session, he takes a Kierkegaardian leap of faith and decides not to kill himself. Afterwards, he lives as if life has meaning by being amongst and engaging with the Other (i.e., his friends, colleagues, local community, etc.). Then, he suddenly discovers life is meaningful in retrospect. He doesn’t believe life is meaningful and then decides to live, but rather, by deciding to live, he finds life’s meaning; ergo, the leap has to come first. But also, his belief isn’t subjective; he doesn’t find the will to live following the typical New Age Jungian advice of looking deep “within his soul” and finding a profound sense of meaning, but like the Pascalian Christian by believing through the Other. In a true Lacano-Hegelian manner, his truth isn’t found within but without.
And yet Johnson is too optimistic. We should contrast him with Job from the bible. The much-theosophised story recounts Job, a righteous, pious man falling victim to a capricious God who, after making a warped deal with Satan, needlessly makes him suffer. He is then visited by three theological friends, the ‘wise guys,’ who attempt to explain away Job’s suffering and symbolise it meaningfully in an ideology. No different to liberal academics and public intellectuals of our times, who frame global capitalism as the “natural order” of things, claiming that the destruction and suffering we see from neoliberalism have a deeper meaning and are necessary sacrifices to keep the system going. But Job doesn’t just sit down and take it without any protestations; he doesn’t keep living Sisypheanly like Johnson and accept banalities such as “Be happy” after losing all that matters to him. On facing his calamities, Job laments, “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (Job 3:25-26) If all Job cared about was happiness, he would’ve been a cowardly, unethical individual. Nor does he buy into the sophistic rationalisations of the wise theological friends; Job accepts that his suffering is meaningless without a grander purpose and accuses God of injustice (Job 19:7-12). One can imagine Job in our times; he would truly be a revolutionary, protesting and questioning the system and the mendacity of the big Other—governments, institutionalised universities and private corporations, in this case. Contrary to the mainstream Christian reading of the story, the Book of Job is not only about the necessity of faith but (as Žižek theorised) Job is engaging in the first critique of ideology aeons before modern critical theorists, that is, Job exposes the big Other—God, in this case—to be impotent, contradictory and unjust. Job, above all, is an ethical rebel.
The radically Christian moment in the book of Job is when God himself is shown to be a petty, capricious and insecure tyrant. God appears at the end and declares Job is right and the theological friends are wrong. Job’s suffering is meaningless and has nothing to do with divine justice or any other rationalisations by the “wise guys,” nor is it Job’s fault; his suffering is arbitrary and was imposed on him because of God’s despotic will. God bombastically declares (Job 38) his greatness and how Job is a speck of dust compared to him. Isn’t God, in all his ostentatiousness, portrayed as a Donald Trump-like narcissist here? What was God trying to prove by boasting about his creations to Job? Or perhaps what was he trying to hide? We all are aware that tawdry displays of one’s achievements are a masquerade to cover up one’s lack and insecurities (e.g., the bloke with the luxury sports car trying to overcompensate for his sexual deficiencies), so was it God’s castration and anxiety at the mess he’s brought upon himself on the creation of the universe making him this arrogant asshole? Was it God’s impotence that made him want to prove his omnipotence? Chesterton goes a step further in The Everlasting Man and claims that, in his divine angst, God momentarily becomes an atheist when confronted with Job’s questions and gazes upon his creations in monstrous wonder. As Žižek says, “I prefer reading God’s response to Job as ‘“Who are you to complain? Look at all the mess that I’ve created. The whole universe is crazy!’” And it’s this God of pain we see in its climactic horror of Christ on the cross.
