According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Confronting the End of Meaning: Crucifixion and the Critique of Signs and Wonders


Francisco de Zurbaran , Agnus Dei , 1636 - 40 , San Diego Museum of Art , California , USA


3 Reasons the Human Jesus is Important
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2015/03/3-reasons-human-jesus-is-important/

by Peter Enns
March 31, 2015

Guest Blogger Jared Byas

This week Christians celebrate the crazy idea that God became human.

While affirming this in theory, my evangelical upbringing was very uncomfortable with the idea of  a Human Jesus. We had to admit Jesus was human but that didn’t mean we had to like it.

After all, the God Jesus is where the magic happens. Human Jesus sometimes muddles the important stuff, takes our eyes off the ball about heaven and whatnot. But here, I submit 3 reasons why Human Jesus is important to remember:


1. God gets that we are a mess.

Jesus experienced the love of his mother and the betrayal of his best friends. He felt the beautiful sensuality of getting his feet wiped with the hair of a young woman and the tortuous pain of getting his feet nailed to a cross.

In seminary it was through seeing Jesus as unapologetically human that I was able to see that God doesn’t want me to become superhuman but wants me to be a loved person.

Christianity isn’t an instruction manual for how to be perfect like God but a story about how God became like us. And that’s a crucial difference.


2. God is willing to join the mess.

God doesn’t mind “looking bad” for the sake of those God loves.

If you want to be in relationship with broken humans, you run the risk of looking broken yourself. God doesn’t seem to care. Why do we?

The streak I see in Human Jesus is the holy being so involved in the lives of the unholy that people are uncomfortable with how, from the outside, it’s hard to tell the difference. I see a God who, for the sake of love would risk reputation, trading in “omnipotent” for “glutton” and “drunk.”


3. Because of #1 & #2, I expect a very human-looking Bible.

If the same God that came to earth as an unimpressive carpenter from an underperforming people group also provided us a book, I would expect it to look very human. Would it run the risk of looking ordinary, unrefined, and altogether human?

Yes. Point taken. The Bible looks a lot like Jesus.


* * * * * * * * * * *


Confronting the End of Meaning:
Crucifixion and the Critique of Signs and Wonders
http://peterrollins.net/2015/03/confronting-the-end-of-meaning-crucifixion-and-the-critique-of-signs-and-wonders/

by Peter Rollins
March 03, 2015

Last night Tony Jones had a launch for his latest book Did God Kill Jesus. The book itself is an excellent and very readable overview of the various ways that the church has understood the meaning and significance of the Crucifixion. Partly motivated by Trip Fuller’s statement, “God has to be at least as nice as Jesus,” he goes further than simply describing the basic approaches and endeavours to find a way of understanding the Crucifixion that prevents it [from] being mired in a theology that justifies violence, anti-Semitism, exclusion, and political oppression.

In the book Jones views the incarnation as signifying a fundamental shift in the way God relates to human beings (shifting God from a place of sympathy regarding humans to empathy). The infinite lives into the finite and tastes the existential predicament of human subjectivity. Including condemnation by the law, oppression and a sense of alienation (Crucifixion).

The main problem I have with this approach is that Tony continues to see the Crucifixion as a meaningful event. It is an event that must be integrated into a certain apologetic system. An approach that generates so many of the problems that Tony brings up in the book… how to make an event that seems to defy everything we think of the Absolute, fit with it.


Below I have taken an excerpt from The Divine Magician that outlines a critique of this idea. It begins by referencing a previous argument concerning “freedom from the sacred-object” and closes before I go on to draw the consequences of the position I outline. Both of which are important to the position. But I hope it at least introduces the idea that Crucifixion might operate as a rupture in meaning.


This freedom from the sacred-object also spells freedom from the need to find an overarching meaning to life. Indeed, the apostle Paul directly attacks the idea of Christianity offering a system of meaning in his attacks on what he called “signs” and “wisdom.” Signs and wisdom represent two ways in which we seek meaning. Through either apologetic argument or the occurrence of unusual or unexplainable events, we want to find ways to justify our beliefs.

