The Luminous Dusk: Silence


Dale Allison is hands down my favorite New Testament and Historical Jesus scholar.  For me, more than any other author, Allison represents a scholar who is both committed to following the evidence where it leads – even when it leads to uncomfortable places – and maintaining a life of faith.  

His scholarly work mainly surrounds Historical Jesus studies and he is a, if not the, leading voice of those who promote Jesus as primarily an apocalyptic prophet.  In this regard, Allison stands in the line of Albert Schweitzer.  His book The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus has been, and continues to be, instrumental in my understanding of Jesus and the Christian faith.  

Outside of Historical Jesus studies, Allison has also written several books about other matters of faith.  This series will be a collection of quotations from The Luminous Dusk, which contains Allison's reflections on Christian spirituality.

This quotation is taken from the chapter Mute Angels:

"The analysis of divertissement was central to Pascal's thought.  It is not difficult to fathom why.  Pascal was a Roman Catholic and defender of his faith.  The Pensees is in fact an extended defense of the Christian religion, an apology.  One of its aims is to expose the sources of unbelief, and for Pascal divertissement was among these.  He was persuaded that only those who gaze within and conduct close self-examination, who seek stillness of body and silence of thought, can gain and preserve authentic religion.  For Pascal, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was to be found when human nature was at rest.  The logos was to be heard in the silence, the divine fire beheld in the darkness.

Pascal's observation of a link between silence and religion is confirmed by a great cloud of witnesses.  The entirety of the Christian tradition is here seconded by the rest of the world's sundry religions, which with one voice advise that faith without quiet is dead.  The Koran and the Talmud, the Bible and the Avesta, the Darshanas and the Analects praise silence.  Religions are at one it teaching that, without quiet, the roots of piety will at best be shallow.  The idea that God speaks not with the wind or the earthquake or the fire but with a still, small voice is a commonplace; it is general religious wisdom.  In all places and at all times those longing to touch another world have instinctively known what to do – enter a desert, climb a mountain, join a hermitage."