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God is dead. Can God rise?

God is dead. Can God rise?

David Creech, a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the humanities at Loyola University Chicago, offers a challenging essay titled “Good Friday. God is Dead”on this blog Dying Sparrows.

He begins:

In my introductory theology courses I organize the syllabus around the three legged stool of Anglicanism. Good theology, I tell my students, will engage text, tradition, and reason (which seems to me to be very closely related to experience). On any given question each must be given its proper due, lest the stool wobble and ultimately fail. This Lent, however, I have been reflecting on the fact that each of the legs themselves are incredibly unstable. The stool, it turns out, does not stand up to scrutiny.

And he ends:

No matter how careful we are in our deliberations, the work is little more than individual and societal projections on material that is more or less archaic and irrelevant. Theology may be helpful for critical self-reflection but I am not sure about much else. However, the big problem is not for theology as a discipline. There is still much to be examined and dissected–histories to reconstruct, ideas to be unpacked, theologies to be contextualized. What is scarier to me are the implications of this post (and they do scare me). I am not just talking about the limits of our understanding but also how we encounter and understand the divine. If text, tradition, and reason/experience are unreliable guides, where then shall we turn?

The big question for me as the sun sets on Good Friday is whether or not I should be waiting for a resurrection. God is dead. Can God rise?

Now go read the middle and tell us what you think.


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Clint Davis

Mary Magdalene is very dear to me, forgive me my extravagance, Bill. She, the Blessed Mother, and St. Brigid of Kildare are on my icon shelf, and those ladies can get things done! The Lord has blessed us in his saints, truly.

Rod Gillis

Why do folks get their gaiters in a gaggle over this kind of thing? Example, item 2 in the full article, historical accuracy, W.F. Albright theorized decades ago about the gradual infiltration, rather than crashing walls, of the promised land. The killing of innocents has verisimilitude to everything we know about Herod the Great, and Quirinius did conduct a census, though not the one mentioned by Luke. The biblical writers reflected on history and cast it in mythological terms. But anyone who has been to Philadelphia or the Plains of Abraham understands the relationship to history and national mythology.

Bill Dilworth

“Most Beloved Lady”?

I was confused about this rather extravagant title (which I’d never heard used for St Mary Magdalene) so I googled it. Turns out that, at least in America, that distinction belongs to Helen Keller (although a fair number of those using the term believe it applies to the Blessed Virgin Mary).

Murdoch Matthew

After offering an excellent summary of the problems with the content of our thought, David Creech confesses:

I find that I am not a very reliable interpreter of the meaning of life. –David Creech

Well, there is no meaning in life, in the raw events. (What did the dinosaurs mean?) Meaning is a story humans tell, seeking patterns in their experience.

In an interview, scholar and minister Tony Nugent goes into the mythological roots of our stories. Dr. Nugent concludes:

Many Christian theologians see the crucifixion and resurrection as a spiritual story rather than a literal one–a story about hope beyond despair, redemption and new life. . . . I consider myself to be a Christian in a spiritual sense, not in a doctrinal sense. This means my Christianity is defined by values, spiritual practices, and faith rather than belief in a specific set of doctrinal agreements. Before the 4th Century, when orthodoxy was established, Christianity was characterized by heterodoxy — many different forms of belief.

If the resurrection of Christ didn’t literally happen, that shouldn’t have any bearing on whether life now is worth living or how we live. From my vantage point, where values and practices are the heart of Christianity, the contradiction lies in people like our recent president who think it’s okay to practice torture and yet call themselves Christians. Who would Jesus waterboard? Christ’s torture and execution remind us that we are called to put an end to such practices in human affairs. From the standpoint of my Christianity, right-wing evangelical fundamentalism is really the opposite of what Christ was about. Those who subscribe to an intolerant, arrogant, inhumane form of Christianity are following a religion that is literally antichrist. [my emphases–JMM]

Thanks to the Café for posting David Creech’s useful reflections. I suspect that we’re down to where Jesus left us: “By their fruits . . .”

Clint Davis

Before there was any of this, there was water, oil, bread, wine. Wash, anoint, eat, drink. These are the only things that are reliable. Light the lamps at night, greet the Sun in the morning and the Moon in her phases, celebrate the seasons and times, tell the stories, honor the saints and the ancestors. Be with the Church, witness to Christ’s love and work together for the justice of his Kingdom. The texts and witnesses are products of their time and passions, read them that way and move forward, see what they really wanted to say when they didn’t “get it” and instead said some awful things, and know that the Pearl is hidden in that mucky field somewhere because the Holy Spirit herself put it there. God is Spirit, the Spirit blows where it will, this all requires an entirely lighter touch that we want it to, because we want to grasp on so tight, but even the Most Beloved Lady heard the Risen Lord say, “Do not hold onto me, for I have not yet gone back to the Father.” Like her, run to witness that you have seen the Master, keep writing and telling, singing and praying, blessing and sanctifying, witnessing and clothing yourself in the power which the Lord has poured out upon the Church, and in all things, keep going. But this anxiety and challenge are of this world, and the things of this world are always passing away.

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