March 13, 2006

Three Squares a Day for the brain...

Charlene and I have been working our way through N.T. Wright's Christian Origins and the Question of God. He's written three volumes (so far) of densely-reasoned and annotated history—splendid meaty satisfying stuff that's giving us a lot to think about. (And an utter OASIS of good sense if you have ever wandered through the strange deserts of modern "Jesus scholarship.") It's too soon to blog about it, and I may likely never be so presumptuous as to even try. But highly recommended.

You can get a bit of the flavor of Wright and his thoughts in this lecture, Decoding The Da Vinci Code...

....In fact, the contemporary myth gets things exactly the wrong way round. It isn’t the case that the canonical New Testament is politically and socially quiescent, colluding with empire, while the Jesus whom we meet in the Nag Hammadi texts and similar documents is politically and socially subversive, so dangerous that he had to be suppressed. It’s the other way round, and this may be among the most telling points we have to recognize for today. You may salve your own conscience by embracing Gnosticism, by telling yourself how very wicked the world is and how you are going to escape it once and for all by following the path of spiritual self-discovery and enlightenment. But if Caesar takes any notice at all, all he will do is sneer at you and go on his way to yet more triumphs of sheer power. And if that happened in the second century, we can be sure it’s precisely what’s happening today. Heidegger and Bultmann couldn’t prevent Hitler; Derrida and Foucault and their numerous disciples can’t do anything to stop the new empires of today. Certainly those who are advocating a new kind of do-it-yourself spirituality, and claiming that Jesus is somehow in or behind it all, cut no ice on the political front.

The challenge comes, therefore, at the level of worldview. Yes, of course the church has often got it wrong, including in its views of women (where it has, basically, failed to see what was there in the New Testament itself). Yes, the Constantinian settlement was deeply ambiguous; but they knew it at the time, and it was only with the high Middle Ages that things went so badly wrong. Yes, Christianity has — especially in the 20th century — pretended that it’s a “faith,” unrelated to history. But its historical roots are rock solid, and the faith that is based on them is not a loose, “whatever-works-for-you” postmodern construct. This faith, and the worldview which it generates, are the heart of the challenge with which I want now to conclude.

3. Conclusion
Let me sum up this lecture in the following way. The Da Vinci Code is a symptom of something much bigger, a lightning rod which has throbbed with the electricity of the postmodern western world.

One of the basic fault lines in the contemporary Western world is the line between neo-Gnosticism on the one hand and the challenge of Jesus on the other. Please note that, despite strenuous attempts to make this line coincide with the current sharp left-right polarization of American culture and politics, it simply doesn’t. Nor, for that matter, does it coincide with the polarizations of British or European culture either. So what is this real, deep polarization which runs through our world?..... (Thanks to
Posted by John Weidner at March 13, 2006 12:47 PM
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