Monday, September 16, 2013

The Opening of Arms Toward the Other: A Cruciform Phenomenology of The Divinity of the Humanity of Christ

okkvlt:</p><p><br></p><p>Nehmt mich zu euch</p><p>
“Open arms are a gesture of the body reaching for the other. They are a sign of discontent with my own self-enclosed identity and a code of desire for the other. I do not want to be myself only; I want the other to be part of who I am and I want to be part of the other.” –Miroslav Volf
For two thousand years Christians have debated over how to intelligibly conceptualize and reconcile two descriptive categories of Jesus in the canonical Gospel traditions on philosophical grounds. One category meets us in ordinary immanence: the humanity of Jesus from birth in a feeding trough to bloody death on a wooden cross, with heaps of sorrow and grief in between. The other category meets us in mythical transcendence: the divinity of Christ that arrives to us in the power and influence of Jesus, exploding through resurrection and transforming the consciousness of an expanding community called the “body of Christ.”

Several councils met throughout the first five centuries to accomplish this reconciliation. There was the Antiochene School consisting of those who sublated the divine aspect through totalized humanity, arguing that Jesus was created and specially empowered to reveal God’s wisdom and intentions through the indwelling Spirit. Then there was the Alexandrian School where advocates argued that the divine Creator took on fleshly form to accomplish our salvation. The ongoing tension terminated with the acceptance of an unresolvable paradox: Jesus was both fully human and fully divine.

What if the paradox only exists in an outdated metaphysics? In both the Platonic and Aristotelian paradigms of that age, incarnation was a problem. The divine essence was seen as totally transcendent of this world by necessity. But we know now, via quantum physics, that all matter is constituted by relationships of energy. The old problem of incarnation is how two essences can occupy the same space. But from the quantum perspective, incarnation is ubiquitous if God is understood as “light” (a mythic archetype for divinity), which in physics amounts to pure energy: the very basis of matter. God then must be incarnate in all being as its very ground and future. The new question then is not how God’s incarnation in Jesus is possible, but how it is unique.

The incarnation of Jesus would have to be different by degree, not kind. What is this degree? It is Jesus’ full unity with the divine that makes him fully human, and it is his full humanity that makes him fully divine. This stands over and against the multifarious forms of alienation in the general anxiety of the human life. Jesus is more human by degree, but not other than human.

How does he accomplish this union? Unlike the Antiochene Jesus who becomes superhuman by making a special claim on the being of God that you and I cannot, and unlike the Alexandrian Jesus who is the God-in-flesh making a special claim on human being that we cannot, Jesus spreads open his arms toward both poles of being as a meeting space. With one arm reached toward divinity and one toward humanity, he simply makes himself a space of near-nonbeing—an open convergence between the divine and the human. He becomes not a demigod but a space between being itself.

The symbol of Jesus spreading out his arms is found on the cross itself. In Golgotha, a cursed “outside” where tribal identities no longer persist, Jesus becomes subject to nonbeing and otherness. In this place of self-emptying, he opens his arms toward the other, welcoming the other into a cruciform way of life where identities are crucified and transformed so that each person may embrace the other.

Through the embrace of the other, self-alienation is dissolved into holistic completion. It is here that one may become “fully human.” And it is only as one becomes fully human that she may become “fully divine,” for the divine is the space where being leaves itself to join with the other toward the creation of fuller Being. It is the sacred space of emerging wholeness wherein alienation is traded for loving embrace, and it is the sacred, differentiated unity of beings in love.

Christ hangs at the intersection of two lines: one is vertical (divine), and the other is horizontal (human). As such, the cross is the place of intersection, staked into the very ground of nonbeing and nonidentity. The cross “crosses out” tribal identity insofar as it honors the human as human, allowing us to flourish as more fully human and thus become more fully divine.

For it is in the cruciform embrace of the other that divinity and humanity converge as one voice whereby the earthly and sacred are inseparable and mutually completing.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Lamb Slain From the Foundation of the World: The Crucifixion as Revelation of the Kenotic Core of Reality

The NT writers named Jesus "the lamb slain from the foundation of the world." What does it mean that Jesus is a lamb? What does it mean that Jesus is slain at the beginning of time? Was this not an event that simply occured 2,000 years ago at Golgotha?

