The church has sided with the powerful and the oppressors against those on whose behalf it was established. It has peddled a faith of pews, steeples, pastors, tax exemptions, offering plates, liturgies, and grape juice. The faith of Christ was a faith of leaving family unburied, selling everything, going forth with only cloak and staff, being cared for like animals in the wild, eating with coins caught in fishes’ mouths, crowds of adulatory sinners drawn by the promise of redemption, the scorn of priests and rich and regime, persecutions, thorns, lashes, and wine. The church has surrendered to the world by advocating a faith that asks nothing of the penitent, and by serving the interests of the rich, the popular, the strong, the hypocritical, and the self righteous. It has traded its soul for the world and gained the ability to operate legitimately in society in exchange for the inclination to be itself; a slave which has sold its birthright to Caesar and in so doing become unworthy to call itself the church.
No organization, no matter its statement of faith, can be the kingdom of God, as no nation can be the kingdom of God. It is madness to imagine a Christian Country, when Christ is a king, or a Christian Corporation, when you cannot serve both God and mammon.
But the revolution continues around the periphery of churches, hippie communes, ghettos worldwide and third world revivals, and these, not the church hierarchies, are the inheritors of the faith of Christ and the apostles. It is these which are rightfully called the church. Eternal life is to be found here: on the periphery of churches, and at the core of resistance movements.
I usually take the church’s opposition as an endorsement. If it’s being condemned from the pulpit, it must be a threat to someone’s power.
The visible church does not exist, only one more category of institutions as corrupt and oppressive as any other. The invisible church is the only true church, and it is insurrection. The kingdom of God is slave to no man.
Death to the steeple. Death to the churches. Long live Jesus Christ expelled from the synagogues. Long live street Christianity.
Faith and love are the living blades of Christianity. Love for God is the satisfaction of the deepest longing of the soul, and it can never exist in even the slightest measure apart from love for others. Faith is this: fealty. If any other consideration can provoke you to action against what love for God would have you do, then it is to that consideration that you are a slave, and not to God. One is a slave to God by being free; one is a slave to anything else by being a slave. If you desire anything more than eternal life, you will not have it. If you serve any other master than God, it will enslave you. If you would make yourself master of another, you make yourself a stumbling block to them.
Embrace uncertainty. Go limp to life. Bet everything on the chance that it matters. Then come out on the streets with us and fight.
The kingdom of God is insurrection, the Holy Spirit the spirit of revolution, Jesus Christ the only king.
There is a rumor going around that God has died, and we have all killed him. I must come before you now to confess that it is true, and I had my part in it. But, and this is the trouble with rumors! The best part has been left off. This is the theology of the resurrection of God.
In the life of Christ there is incarnation, sacrifice of life, and resurrection to new life, as unlike the old as the entire city of New York is unlike Wikipedia’s article on New York, and as incomprehensible before it has taken hold as snow to one who has never before seen it. So it is within the soul of man. The incarnation of God into man is into not only one man, but also every man who believes in him. It is said that in repentance one is baptized into Christ’s death- more than this can be said; true repentance is only possible because we live in a universe containing the death of God. The rumor goes this far, and no further. What does it matter if we can repent, unless we can be reconciled? What does it matter if we can risk, unless we can be vindicated? But God’s resurrection too is the resurrection within the soul of man, a resurrection to life, not to the kind of life restored to Lazarus but to the kind restored to the criminal crucified by Jesus’ side. It has been called zoe and eternal life and the state of grace. I call it anastasis, because it is not a single event of restoration to a better nature, after which no repentance is necessary, but rather a constant state of restoration in which repentance is always necessary- the christian is being resurrected constantly, or not at all. There is nothing else worth having, and no price too dear to pay for it. The death of God is one thing. But to have a resurrection of God- now that is another thing entirely.
Anastasis is the central event in Christianity, and its importance so far exceeds that of the rest that nothing deserves to be considered at all which does not pertain to it. There have been attempts to tie other practices, the sacraments, into the effects of anastasis on the life of the christian. This is good and right, and the sacraments are redemption, friendship, love, reconciliation, and self sacrifice. Anyone convinced that their cultural practice alone is the true sacrament is mistaken.
The redemption alone is Christianity, all else is mere trappings, at best a set of practices associated with Christianity because many christians have taken to them, at worst a set of beliefs and customs conflated with Christianity as a result of institutional interference. Therefore if I oppose any theology, it is because it does some violence to the redemption, or else because I am wrong. I have often condemned liberal theology, because without the incarnation, the sacrifice of Christ would be not an act of self sacrifice by God, but rather an act of scapegoating; it therefore fails the most basic test of theology- it posits an evil God. Further, without a resurrection, there is no redemption; they are the same event viewed from different angles.