To the Jew a "Stumbling Block"

While the affirmation of signs and wisdom to justify a particular religious position is part-and-parcel of religious discourse, Paul sets his sights firmly against them when critiquing the Jewish community of his day for seeking the former and the Greeks for wanting the latter,

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom,but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

What’s fascinating here is the way Paul sets up the Crucifixion as the very opposite of a sign or wisdom. From the perspective of both, the Crucifixion can strike one as nothing but empty nonsense. Why? Because this method of execution symbolized a divine curse. More than this, the idea of an innocent man, let alone God, being murdered in such horrific terms strikes against the idea of justice, reason, or goodness.

It is a meaningless, absurd, and offensive event, something theologian Paul Hessert picks up in his book Christ and the End of Meaning,

Anyone executed by hanging was seen in Jewish tradition as cursed by God. The sign of such a death was taken as divine corroboration of the administration of human justice. In other words, God was seen as acting in this sign-event to give the victim “what was coming to him.”

As that which runs against the very idea of a sign, Hessert argues that what we’re confronted with is a type of profound offense to reason:

The affront is not merely the case of the ignominious, brutal death of Jesus . . . [it is] to the whole religious outlook that searches for signs. . . . Preaching “Christ crucified” is not merely saying that bad things happen to good people but that God’s approach to us belies our expectations.

In other words, the event of the Crucifixion is actually the very contradiction of our expectations. This contradiction is much more than the liberal concept that the cross represents the idea of a good person being killed because he stood up against injustice. It is rather a direct confrontation of all that we think religion and God is about—it is that which breaks apart “our sense of reality.”

To Greek Stoicism "foolishness"

In the scripture passage quoted previously, Paul connects the desire for wisdom with the Greeks and their development of classical philosophy (the “love of wisdom”). The Greeks were not so much interested in signs, but rather with the eternal realm of ideas. They sought an underlying rational structure that would make sense of the passing, decaying nature of the world and render it all meaningful.

The preeminent teachers of wisdom at the time of Jesus were the Stoics. Stoicism was the ancient Hellenistic philosophy that emphasized an emotionally balanced life based upon a will that was in accord to nature, a strong moral temperament, and a deeply rational outlook.

These teachers would often compete with Christian preachers for an audience and argued that behind the chaos of our lived experience there was a harmonious center, an order that could, in principle, provide a meaning for everything. The Stoics saw the brokenness and decay of the world as a type of illusion or temporary condition. While they had a strong moral theory, there was a broad acceptance of the status quo. In this way, Stoicism was able to become the philosophical outlook of the cultural elite in the Roman Empire without actually threatening some of the more barbaric and inequitable practices of the day.

The Stoics would have had little problem in accepting the liberal reading of Christ’s crucifixion as an example of one who faced injustice and suffering with [a kind of Stoic] peace and resoluteness. Indeed this Jesus would have fitted very neatly into their worldview.

For Paul, however, there was something much more profound and offensive taking place in the idea of “Christ crucified.” Indeed, Paul was reading the Crucifixion against this stoic vision of Jesus. For Paul, the Crucifixion was that which defied reduction to a sign or system of meaning. As Hessert notes,

“Christ crucified” makes no sense. Instead of linking God to the enveloping rationality that absorbs or even overrides the passing contradictions of goodness, it focuses attention on the contradiction itself. That is, “Christ crucified” is no key to the meaning of life and human events. It is a problem to meaning, a problem requiring explanation.

---

Shoah
noun

1. (in secular Judaism) a Hebrew word for holocaust (sense 2) See alsoChurban (sense 2)
Word Origin literally: destruction

---

Holocaust
[hol-uh-kawst, hoh-luh-]

noun

1. a great or complete devastation or destruction, especially by fire.
2. a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering.
3. the systematic mass slaughter of European Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II
4. any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life.

