Tag Archives: resurrection

BELIEVING IN LIGHT OF THE RESURRECTION

 

Hildegard_von_Bingen_Liber_Divinorum_OperumIn each of the scenes of resurrection notice the role of belief and sight in the realization of resurrection.  As they believe they see what is in front of them. For Thomas, Mary, and John, in John 20, belief dawns gradually as they acquire the eyes of faith.  So too with the two on the road to Emmaus: “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:26-27). The story ends in a Eucharistic like revealing of Christ as they recognize the suffering, resurrected Christ in the breaking of bread. The eyes of faith have enabled them to see what is in front of them.

Gotthold Lessing, one of the fathers of modernity, asked why he should be asked to believe something which he has not seen.  What we see from the resurrection accounts is that seeing is itself subject to belief. Seeing alone is not believing but the resurrection requires the eyes of faith.

As is obvious in the case of David Friedrich Strauss and Rudolf Bultmann their belief in autonomous human reason, a closed Universe, did not allow for belief in the resurrection.  If the universe is a closed continuum of events in which everything is explained by cause and effect – this rules out resurrection and miracle while it establishes autonomous human reason.  Belief in the resurrection will turn this sort of world upside down.

But this is not simply true of modernity – it is true of every worldview – the resurrected Jesus changes up everything.  Even in the lives of the Apostles belief in the resurrection changes everything and they do not get to this belief on the basis of their former understanding. James thought Jesus was insane, Paul persecuted Christians, Peter denied Jesus.  Each was changed by his belief in the resurrection.

The claim to behold Jesus’ “glory” (1:14) in the events of Jesus historical ministry is theological as it already entails the vision of belief. John refers not to a single, visible transfiguration such as appears in the Synoptics, but overall to Jesus’ ministry. The same event (miracle or sign) falls either on blind eyes or on those eyes that can see the glory of God. And so it is in the resurrection appearances, belief brings about recognition of Jesus, and not the other way round.

While experience (firsthand vision) speaks of knowing, belief is the only means of appropriating the Word of God even when the living word stands before you. A common characteristic of the proto-Gnostic groups John is writing to combat was the teaching that the realization of gnosis (esoteric or intuitive knowledge) is the way to salvation of the soul from the material world. Knowing is the means to escape death and the material world. The proto-Gnostics would know, while Jesus in John counters this knowing with belief and through belief an alternative knowing arises. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (Jn 5:24).

There is an incapacity to hear where there is an insistence on sight (the auditory is displaced by the visual in priority as in Gen. 3) while the capacity to see Jesus in his resurrection glory is enabled not directly by sight but by hearing and belief. (Mary does not recognize Jesus until she hears him speak her name. Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (Jn 20:16).) John’s vision is a reversal of pagan vision in that the locus of this vision is on one in this world seen rightly, while pagan vision entails seeing beyond this world – a certain blindness to this world.

John is distinctive not for advocating knowing or seeing God but rather for claiming that the locus of revelation is in Jesus. The theme of seeing the divine was pervasive in Greek and Hellenistic Jewish spirituality. For example, Middle Platonists such as Philo of Alexandria and later Maximus of Tyre emphasized the soul’s vision of the divine, an experience of the divine that increasingly divinized the soul. In contrast, the eyes of the disciples have been prepared by the incarnation to see the resurrected Jesus. The beatific vision of God was one that some ancient thinkers associated with the time of death or the end of time. The defining point for John is in fact when they see God in Jesus who had come in the flesh (1 John 4:2).

Conclusion:

Depicted in John is the ongoing battle between knowing, seeing, believing and the darkness and the light.  The darkness constitutes the cosmos of man without God and the light of Christ is penetrating this darkness and yet the darkness has not “comprehended” or overtaken it.  By the end of the Gospel the light is firmly established. In I John 2:8 he proclaims that “the darkness is passing by and the true light is already shining.”

Advertisements

BEYOND PERVERSION AND HYSTERIA TO RESURRECTION

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12

“ If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).

Hildegard_von_Bingen_Liber_Divinorum_Operum

Slavoj Žižek, in his reading of Romans 7, finds within Paul two psychoanalytic categories, perversion and hysteria, which explain the possible orientations constituting the human Subject. Žižek’s project is largely aimed at demonstrating how every realm of human activity and thought, whether philosophy, politics, culture, or human sexuality, falls within these two orientations. The key issue for Žižek, though, is to demonstrate how Christianity itself can fail to realize the Pauline insight that identifies perversion and passes beyond it. His claim is that Anselm’s and Calvin’s respective theories of atonement, along with the Catholic and Protestant theologies that locate themselves in the closed systems of thought which Anselm and Calvin represent, are perverse.

