Tuesday 2 March 2010

A handshake of carbon monoxide

OK, while you ponder this awesome album cover, let me draw your attention to a couple of first-rate posts:

  • Graham Harman has a blisteringly good post on "the most overrated philosopher of all time". I found his logic terrifying and compelling – and his post generated a storm of responses around the blogosphere. I can hardly bear the thought of what might happen if you used this logic to identify the most overrated theologian of all time! (Please, don't ever mention this again.)
  • Meanwhile, Bruce Hamill has broken up with his boyfriend – that is, with Jesus. He writes very perceptively about the experience of having Jesus as an eroticised "invisible friend" – a "relationship" that can be maintained only through the laborious exercise of all manner of psychological and spiritual techniques. Personally, I'm very grateful for my Pentecostal background, but it left me with a painful awareness of the narcissistic dysfunction of this kind of "relationship" with Jesus. Bruce's account should remind us that the only Jesus we want anything to do with is the Jesus narrated in the Gospels – not Jesus the friendly poltergeist (as Robert Jenson once put it), but the crucified and risen one who summons us to discipleship.


Anonymous said...

I like that 'friendly poltergeist' quip. But didn't Jenson also write a theological commentary on 'Song of Songs' as the story of human love for God?

We don't just find Jesus in the Gospels. And even there we find Him as Bridegroom.

Anonymous said...

thank you for the radiohead reference.

J said...

yo, the pious fat boy: the young Hagee, right out of Kalvin camp, perhaps---

Can ah, ah get a witness??.se lah

Anonymous said...

I agree with christthetruth,

For in the gospels we are quite equally encountered with the Lord who summons us to "relationship" (I know how this word has been abused, yet in all faithfulness to the scriptures it is a word that must not be lost). There is no escaping this...it is one of the essential features of discipleship that distinguishes it from the idolatrous religions of east and west that put God in the thunder clouds and tally up the merits of fearful obedience in the hopes of a possible "yes" on the great judgment day.

It is those who made greatest possible use of liturgy in their "relationship" with Jesus that ended up speaking in such familiar terminology in regards to him as to likely come under the scrutiny of this very blog and its attitudes (cf. Henri Nouwen or Theresa of Avila).

If the psychological, the imaginative, and the romantic is utilized in the prayers of a person addressing Jesus day to day, I say: good on them. They ought not to give up. We are told to be sure that not an ounce of any anthropological center, not a single vista in the scope of the phenomenon of the human spirit is to be missing in our love for the Heavenly Father (why not then the son?) according to the gospel of Mark (12:29-31). For those of us in the west who love to think of Jesus as an ascetic "New Moses", I ask how they could have so easily missed the first and greatest commandment of the new and distant lawgiver?

bruce said...

Thanks for the publicity Ben.
@emerson Maybe we can't do without 'relationship', but surely a multitude of possible kinds of relations can be covered in the abstract term 'relationship'. The word doesn't even appear in the translation of the bible I searched. My question is really what form does the relationship the bible calls 'discipleship' (among other things) look like and what practices best facilitate it. My own conclusion is that discipleship is more likely to be fascilitated when we 'undergo God' by being addressed by the risen-crucified one (ie eucharistically). My critique of 'romance' is not a rejection of emotion or 'whole-heartedness' or even terms of familiarity (perhaps there will be a place for that some other time). It is certainly not a rejection of 'love' but rather of narcissism and egotism.

Paul said...

Using that post for guidance, this, I think, is a logically sound way to determine the most overrated Christian theologian of all time:

1. The currently most overrated Christian theologian of all time is probably a 20th century thinker

2. Said theologian is viewed by many as one of the greatest of all time

3. Said theologian is subtly second-rate (but not third-)

4. Said theologian is....(wait for it!)....SWISS!

Just kidding, Ben, just kidding. I have the guy's picture hanging on my wall, for Pete's sake.

Ben Myers said...

Paul, you set my heart a-pounding. But if someone reached point #4, I could always exclaim: "OMG, it must be VON BALTHASAR!"

Geri Russell said...


I know you are not saying this, but I just want to clarify that being Pentecostal does not necessitate anything like the above. I've never been Pentecostal, but I'm sure you would agree that there are a host of good Pentecostal theologians that wouldn't touch this stuff with a 10 foot pole (Karkkainen, Macchia, Yong, Volf, Jamie Smith, etc.).


Anonymous said...

Hey Bruce,

Certainly the eucharist has a chief and profound place in our "relationship" with God (indeed an abstract word!). Certainly also there is much to be said for approaching Jesus in "remembrance", or under His own address to us in the aforementioned eucharist.

I just don't see these concepts as in any way drowning out the too-close-for-comfort familiarity we are called to in the gospel of "our" Lord (here language is getting relational again). Was it Paul who could talk about sexual ethics and in nearly the same breathe discuss becoming "one" with Christ in spirit? I think it was (1 Corinthians 6:16-17). The boyfriend analogy fails, not because it is too familiar, but because it is not familiar enough. It fails to express the profound, the chief, or the supreme intimacy held out between Creator and reconciled creature...an intimacy to which the ordinance of marriage can only shadow.

Like the doctrine of the Trinity, one doesn't need the word "relationship" to see the concept it describes so richly interwoven throughout the witness of sacred scripture. It is there. It is undeniable.

pds said...

Don't forget we need to read terms in their original 1st century context. Terms like "friend", "family" even "bride" had different, less familar meanings the they do now.

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