But if I am to be faithful to the Christ of the bible, I must also condemn conservative theology for the mess it has made of the redemption in its insistence upon penal substitionary theory. I suspect that it is a sociopolitical preference in favor of authority which has spoiled evangelical thought on the central concern of Christianity- a shame, because many of their emphases are otherwise good. If Arianism and Calvinism fall because they posit an evil God, then so too does this understanding of the redemption stand condemned by its talk of “the wrath of God satisfied” and “God demanding punishment.” The essential failure of this doctrine is that it casts God as the inventor of the price paid at Calvary, rather than the payer of that price. The death of God was not to satisfy the demand of God, but was an intrinsically inseparable aspect of his participation in man’s repentance; which is to say, it is that participation. Furthermore, the sacrifice of Christ was not necessary, as some have suggested, for the sake of the forgiveness of God. On the contrary, it was necessary for the sake of the repentance of man, and this much can be seen even by asking why an incarnation was necessary at all: because it is man alone who stands in need of repentance, and God alone who is capable of repenting fully. It is not by blood alone that God is capable of forgiving, but rather by God alone that man is capable of repenting. Golgotha was God taking up repentance into himself- were it not for his interaction with man, repentance would never have been a part of him at all. As the incarnation of the Word into the person of Jesus is the same event as the incarnation of Christ into the soul of the individual believer and the resurrection of Jesus is the same event as the resurrection within the soul, the death of Jesus is the same event as the death to self which precedes regeneration.
Ransom theory did better when it argued that the devil invented the price, but I don’t believe in the devil.
Numerous other elements of conservative theology are also unworthy to be associated with the orthodoxy. One is its legalism, a criticism which I am hardly the first to make. Another is its poor understanding of the doctrine of scriptural infallibility, which leads it to imagine that the scripture must be afforded the exalted “truth” of the enlightenment, a concept one quarter of the age of the youngest texts, rather than being afforded the standard which it applies to itself, namely, the ability to have a particular effect on the life of the individual reading it. Another is its misuse of intellectual knowledge of good theology as a litmus test for Christianity, which does real harm when one applies it to oneself to suggest that such knowledge is sufficient evidence of one’s own Christianity. And, above all, it deserves to be criticized for its dismal treatment of others. I should not have to tell conservatives that a devout christian should not be following the ideology of Ayn Rand. I have had to. Liberal theology, likewise, deserves criticism for its own brand of legalism, and for making the same mistake with respect to knowledge, only to conclude that it is Christianity in the wrong.
Why is it the death of Jesus, and not some other act, which saves? Why is it his undeath which completes our salvation? Because it is from death that we are saved, to death that we were enslaved and from death that we are now liberated. “Death took a body, and met God face to face;” God’s incarnation into life becomes at last an incarnation into death, but for God to join death is for him to abolish it, because he is life. It is said “the grave could not hold him”; as soon as he descended to hell, he ruled it, because his nature is rule. He did not rule it by creation because he did not create it: man created it. But he came to rule it by conquest, in the act of descending into it and taking it up into himself.
God brought life into death, and he himself is life. Therefore God died, and he also raised us from the dead. Incarnation is the price of saving; resurrection is the wages.
At all points it seems to us this way: that death is a supernatural force, and the dimensions of Calvary extend beyond the universe. This does not mean that they extend beyond the real, but that they extend beyond the comprehensible into the realm of the unknown, and beyond the deterministic into the realm of the unpredictable. But that is not to say that that part which we can see and understand, which took place within the universe, was unnecessary. Had it not been in the universe, it would not be of the universe, and had it not been in space, it would not be of space, nor would it have been of time had it not been in time. But to understand why it was necessary, we must look beyond the universe.
God, who is supernatural, and the supernatural force of death must join through the immediate. Sinful man cannot be an incarnation of God in the immediate, and anyone who is an incarnation of God in the immediate does not need to be saved. But only if man is both an incarnation of God and himself can he be saved. Through the supernatural, the incarnation of God can become the individual while remaining different in the immediate, thereby satisfying the necessary conditions for salvation. It is like two marks on a two dimensional sheet which cannot ever touch without moving on their plane. But if a third dimension is added they may be brought together while retaining their distance along the plane, by curving the plane.
If physical death is the price to be paid, and physical death that from which we are saved, why does the Christian still die? He does not die: his body dies, but his soul has life everlasting. And it is said that his body will undie in the fulfillment of salvation. (Physical life is something that grows out of the overflowing aliveness of his soul, like a leaf from a tree.) But what sort of life is this, which is returned to the living, retained by the dead, and culminated in the resurrection to life? For even some of the living lack it, and even the spiritually dead are to be resurrected. Why was the death of Jesus’ body necessary to restore this life, which is not the life of the body? And why do we call it “life” and treat it as life, if it is shared by the living and the living dead, but lacked by the dead in spirit?