Biblically, it’s clear that Jesus Christ is not a messenger of God nor a prophet or quasi-Socratic teacher but IS God incarnate—since this letter isn’t exegetical, I shall not delve into scripture to find verses that support this claim; but for instance, the book of John alone has ample accounts of Christ being God. As Kierkegaard recognised in many of his writings, whatever Christ is, he is not a wise guy; he’s either a lunatic or the God-Man. Reading the gospels should not help you live a good life because Christ’s mission wasn’t to spread wisdom or advice on becoming a better person like a divine self-help guru. Christ, being the God-Man, revealed the Paradox immanent to the Absolute. Kierkegaard tells us the first step in being a Christian is to face the reality that the Absolute itself is ontologically paradoxical in its being and (read through a Hegelian lens) is not an epistemological limitation of humans. Unsurprisingly, the trauma of Christ being God has been tried to be reasoned away by so-called ‘Christian apologetics.’ How can the creator of the vast heavens and earth, the ground of being, the divine sustenance of the cosmos, be a fragile human carpenter from Nazareth who talks in confusing parables and ends up getting pathetically crucified? This unfathomability of Christ to our everyday experience moves the scholarly apologetic ilk to spend a lifetime trying to prove Christ was the God-Man through anthropological, historical and philosophical manoeuvres. But it’s impossible to prove Christ is the God-Man even if we have exact evidence that a man called Jesus Christ existed historically. Every ‘reasonable Christian’ knows what they have to believe is unbelievable, and they disavow this unbelief through intellectual games. To understand this “Absolute Paradox,” I should first philosophically outline the contradictions of Christ being the God-Man:
(N.B. I have reappropriated the superlative work of Michael Downs, who’s written exhaustively on the Kierkegaardian “Absolute Paradox” of Christ.)
God is timeless: he is outside of time, ergo, has no beginning or end. Christ is temporal: he was born and died. God is omnipresent: he exists throughout and outside of space. Christ is local: his existence is bound to the space of Nazareth. God is omniscient (at least in the Old Testament): he knows everything; in fact, he is Truth and the source of all knowledge. Christ does doubt, as seen in the gospels; therefore, as any other man, has unknowing intrinsic to him. God is omnipotent: he is all-powerful. Christ shows moments of weakness, culminating in his crucifixion. God is not immutable (Exodus 3:14): the absolute in monotheism cannot be fragmented; that is, unlike polytheism, there cannot be multiple deities, as, for instance, we see in Greek mythology; the monotheistic God is unchangeable, immovable and does not change in his being. Christ, being a human being, is mutable; in fact, to use a Heraclitusian idea, the only constant for human beings is change. God is supernatural: he is outside the natural world. Christ is natural: he’s within the natural world. Little is known about God’s sexuality (perhaps he doesn’t have one). Christ being a biological being, undoubtedly got horny and, who knows, probably even had a casual hookup with Mary Magdalene. God is without sin. Christ, being a man, is sinful in his nature—Kierkegaard called this the “absolute difference” as what ontologically differentiates man from God is sin. This is the irreconcilability of Jesus Christ being fully God and Man, making the God-Man impossible.
So, does this make Christianity utter nonsense? Of course not. To clarify my basic attitude: while I have a spiritual (not intellectual) inability to believe in God, I nonetheless believe in Christ being the God-Man and find salvation in him. The impossibility of Christ wasn’t realised by us enlightened rationalists in modernity but has always been a part of the Christian tradition, from Pauline Christianity to Eastern Orthodoxy. For instance, St. Maximus the Confessor, perhaps the greatest of all Byzantine theologians and Church Fathers, saw the mystery of Christ in being the hypostatic union of humanity and divinity as a cosmological paradox, that is, the impossibility of Christ was transposed onto the cosmos (through his Neoplatonist paradigm) and not localised to the figure of Jesus of Nazareth. Having said that, how can we reconcile the paradoxical impossibility of Christ with Christianity being true? One word: Faith. Not philosophical reasoning—I should add that I lack this faith, thereby approaching Christianity philosophically. But then, what is the ontology of faith? Whatever faith is, it isn’t believing in untruth and a way of justifying irrational claims in religious scripture. If this is faith, to have it makes you an idiot and your mode of being asinine. This kind of faith is no different to conspiracy theorists who claim our governments and institutions are incompetent and dysfunctional while simultaneously believing these actors are behind a globalist plot to control the masses via pandemics, climate change, etc. Such belief isn’t faith but paranoia and stupidity. First and foremost, faith is not antithetical to truth, nor is faith the opposite of doubt. As Paul Tillich theologised, faith and doubt are dialectical: within Christianity, to have faith in Christ, one has to start with doubt. To have faith is to learn truths about reality that otherwise are inaccessible by employing reason alone. But faith isn’t solely an epistemic orientation; as Treydon Lunot claims, it’s also a complete openness to the Other—I will not comment on this further as it’s a spiritual mode of being that I lack.
