Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Gift of Limits

Written by: on February 7, 2020

Reading philosophy tends to make this student reflective with more questions than answers. This was certainly the case this week while reading Hicks’ Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Stephen R.C. Hicks is professor of philosophy at Rockford University, where he is also Executive Director of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship. Diving the depths of Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schleiermacher, Nietzsche, Rousseau and others left me with a continuing thought, “Humans have God given limitations and this is truly a gift.”

With all our progressive knowledge and ingenuity, we must continually admit there are limits to our understanding. Objectivity versus subjectivity, reason versus metaphysics, skepticism versus faith, the seen versus the unseen worlds. These various opposing dynamics continually lead us to dualism, either/or dispositions and extremism. It seems God hedges humanity in so that we are protected from ourselves, somewhat. When the pendulum swings too far, thoughtful people begin asking questions that force us to consider another way, different possibilities. This pulls us back from the ledge of extreme. I see the goodness of God in it all and a somewhat ironic sense of humor. I wonder if God smiles when the most brilliant of minds exposes our true limits. Could it possibly be the way to whet our appetite to continue mining the depths of Divinity’s omniscience, to make obvious again that God is God and we are not? Yet, as his crowning creation he makes room for us to exhaustively probe, progress, experiment, prove, grow, and wonder giving us opportunity to discover the end of ourselves.

In Hegel’s attempt to connect philosophy to the Judeo-Christian concept of creation. He connected Being and Nothing. Heidegger reasserts his claims by stating, “Every being, so far as it is a being, is made out of nothing.”[1] This describes the limits of man and the limitless nature of God. Hegel states,

As yet, there is nothing and there is to become something. The beginning is not pure nothing, but a nothing from which something is to proceed; therefore being, too, is already contained in the beginning. The beginning, therefore, contains both, being and nothing, is the unity of being and nothing; or is non-being which is at the same time being, and being which is at the same time non-being.[2]

This week I have lost track of time and normal activities as I have faced aging and mortality through my 93 year old mother. Watching as her heart stops for seconds, even up to two minutes at a time, seeing life slip from her body, observing her ashen complexion and thinking she’s gone only for her to gasp and regain awareness. These days have been filled with philosophical pondering about meaning in life, being and becoming, and even nothingness. My neatly described theologies, narratives of who God is and who we are, human knowledge and wisdom, are all laid bare before the Creator. We are suddenly faced with the deepest understanding of our limitations in these moments and it is a gift as we rest in the One who determines our days. In Psalms we are taught to pray, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”[3] The book of wisdom exhorts us to search for knowledge, wisdom, understanding, discernment and discretion as if they are fine treasure. We are told to wear them around our neck as adornment as they will guard and keep us. The all-knowing, all-wise God encourages to search for meaning and probe the questions of life. Paul addressing the philosophers of his day made this statement, “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”[4] That we are, made in his image, given the gift of limits so we will look to him for life and in death, more life.


[1] Stephen R.C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (China: Ockham’s Razor Publishing, 2011), Kindle Loc. 1631.

[2] Ibid., Kindle Loc. 1322.

[3] Psalm 90:12 NIV

[4] Acts 17:27-28 NIV

About the Author

Tammy Dunahoo

Tammy is a lover of God, her husband, children and grandchildren. She is the V.P. of U.S. Operations/General Supervisor of The Foursquare Church.

7 responses to “The Gift of Limits”

  1. Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    I sit in wonder as you articulate the meaning of life in view of your mother’s current experience. Yes, our limits are gifts that motivate us to seek the One who has no limits. Once again, the Scriptures aid our dilemma and our discernment, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Praying for you and your family, thanks for being so kind as to share your wisdom and insights.

  2. Mario Hood says:

    Beautifully written Tammy, nothing else to add. Love you and praying for you and your family.

  3. Jenn Burnett says:

    Oh Tammy, this was such a beautiful and gracious reflection. I love how you have created space for all the different perspectives and pointed to where these philosophies are both useful and limited. Much love and prayer for you and your family.

  4. Digby Wilkinson says:

    You and I are in similar stages of life – sandwhiched between our parents, our children and coming grandchildren. Age, experience and perspective change the way we see human experience and thought. There are kernels of truth most thinking. I guess what I find most problematic in postmodernism is its general insistence that universal truth is a fiction of social construction when it comes to people and societies and identity groups. In that case, it is simply another form of socio-political power to control others, which of course modernism can be accused of too. I guess good philosophers along with good theologians always acknowledge their limits, which is, of course, the point in philosophy – there are no answers, only arguments to be demolished a and reformed. That’s why it’s frustrating and of course somewhat futile from and Ecclesiastes perspective. In the end, God has placed limits on our lives, and walking the twilight years with those we love brings those limits into sharp relief, and all that is truly important comes charging into view – love, kinship, community and faith.

  5. Andrea Lathrop says:

    Tammy – I love what you have shared here and articulated. I have been thinking about the “otherness” of God that is above all eras, all philosophies, etc and the way you’ve described it is extremely helpful to me.

    And then, while there is much learning, leading, thinking and serving to do in our lifetime – nothing compares to loving and being loved (which is not in opposition to doing – quite the contrary I think). May you receive deeply in this liminal space all the love you can – from God, your mother’s life and your surrounding loved ones. Amen.

  6. Tammy,

    This is powerful reminder that God has put limits for us and what a privilege it is for us to know Him. We find fullness in Him and answers to life questions.

  7. Rhonda Davis says:

    This is a beautiful reflection, Tammy. Praying for this to wisdom guard and keep you in this precious and difficult time between the times.

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