The original question that Paul raises in Romans 7:7 has to do with confusing or equating law and sin. “Is the law sin (Rom. 7:7b)?” For Žižek (following Lacan) the question could be posed, “Is the Law the Thing?” (Seminar III, 83). Taking into account that law equals the symbolic (or the epistemological realm) and the Thing represents the real (which is not reality per se but the bedrock of the Subject), it could as well be read as, “Is the symbolic the real?” Is human language and knowing, which, according to Paul, operates according to the “law of sin and death,” adequate in and of itself to arrive at God or the ground of the ultimate Subject. Do we sin (propagating our philosophy, our world systems, our being) that grace may abound? “Certainly not!” (Rom.7:7).

Perversion – the Fusion of Knowing and Being

Perversion is fairly easy to identify. The pervert imagines that the world of language and law, or the realm of knowing (inclusive of the Hebraic notion of sex as knowing), provides direct access to Being and the power to establish Being through knowing. In Genesis 3 the original sin is to imagine that through “knowing good and evil” the Being of God (“You shall be like God”) is made accessible. Behind the screen of the law (“You shall not eat of it”) absolute knowing and ultimate pleasure are to be had. Transgression is the means of access and as Žižek describes it, the pervert somehow imagines himself to fill out or bring closure to a gap in the law by transgressively serving the law.

Perversion is a disavowal of anything lacking (a denial of castration or of death – “You shall not die”). The pervert seeks to completely establish the law within himself through a transgressive relationship to the law –sinning so as to increase grace or merging law and sin into two sides of the same coin with each side dependent upon the other. The pervert would provide himself, ultimately up to and including death, as the closure to the dialectic between sin and the law. As Anselm puts it, “death makes a gift of oneself to God.”

The sex pervert is the type of every perversion in that he would make the experience of sexual knowing the avenue to final reality. The comedian Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) exposes himself in a theatre, by-passing any mundane ordinary sexual experience, to commune directly (passively) with the Big Other represented by the theatre audience. The sex pervert is one who makes sex the Thing, an end in itself as a means of achieving access to the Big Other or the Ground of the Subject.

Idolatry and corrupt sexuality are often equated in the Old Testament. In the graphic logic of the pervert, Israel is said to have “lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses” (Ezekiel 23:20). The idol is fashioned into a phallic symbol so big it is impossible to achieve but producing an exponential desire that results in human sacrifice. So sexual knowing as the avenue to Being is the biblical metaphor for a more basic idolatrous desire that would establish Being through knowing.

The philosophical and religious pervert, alike, make knowing the avenue to Being. Duns Scotus makes no distinction between existence and essence as it is found in finite and infinite being and thus poses a “univocity of being” which makes God’s Being accessible through the being of the world (one understanding of the analogia entis). Anselm, with his notion that he could think the greatest thought (“something than which nothing greater can be thought”) harnesses the divine name to thought and provides the technique (the technology) for achieving the divine. Anselm and Scotus concentrate on a different organ than Pee-wee but for the same end. Anselm will call it “divine satisfaction.”

Anselm transposes the perverse understanding directly onto God. God finds satisfaction in the ultimate transgression: “What ultimately makes this painful, difficult death equivalent to the sum total of all sin is that like the offence of sin itself the killing of Christ is valued by the quantity of its offensiveness” (Why a God Man (CDH) 11, 11 pp. 330 331). “Pain is required because of sin’s pleasure.” To get the “ransom price” (to use the biblical metaphor) the deed must be done – the offence committed so that that “same death destroy the sins even of those who put him to death” (as the title of CDH II puts it.) God the Father must inflict on his Son, measure for measure, the pain up to and including death, so as to balance out the pleasure of sin. This not only brings final satisfaction to God, but by closing the gap in human will, mankind is able to will rightly and become self identical – melding the dialectic of thought into the non-thought of a pure vision of God (the beatific vision). Anselm pictures his ability to carry out his cosmological and ontological arguments as arising directly from the empowerment given to him through divine satisfaction. He would satisfy himself in the manner of God and in fact his own satisfaction is that of God.

