Symptomatic Theology: Yet More Christology 11-15

And it continues…these are answers to the question “Who is Jesus Christ to you?”

11) The first Human Being – but we hope not the last; a paragon

I’ve said this in other ways above, but this time I touch on the idea that I have that the path toward God through Christ, the path of becoming more and more Christ-like, is also the path of becoming more genuine human beings. I don’t think that Christ was/is a special case, necessarily. He spoke too much about his disciples doing greater things than he did because God will be in them as God was in Christ. He trained them, not just to believe in him, but to believe God, and to do what he did in the world, while he was with them and after he was gone. Jesus preached about the kingdom of God, but we preach about Jesus. I wish we spent more time preaching about what Jesus preached about, what he told his disciples to preach about.

12) The Word; that is, the communication or transmission of God’s self

My idea here was really supported by some reading we did for Theology I. Sally McFague argues that Jesus is the parable of God, and I think this is very true. Jesus is the expression of God through a medium – that medium is parable, embodied in Jesus’ self. Jesus is the Word in the sense that words are symbols – they do not only exist in themselves as ink on a page or vibrations in the air but they also represent something which cannot be expressed without them. I can’t transmit who I am to you – I can only talk about myself, and you can only listen, and what passes between us has to take the form of words, or other forms of communication that are sub-verbal (limbic resonance, etc.) But I can’t communicate me. There’s always something between us. A Mediator, if you will.

13) The power by which our concepts of God are put to death – the death of God, as it were

I think its incredibly important that Jesus was crucified – not because I believe that he was an atoning sacrifice for the debt of sin, because I reject that theology entirely and vigorously – but because it matters how the story progresses. It matters that the king of kings had no throne, no army, no stronghold, no real authority except over evil spirits and over those who believed in him. It matters that in Christ God was killed. So I ask myself the question, in the crucifixion, what died? What had to die? One answer I have to that is that our concepts of God had to die. Our concept of God as avenging warrior, or as king in the way we have kings, as one who comes to punish the unjust and raise up the just. Is it that God is vulnerable? Is it that God will not save militarily or politically, or that God cannot? But if nothing else, when we say “I am safe because God makes me safe”, there has to be a twinge – God didn’t even make Jesus safe. Not at the end. There has to be something else going on here. Regardless, it seems like triumphalism isn’t really an option anymore, and certainly not killing or oppressing in God’s name.

14) The instrument by which the demonic activity of the Powers is laid bare and shown to be demonstrably evil and destructive and the radical demonstration of God’s rejection of those Powers

This one’s not very well-worded, and it shows that I love Walter Wink’s theology. It comes, for me, in part from the question “who killed Jesus?” The answer of course is us. But then again, there are lots of good people we don’t kill, and not everyone acts that way all the time. There is something, though, that makes the world the unjust place it is. Call it sin, call it fallen-ness, call it the Powers, call it patriarchy – there is some force that bends us toward evil. Wink talks about corporate spirituality (in terms of a community or society, not necessarily a corporation per se) and how this spirituality can bend toward God and the kingdom (which Wink partially associates with the common good) or toward the demonic (which Wink partially associates with violence and exploitation). In a post-crucifixion theology, we just can’t say that the authorities of this world are good, that they have our best interests at heart, that they are redemptive. Nor can we say that we are good, that we have everyone’s best interests at heart, that we are redemptive. We can’t because there is this force for evil, that moves through violence, and we embody that force. We are the enemy. At the same time, we are the siblings of Christ, the children of God. Maybe God rejects the enemy in us but embraces the child in us. Maybe the enemy has to die so that the child can live.

15) The demonstration of the Third Way in his time and place as the only means by which violence can be overcome and evil resisted without resorting to violence and evil

Yeah, I’m a pacifist, though not a particularly good one. And yeah, I think the arguments in favor of Christians engaging in violence are feeble at best. The Third Way is another term Wink uses, though it may not be his originally, and it is now in wider use. Essentially it is resisting evil with good. Rather than fleeing from evil, or hiding from it, or withdrawing from the world to avoid it, and rather than turning to fight evil by the means that evil chooses (namely, violence), it is the path of resistance-in-love. See Gandhi. You can espouse this for a number of reasons – or for all of them! First, Jesus very clearly commands us to love our enemies, pray for those who persecute us, turn the other cheek, etc. Second, Jesus embodies this principle in gaining what we say in faith is his victory by being crucified and not fighting back even to save his own life. Third, only through nonviolence can you resist evil and violence without becoming what you resist. Fourth, your means and your ends are identical. Through violence, you end is violence. Through nonviolence, your end is not-violent. Fifth, by resisting nonviolently, you leave the door open for the system or person you are resisting, at any time, to turn and become your ally and friend. Not the case if you’re attacking them. Sixth, you can use the Third Way even when you are apparently helpless or unarmed. I can come up with a lot more reasons, but I’ll stop there. You get the idea.

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