Now, you may ask what differentiates the Christian believer from QAnon supporters who believe a cabal of cannibalistic child molesters is conspiring against Donald Trump: Truth, plain and simple. The paradox of Christ is real, and the QAnon conspiracy theory isn’t. But the truth of Christ cannot be derived through reason alone but by a qualitative leap of faith—a leap, as Kierkegaard knows well, doesn’t guarantee a soft landing nor fit into the immediate order of our lives. One should believe in Christ not because he gives you comfort and assurance amidst a volatile and anxiety-evoking world but because to believe in Christ is absurd; having faith in Christ is offensive to your faculties of reason. So, does this mean Christians are insane? Yes. But it’s not a QAnon-supporter-like insanity that makes Christian belief untrue; instead, it reveals the ontological insanity of reality itself. That which is illogical in ideality can be true in reality. I must take yet another philosophical detour (using Michael Downs’ work) to elucidate how something illogical can nevertheless be true:
What determines reality? Reality determines reality. Isn’t this tautological? Yes, but not when juxtaposed with Idealism. Something being illogical exists in the realm of ideality: logic, abstractions, conceptualisations, dialectics, imaginations, oracular visions, and mathematics (although contested by some) exist in the ideal world. Unless George Berkeley was correct in his view of “esse est percipi” (to be is to be perceived), something can exist in reality that is impossible in ideality. A Berkeleian would ask if a tree fell somewhere in the universe and self-conscious beings (human or otherwise) weren’t there to experience it, did this tree “really” fall? Or, in other words, is what exists in reality, all that is, in the ideal realm? This has been an ongoing discourse since Plato and much earlier in Eastern spiritual traditions, so I will not go further into the deep end. But for argument’s sake, I take the side that the tree really did fall even if there’s no one to experience it falling—phenomenologically, empirically and speculatively, my intellectual and visceral intimations are that reality is not equivalent to mind, spirit, or consciousness. I start with the axiom that a reality exists outside of the ideal world. Such is why ‘reality determines reality’ isn’t a tautological manoeuvre: for x to exist in reality doesn’t necessitate it has to be sensible in the ideal realm because thought (qua mind or spirit) doesn’t determine reality; accordingly, what is contradictory in ideality isn’t necessarily contradictory in reality. If this x is Jesus Christ, for instance, he can exist in reality but be impossible in the ideal world with his myriad contradictions, as the logical principle of non-contradiction is a law of ideality, not of reality. But how can we conveniently make such a demarcation? Isn’t the reality we know of conform to logical laws? Not always, because reality is much more illogical, strange and downright absurd than we might think. So, firstly, do take note that I don’t claim to know what reality entails. One could say reality is the space-time continuum that Newton, Hume and Einstein gave us, but modern physics deeply problematises this worldview of causality and predictability. Quantum theory presents paradoxes of the wave-particle duality, uncertainty, entanglement, etc. that have imbued countless debates on the metaphysics of physics, that is, what is the physical world. To paraphrase Noam Chomsky, the mystery of modern science is not consciousness but materialism; we have no idea what really encompasses the material world. Therefore, I take an apophatic approach when ontologising physics by defining reality through what it’s not rather than making positive claims about it. Secondly, if we employ physics, the most powerful tool for knowledge about the physical world, recent findings give us a picture entirely counterintuitive to our everyday experience, which seemingly follows logical paradox-free “laws of nature.” For instance, the 2022 Nobel Prize was awarded for experimental work on Bell’s theorem, which (to paraphrase Tim Maudlin) shows the non-locality of physics. In post-Newtonian physics, locality is a principle that states effects cannot propagate faster than the speed of light (or, more intuitively stated, objects are influenced directly only by their immediate surroundings), whereas John Bell and the 2022 Nobel laureates proved theoretically and empirically that non-locality, which Einstein said to be “spooky action at a distance”, is real in the physical world. For brevities sake, I will not explore if these findings of the physical world refute the principles of logic in the ideal world. In any case, the epistemological takeaway of this example is that what we (even a genius like Einstein) conceive of as reality is not reality. Of course, none of this means the paradox of Jesus Christ is real, but only that it’s a possibility in reality despite being impossible in ideality; thus, the sine qua non of faith to engage with the truth of Christ.
