Monday, March 12, 2007

Resurrection IV

Joe asked about what my own beliefs concerning resurrection.

I began, as he correctly sensed, with a modern liberal take on resurrection: it was allegorical or perhaps a spiritual experience, the traditions are confused at best, etc.

Then I read NT Wright's book and suggested some lines from a more traditional viewpoint.

I can also say that when I was younger I believed in resurrection because that is what I was taught to believe. Then I held in my early 20s something like a liberal symbolic view. Which I still think has some merits in relation to individual prayer and Biblical reflection.

How would I characterize my believing now?

The first piece, following Wright, is that resurrection is not about life after death. There could be heaven and hell and/or reincarnation after this life but that is not resurrection. Resurrection is about something beyond life after death. Beyond the beyond.

To me the only difference between Eastern and Western (socalled) Great Religions regards the relative created plane. The Absolute (Godhead, Dharma) is the same in the realizers of both: the ground and essence of everything. The question really is about the terminus of that everything or what that everything is on its own plane (relative truth).

The Eastern and Greek non-Christian Platonic traditions (all nondual) bespeak of endless cycles of birth, flowering, decay, death. Usually of a devolutionary nature a la Hinduism: starting from the Golden Age and descending to the current Dark Kaliyuga which will end in fire only to be reborn.

Origen (3rd c. Church Father) in Christianity represented this movement. He saw all Souls pre-existing before Creation falling, only the soul of Jesus remaining obedient to God, so the Christ (Word of God) was united to the soul of Jesus and incarnated. All souls, including the Devil will return to God only to fall again in endless cycles (aeons) with incarnations on all levels.

This position was not accepted in mainline Christianity. The mainline tradition is about a fulfillment to all creation. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition this is called the anakephaleisos i.e. the recapitulation ("re-heading") of all things in Christ as head. The Western Christian tradition tends to speak more of an apocalyptic ending. But either way a terminus and a new beginning beyond the limitations of time-space contra the cyclical model.

Resurrection is about the prophetic-Abrahamic traditions notion of this fulfillment for the individual body, soul, and personality. It is beyond life after death. That is just a change of condition. It is also not simply the awakening to the Causal/Nondual (although it could include that) as a mystical state in this life. It is about something else that is beyond beyond.

Wright correctly points out I think that the Biblical stories of both walking through walls and eating fish of the resurrected Jesus are symbols meant to point to this reality. I don't think those particular aspects are to be taken literally.

But what that beyond life after death, new heaven and new earth means I have no idea. I also think asking whether the Resurrection of Jesus really happened is the wrong question. I could be said to believe yes and no. Or neither. Or either.

I'm also unclear how this beyond life and death, both a continuity with and emergent capacity of the resurrected being occurred with Jesus and the early disciples. I think the literal/symbolic divide of much of the literature does not make sense to me any longer.

There is a peace and bliss from the realization that everything is one and that consequently "All is Well" as Julian Norwich said. There is also the being ok with relativity found in Habermas/Wilber's dialectic of progress: somethings are getting better, some worse, some get better so that more things go wrong, some things get better only to be hijacked by the worse to cause even worse, AND YET All is well.

The Dialectic of Progress allows the radical centrist thinker to bypass the apocalypticisms and hyseria of both right and left:

From the Right: That the Muslim hordes are going to out breed us and destroy us all.
From the Left: Global Warming induced environmental catastrophe.

Formerly the Right: The Communists have infiltrated and are going to overthrow Western society.
Formerly the Left: Population Bomb, Nuclear Winter/Holocaust, Chemical Pesticides Run Amok.

There is Evoluiontary Nonduality where one experiences everything as peace/bliss as in traditional nonduality but also a deep desire for being in creation without the existential angst, the inertial momentum of previous stages. But it doesn't teach anything beyond death.

Ultimately it is one of the unanswerables according to the Buddha--what happens after death, not to mention what would happen after life after death.

But none of that is still theological hope. In Christianity, hope of and for the relative created world is a gift of grace. I'm not going to get into argument about whether grace is irresistible or can be denied but sufficed to say it is a grace. I see no argument from the evidence of phenomenological, mystical, or philosophical-religious discourse to say that resurrection of the dead, the living, and those living beyond human death, is anything but a theological revelatory datum.

I'm believing into it in my life. I suppose that is the most honest answer. The bhakti tradition of Hinduism says that even the Godhead is Personal (Bhagavad Gita, Krishna is the Godhead). I've tended more in my life to see the Godhead as Transpersonal and beyond description. I'm trying to move more into the Bhakti model and seeing the both/and of oneness and distinction (indistinct union). Resurrection it seems to me has to flow from this side of the divide.

I believe it, I hope for it, a fulfillment of creation, a superseding of this frame but also a continuity with it as well for all beings, beyond the suffering and torment of this world. At the same time all of the other elements: dialectic of progress, Ultimate Awakening, Evolutionary Spirituality, are still real and are not dependent on resurrection seems to me. Nor are they mutually irreconcilable either.


At 8:28 PM, Blogger Shannon said...

A couple of thoughts:
I wonder about the individual-centered path we seem to head down on this question in Christianity. Part of the Christian tradition is that we as Christians are part of the resurrected body of Christ, present in us is that incarnate body of God. I wonder if our lives should maybe move toward that same sensibility - my body living on in the bodies of others. I find science actually helpful here - my body won't be destroyed, it will live on in other forms, giving new life. And I trust that in that body will be my spirit too - as I can't separate them.

There is also the question of how much flourishing the energies of my thoughts and actions encourage. Will my life be one that inspires and brings new life, or one that entropically dies, without encouraging further flourishing beyond this body as constituted now. The resurrected body of Christ has been one that can, in the right circumstances lead to great flourishing.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger CJ Smith said...


thanks for the post.

ur probably right about the individualist tendency in the piece. I did see it as the fulfillment of all creation all individuality (not just human) in relationship.

You might like Karl Rahner's notion that at death we are released to creation awaiting the resurrection. Sounds similiar to what you wrote about your body as part of of other bodies.




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