---

Hessert notes that the Shoah operates in a similar way within Jewish thought. For the Shoah is that horrific, unspeakable event that ruptures and renders offensive any attempt to make it into a divine sign or element of wider rationality. This is why the term Shoah is often preferred over Holocaust. For the latter is derived from the Greek holókauston, a term that has connections with the notion of religious sacrifice and thus religious significance. In contrast, the Shoah simply means destruction and thus lacks any justificatory undertones.

The attempt to provide a cosmic meaning for the Shoah is not simply misplaced, it is a profound offense. The event stands as an affront to all such strategies. In terms of the European intellectual tradition, the First World War can be seen to act in a similar way. One of the features of this horrific event is found in the way that the war disrupted all our attempts to tie it into some deeper meaning or significance.

It is precisely this connection with meaning, religious or otherwise, that the Crucifixion of Christ cuts against.

Once we grasp this idea of Christ representing a break with [Jewish] signs and [Greek] wisdom, we can begin to perceive how the actual existing church has fundamentally betrayed the scandal of the Crucifixion, effectively making it into a type of Stoic doctrine that doesn’t challenge our world, but confirms it.

In contrast, for Paul, “Christ crucified” is that event that defies all attempts at being reduced to some system of meaning.

It is a type of antisign that fractures religious signs.

An antiwisdom that confounds human wisdom.

A nuclear event that blows apart all of our apologetic enclosures.





Paul and the Crucifixion: Neither Modern Nor Postmodern in Radical Theology

I have been participating in the "Rupture, Revelation, Revolution" classes each week and must share what Badiou's "Event and Being" means to me on a rudimentary level. I say "rudimentary" because I am not a philosopher but am interested in the creation of a new postmodern philosophical language (or linguistic scaffolding structure) in which to inspect and/or construct/deconstruct a new postmodern language for present day theology. 

Moreover, last summer I met and studied under Alain Badiou at the insistence of a new friend who was conducting podcasts with Pete Rollins and John Caputo out of my office from the week before. And well that I did, because Badiou was the kind of free-ranging thinker whose system concepts bode a greater expansiveness to my own enlightenment/modernistic background from which I had been attempting a resurrection from through the utilization of postmodern thought.

Anyway, today's blog article is a crude summary of what we have been talking about the past 2 weeks which I hope helps when reading Pete Rollins article following immediately below.

---

"I have been taking a 6 week primer on philosophic radical theology using Paul's theology as a type of profound revelation that ruptures one's previous world systems by displacing and deeply revolutionizing all succeeding thoughts and acts against past cherished paradigms personally or sociological ingrained in society.

By using Alain Badiou's "Event and Being" as a juxtaposition we moved last week from the poet/prophet act of receiving (or discerning) revelation (the Event) to this week's transformative stages of Being which becomes radically transformative in the Christ event for the Apostle Paul (even as it is for the Christian believer).

As such, all past hermeneutics interpreting Jesus must radically fall away for Paul as he became consumed in Jesus as a rupturing Event to his life's theology, mission, and identity. Similarly, post-modernism's anthropological-existential hermeneutics may now displace all previous enlightenment and modernistic theologies themselves having become radically transformed upon the very foundation these systems had built for their own demise.

In lay terms this means that even as Paul was profoundly changed by Jesus in doctrine, service, and identity so will the new postmodern Christian become profoundly moved fundamentally to his/her state of being with its acquisitions and proclivities. And as individuals are changed so will the church in its doctrine, mission, and identity.

Thus, Paul no longer sought to fit Jesus into his bible but the bible around Jesus. (In existential terms Paul was the one to be fit around Jesus even as the Christian believer becomes radically transformed in the same way). He knew the reality of his experience (the subjective response to the objective) and though he could not explain it he knew he must become neither Jew nor Greek but God's servant.

Even so, this is the philosophical scaffolding of a new theology that brings God's kingdom into the present through gracious acts of servitude towards others when overwhelmed by Spirit-filled revelatory light and illumination. A new consciousness which sees world systems and Jewish or Christian laws as antithetical to Jesus' apocalyptic event and being.

Correspondingly, this becomes the scary stuff that we most fear because it radically changes us should we allow it to do so. But without this personal admittance it cannot displace nor disrupt nor revolutionize the very person seeking to be claimed by the event itself.

