by danielle on May 31, 2011
by danielle on May 23, 2011
Oh, dear. What a week we had. Between the CDC posting an article about preparing for the zombie apocalypse to the dire (and false) predictions of Harold Camper, it seems everyone became fixated on discussions about the end of the world. But have no fear. It’s Moltmann Monday, and I didn’t have to get further than the preface of The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology to find some sane words to soothe your Armageddon-battered minds. If you haven’t read the book in its entirety, I’d highly suggest it. (Honestly, already worth your time in the preface!) I happen to believe that reclaiming a rightful Christian eschatology is one of our biggest and most important tasks.
Eschatology is always thought to deal with the end, the last day, the last word, the last act: God has the last word. But if eschatology were that and only that, it would be better to turn one’s back on it altogether; for ‘the last things’ spoi one’s taste for the penulitmate ones, and the dreamed of, or hoped for, end of history robs us of our freedom among history’s many possibilities, and our tolerance for all the things in history that are unfinished and provisional. We can no longer put up with earthly, limited and vulnerable life, and in our eschatological finality we destroy life’s fragile beauty. The person who presses forward to the end of life misses life itself. If eschatology were no more than religion’s ‘final solution’ to all the questions, a solution allowing it to have the last word, it would undoubtedly be a particularly unpleasant form of theological dogmatism, if not pyschological terrorism. And it has in fact been used in just this way by a number of apocalyptic arm-twisters among our contemporaries.
But Christian eschatology has nothing to do with apocalyptic ‘final solutions’ of this kind, for its subject is not ‘the end’ at all. On the contrary, what it is about is the new creation of all things. Christian eschatology is the remembered hope of the raising of the crucified Christ, so it talks about beginning afresh in the deadly end. ‘The end of Christ–after all that was his true beginning,’ said Ernst Bloch. Christian eschatology follows this Christological pattern in all its personal, historical and cosmic dimensions: in the end is the beginning.
Sigh. See? All better.
by danielle on May 16, 2011
Happy Moltmann Monday! This morning’s Moltmann quote comes from The Spirit of Life. In this section, he is attempting to provide a non-dualistic understanding of Paul’s discussion of the battle between the spirit and the flesh.
Life in the flesh is false life, life that has missed its way, life that cannot live and leads to death. Life in the Spirit is the very opposite. It is true life, life springing up from its divine source, life that leads to resurrection. This gives particular emphasis to the sphere of the flesh as the sphere of sinning, and the sphere too of death because of sin. It is not a question of an ontologically lower rung on the ladder of being, compared with the higher rung of soul or spirit. What is meant is sin and death as a field of force into which the whole person has entered, body and soul, together with (his) whole social world…Here ‘flesh’ is a total statement about human beings, and must not be restricted to their physical nature. The sin which misses the mark of life is not centered in sensuality, the drives, or so-called lower instincts. Its center is the whole person, and especially that person’s soul or heart, the center of (his) consciousness, or of his will if he is possessed by the death instinct…
When Paul sees ‘flesh,’ ‘sin’ and ‘death’ as supra-personal forces which enslave people, destroy their world, and make the whole creation beyond the world of human beings ‘groan,’ this is not a matter of unenlightened mythology. It is apocalyptic realism. The greater the hope, the more profound the exposure of misery.
Here’s something Christians tend to ‘language’ incorrectly: when faced with a difficult choice, or the consequences of a bad decision or an unfortunate event, you tend to hear people separate out their own identity, like an attempt to throw on a sin hazmat suit. (It’s not me! It wasn’t my fault!) Or, people will say, in effect, that their bodies got the best of them, as if “they” are some separate entity fighting for the upper hand in their own bodies. Personally, I find all of this language unhelpful. I much prefer envisioning our actions as fields of force, moving either toward life or toward death. These are not totalizing declarations about your personhood; they just honestly describe the fact that when you do something, ALL of you does it. Your body didn’t somehow put a fast one over you, like it’s working for another team. The body is not a lower form, or even a separate form, of identity. Paul was not attempting to separate us into warring chambers of soul and body. Moltmann argues that Paul intended to describe the difference between two ways of life. It’s a far better use of energy to think about which way you’re following at any given moment, rather than deflecting all failures to some strange, dualistic notion of your rebellious flesh.