The icon of a slain lamb is pulled from the Paschal motif of the Exodus event that inaugurates Israel's narrative of liberation. The Paschal lamb is an icon of redemptive suffering: a creature who suffers and dies to protect a family from the messenger of death. The family is then able to flee an oppressive nation that is paralyzed by fear by crossing a parted sea by the hand of YHWH. The lamb here is a like a martyr, absorbing the force of death that passes over. Jesus as a lamb absorbs the death that threatens humanity, and his blood is smeared over the doorposts of the universe as a sign against the evil that always hangs over us as we exit the houses of our temporal existence to find immortality and resurrection. But what does this all mean? And how does this happen at the beginning of time?

I believe that the crucifixion here is a fundamental symbol of the God-world relation. That is, at the beginning of time God limited Godself in order to create a world of free agency and process--in order to allow the process of evolution to begin within set parameters toward an open-ended future. Thus God committed an act of kenosis or self-empyting in which God emptied Godself out into the freedom of open-ended creativity and process. Symbolized by crucifixion and resurrection, there is a recurring event of death and rebirth in the evolutionary process by which God suffers in, under, and with the creation. In this paradigm death is not the enemy of life but the very mode by which life renews itself and evolves. Thus the angel of death and the slain lamb are one. The lamb, in giving itself over to the angel of death, ensures the birth of new life (exodus). According to the writer of Hebrews, the life of the creature is in the blood. So when the lamb's blood is smeared over the door (gateway) to the house of temporal life, it's continuity is present in the transition from mortality to immortality. The lamb's body was consumed by the family, carried into a transformed existence as they crossed the sea. So as we leave the house of mortality and cross the chaotic sea of death, our existence is transformed into a different mode of being.

In this paradigm, the God-world relation is predicated on God's self-limitation as a work of love--a creative work that enables the alterity (or "otherness") that constitutes the intersubjective relation of love--in order that creatures may act freely and yet experience absolute dependency in the evolutionary process as they accept their death as necessary and unavoidable. The cross then is a victory over death because it is the acceptance of death as a doorway into a new kind of existence.

Similarly, the death of God at the beginning of creation is the entrance of God into a new kind of existence which enables others to exist freely. Even so death is for us a transition into a new kind of existence for the sake of an Other's freedom. When an animal dies, a tree is born. When a tree dies, an animal is born. The cycle of life requires the transition of death. Thus death is the enabler of new life, the source of resurrection. Our death is a resurrection. The event of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection is a historical affirmation of this primordial and timeless reality, inaugurated in the primeval kenosis of God at the creation of the world. In this way we can affirm with the author of Hebrews that in the cross, Christ has conquered humanity's fear of death. This author also writes that the cross occurs at "the culmination of the ages." In other words, the telos of creation's natural processes manifests itself most definitively and concretely in the symbol of Christ's historical crucifixion and resurrection, so that in this visible sacrament of crucifixion-resurrection we can catch a glimpse of the teleological pattern in creation's evolutionary fabric through which death and life become two sides of one event.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Alienation, Participation and Mediation: The Eucharistic Axiom of Human Destiny (A Phenomenological Christology)

The Jesus who we encounter as a distinctive phenomenon in the haze of ineffable religious experience is mediated by a retrojected interpretation of the radical prophet and mystic of Nazareth in light of the resurrection. This retrojection is a reversed historical projection: the identity of Jesus is established by his return from the realm of death into the sphere of the living and ascension into the life of God rather than by his birth. The assembly of his life-events construct a portrait that resurrection completes, producing what we call the Christ Event. Jesus only finds a singular identity within the totality of this event.

So what fundamentally occurs in the Christ Event? This question is primarily phenomenological, i.e. it concerns itself with the social impact and personal/experiential significance of the event. I will attempt to answer this through the categories of alienation, mediation, and participation

I. Alienation

In Paul's Adamic interpretation of the Christ Event, we find binaries of obedience vs disobedience, old man vs new man, etc. What we can retrieve from this is the fundamental distinction between two kinds human beings, primal and eschatological, as well as the role of the Christ Event in making the transition.

The primal human is the original human prototype of evolution, along with all of his/her imperfections and deficiencies. This type of human is caught in between the ground and the sky. Animals walk on all fours and belong to the earth. Angels have wings and inhabit the heavens. Humans walk upright and bridge the gap. They are caught in between two spheres of existence. They are also genetically caught in between base instincts and transcendence. Our base instincts, inherited from the sphere of basic organic and sentient lifeforms, demand that we protect ourselves, feed ourselves, survive, reproduce, perpetuate, and guard our own. This is predicated on natural selection and "survival of the fittest," paradigmatic of nature as "red in tooth and claw." On the other side, our drive toward transcendence is rooted in the emergence of self-consciousness, intersubjectivity, and awareness of the distinctions between things, others, and the finite & Infinite. We naturally tend toward the Infinite. Knowing we are finite, we experience a fundamental sense of alienation, caught between our animal finitude and our tendency toward transcendental integration with the Infinite (which is theologically personified as God). Unfortunately, the majority of efforts made by primal humanity to transcend their finitude have resulted in nothing more than the will to power--institutionalized by religion, legitimated in theology (through the ideological projection of grandiose images of the human ego onto God), and fully rooted in base instincts. Thus, our efforts toward escaping alienation have only doubled it over on itself. 

In contrast, the eschatological human is the human being who has successfully transcended the animal sphere and achieved the actualization of human desire in distinction to base instinct. The fundamental paradigm of incarnation in the New Testament establishes the identity of Jesus as the eschatological human through the unfolding events of his life that culminate in the resurrection, i.e. transcendence beyond finitude. The accomplishment of transcendence that culminates in the resurrection begins to unfold in the activity of Jesus' life and can be described within the category of mediation

II. Mediation

Jesus has always been understood in Christian thought as a mediator between God and humanity. Unfortunately, Western Christianity has couched this term in legal metaphors, almost always interpreting "mediator" as one who defends another in court.  However, Jesus is enabled to mediate through incarnation in the New Testament. Thus, it is important to begin with a brief overview of the meaning of incarnation before explaining what mediation means.

Recalling that Jesus' identity as the incarnate Son of God only comes together within the totality of his being and activity, affirmed and consummated in resurrection, incarnation cannot begin with a narrowed focus on the particulars of Jesus' birth or even the descension/condescension of the Divine presence onto him at his baptism by John. Both of these are useful as symbols, whether true or not, but they do not demonstrate how Jesus' identity ultimately came together in the memories of his followers. Without the resurrection they would have regarded him as just another failed Messiah. The resurrection retrojects an incarnational understanding onto Jesus in conjunction with his vocational activity: the resurrection, affirming the embodiment of the Divine presence in Jesus, reinterprets his words and actions as demonstrations and manifestations of that presence. Thus, Jesus incarnates (i.e. puts into flesh and blood) the Divine character.

The central metaphor for incarnation retrieved from the New Testament is the Logos of the opening poem to John's Gospel. The Logos is the divine principle that binds the cosmos together, the mediating logic within reality, the ground of order and form, and the "world-soul." The proclamation that the Logos has become present in Jesus borrows literary themes and terminology from Jewish wisdom literature, associating the Wisdom of God in Jewish literature (personified as a woman) with the Logos of Greek philosophy/cosmology. Paul also refers to Jesus as the Wisdom of God. The question then becomes, what is this wisdom?

Paul refers to this wisdom as weak and foolish in this world. He categorizes the world (better trans. as age), or the realm of darkness, as greedy, murderous, selfish, and hedonistic. He quantifies the Divine character through what he calls the fruit of the Spirit, which include generosity, self-control, and love. Jesus radically practices these virtues throughout his life, abandoning the ego/will-to-power in favor of loving everyone (including enemies) and generously giving to the needy. This is the wisdom of God mediated through Jesus by the Divine presence in him.

This incarnation/mediation is only made possible when Jesus distinguishes himself from God -- not my will but your will be done, not my will but my Father's will -- so that in obedience toward God, recognizing his creaturely finitude before the Infinite, he may participate in the Infinite life and consequently mediate it -- when you have seen me you have seen the Father, I and my Father are one.
Thus the human body of Jesus is a finite, creaturely temple for the Infinite life to dwell and empower, enabled when the creature recognizes its own finitude and self-distinction in perfect obedience and submission to the will of God--summed up in the character of Divine wisdom.

III. Participation

Jesus incarnates the Way -- the new existential mode of being for humanity, constituted by obedience to Divine wisdom and grounded in a basic re-cognition of finitude and creaturely distinction before the Holy ineffable Infinite. This is the new existential mode of being-in-the-world for the eschatological human being, enabled by two distinctions: the humble self-distinction of the creature from the Creator and, consequently, the new distinction of the eschatological human being from the primal human being.  The self-distinction of the creature from the Creator is a reversal of primal humanity's deficiency--symbolized by Eve and Adam's downfall through their will-to-power and desire to erase this distinction. This reversal accomplishes the creation of the eschatological human being. Christians hold that Jesus accomplishes/inaugurates this through perfect(ed) self-distinction. Jesus, in the full acceptance of his finitude and in submission to the Infinite ground of his being, imitated the love of God by extending it to others, thus eradicating horizontal alienation.

To participate in Jesus' way of being-in-the-world is to act in the absolute dependency that saturates the open-minded consciousness, to walk in that humility before other humans and God, and to imitate the love of God as disclosed in the historical activity of Jesus Christ. This mimetic participation (mimesis=imitation of human action) in Jesus' existential mode of being is the re-enfleshment of the Logos embodied by Jesus--that is, the Logos that is the world-principle of unifying love and creativity. This re-enfleshment of the Logos constitutes another body of Jesus, the body of Christ spoken of by Paul. Thus the human community as the body of Christ is the eschatological community -- a taste of the new creation that is always arriving from the future into the present. The human community's re-embodiment of Jesus' way of being is symbolized in the church's centering sacrament -- the Eucharist. The bread and wine are the body and blood of Jesus Christ transformed into a new ontological existence. As Paul says, because the whole community eats of this one bread and drinks of this one cup, they are all one body and one blood. Again, the Logos as a world-principle of unifying love is at work here, realized and actualized by the community as a preview of its creative transformation of the cosmos in the future. This unification saves us absolutely from our primal alienation by bringing us into a recognition of absolute dependency, finitude, and self-distinction that opens us up to God and the Other in such a way that we must relate and therefore love. This is a freedom from independence into interdependence predicated by mutual embrace. The Christ Event then can also be called the Eucharistic Event that repeats itself through our mimetic participation of the way of Jesus yielding the re-embodiment of the world-principle of unifying love. Thus the Eucharist is salvific, enabling our transcendence by inviting us into the mutual embrace of the Trinitarian community.

IV. The Eucharistic Axiom

Eucharist consists of a conjunction of the Greek Eu meaning "good,""well-being," or "happiness," and charis meaning grace or "gift." Thus the Eucharist in the joy of the Gift, the goodness of the Gift, our well-being in relation to the Gift. This Gift is the Gift of Presence. This Presence is the Divine Presence that we discover in the healing of our alienation and experience of unifying love and mutual embrace. Thus Divine Presence incarnates itself in human presence by unifying humans together. The joy of the Gift of Presence is the joy of the Gift of Love in human community, healed of its division, pride, and violence.

If we begin with the Eucharist and look at how it re-organizes and re-rationalizes our world, we will discover the foundation, axiom, and promise of a future and a hope beyond our always schizophrenic ways of being that opens up other possible worlds in which grace and love transform and nourish human life. We will discover the unfolding of a new destiny for human beings in relation to the unconditional love that holds this world together.

V. Conclusion

What we can conclude is that Jesus' identity follows and is constituted by his agency and not the other way around. In other words, Jesus' agency and activity culminating in the self-sacrificial love of the cross constitute his identity as the mediator/embodiment of the full Presence of the Logos that is the world-principle of unifying love that takes form in his way of being-in-the-world. This allows him to carry forth a salvation into the world that rescues us from our alienation and brings us into humble fellowship with other creatures through our mimetic participation in his way of being. This new way of being constitutes a new kind of humanity -- the eschatological human being.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Giving Up Christianity for Christianity: The True Meaning of Incarnation

What if Christianity actually looked like Jesus? I don't just mean the church or people. What if God looked like Jesus? What if the religion constructed in the name of Jesus looked like the humble peasant from Nazareth?

First of all, as a religion, Christianity would be diametrically opposed to the triumphalism of fundamentalist religion. Why? Jesus was not a triumphalist. Jesus didn't try to force his enemies to convert to his way. He embodied it and was willingly crucified for it.
Would Christianity be willing to undergo crucifixion for the way of Jesus?

What if Christianity was more concerned with embodying the emancipating way of Jesus than making its own name great? Jesus wasn't concerned with making his name great. He was concerned with inviting people into the way he embodied in his life, the way that leads us to the loving Father of creation and into the heart of reality.
Jesus invited people into a gracious understanding of reality, a view of the universe not as indifferent but as a relational cosmos grounded in the love that is the subsurface unity of reality.
Jesus was more concerned with the well-being of humanity and creation than his own life.

Christianity must take up its cross and incarnate the cruciformity of Christ.
The truth of Christianity is not propositional but relational and contextual, not abstract but operational.
Jesus was the truth not through his words but his actions.
The truth of Christianity must be contextualized through incarnation in the life of the one who would follow Jesus. In this way, Christianity may actually look like Jesus.

What if Christianity was more concerned with the well-being of the world than its own survival? If we seek first the kingdom of God then maybe, just maybe, Christianity will be added to us. But we first have to give up our triumphalistic notions of a God who loves and cares more for Christians than everyone else. And who knows, perhaps we will realize with the kingdom that we no longer need Christianity.

Perhaps upon seeing the kingdom we will realize that as a temporary vocation for the children of God in human history, Christianity is over, and that the goodness harbored within its event has been resurrected into our material reality as an all-encompassing presence and the revelation of the children of God in every human body loved and cherished by God. When Jesus died, Christ was risen in the body of those who remembered him and who carried forth his presence through the indwelling of the Spirit.
Perhaps Christianity will also pass away, and the Spirit within will be risen again in the whole of creation as the kingdom fully arrives with the peace of God covering the entire cosmos.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Genetic Structure of Ethics in the Morality of Jesus

Moralisms, or ethical systems of rules and norms, fail to mediate the transcendental character of the Ethical. They are contingent, provisional, and given.
Goodness cannot be measured or calculated, demonstrated in the excess of grace in contradistinction to the moderation of Greek morality (reason=virtue=happiness).
Goodness is better understood as organic and pulsing than abstract and static.
Conventional ethics has a genetic character of economic transaction and reductionism. The economic character of ethics is predicated upon the transaction of a commodity.
A commodity is a traded good which benefits the receiving party. Participation in conventional ethics is constituted by the expectation of a commodity to the benefit of the participant.
The excess of love in the ethics of Jesus drives against the cold reduction and calculation of conventional ethics and radicalizes the commodity.
Thus, the genetic structure of ethics in the teachings of Jesus is the excess of grace over and against merit and economic exchange and the impossibility of the transcendental character of the Ethical (Ethos) to be mediated by a given norm or rule.
The irreducibility of what is good and right should keep us on our feet, not as blind judges but with eyes peeled to see the particularity of the Other, the singularity of each situation.
This irreducible ethos can only get its grip on the mind when mediated through the heart.
Jesus invites us to return to the organic structure of the transcendent good as mediated through the living experience, the being-in-the-world and angsty, emotionally laden quality of giving-a-damn that constitutes real human ethical action.
Of course, we could just as easily throw out the abstract jargon and call it love.
The irreducible call of love is the event that lies underneath the ethical dilemma and behind the eyes of those who are suffering.
What we need to be confronted with are not lines on paper but lines on withering faces.
We don't need the blackness of ink but the blackness of neediness in the eyes of the homeless staring back at us as we walk the street.
It's not ultimately the bodies of dissertations that will give us a "moral compass" but the bodies of orphans and widows, the bodies of Others who demand our love and care.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Being-Toward-the-Other: the Ontological Constitution of Salvation in Christian Soteriology

In the salvific transfiguration of being that results from an encounter with the Sacred vis-à-vis the symbolic medium of Jesus of Nazareth, a fundamental reorientation of self radically alters the path of the individual's vocation. The will is no longer fundamentally oriented toward Ego but toward the Other. Along with Heidegger's ontological constitutions of being-in-the-world and being-toward-death, along with Ricoeur's being-interpreted, another existential configuration comes into focus: being-toward-Other.

Through this traumatic encounter, the Gaze of being finds dissatisfaction in the objective horizon of its consciousness -- a field of idolized phenomena violently assimilated and reduced to objects of personal gratification. Under the vocationally tyrannical and objectifying Gaze of being the Other is mutilated and reduced to an enslaved other, no longer an Other but another shadow that is otherwise than Other, otherwise than being, a mere icon idolatrously mistaken for the Real. So this horizon of consciousness is realized as a killing field populated by shadow objects of Ego, fenced off from that which is beyond the perceptive horizon of consciousness -- the traumatizing Real, the Other, the irreducible and ineffable, along with its penetrating Gaze that commands our attention, sinking into the black voids at the centers of our eyes, invisibly crossing our Gazes in an ineffable and commanding commonality, soliciting our attention and reverence and caution.

So the traumatic encounter with the Sacred Other leads to a reverence for every other Other, a being-toward-Other which demands that we draw out of ourselves under the Gaze of the Other and respect and love the ineffability of the Other, symbolized in the black and bottomless commanding abyss at the centers of their Gaze, which is the locus of their irreducible singularity. 

But how does the Sacred Other function within the symbolic medium of Jesus Christ? How does it succeed in reconstituting our being? First, in the teachings of Jesus. Through the medium of evocative parable we are drawn into the experiences of the Other -- the desperation of the prodigal, the suffering of a man mugged and left in a ditch. But more importantly, the unconditionality of love behind these stories -- the celebratory love of a father for a son who took away his livelihood and destroyed his honor and fortunes, the dishonorable and scandalous love of a hated enemy who helps his enemy out of a ditch and pays for his healthcare anyway. Love draws us out of ourselves and beyond the boundaries Ego selfishly establishes. But what about the actions of Jesus? He heals the sick, raises the dead, and loves his enemies, embracing those who have been othered by the elites. He is unjustly murdered and crucified, and when we stand before the image of this figure in our minds, we stand before a naked and bleeding body, bearing the scars of our selfish world on his own flesh, a world we have contributed to ourselves. His blood cries out to us, his wails and cries screaming at our injustice, calling us to crucify our own Egos that crucify his body. And as the bleeding body of the Other, reduced to a mocked and derided other, he calls us toward himself to embody this cruciform love, to go out toward the body of the Other, lift it from the ditch, pay for its healthcare, and forgive it of what it has ostensibly taken from us.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Easter Experience and the Empty Tomb: The Oracle of Early Christian Hope

Haight and Borg on Resurrection:
Recently I was reading Roger Haight on the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in his book Jesus: Symbol of God, who holds a view of resurrection similar to that of Marcus Borg and other liberal scholars. There is not much that I disagree with them about, but this has become a bit of an issue for me. They do not affirm a the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus as an historical event, but my biggest issue with them is not their denial of this event which they may find intellectually impossible to affirm, but the fallacy of their arguments against it.

Marcus Borg reduces the event to a mystical resurrection where Jesus is removed from time and space and taken up into the life of God, and speaks vaguely of the appearances, refusing to admit any empirical qualities to them. Haight, in similar fashion, sets up a false binary opposition. Contrary to his own stated postmodern epistemology and the irreducibility of this event, he argues that if the event is to be meta-historical and transcendent, Jesus must be lifted up into the life of God apart from an empty tomb or empirical appearances. The event is meta-historical; therefore it is not historical. The event is transcendent; therefore it has no immanent qualities. Jesus could not have merely been the resuscitation of a corpuscular body; therefore his crucified body had no continuity with his resurrection. Now before moving into a more thorough deconstructive critique of this position, I want to lay out the importance of the resurrection as an historical event for Christian theology.

Wright and Paul on Resurrection:
N.T. Wright lays out the significance of the historical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth in his book Surprised by Hope. Therein he argues that the early Christian hope, which recapitulates and transforms the Jewish eschatological hope, was rooted in the future resurrection of God's children. The guarantee of this future resurrection was predicated upon the historical resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus was vindicated by God, so will his message and his followers be at the end of the age. But if Jesus is not risen, God has abandoned him, his message has failed, and we are wasting our time (according to Paul). Jesus is said to be the first-fruits of those who are asleep. This means that there will be a fuller harvest at the end of the age. It is a form of poetic justice: all those who have been oppressed and abused like Jesus and the outcasts he ate with -- they will be vindicated and risen up in the end.

Now Wright argues that the risen Christ was not the same Christ with the same body: his disciples didn't even recognize him at first. Paul argues upon the ground of Christ's resurrection that we will receive a new body in the resurrection, a celestial body that we do not yet understand or see. Wright refers to this as "transformed physicality": there is a continuity with physical existence, empirically and tangibly, but also a transcendent and fuller dimension to this existence. Perhaps it could be said this way: the new body is not less empirical but more fully so. It more fully exists, just as the promise held out is the promise of a "new creation," a "new heaven and new earth" that will be more fully material and real, not less so. We wont be ghosts in the clouds. We will be more fully human.

Jesus would have been more fully human and a foretaste of what lies beyond the eschatological horizon of his early followers' hope. What else could have drawn them out of their despair? They felt that Jesus had been a failure, and those who heard him crying out on the cross knew that he may have felt like a failure too. When Jesus was killed, so was his message. The disciples fled in despair. What could have led them to believe he had risen and been vindicated? I would argue nothing less than something very real and traumatic, something like an empirically present Christ. It's hard to imagine that they simply began to believe this as they reflected on their vivid memories of Jesus as Haight seems to think.

Haight's Fallacy:
So back to Haight. His belief that the event cannot be both historical and meta-historical is fallacious: he himself argues that Jesus mediates the presence of God as a concrete symbol. Why can the resurrection not be a concrete and mediatory symbol? In other words, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as an historical event can be understood as a dialectical symbol mediating a meta-historical and transcendent reality: Jesus has been taken "up" into the life of God, vindicated and exalted over his oppressors, concretely manifested in his empirical resurrection. Again, if Jesus is the first-fruits of the new creation and the second Adam (Gk. anthropos=human, Heb. adam=human), he must be more human, not less. The Jews believed that we are not whole beings unless we have both a body and an internal life-force joined as a psychosomatic unity. Jesus has to be a holistic psychosomatic unity from the new creation to accurately/truthfully preview the ultimate eschatological outcome of God's redemptive activity in history.

Theological Consequences:
Without an historical resurrection, the central oracle of early Christian hope is lost. Christianity as a spiritual path does not get lost, nor the luminosity and wisdom of Jesus' teachings. But the particularity of the Christian hope gets lost. The message of Jesus has a lot of transformative power in itself, but the resurrection gives it teeth. Some are content losing the metaphysical singularity of the Christian message   truncated from its spiritual path; others would like to have a form of poetic justice laid out in front of the world's suffering as a guarantee to the poor and oppressed, a messianic structure of hope-against-hope offered as an historical pre-figure to a future interruption to the insane samsara of systemic injustice as well as an ultimatum laid out before the oppressive cultural forces as a challenge and a threat.