Likewise must theology flow in its disruption to all past theologies that it might proclaim the event through a new essence of being. An essence which deconstructs old-line systems and traditions in order to reconstruct the self to the newer radicalized rectitudes and discontinuities obtained by the rupturing revelation to consumptive lives, routines, and activities.

R.E. Slater
March 31, 2015


Comments

Anon: "I concur with all of this. I hope you'll keep us/me updated as you move through the course. Sounds interesting and wise.+


Myself: "Thanks. It's even more radical than this. I am looking for a new philosophical framework on which theology might further expand and transform the bible beyond perspectival hermeneutics to radically lived kingdom lives. Lives as very poets and prophets themselves. I met Badiou and studied with him last summer but even though I didn't understand it I felt there was in his way of thinking a way to reinterpret the bible beyond itself. Moreover, it's also a continuation of reviewing what radical theology can become stripped of western thinking and infused in Christ. Basically it's left of liberalism but center on with Jesus at its core."


* * * * * * * * * *




Paul and the Crucifixion: Neither Modern, Nor Postmodern
http://peterrollins.net/2015/03/paul-and-the-crucifixion-neither-modern-nor-postmodern/

by Peter Rollins
March 03, 2015

As some of you know, I’m currently teaching a course with Tripp Fuller that explores the turn to Paul found among atheist philosophers. In contrast to the “New Perspective on Paul” found in contemporary theology, people like Badiou, Zizek and Taubes are celebrating a militant, political Paul who provides a model for combating postmodernism.

One of the questions that has come up during the course concerns why on earth these political atheist thinkers would find an ally in Paul when they share nothing of his dogma or commitment to the largely conservative, pietistic community that claims his legacy. More than this, the Resurrection of Christ is Paul’s overriding belief, it is the sun around which everything else orbits.

How then can thinkers who view this part of the Jesus story as a fable, possibly champion the controversial apostle?

In order to approach an answer we have to briefly reflect on how Paul held the belief in Christ’s resurrection. Bearing in mind the centrality of the belief, it is hard not to be struck by the fact that he doesn’t actually argue for it in the traditional way. Indeed he specifically claimed that the event was foolishness in terms of reason, and a stumbling block for those who sought a sign. In this way Paul neither resembles the modern apologist who employs philosophy to back up his claims, nor the postmodernist who sees her claims as relative.

Paul can’t be placed into either of these camps, and instead opens up a different mode of discourse: Proclamation. For Badiou, this opens up the figure of the apostle over-and-against the figure of the philosopher and the prophet.

To understand the atheist philosophers’ enlisting of Paul we have to understand the nature of this third discourse in relation to the statement “Christ is Risen.” The main thing that strikes us when reading Paul’s claim is the way that it isn’t a theory to defend, it is rather an event that is proclaimed and verified in the formation of what Paul Tillich would call, the New Being.

In Badiou’s excellent book on Paul he uses the example of how the belief in the gas chambers used by the Nazis function for us today.

The claim that millions of Jews where executed in these gas chambers is an historical one that is open to verification and falsification. However the way that this claim functions for us cannot be reduced to this level. When someone attempts to draw us into a debate about whether or not these murders really happened, we not only refuse to enter in, we expose how the very reduction of the event to a type of detached historical debate is already a betrayal of the event it signals.

For most of the world the historical belief in the mass murder of Jews in Nazi death camps articulates an event that demands an unconditional stance. The historical record is encountered as something that makes an absolute claim on us. It reflects a horror that we must attempt to ensure never happens again. The contingent historical reality is thus a site of demand. It houses an event that cannot be reduced to the location it was birthed in. An event that is eclipsed the moment we treat the gas Chambers in a cold, detached way.

For Paul, the resurrection is a historical reality, but he holds it like one might hold the belief in the gas chambers, i.e. the event housed in the historical claim is not something one debates, holds lightly or defends. For Paul it is proclaimed in the life of the one caught up in the event. For Paul, the idea of playing into the Greek discourse of reason is not simply misplaced, but a fundamental betrayal of the event. In a brilliant reflection from St. Paul, Badiou shows that even Pascal failed to grasp this in its entirety.