Because it is life: the dead in spirit are dead in body already, the living dead alive in body already. What exists in despair uncreates itself in its existence if its will has any meaning; what exists in faith even for a moment endures for all eternity. Anything that ever is, is in eternity; but anything which in its only moment of existence denies itself does nothing more than deny itself in eternity. Once again the scope of our drama lies beyond the world, reaching to the far shores of the unknown. Because man is not an automaton, constrained entirely by the cold clay of matter, he lives and dies by the supernatural. God is life, or rather, life is God; sin is death; or rather, death is sin. Because the self exists by and for God, the self which rejects God does not rightly exist; it commits cosmological suicide. The self which lives for God is itself, and the self which is authentically itself is living for God.
Those who exist, but will not be themselves or love their lives are not living their lives.
Those who do not exist at the moment but once did, and when they did loved their lives, exist in eternity as beings who lived their lives.
These are the true stakes: our souls, and the battleground is supernatural. Our subjective experience is our life, but determinism is only the part of our life characterized by immediate contemplation of the immediate. The supernatural is the greater part of our life characterized by immediate contemplation of the unknown. The unknown made immediate will be supernatural in itself, and it will define the direction of our determinism.
I believe that the universe is deterministic not because I have any proof that it is, but as a leap of faith and an offering to the unknown. Once I have made this leap I may try to understand anything: I believe so that I may understand. Without this leap I understand nothing, for it illuminates everything. Everything that I come to believe on the basis of evidence constitutes a further act of worship and marks a further commitment to this leap of faith.
Is mankind God? No, mankind is an abstraction, and God is not an abstraction. Others are God to you, because the intermediaries of God are God (though they are God showing you his relationship to you, and are not God showing you his relationship to himself), but you are not God to yourself. The self is eternally not God, though in the state of life it is eternally becoming God. God is eternally God, and he is also eternally becoming God. Now that mankind exists, now that there has been an incarnation and a redemption, God is also eternally becoming man.
Those who die in Christ do not die at all, they endure forever as the living dead. The saints live on supernaturally, but all humans are immortal deterministically. This, though a person’s immortality is something less than their mortality: it is far better to be mortal than merely immortal.The bond of love can never be broken, even by death, because the one who dies will live on forever within the ones who loved them. And those with whom we share a world will never be the same for having met us, since each of us is unique. When those we knew in turn involve themselves in others’ lives, what those others take from them cannot possibly be the same thing that they would have taken had our friends never known us. They would not have been the same people. The second generation, too, will be forever changed, and on and on, as long as there are lives.
So those who say that their ancestors guide them are not far off. Though they are dead, they have never really left. Now we are pushed forward by an avalanche of ghosts, unaware of the vividness which they give the color of our lives. The weight of countless billion personalities which forms the spiderweb of our world can be a powerful force for self acceptance. Too often we instead make it an overriding force that overwhelms the individual personality. There is room for more in the world: that is what we must remember. Identity is not exclusive.
The beliefs “there is a heaven, so I need not improve life on earth” and “there is a heaven, so it is better if I die” are untrue. The belief “I have nothing to lose by risking my life because of my love for God. If I live I live, and if I die I enter paradise” is true. The belief “there may be a heaven, so I have nothing to lose by risking my life because of my love for God. If there is no heaven, I am no worse off than I would shortly have been anyway forever, and if there is a heaven, I either live or enter paradise” is even more true. And the belief “there may be anything, but if there is anything other than a heaven devoted to love, it isn’t worth its place above all else and I don’t want to go there. So I will risk my life because of my love for God, because if I live I live, and if there is a heaven and I die I enter paradise, and if there is not and I die I count it no loss” is more true still.
These beliefs are true because even if there was no heaven, the person who believed them would live a better life than the person who did not. The earlier beliefs are untrue because even if there was a heaven, such thoughts could not be a part of it. It is not that any belief which might logically follow from “there is a heaven” is true, because logic is itself a leap of faith, and some seemingly logical conclusions which we might make about God are based on the very opposite inclination to the leap of faith, and are therefore antithetical to that of which they would have to be a part in order to be logic. This is why we should not excessively systematize theology, but instead concern ourselves with theology as action.
There are many true beliefs that a person might hold about the afterlife, but ultimately it is more so in the present that salvation is affected and for the present that it is valuable, because it is affected in the eternal and valuable in the eternal, and the eternal intersects not the future but the present.
