“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16). This text is complex and difficult. It challenges the habitual thinking that gives us certainties through its either/ or logic. This certainty is built by annulling one pole of the either/or structure of our thought. This closure or annulling of one side give us security. It makes us think that life is a safe harbour and we can venture into what actually risks adventure with confidence. But to come to the depths of the text that we have chosen, we may need to come to the animals of Jesus. The animal that I am (Derrida), zoology of Jesus or zoo-theology of Jesus might offer insight.
We have the challenge to be innocent as a dove and as shrewd as a snake. We may have to able to brave the wolves of philosophy and theology and their love of monarchy and sovereignty. This means we need to be wise ones (phronimoi) who are harmless (akeraioi) as the doves to face these braves of philosophy and theology. To do this, we are challenged to think together power and powerlessness. There is power in what we deem as powerless. This thinking of power is not found in the dominant circles of philosophy and theology. The dominant thinking may interpret that Jesus calls us to discern when to become doves/ innocent and when to become serpent/ shrewd. We seem to have to change roles or masks according to the changing contexts. It seems to tell us that we have to play in accordance with the situation. There may be some insight into this dominant thinking. But it is not deep/ profound enough.
I think we can be simultaneously doves and snakes. Jesus places a challenge of becoming transgenics. It is a transgenic zoo-theology that challenges us to transcend what Derrida called metaphysic of presence. The binary of presence and absence closes on the side of presence. Therefore, we think of power in substantive terms and fail to think of power in relational non-substantive ways. Abandoning metaphysics of presence, we may be enabled to think together being the dove and being a snake. To this, we have let Aristotle and his binary logic die. This means we may come to see how there is power in powerlessness and powerlessness in power. This thinking is not one that chooses a safe middle ground between power and powerlessness. The thinking together of power and powerlessness or the dove and snake is not strategic.
The dominant interpretation smacks of strategic thinking and fails to be innocent although it may come to pass as shrewd thinking. The challenge is to be innocent and shrewd at the same time. The dominant thinking remains haunted by its shrewdness. This is why we are challenged to embrace thinking that thinks together the call to be a dove/ innocent and a serpent/ shrewd. Therefore, to me, the dominant thinking is a hauntology and maybe a choice of those we may call following Martin Heidegger, onto-theologians. But paradoxically, our thinking together power and powerlessness haunts these onto-theologies and its onto-theologians. This haunting is provoking a more radical opening to the present. It prevents the present from closing down on itself as onto-theology or metaphysic of presence. It is not also the future present. It is challenging us to live with an unclosed future. It a challenge to remain open to the impossible.
Where there is the impossible, there is God. This is why facing a coming that we do not know and letting God take charge of the impossible opens us to a way of being innocent and shrewd at the same time. It is in the face of the impossible that we can see how power resides in our powerlessness. The zone of impossibility is concentrated with the advent of God. It is where we need innocence and shrewdness to discern the coming of God. God is always in the coming. We have not yet seen the back of God. We will see it in the final Eschaton. We have seen God from the front in the life, works, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus and in the salvation histories of religions/humanity. We are still awaiting the Parousia, the second coming of Jesus. It is in/at the realization of the Eschaton that we shall see the back of God. For now, all theology is mostly frontal thinking. We have a bit of dorsal thinking in the Eschatology of hope.
This is why we can only meet God in the coming. This coming is coming all the time. We can think of this coming as also including the innocence of the dove and shrewdness of the serpent. This is why we have the challenge to use tools of discernment. These tools of discernment lay beyond our either/ or thinking. This thinking will open us to the trace of power not so much in the visible institutions but power will be in the weak force that remains in the mode to-come that is always coming. This is why we need the innocence of the dove/ the child to shrewdly discern the power of God in our day to day ordinary life that is always already coming. It is in this way we can say yes to one who is already coming and is enabling our yes to him. This requires a bit of dorsal as well as frontal thinking. It requires us to think together the dorsal and the frontal thinking to be able to discern our God in the coming.
Living with God who is in the mode of coming is an act of faith. It requires us to surrender ourselves to these comings of our God. God in his multiflorous coming stays above the binary of presence and absence. These comings of God are sacramental. He is always coming. He was coming in the past and is coming in the present and will come in the future. This leads us to think it in the mode of already and not yet. God is always in the mode of coming. There is coming to come. This is why God is always available to us. The promise of Jesus to be with us till the end of time (Mt 28:20)/ to his final coming is actualized in the coming. God stays in the coming because the present/ the past and the future is inadequate for his fuller coming. We cannot empty His coming into our past/ present/ future. His coming is inundating the past/the present/ the future and flows beyond it. God has come and there is God to come.