Robert Capon creates a multitude of new perspectives and frames to view the Word of God through in Hunting the Divine Fox. He approaches topics such as the the will of God for humans and how people try to comprehend God. These new perspectives create interesting topics for Christians to ponder and apply to their lives.
Hunting the Divine Fox, by Robert Farrar Capon, explores how Christians interpret the word of God and how they live in the Mystery it creates. Capon was a Christian author who served as an American Episcopal Priest for about 30 years. He wrote a variety of theological books throughout his lifetime, totaling twenty books. His style of writing in Hunting the Divine Fox is very casual, making it easy to read for people who have not studied theology before. Capon’s experience in writing and in church-work gave him a firm foundation to base his thoughts on in this book.
Content and Methodology
Capon attempts to address several key theological topics, including how humans try to comprehend God, how the Bible describes God, God’s will for humans, and what the purpose of the church is. Capon uses many analogies in his writing to get his point across in an understandable way. He begins his book with a story concerning an oyster trying to figure out what a ballerina is using its universe of knowledge. This little oyster can never truly comprehend the complexities of a ballerina because the only comparison it has is that ballerinas and starfish move. This illustrates how limited human knowledge is and how inadequate any comparisons to God are. He continues in his quest for clarity by examining how best to interpret the Bible. He compares straight language and images to bent language and images. Straight language describes an object in a literal way. Bent language is when metaphors and comparisons are made to describe an object. Capon states that “The Bible, at its deepest levels, is actually a tissue of images. The Word of God, when God most reveals himself, speaks with a bent tongue” (267). Capon recognizes that we mostly learn of God through bent language because there are no human ways to accurately, literally describe the being of God. Capon uses a plaza in the middle of several streets to describe how an analogy or bent image can be interpreted in different ways. He also applies the plaza scenario to the meaning of the word “will.” Capon shows the ways “will” can be interpreted. These interpretations range from desire to request to command. Capon chose to frame the will of God within the context of desire, passion, and choice. He compares it to the “longing of a lover for what the beloved is” (273). Capon next reveals his views of the church and its purpose on earth. Capon argues that the church has turned from being a place for sinners to being a place where only the elite can worship. He believes religion has become focused on transactions and that it has lost the fact that the Mystery is non-transactional and constant.
Capon uses an abundance of allegories and metaphors to create a rich reading experience for the audience. His first chapter is based entirely on an analogy concerning an oyster, rock, starfish, and ballerina. However silly this fable is, it truly encapsulates the human experience of trying to figure out God. “The way you think about things will never be exactly the same as the way they are” (245). As humans experience life, their brains try to create a logical way to perceive the environment. As humans explore the mystery of God, their brains try to use logical, human terms to describe God. This can lead to very vague descriptions and inadequate understanding. This is because humans have never actually experienced God face-to-face. There is no way for an oyster to understand a ballerina and no way for humans to understand God.
As Capon used an analogy to explain the human experience of trying to understand God, he goes on to explain that the majority of how we describe God is through bent language. God is an incomprehensible deity and to even begin to touch the essence of what he is is an enormous task. Humans use metaphors such as describing parts of the Trinity as the Father and the Son. This phrasing should not be misunderstood to mean that one part of the Trinity is superior to another. Capon chooses to view it as an example of how “Love between persons can be equal without having to be the same” (268). This is an example of how the metaphors used to describe God can be viewed in different ways and that the person examining the language should be careful with which path they take.
God’s will is often viewed as a singular list of things God has assigned a person to do. It is viewed as commanding instead of loving. Capon chooses to shift the commanding view of God’s will to the loving, passionate view of it. “It is a desire not for a performance but for a person; a wish not that the beloved will be obedient but that she will be herself” (273). This loving, personal view of God is not often pictured when hearing “Thy will be done.” Capon describes this will of God to be encouraging of a person’s individuality. God uses each person’s unique talents, interests, and gifts to do His purpose.
Finally, Capon emphasizes how the church has gone down a road that values transactions more than the free grace of God. These transactions can lead to people feeling inadequate to be a part of the church because they feel they have nothing to offer. However, this is not a feeling that the church should be perpetuating. The church is made up of sinners and people should not be able to tell other people that their sin is worse because it’s different. “My thesis is that transactional views of Christianity have caused more problems than we suspect, and that if we can manage to correct them, a lot of heretofore unresolvable conflicts may well just disappear” (327). One of these problems is the feeling of exclusion some people feel when they try to join the church. The church can fix this problem by shifting its focus from morals and transactions to grace and accepting sinners with open arms.
In Hunting the Divine Fox, Capon attempts to address several weighty theological issues. Some are more successfully addressed, while others are left on questionable terms. Either way, it can be concluded that Capon creates thoughtful arguments that leave impressions on its readers. Capon created new perspectives on traditional views that many Christians hold and that is worth exploring more.