This brings us to the focal point of this letter: (to paraphrase Jean-Pierre Dupuy) Christianity is not a morality but an epistemology. It directly says truths about the sacred and, for better or worse, tells humans to decide on what to do with these revelations. The mistake most church-going Christians make is to believe the Bible is about themselves, that is, believing that reading scripture is for the nourishment of their soul, tantamount to a sacred self-help book telling you how to live a better life. While, like most literature, there are elements of, for lack of a better term, “life lessons” in it, what the Bible tells us above all is the nature of the Absolute, bar none. One reads the Bible to know God even if you don’t believe in him. Furthermore, if truth be told, the so-called Biblical wisdom isn’t particularly unique or radical. It can be found in ancient texts across humanity aeons before the birth of Abrahamic religions. The unsurpassable radicality of the Bible that Christians themselves refuse to accept is what the Bible tells us about God’s pain in confronting his insanity. For St. Paul, the key events of the Gospels aren’t Jesus’s teaching per se but the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ; we should read these events in isolation. When Christ is crucified, the resurrection must be ignored in order to encounter the absolute horror of the event. The Death of God and Blakean theologian Thomas J. J. Altizer tells us when Christ was on the cross, and he cried, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46) God emptied himself of himself for the first time in cosmic history. Christ’s cry wasn’t his human kenosis, but his Godly one as the Absolute stopped becoming transcendent and truly died in his self-emptying. Or, in other words, as Žižek qua Chesterton claims, it is only in Christianity that God becomes atheist and stops believing in himself. God indeed created us out of love, but it was also out of desperation to rid himself of his insanity. A parent loves their child more than themselves but also find meaning in their otherwise empty life through this child. So, having a child is an antidote to dying from, let’s say, the insanity of meaninglessness; most people have kids to fill the nothingness of life and would’ve killed themselves if they never did because life is too long, and the fact our miserable existence never ends (until it arbitrarily does, of course) would drive one insane if not for love (usually found most intimately in one’s romantic partner, children and family). Perhaps God, too, feels similarly; ergo, God is a father in the Bible. So Paul Claudel is right to claim that the deepest mystery of Christianity is that it reveals God is in Pain, and as much as we need God, he needs us. In God thrusting us into existence, he makes us free (a freedom that brings us angst) because God can’t do anything without us, and one has to be free to love. Accordingly, love is the unifying force that rids both God and human beings of their insanity.
The Bible is not a book of wisdom, and yet if we can take one quasi-wisdom from scripture, it’s that reality is not harmonic, peaceful and orderly, much like Aristotle’s theory of gravity where everything comes back to its place within the universe in organic unity. But the Christian ontology is that reality is wounded, deeply fractured and scarred by an unspeakable pain that even God couldn’t bear. In contrast to Aristotle, nothing in Christianity has a place, not even God. The ontological incompleteness of reality that we see through various disciplines, namely, politics (democracy), mathematics (Gödel’s incompleteness theorem), biology (Darwinian evolution), physics (wave-particle duality), neuroscience (neuroplasticity), psychoanalysis (the Freudo-Lacanian unconscious), in Christianity, is seen in the ground of being, the structuring spirit of reality, God himself. Schelling and Hegel (and perhaps mystics) saw it first that in Christ, the utter brokenness of human beings is transposed not only onto reality but to the Absolute itself; through the crucifixion, our alienation becomes God’s alienation. Such is why Christianity is not a religion of peace, nor will it ever be (Matthew 10:34-36), as it tells that the world is a mess, God cannot clean it up by himself, and so you’re in deep shit with no one to rely on and are fully responsible for the cleaning. The burden of being is put on the Christian as Christ carried the cross. Ultimately, Christianity calls us to find courage in hopelessness (to use a Žižekian phrase) because in a shattered reality, if we begin to act within a community of love in light of this terrifying message, we find salvation: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20) God appears (as the Holy Spirit) when we partake in love; he appears not only to us but also to himself. But can we Christians face this reality? Perhaps not. Is this radicality what’s made the Church repress the terrifying yet emancipatory message of Christianity? As the joke goes, during a frustrating argument with a Roman Catholic cardinal, Napoleon Bonaparte supposedly burst out: “Your eminence, are you not aware that I have the power to destroy the Catholic Church?” The cardinal, the anecdote goes, responded ruefully: “Your majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the Church for the last 1,800 years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you.”