Is the resurrected human perfect? They participate in their eternity in the present- eternity is composed exclusively of presents. The resurrected person’s life is heaven already, the spiritually dead person’s life hell already.; this life simultaneously contains the potential to be heaven and hell. In that sense undeath is perfection. But the resurrected person is not God, and they will never be God, not in all eternity. It is the opposite: they are perfect precisely because they are not in denial of their own inability to control their lives. They are perfect precisely because they are aware of their own incapacity to judge and don’t try. No one who is not God by nature can judge.
Simply maintaining that it is true that Jesus is the son of God is neither necessary nor sufficient to have faith in him. Even the devil does that much.
There’s only one God. He liberates the oppressed, he is merciful, and he is the author of human personality. No one has ever had nothing to do with God. If we care about the liberation of the oppressed, we should restore human personality in a system that treats human beings as objects. If we care about restoring the dignity of human beings, we should adopt an orientation of unconditional compassion towards all of them.
If somebody kills me, they won’t be my enemy.
Remember the precedent Jesus set for dealing with money changers. The whole world is his father’s house now. All authority in heaven and on earth has been handed over to him. May your kingdom come, through me or otherwise. But everything you give me the power to do, may I do.
We live in an exceptional world. Hate is a master which I will not serve in this, my only life. We must be bold and courageous.
What will happen in the end is not worth worrying about. What will happen in the end is that we will all turn to dust and the stars will burst in the sky with no one left to see them, and every last proton will eventually decay and the universe return to nothing, as it was born, from nothing.
But not truly nothing.
I care how I will live my life, whether It will have made a good story and whether I will be glad to have lived it, whether I will have cared about my life and whether while I lived I will have truly been alive. I am conscious. I am alive. I am real.
The universe is nothing which has for a time been made into something. It is not even dust. It is, ultimately, math. But I am a person. I am more than the circumstances of my origin. I stand before the void with the demeanor of a lion and call it nothing. The universe ultimately does not exist, but I do exist, and so, even if there hadn’t been one already, there would be now at least one immortal in the halls of heaven. This I know.
The origin of my life is nothing, but I am not nothing. I am alive, and real. And so, if only in me, life has entered into the inanimate and reality has entered into nothingness; existence has entered into nonexistence. Reality is not of the universe. Life is a foreign invader to it. As mathematical principles describe the universe but are not themselves the universe ; I live life, but am not life. I find reality expressed neither by the coldness of the void, nor by intellectual detachment, nor by last moment of time, but by the experience of existing, the passion of wishing to do so, and the present minute and second.
What is real is more than me, but not the world, the triumphant battlecry of the almighty God.
Not the God of the philosophers, but the God of Abraham, whose fury spat out the universe and burns in the hearts of men. Not an abstraction or an idea, but the very thing which I cannot contain within ideas, that which I can know only through paradox, and yet must know. Not an inaccessible clockmaker, but a force of nature with all the personality of the most complex human person and more proximity. Not a safe bet, indeed, an imminent threat.
What is first is not nothing, but everything. It is love. The name of God is so holy that it must never touch the tongues of men, it is incomprehensible and ancient, self existent and glorified. Even to look upon God is death. God is active, incarnated, a warrior and an interventionist, a lover of men and a moved mover, subject to the doing of deeds and to change. He is the holiest of holies, set apart by his very nature, and he is incarnation.
God is a doer of deeds, and the deed to which he has set out is incarnation, begetting, speaking. The word of God is that which he has to say, the action of God and his full expression, the heart of God. The word is a glorification of the name, for itself it seeks no glory. It derives all of its power, intention, and initiative from the name. The word is God, and God can be seen and touched- God eats.
The name is to speak the word, and the word is to glorify the name; it is impossible to consider either independently of the other. They are defined by their relationship to one another- one the source and the power and the intention, giving itself entirely to the other, bestowing all of its power and glory upon the other, and the other perfectly glorifying the one, expressing and embodying it.
The relationship of the word to the name is becoming- the word becomes the name. Becoming is the act of God. It is the experience of existing, selfhood, and when done between two as it is in God, it is love. To become oneself is to have a self, to live. To become another is to live in a new way entirely, to love, and its final triumph is the identification with other as self. The name of God becomes itself. This is the actor. The word of God becomes itself. This is the action. The name of God and the word of God become one another. This is the acting.
God embodies the experience of existing, but not as a self enclosed identity alone- he embodies the experience of existing with others and forming new experience between two existences in the identification with other as self. And he does this through what we know as compassion- the stronger forsaking all right and dignity to embrace the weaker, not even egalitarianism but an utter rejection of domination and self enclosure in favor of pure self-sacrifice: the lower refusing even to rebel as the higher refuses to rule.
This is why I have said that God is incarnation. He is becoming, but not only becoming: the origin becoming what it begets. Christ’s submission to his Father is as important a part of the incarnation as God’s outrageous act of taking on flesh. And the Holy Spirit is the incarnation.