And, since I’ve had zombies on the brain, it can’t go unmentioned that the phrase “death instinct” certainly lends itself to imagine all the ways the zombie is a projection of our own self-destructive tendencies. Who doesn’t fear the human monster who wants only our own destruction? As I said at church, this, coupled with their existential emptiness of purpose, is the reason why it’s so appealing to grab a skillet and knock their heads off. It’s rejection of purposelessness and self-destruction writ large. (Does that count as a “profound exposure of misery?!”)
by danielle on May 13, 2011
So Journey is doing a series on zombies, and I wanted to expand some ideas I mentioned on last Sunday’s first conversation. (If you’re completely baffled about why in the world we’re talking about zombies, read my post about it at Patheos.)
It’s quite surprising how many philosophical books, articles and papers have been written in relation to the zombie genre. I found this fantastic little quote from Zombies, Vampires and Philosophy most intriguing:
Whereas the vampire embodies a form of Nietzchean super-humanity, beyond good and evil, the zombie goes even further beyond…The zombie is sub-Nietzchean, sub-animal, really: as K. Silem Mohammad suggests it is a Spinozan force of decomposition, a completely non-moral and completely liberated interaction of matter with other matter.”
This made a whole host of things clear to me in one fell swoop. First, about vampires: In the vampire genre, you are almost always dealing with questions and issues of sex. (Does this now explain why vampires are so popular with teens?!) Whether certain sources deal with those issues with any sense of aplomb, I’ll leave to your own judgment and withhold my own. But vampires are enticing because they are superhuman. They are fast, and strong, and immortal, and extremely intelligent. I was having coffee with one of my favorite teenagers and he was telling me about his latest girl troubles. He said something like, “It was all going fine until she started comparing me to Edward Cullen. Then I thought, ‘I can’t take this kind of pressure!’ and I broke it off.” Poor teen guys of today- they have to compete with Nietzchean superhumans.
Anyway, onto zombies. In the zombie genre, you are almost always dealing with questions and issues of death. And inside death, of course, there are a host of other questions- identity, purpose, etc.- which is why there seem to be endless philosophical angles at which to approach it.
I was specifically struck by the phrase “a Spinozan force of decomposition.” The 17th century Dutch Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza has a theory called composition vs. decomposition in which he posits that when someone or something encounters another someone or something, there are two basic outcomes. Either they come together to form a more powerful whole (composition), or one of the elements dominates the interaction and decomposes the other, destroying the cohesion of its parts. When seen in zombie theology terms, this makes absolute sense. (And it also, as an added bonus, gives you a great mental picture to understand Spinoza’s theory.)
Zombies are the purest possible example of Spinozan decomposition. You touch a zombie, you begin to erode. The resurrected Christ, on the other hand, is the purest example of Spinozan composition. You encounter him, and you begin to live.
To put it even more plainly, despair is an act of decomposition, while hope is an act of composition (and recomposition, and recomposition).
When we set up the “spectrum” of humanity for the purposes of our conversation Sunday, we put zombie-hood at one end, “normal” humanity in the middle, and resurrected humanity at the other end. This is of course just to help us talk through the idea, but what I meant to communicate is that whatever zombies are, they are human minus. They are missing something- call it spirit, or soul, or life, or rational thinking. Whatever it is, they are disembodied bodies. They are isolated matter. In the same way, the resurrected Christ is human plus. The stories of post-resurrection sightings tell us things like “He ate a piece of fish!” and “I touched his scars!” and “He just walked through the wall!” and “He just rose up into the air.” Whatever else these stories mean to tell us, they are trying to say that he is both as he was (physical, with a working stomach) and yet more than what he was (whatever it is you call that other crazy stuff).