After that prolonged prelude, I will briefly reply to the initial correspondence that was my impetus for writing this letter—briefly, because I have no doubt that after my provocations above, being the theological raconteur you are, I shall receive an apt response, allowing us to dig deeper into these matters.
(N.B. Euwyn sent me these reflections on WhatsApp in response to Peter Rollins’ talk, ‘The Unknowing God.’)
My only difference is I think he [Peter Rollins] conflates God with ‘reality’ as it presents itself. I much prefer the idea of God as the ground of reality or the ground of the structure of reality (as Tillich says, pertaining to ‘being’). And if our reality is fragmented, it doesn’t follow that God, its ground, is fragmented.
I prefer the basic Christian interpretation of the fragmentation, as offered in the allegory of the Fall in Genesis. The fragmentation of reality is the consequence of the first sin of Adam and Eve. Each generation post-Adam is thus born into a sinful nature, into a reality broken as such. In this context, fragmentation is the source of original sin, or separation–specifically, the separation of man from his source: God. Kierkegaard specifies the expression of this sin as despair.
In this narrative, there is a hierarchical arrangement to the fragmentation of reality. The Fall, that is, the original separation, is of man and not of God. Fragmentation is the manifestation of reality’s brokenness–a brokenness incited by man himself that was not part of the original design. God is posited as the source, the source of man (or man’s spirit), the planner or emanator of an incomprehensibly perfect arrangement. God is thus beyond the Fall; God is beyond the fragmentation. Sin (in this manner) is not a two-way dialectic between man and God, but an everpresent, persistent fallenness of man’s nature away from God. God is above man as such; He is the ground of man, the ground of reality.
It is this source, it is this infinite and eternal (and incomprehensible and unknown) perfection that one worships. To me, it makes no sense to worship an incomplete God, lest the intention is to worship a ‘mirror of oneself’, a ‘mirror of man’–perhaps acceptably in a pagan sense–but as I have said, it is man that has fragmented his own reality, and not God.
I prefer to posit man by the relation he mediates, that is, between the finite and infinite, temporal and eternal. This is a dialectic, yes, but a dialectic more so of the senses in his fallen nature–for man in his fallenness, though infinitely separated from God, still remains tethered to God. And this can be attributed to mercy, to grace, as Kierkegaard remarks: ‘It is an infinite merit to be able to despair’. Yet, God is not ‘merely’ that part in man that is infinite and eternal, as much as God is pure infinity and eternity–against which man has a predisposition (for it is his source), but it is a reality man cannot actualise in possibility or in actuality (for man is infinitely separated from it by virtue of his fallenness). Thus, man is incompleteness, fragmentation, and God is completeness, perfection–and it is from this view that God is beyond, a whole against which man is irrevocably broken. This is the view from which God is worshipped with reverence and awe, and religiously posited.
For brevities sake, I shall first lay down your argument systematically:
 You accept that reality is fragmented (or wounded).  But this fragmentation isn’t transposed onto God, so God is still ontologically complete (or uncastrated, to use psychoanalytical jargon).  The only hope for humanity in their fallenness is to reunite with this God.  The relationship between God and human beings is dialectical because while we’re separated from him, thanks to God’s grace, we’re still tethered to him.