This is analogous to the event of love. A contingent, imperfect other becomes, for us, the site for the love-event. The love-event is birthed from the other, but the lover doesn’t engage in apologetics to defend their claim that their beloved is the most beautiful person in the world. Yet neither are they an apathetic relativist about their beloved. That contingent person who they met through a random set of events becomes the site for that which cannot be reduced to a mere philosophical argument. [cf., Something I explore here.]

To grasp this means that one can begin to see why some radical political philosophers are drawn to Paul. For Paul is a clear example of a militant who is committed to a truth-event, a truth-event that is based in the world but that is not reducible to it.

This is powerfully portrayed in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. In one particularly incredible scene the firebrand apostle is preaching the resurrected Christ when Jesus confronts him and calls him a liar. When Paul pursues him Jesus says, “I was never crucified, I never rose from the dead. I’m a man like everyone else.” In response to this news Paul retorts, “I don’t care if you’re Jesus or not. The resurrected Jesus is what will save the world and that’s what matters.”

In this scene Paul is faced with the reality that the historical claim that birthed his vision of a universal community (of neither Jew nor Gentile), is false. But rather than despair he thanks Jesus. For he knows that the event is what counts. The historical claim opened up the way for the event, but the event is what counts.

In the same way, a person transformed by love, but who later finds out that their lover was a scoundrel and a fraud, can still be faithful to the transformed life that arose from the love. [sic, not that Jesus was either rogue or scondrel]

For Paul there is probably as little doubt about a historical resurrection than there is doubt for us about the gas chambers in Nazi Germany. But the resuscitation of a body is not what Paul is concerned about: he proclaims Resurrection (with a capital “R”). This means that he proclaims New Being.

Whether one thinks that the historical site of the event is actual or not, one can be caught up in the event and committed to fighting for the universal community that is opened up by the event.

So then, for people like Badiou, Paul provides a great ancient example of what we so need today, a figure committed to fighting for a universal community. A figure who doesn’t get bogged down in modernist apologetics or in postmodern relativism.


jesus meet saint paul ----from temptation




* * * * * * * * * *


Philosopher's on Paul
http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2015/03/10/philosophers-on-paul/

by Tripp Fuller
March 10, 2015

Why in the world are philosophers getting so excited about Paul these days?

Well I would tell you the answer but Tripp and Pete decided to do an entire High Gravity class investigating this turn to Paul among political philosophers. Last week the class kicked off with an initial session on the Bible with Daniel Kirk and now in the second session we turn to the philosophers. This podcast includes the general introduction to Paul and the philosophers that kicked off session two. Check it out and think about joining us for the rest of the class.

In the second half of this session we discussed Jacob Taubes‘ seminal work The Political Theology of Paul. His lectures were what paved the way for two of the most talked about texts in political philosophy. In weeks 3 and 4 we will walk through Alain Badiou‘s Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism. In weeks 5 and 6 we will do a close reading of Slavoj Zizek‘s The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity.

The class includes over 10 hours of live-streamed nerdiness for just 30 bucks. Each session will be a live streamed video-cast w/ some introductory remarks about the thinkers, conversational walk-through the texts, and interaction with the participants. Following the session it will be available for download on the class page along with links to the archived video, supplemental reading material, and the class discussion board. Each session will begin at 6pm pst (9pm est). Go HERE to join.

Make sure you check out our sponsor Deidox Films. They create short films takes which show how different disciples in different walks of life embody their faith. If you like using films in your teaching, preaching or learning then get wise and click on over.

You can also check out the downloadable package of three High Gravity classes Tripp and Peter Rollins taught together. It includes all the audio from Atheism for Lent, Radical Theology, and Christology classes totally over 27 hours of material for 50 bucks.

Head over HERE for info about the March 17th Theology Nerd Bootcamp in Chicago before #PYM15.