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it's a mad mad mad world (of theology)

The mad dash for the end of term has begun.  I have finished all my required readings and have jumped into research reading.  One of my papers is on the madness of theology (the correlation seems more obvious to some of us than to others).  Truly inspiring stuff, I am finding.  Let me share a few quotes here:

There is a certain madness in Christianity – in a desert God who is jealous and passionate, in a saviour who speaks in apocalyptic terms, in a life of sacrificial love, in the scandal of particularity.  In principle, a confessional theology should bear the mark of this madness, but the mark or wound must constantly be renewed. - Walter Lowe, "Postmodern Theology" in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, 2007.

 “In the Scriptures the odd phenomena constituting the ‘Kingdom of God’ are the offspring of the shock that is delivered by the name of God to what is there called the ‘world,’ resulting in what I call a ‘sacred anarchy.’  Consider but a sampling of its more salient features.  In the Kingdom, the last are first and first are last, a strategically perverted system of privileging, so that the advantage is given not to beautiful Athenian bodies that house a love of wisdom, but to lepers, deaf mutes, the blind, epileptics, and the paralyzed.  The favor of the Kingdom falls not on men of practical wisdom, of arĂȘte, of experts in phronesis, but on tax collectors and prostitutes, who enjoy preferential treatment over the upright and well behaved.  In addition, in the Kingdom the way to be arrayed with all the glory of God is to neither sow nor reap but to behave like the lilies of the field.”  - John D. Caputo, After the Death of God, 2007. 

Perhaps to no one's surprise, I am utterly captivated by these notions of embracing sacred anarchy,  hospitality in excess, and a certain chaos when dealing with the things of God. It just seems obvious to me that God should never make total sense or perhaps in more precise terms, be subject to human reason.  I am most blessed if thinking about God and calling out to God and reaching out tenuously for a divine/human encounter always put me just a bit off-balance and leave me more mystified than before.  It is a grand, wondrous place to be!

the photo:  having fun with an orange.


Brian said…
I can definitely testify that studying is making me crazy! I love the quotes and feel a strong empathy with them at this strange new phase in which I find myself.

There is a beautiful madness to giving up everything so you can have what you could never hold.
Anonymous said…
Anarchy is not madness.

The Kingdom of God is anarchy of some sort, which is perfectly reasonable in principle and seemingly unreasonable in practice.

The Christianity of the Antichrist is the established order, which is unreasonable in principle and seemingly reasonable in practice.

The "Christian calling" is to incarnate --or to be -- the perfectly reasonable principles of Christ in a world which operates according to the false reason of capitalism, corporatism, consumerism, evangelicalism, and the various embodiments of the false reason of the Antichrist.

Western Christians today --by definition-- must be anarchists of some sort, but not sacred anarchists. The anarchism of Christ is mundane and radical, but certainly is not sacred. If His anarchy is set-apart from this world, is made sacred, all hope is lost.

Christ came to destroy the sacred --the setting apart of one's self for God-- in order to reveal the divinity of the mundane, the ordinary, and the secular.
Anonymous said…
Madness is a Church which has remained silent while its parishioners have been cannibalized by the various machines of the Antichrist.

Madness is a Church which has voraciously ingested the heretical poison of evangelicalism, of sola fide, of sola scriptura, of dualism, of the sacred. This heretical poison serves no other purpose than to separate us from each other through profound arrogance, thus reducing our collective ability to fight the machinery of the Antichrist. Salvation rests in the social and the collective: The Kingdom of God.

Madness is a Church which has propped-up the capitalist machinery that is cannibalizing us through "missions": "good works" which serve the false notion that the status quo is leading us forward.

Madness is a Church which has shown itself to be incapable of addressing growing economic inequality, and which is not preparing its parishioners for the highly probable global economic collapse.

Madness is a Church which has failed to lead us on the issue of climate change. It is entirely possible that within 50 years the earth will be 4 degrees centigrade warmer. If this happens billions of beings will die, and we may be facing the very extinction of our species.
Anonymous said…
Jacques Ellul
Anonymous said…
From the above article by Ellul:

"As for the other formulation, 'My kingdom is not of this world': this says explicitly that Jesus will not exercise political authority. But in no way does it suggest that Jesus recognizes the validity of political authority. On the con­trary. There is the kingdom of God, and all authority exer­cised outside of that is wicked and must be denied. Never­theless, Jesus does not represent a-politicism or spiritualism [what I am calling the sacred]. His is a fundamental attack on political authority. It is not indifference concerning what politics can be or can do. It is a refusal of politics. Jesus is not a tender dreamer gliding in the sky "above politics." He challenges every attempt to validate the political realm, and rejects its authority because it does not conform to the will of God." p. 20

"And I do not say this because of an orienta­tion towards a kind of Spiritualism, or an ignorance of politics, an a-politicism. Certainly not! On the contrary. As a Christian one must participate in the world of politics and of action. But one must do so to reject it, to confront it with the conscientious and well-founded refusal that alone can put into question, or even prevent, the unchecked growth of power. Thus Christians cannot help but be only on the side of anarchists." p.22

By definition, according to folks like Ellul and Brueggemann, Christians MUST be politically active, and this activity must question pharaonic power.

