May 30, 2008

Resurrection and faith as a love story

Spengler reviews the new book by two Harvard scholars, one Jewish, one Christian, entitled "Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews in Life and death in the Bible and is so enthusiastic about it, I ordered a copy right away.


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"Resurrection: The Power of God for Christians and Jews" (Kevin J. Madigan, Jon D. Levenson)


Modern materialism has weaned the industrial world off spiritual food, like the thrifty farmer who trained his donkey to eat less by reducing its rations each day. "Just when I got I had him trained to live on nothing," the farmer complained, "the donkey had to die!" Like the donkey, the modern world has died when its spiritual rations were cut to nothing. We refuse to acknowledge that our deepest needs are no different from those of Biblical man. We fail to nourish them and we die.
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The hope of traditional society for life on this Earth - for men cannot tolerate life on this earth without the promise of eternal life - is precisely the same as it was in late antiquity. Four hundred million Christian converts in Africa and perhaps a hundred million in China are evidence enough that much of the world will abandon broken traditions and embrace the promise of life. Man is still Biblical man, and the Bible yet again may prove a guidebook to life as it did two millennia ago.

Theology should reclaim its throne as queen of the sciences because it is our guide to the issues that will decide the life and death of nations. Levenson and Madigan have done an enormous service to their own and to many other disciplines by clarifying the Biblical understanding of life and death.

Sick of politics, I find myself reading theology and biblical commentary more and more and discovering just how deep and rich it can be.  I am in awe of Pope Benedict the theologian and hang on his words.  As Gerard Baker observed in The London Times

what is most striking, as hundreds of thousands observe this Pope in person for the first time, is not the visual symbolism, the crowds or the made-for-TV events, but the imposing beauty and power of his words.

It’s already a cliche in Rome that
the crowds came to see John Paul but they come to hear Benedict. Among those familiar with his career, his reputation was always that of a fierce intellectual — the theologian and author of dozens of dense tracts on Christianity. But what was missing was an understanding of Benedict’s remarkable capacity to use words to speak to the emotional part of the human brain.

Of course, the Pope will already have known that the US, unlike the Europe he hopes still to convert, is a religious place. True, as in Europe, there are a growing number of so-called cafeteria Christians, those who like to choose from a menu of moral and doctrinal options, who believe religion should be essentially a kind of divine validation of their own lifestyle rather than a call to sacrifice and commitment. But America is still fundamentally receptive to the religious principle, the idea of a single truth rather than a moral chaos of equally valid beliefs
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Shortly before he became Pope, Benedict told a congregation:
“Christianity is not an intellectual system, a collection of dogmas, or a moralism. Christianity is instead an encounter, a love story, an event.”

This idea of
faith as a love story — God’s love for his people, and our love for Christ, the human face of God — is what Benedict seems to want us to understand as the defining theme of his papacy.

The effect of a living faith is experiencing life as a gift and living in the realms of love unbounded. Far preferable than the "living death" of much of modern culture.

Thus Christians rescued themselves from the maelstrom of death that took hold of the late Roman Empire.

Posted by Jill Fallon at May 30, 2008 7:57 AM | Permalink