Anselm does not attach his theology to medieval law primarily from a cultural constraint. He is dealing throughout with what he takes to be a self evident or self authorizing realm (raw power) and this can ultimately be reduced to the necessity called law. He does not hesitate to identify “power” or “necessity” along with “will” as his proper subject. These “necessary” realms are interlocking, each implying the other. “. . . it is essential to have an understanding of power and necessity and will and certain other things which are so constituted that no one of them can be fully considered without the others” (CDH 1, 1, p. 266). 

Hysteria – Identity with the Law

Žižek reads Paul’s questions (“Is the law sin?” “Shall we sin that grace may abound?”) as the questioning of perversion that constitutes hysteria. Though he privileges hysteria, as with his reading of Paul, hysterical questioning involves the passage through and dialectic with perversion. The difference between perversion and hysteria is simply their different location within the dialectic. The pervert, as with Anselm and Scotus, presumes the law (the symbolic or knowing) provides passage beyond itself to Being (or life, beatific vision, Hegelian synthesis), while the hysteric suspends the closure (or passage beyond the law and symbolic) and directly identifies with the law and dialectic.

Between Anselm and Scotus, Thomas Aquinas poses the notion of the analogia entis, which he takes to be a rejection of Anselm’s ontological argument and its platonic notion of closure with the forms. Aquinas is not advocating either a univocity (on the order of Scotus) or a nihilistic equivocity, but his location between these two historically and intellectually marks him as having achieved a hysterical form of thought that amounts to a temporary suspension and dependence on the same dialectic.

Martin Heidegger, like Kant (and unlike Barth), recognizes that the ontological argument stands behind all of the arguments for God (including those of Thomas) as each is aiming at achieving the same sort of ontological difference. Aquinas only names and continues a form of thought of which he is the heir. He works with the same dialectic (identity through difference with a temporary suspension of sameness or synthesis). Hysteria, as its name implies, is an unstable compound and it naturally and easily slides into the perversion from which it arose. Thus the move from Anselm to Aquinas to Scotus traces the dialectic inherent between perversion and hysteria.

Though Heidegger dubs what he is refusing the “Onto-Theological constitution of metaphysics” he does not work out the mechanics of the ontological argument as developed by Anselm. As a result, in the estimation of Gregory Schufreider, Heidegger’s thought, in attempting to think the “nothing,” is simply the last in the line of onto-theological “rational mystics” which began with Anselm. It is not just Heidegger’s pursuit of the nothing on the order of Anselm, but his pursuit of Being as the form of knowing which Aquinas dubs knowing “that,” which implicates him in onto-theology. What he misses (and what Thomas misses) is that the mode of thinking of “that” (philosophy, philosophy of religion, rationalism) already entails the drive for conceptual mastery – a form of knowing that would obtain and manipulate what it knows. Heidegger’s notion (indicated in his diaries recently published) that the clearing of Being could be equated with the “inner truth and greatness” of the Nazi movement indicates the perversity underlying his thought. He is (another) proof that the attempt to keep open the distinction between Being and beings (hysteria), or between the “that” of Being (or in the case of Aquinas the “that” (res significata) of God’s existence) and the “how” (modus significandi) is an impossibility.

Karl Barth’s theology shares with Heidegger the move against onto-theology and yet, Barth saw early on in Heidegger the danger in his historical form of thinking.   Barth would persistently refuse Bultmann’s attempt to bring Heidegger and Barth together, and of course Barth’s prescience was to recognize in Heidegger the embodiment of a form of thought he would call the anti-Christ.

The question is if Barth, much like Heidegger, was implicated in the very form of thought he was attempting to overcome. Barth marks his own theological turn against Aquinas and the analogia entis with his discovery of Anselm. The indication that even when he recognizes the inadequacy of a dialectical theology he fails to escape it is found in a reading of Romans from which he will not depart. When he turns to Romans 7:7ff he reads it, as Žižek does, as the dialectic constituting the normal Christian life. Hysteria and the dialectic with perversion is as far as Romans 7:7ff takes us. Balthasar’s recognition that Catholic thought needs, in part, the corrective that Barth brings and that Barth can be made to fit within Catholic thought indicates that the dialectic pendulum between perversion and hysteria keeps swinging.

It is not until Romans 8 that Paul introduces the Christian alternative to the agonistic dialectic of the non-Christian form of thought. “ For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4).

He is risen and this constitutes a completely new form of thought – a post-Easter explanation and blog.