I have been forced to conclude that Christians who are not politically active, who are unable to see any value in social movements like Occupy Wallstreet, who are more worried about their personal relationship with Jesus Christ than climate crisis or economic injustice, have been lulled to sleep by the Antichrist.
Anonymous said…
The only madness that exists is the madness of theology in all of its forms. Pick any religion and the same factor applies - you must give up reason to indicate belief. There is no hope for humanity with respect to shattering the illusion once and for all...too many people on the planet enforce theology as their truth. They spend their very lives in pursuit of it. Witness the other responses to this post as examples of such. The entire world suffers from delusions, and our societies reflect this all too well.
Anonymous said…
I would like to address three ideas in the "madness of theology in all forms post".

First is the giving up of reason to indicate belief. If God is real and I have had an experience with Him it would be unreasonable to avoid indicating that belief. I have experienced Him and thus must indicate belief to not only be reasonable but to be rational.

Second is the assumption of an enforced theology as truth. Theology in it's simplest definition is the study of God which cannot be enforced, but only pursued. Religion or a system of beliefs can be attempted to be enforced but we end up with something that may outwardly look like faith but inwardly is just another dead hierarchical system.

The third is the delusional aspect. If faith is based in delusion, that delusion has led to fine academic institutions, active hospitals designed for no other reason than to heal the sick, orphanages that save children from a life of war and death, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, stores designed to assist the poor by providing used goods at a fraction of the cost of new, disaster relief, and high quality homes built at low cost for the less fortunate. Some of these results of faith are easily identifiable and some are less but all exist because a person of faith cared about their world. Somehow that doesn't sound delusional, it sounds rational.

Just my musings on these points.
Anonymous said… did you experience "him"? Did he walk up and introduce himself? Parted a lake for you to walk through? Otherwise, belief is indicated. Again, this is delusional. "Reason" is not what you think it means. about Voodoo? It's an older religion that predates most religions on the planet. Most religious people of today find it to be a quaint throwback, when it can be argued that all Christian rituals basically amount to the same thing...a lot of meaningless posturing to attract the deity's attention to yourself and your perceived spiritual need. Again, this is delusional behavior.

Third....ask how many world leaders believe in God, and then start wars, converting "heathens", damning non-believers, and such. Again, this is delusional behavior...especially so when claiming that your take on God or Gods is somehow superior to others, and merely by acting upon your beliefs, your God or Gods will is being manifested. It doesn't matter what the intentions are, it's still not rational to claim that the deity is responsible for your own behavior.
Anonymous said…
"Madness of theology" is a simple idea that adequately describes the totality of religious effects upon the entire world. Is it not madness to try and persuade everyone which brand of theology to follow?

Which one wins? Arguments can be made for all sides of this question, yet none are adequate enough for everyone.
Anonymous said…
How did I experience God? So many ways, it's tough to isolate a few. Probably some of the most significant ways are when God instantly repaired a broken bone in my foot when someone laid their hand on me and prayed. I have also been overwhelmed by Him as I asked to see Him, and I have seen many people instantly cease destructive behavior (including myself) through the simplest of prayers. These will probably not be adequate "proof" to anyone else, however to me they are very true and very real. I would say that I have experienced God because I asked to, and expected I would see that prayer answered.

I would completely disagree with the second point of a Christian posturing to attract God and say that the rituals are designed to prepare the individual to experience God, not to attract God to the individual. God doesn't require the ritual, we do.

On the third point I would say that I have observed more good things accomplished by individuals who believe in God than those who have done evil in God's name. When I look at Bishop Tutu, Mother Theresa, George Mueller, and I see the work of the Presbyterian or Baptist hospitals throughout the United States, or see Habitat for Humanity build homes, or observe Iris Ministries take care of orphan's in Africa (all started as faith based organizations), I see faith as being a force that illustrates and demonstrates love, not judgment and war.

Yes there are individuals who have chosen to use the name of God as a springboard into destruction, but it is irrational to paint all who hold faith with that brush when so many others have done so much good. I have seen many examples of those who have shown love to others in the darkest and most difficult parts of the world because of their faith. I would say that the clearest, most fundamental characteristic of God is His love for mankind and His desire to have that love shown throughout the world by those who believe in Him and want to follow His ways.

I know my belief or faith is not popular but my journey is my own and I have had no regrets when I tried to live in a way that illustrates that faith.

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