Saturday, May 14, 2005

Gnosis, particularity, and the Church



Now that I can read what I want, I'm reading a (so far) marvelous theology book by an Orthodox theologian, David B. Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth. He says something interesting about the particularity of Christianity (that God became man, not just man, but a man, a Jew in Palestine of all places): “Wherever theology seeks to soothe those who are offended by the particularity of Christ, or struggles to extract a universally valid wisdom from the parochialism of the Gospels, a gnosis begins to take shape at the expense of the Christian kerygma.” (22) An interesting insight. One attempts to universalize the gospel into some symbolic truth about humanity in general, that becomes a way of flight from the messiness of particular human beings. You know, the sort of thinking that wants to make Christ the guy who said "Love one another" but not the guy who said "Don't lust" or "give your cloak to the guy who has none."

He had another interesting thought which I think has application to those of us who are offended by the humanness of the Church, saying that the Church is a society, and parenthtically "society, therefore, as potentially the church". If we say that God founded a Church that is human and divine, this means that our society also has the possibility of becoming divinized, becoming the Church writ large. This is threatening. Much easier, I think, to throw stones at the Church for its humanness than to turn the mirror on the humanness of our own society. The Church is a human society, full of sin. That is certain. But it is also divine, and therefore presents itself to us as a challenge, since if it is divine, so can we be.

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