To put this theologically, at Easter, what came together in the person of Jesus was a more powerful whole; not simply a human made alive again, but a human who became something entirely new: a resurrected human. Resurrection is the most robust composition possible, the most powerful whole. Easter is the event in which we witness the best and most extreme example of Spinozan composition: when the life of Christ came together with the force of death, what arose was not decomposition but resurrection, an entity that makes both death and life something more than it was previously.
*a brief note about the photograph above: it came from an Austin, TX news article about some pranksters who figured out how to hack into electronic road signs and change the messages. Since Austin/UT is where Zombieland’s Columbus hails, I think the prank is only fitting.
by danielle on May 9, 2011
Happy Monday, all. Today’s Moltmann minute comes from Sun of Righteousness, Arise! p.67:
The Catholic liturgy for Easter Eve enjoins the reading of the first creation narrative, Genesis 1. That is a wonderful sign: the world begins with a ‘resurrection.’ It is called out of the darkness of chaos into the light of the living cosmos. Thus on the very first day of creation–in the midst of the old creation–the work of the new creation flashes up. In this way creation acquires an eschatological character from the beginning, for in this way it can be seen as a great ‘promise’ on God’s part. With this, its future in the kingdom of God is created. All created things are true promises of their completion. Creation out of chaos is like a resurrection, and the resurrection from the power of death is like a new creation. The God who makes the dead live is the same God who calls into existence the things that do not exist. The God who has raised Jesus from teh dead is the creator of the new being of everything created. Resurrection and creation belong together, for the raising of the dead and the annihilation of death are viewed–and rightly so–not only as surmounting the consequences of the Fall, but also as the comsummation of creation-in-the-beginning. In both resurrection and creation the negative is negated and the positive perfected.
I appreciate how Moltmann links creation to resurrection. We often hold them so far apart, and in so doing resurrection becomes something of a necessary house-cleaning to the fall of creation gone awry. I hate to see resurrection limited to that, or relegated to mere clean-up. To see creation ex nihilo, out of nothingness, as God’s first act of resurrection, provides a much richer paradigm for understanding both events. As Moltmann explains, joining them together in this way makes resurrection not just clean-up crew, but more importantly a fulfillment of a promise given in the very beginning, a fulfillment laying dormant in creation itself. That promise is beautifully described by imagining the negative being negated and the positive perfected. Isn’t that a fantastic line for understanding the coming future of God? That Moltmann. Zingers under his sleeve at all times.
by danielle on May 5, 2011
Hi all- A few days late, here are some weekly thoughts from our German friend. Today’s excerpt comes from Jesus Christ for Today’s World.
When we talk about Christ’s resurrection from the dead we are not talking about a fact. We are talking about a process. We are talking in one and the same breath about the foundation, the future, and the practical exercise of God’s liberation of men and women, and his redemption of the world. So what we can know historically about Christ’s resurrection must not be abstracted from the question of what we can hope from it, and what we have to do in its name.”
One of the (many) problems with modern theology is that it tends to get tied up in factual questions, spending all energy proving or disproving something while overlooking the reason why the event means something in the first place. I have no problem discussing my view of the factual reality of the resurrection (it happened–really and truly) but I do think Moltmann puts us on the right path by talking not about fact but about process. What God put into play that Easter morning was a story of redemption that went further than we had imagined before. It brings hope to the past, present and future of history. As communities of faith gather around Eastertide stories of Jesus showing himself to the disciples, we can get off track and talk about what kind of body he had, or we can talk about what we can hope from the story of Christ’s resurrected body, and what we are now called to do in response. Seems to me a much more interesting and productive question.
Danielle is the pastor of Journey Church in Dallas and author of The Boundary-Breaking God: An Unfolding Story of Hope and Promise. She speaks often on issues of theology, church leadership and emerging communities of faith.
Follow @DGShroyer on Twitter
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009