The most straightforward difference between you and me is that I am a Hegelian, and you’re a Kantian. Theologically, this split in our worldviews doesn’t surprise me as I know of your enamorment with Kierkegaard. God isn’t Kant’s “ding an sich” (thing-in-itself) for Kierkegaard; God isn’t the unfathomable noumenal “thing” that’s eternally unknown to us. A relationship is possible with the Kierkegaardian God, albeit in the most peculiar of ways, given this God is aeterno modo (in the mode of eternity), always escaping us. And yet, Kierkegaard is a Kantian. His God is a Spinozian substance, the eternal, self-caused absolute ground of all being. So while this God isn’t the Kantian thing-in-itself formally, in its content, I see no difference from the impersonal pagan deities that were worshipped before the Abrahamic monotheistic God, the deterministic God of science, late modernities God of capitalism or the postmodern New Age universe worshipped by pseudo-spiritualists. It’s worth noting that after Spinoza’s death, his entire works were banned by The States of Holland and West Frisia for being atheistic. And they were right to do so because this substance Spinoza speaks of is not a subject but an object. If this Spinozian-Kantian God is the one Kierkegaard calls the eternal, then whatever this objective substance entails, it has nothing to do with the Christian God, who is, above all, a subject (i.e. the father, son and the holy spirit) that allows us to be in relation with him through communion and love. Furthermore, as Treydon Lunot highlights, there is no human subjectivity without communal ontology, and it is the Christian God being a subject that allows communion. So answer me this, Euywne: if your God is not a subject, then why are you a Christian and not a pagan, enlightened Steven Pinker-like rationalist, capitalist or a New Age universe worshipper?
In contrast to God as an eternal, complete substance, if Christianity is true, then the most accurate understanding of God is through the Hegelian substance as subject lens. The substance is a self-relating negativity divided within itself; substance is negated, split, differentiated and indeed ontologically incomplete. Or in other words, substance is structured with the same negativity as the subject. But this isn’t a pantheistic claim of a consciousness being immanent in the physical universe. In accordance with Aristotle, substance cannot be directly equated to the world of parts and objects that is. Substance is that which gives way to reality as we know it. The Hegelian twist is to transpose the gap of subjectivity onto reality and its ground (the Absolute) so that which separates you and I from reality is not an epistemological limitation of our subjectivity but is ontologically constitutive of reality as such. Furthermore, as Žižek theorises, it’s this gap (or ontological lack in Lacanian jargon) in the subject (the “I”), substance (reality) and Absolute (God as the ground of all reality) that causes movement in being as that which is incomplete is striving for completion ad infinitum. So when we’re in despair and angst, the Christian answer is to see that same pain and separation in the Absolute through Christ on the cross, the God-Man, not merely theologically but existentially, and this fundamental shift of our existential orientation is where salvation is found. I concede that such a radical reading of Christianity isn’t how the majority of Christians or atheists view God; nonetheless, this doesn’t make it any less true, as truth is not democratic. Perhaps we Hegelians are calling for another reformation of Christianity similar to the Protestant one set forth by Martin Luther in the 15th century because isn’t scripture and tradition alive in the moment and not merely a remnant from the past?
Having said that, while I’m unsurprised by your theological views, existentially speaking, your optimism still takes me by surprise. I recall a conversation we had about the death of a three-year-old toddler. Our spontaneous reaction was, let’s hope he didn’t suffer, but also what a gift it’s to die so young. Of course, losing a toddler is a lugubrious and unspeakably tragic event; nonetheless, at least this human being escaped the burden of human existence, and we take solace in this fact. I wager that you’d agree with the R.D. Laing saying: “Life is a sexually transmitted disease, and the mortality rate is one hundred per cent.” Most of existence, whether for humans or animals, is a hellish endeavour. Life is the result of an infinite amount of suffering and catastrophe not even the most Schopenhauerian pessimists can comprehend, and for life to continue, there has to be death (look no further than evolutionary natural selection)—unsurprisingly, most spirituality attempts to transcend this life into a realm bereft of our reality. But I know you and I aren’t cowardly fatalistic defeatists, and despite the unbearable agony of being, we still believe in love, truth and beauty; perhaps that’s why we’re Christians. The question lies in what kind of Christians we are. For you to posit that reality is fragmented is apt (although I prefer the term wounded). In that vein - if there’s a God, wouldn’t the only explanation for such a shitty reality be that the Absolute ground of all reality itself is fragmented? Wouldn’t so much of reality make sense if God is in pain as we are?
Writing with love to my brother: