May 8, 2009

Straw Gods
Some theological thoughts

1) It is a confusion of monotheistic society, encouraged by secularization, that we think we all means the same thing by "God." But there are many gods, many Gods, many versions of the Christian God, many many Jesuses, and all sorts of atheisms.

We are, in fact, all atheists. Each of us disregards and disbelieves slates of deities.

So when someone finds God, we might do well to ask for more detail. Ask, following Aquinas, what is this which you call God? Ask, as Augustine asked, what do you love when you love your God? Likewise, when someone blasphemes God, or defies Gods, or rejects God, the same questions should apply. Because maybe we're not speaking of the same deity. Maybe we get distracted, sometimes, attacking and supporting straw Gods.

2) Kenosis: an emptying, such as in the incarnation; the doctrine that Christ voluntarily divested himself of divinity, and dominion and power, making himself a servant, becoming a reject and an outcast, even unto death, where he was hailed "king of the those who always lose, who are despised the world over"; the doctrine of Christ the loser.

3) There is an effort, by some Christians, from creationists opposing evolution to Radical Orthodoxy's idea of an ontological priority of peace, to save "order," "meaning," and "reason" in the past. But why? Why is an idea of Eden, or an original peace or pre-fallen order, important to the idea of Christ's salvation?

Couldn't Christians accept evolution's vast history of original meaninglessness and postmodernism's ontological violence and work with an idea that "the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep" but then "light shineth in darkness" and the creative word, made flesh, was spoken into the disorder?

What is important about the idea of a perfect past?

4) To say that postmodernism "took God out of the world," is to identify God with dominion, power, phallocentric hegemony and the sort of totalitarianism which allows neither deviation nor minority except as a sickness which ought to be cured, a queerness which ought to be eliminated. God becomes a puppet of Kim Jong Il.

5) The doctrine of the Trinity preserves the sovereignty of God by putting God in definitional relationship with God. It also, though, puts God into community, giving us not a supreme leader, not a God who speaks ex cathedra from some singularity, from some lonely, autonomous place, but rather a God in mutual submission.

Christ, who abdicates the kingships which were rightfully his, and who accepts neither the Satanic means nor ends of possessing power, is possible because of the Trinity. Because of the Trinity, God is not a hegemonic God, but includes variation and minority and involves kenosis.

6) In the apocalyptic vision of John, the saints are those who throw away their crowns.


  1. 1) Yes

    2) This is why the Last Temptation of Christ works so well as a novel. Why Kazantzakis is off the Christian literary radar is a mystery to me.

    3) As Bonhoeffer says, "The Church of Christ witnesses to the end of all things. It lives from the end, it thinks from the end, it acts from the end, it proclaims its message from the end."

    4) To say the post-modernism took God out of the world is to misunderstand God, the world, and post-modernism. As Rahner says, "We make secularization only more dangerous if we dramatize it. And, let us be frank: is it really so certain that formerly, when religion and the Church played a greater part in public life, men really had more true faith, hope and charity, which, after all, are more important than anything else? God alone knows. The faith that is attacked by our secular world and is left to the free decision of the individual may well be more genuine. Further: is the seemingly secularized ethos of our time which speaks (and, let us hope, not only chatters) of the freedom and dignity of man, of responsibility and the love of one's neighbor, is this ethos a result of Christianity or not?"

    5) Agreed, although I don't believe Gregory from a singular, lonely, or autonomous place.

    6) Yes

  2. 5) Should read,

    Agreed, although I don't believe Gregory spoke from a singular, lonely, or autonomous place.

  3. This was exactly a thing I needed to read today. I don't have any specific responses, but my mind feels more still for having these thoughts to ruminate.

  4. Daniel: I wasn't picking on Gregory in particular, but liked the picture, and also don't think Papal authority reflects the Trinitarian understanding of God.

    Jess: Thanks. I am glad.