Sunday, July 11, 2010
Dawkins, Spong and me at dinner
I'm about halfway through "The God Delusion," and I find myself wanting to reread some Spong.
Dawkins happens to be dwelling on the idea of "body" versus "soul" or "spirit" -- that of individuals, I mean -- and I want to read more on what I consider the clearer promise of the Christian faith, which is not that we have souls that live on after our bodies have died, but is this: that all of our individual selves, whatever they are, will be resurrected when Push comes to Shove.
Talking about it with Dawkins and Spong over beer and barbecue (North Carolina style, in honor of Bishop Spong), would be fun.
That's orthodox christianity: spirits and bodies belong together. And a sensory argument for the existence of at least a kind of God.
Jesus says, proof text me on that position.
Judaism had it, basically, as I understand it, that people, after they died, "survived" in the memories and lives of their families. Body-soul duality is more greco-Roman than Jewish, isn't it? The idea of resurrection seems to have gotten tangled up in there somehow.
BTW, I reserve the right to revise and extend "individual selves."
He talks about the evolution of Judaeo-Christian ideas of the afterlife before getting to his own. Which is similar to what you've said.
(My folks are from Georgia and NC so I'm allowed to be agnostic on which BBQ is better.)
Cavorting caveats convictions are not.
ER: "You know I don;t hang my thinkin' on proof-texting."
How about proof?
"2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. 3 And I know that this man was caught up into Paradise--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows-- 4 and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 5 On behalf of this man I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses." ----RSV
"traditionally" this Paul talking about himself in third person. But even if that's the case, he's not saying that there are individual bodies in heaven. Jesus says there is no marriage. How about gender. What is the basic concept of who or what we are "in heaven"?
Although I hope to see Mama and Daddy and others again -- and I think that is a very kind thing to foster in my own and in others' thinking -- that is not what attracted me to Jesus at age 8, and it is not what keeps me plugging along now.
So, basically, whatever. I hope so. I have centuries of hopers before me, and I hang onto that. But that, again, is gravy -- not the reason for my .. faith, which is ... hope!
Dude, when I walked down the aisle in '72, at age 8, I *got* one thing: There is God; God loves you; you can't get to God; Jesus will help you get there; why? because God loves you and so does Jesus.
I responded to that -- and I really did get it but not in so many words, but dang near: God is there; I am not; Jesus will get you to God.
Then, the preacher came out to the house several times to talk with me, at least a few times, and he told me about the verses I cite above.
And I have clung to it ever since -- at first trusting the preacher, then trusting the Bible, and now trusting Paul -- to get me "there."
Again, especially that last verse.
It IS about L-O-V-E.
22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.
More Than Conquerors
28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,j whok have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”l
37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,m neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
"39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
(But first, an aside. LBJ mentions no marriage in heaven. While we, in the middle class 21st century may see this as a denial of the individual, I rather think Paul understood this to mean greater individuality, first because, as I am about to point out, the whole passage is about how we are conformed by God into the likeness of the Son - who was unmarried [according to Paul's take] - and probably second because marriage was not a union of equals - in other words, in Christ there is not male nor female, slave nor free, Jew nor Gentile in a power sense. He is not talking about essence (as in gender, social status, race).
I find myself confused, though not ultimately confused, by ERs focal point of hope. For me, as always ad nauseum, the confusion results from protestant habits. The text is more tangible than the trinity.
My evidence is where ER says, "And I have clung to it ever since -- at first trusting the preacher, then trusting the Bible, and now trusting Paul -- to get me 'there.' The "it", as I understand him is what he later stipulates as the inseparability of God's love from the "chosen." And yet Paul says that we cannot be so separated by a long list of enemy forces not because of any promise qua promise by God. Nor is the victory won in the sense that faith will be rewarded "on that day."
Where Paul gets his confidence and begins to roll the thunder of the bravado of faith is at the very heart of where Spong and Dawkins could never converse with each other. The very subject of faith, the very hope, unseen, and yet not waiting for the end of time, but happening in the here and now, in the body and soul of each one of us who put our faith in Jesus Christ is not text or sermon or any word.
The center of Paul's gusto, the source of his prodigal faith is found in verse 29: we are being conformed into the likeness of Christ. Yesterday, today, tomorrow, we are being changed, by virture (maybe even by a little merit?) of our faith, our hope, our steadfastness, God is changing us into the likeness of the Son. Even now.
Given this, Paul says in verse 31, "What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?"
This is the mystery of Christian hope and faith and courage. The text attests, but the reality has nothing to do with Paul, with the NT. It has to do with the union of our bodies and souls with Christ's own (the very reason for incarnation), and what in all the cosmos can compare to that?
And what can possibly prove such a reality in faith and of God? Science? Psyschology? Biology? Greek textual copies of ancient Greek texts?
There. Now, I don't agree with anything else you've said here.
This is the original statement that got me started. "individual selves"..."Will be resurrected"...
Feodor alludes to my objections. Now consider Us+Jesus+God = One now (not later, not somewhere else). Salvation as an individual or Damnation as an individual is somewhat dificult to reconcile with the Oneness cited in the book of John.
None of this is to downgrade or negate your basic experience. But it time is it not to put away childish things given your effort to reach a larger understanding.
"Preacher Rick, my boy's dead will I see him when I get to heaven?"
What do you say preacher Rick?
In Orthodox worship, or High Anglican worship, the Trinity is smelled, tasted, and seen. The text is a minor player. To a less extent in Roman worship, but the Mass is phenomenally reducible to communion, though theologically this is not supposed to be the case. The readings are a warm up act.
In most countries of the world, most Christians do not read scripture, they get it orally at church, but scripture comes in a distant third, fourth, fifth, etc. to communion, to liturgy, to iconography, etc.
Not that this imbalance is good, either.
But the fact that such a notion comes so alien to us in the protestant and, I'll add, constitution-as-scripture states is telling about our imbalance.
To a grieving parent? Hell yes I'd say yes! And it's not a lie. Maybe I hope so is closer to the truth.
But this person's grief not being about me or what I think, or what ultimate "truth" might be -- but it being a cry for comfort -- I choose comfort.
Besides, it depends on what your definition of "my," "boy's," "dead," "will," "I," see," "him," "when," "I," "get," "to" and "heaven" are -- and such a time is not a time for definitions, either.
That is why tradition is necessary, as long as it is a living tradition. The structure as received is the only thing broad and strong enough on which to base and frame out the house of a living community. The structure, rather, the structures of tradition invite the building in of a more contemporary, more fine, many roomed mansion which take their decorating styles from contemporary experience.
Anyway, I don't think Spong and Dawkins would be very interesting because Spong might concede certain points Dawkins makes, while Dawkins would insist that, by these concessions, Spong is confessing the utter irrationality and untenability of his (Spong's) own intellectual claims. That is part of Dawkins' problem (but only part) - his utter willful ignorance of the varieties of Christian doctrine as intellectually incoherent nonsense.