Friday, December 26, 2008

Sacrificial 'Ram': "The Wrestler" as the Story of Job

"He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5

The new movie by Darren Aronofsky, "The Wrestler" is the beautiful and terrible story of an aging professional wrestler, Randy 'The Ram', played by Mickey Rourke. The hard-bodied and oafish Randy finds no comfort in the world outside the ring. He lives in a dilapidated trailer, has an estranged daughter and an demeaning side job at a local grocery store. He lives for the weekends when he can wrestler.

The movie is really a modern story of Job.

Of course, Randy doesn't fit the traditional Job-archetype. Through the movie you realize he is derelict, a delinquent father, a drug-user. He is not pious in any conventional sense.

Yet, he is unshakable in his faith. Not for God, but for wrestling.

The heart-aches, the heart-attacks, the poverty, and the alienation from friends and family are all endured. He is unflinching faithful to the religion and ritual of wrestling. And for his fidelity, what felicities does it bring him? None. His age relegates him to minor contests, his steroid use leaves him deformed, while still always true to profession.

During the movie, he begins a relationship with a stripper named Cassidy, played by the Marisa Tomei. She is the parallel to Randy; both live off the exploits of their flesh, and they are past the peak of their prime. While talking to Randy at a club she jokingly says, "You were pierced for our transgressions, you were crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace is upon you. You are the sacrificial Ram." And he is. You can almost here Randy 'the Ram' saying to the gods of Wrestling, 'Forgive them - the fans - for they know not what they make me do."

Also, see this article of "Job as Wrestler". Art immitating the Bible, and Bible immitating Art.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Spiritual, Non Religious?

I was reading about F. Schleiermacher today. One of the few things we have in common is our discontent for what the Enlightenment did to theology.

A passage reminded me of the banal position of many in this generation, that of being 'spiritual, but not religious.'

He writes, "The emptiness of a rational religion consists in the fact that it is not a real religion at all, but an eclectic collection of dead fragments. It has not grown from a living intuition, but has been distilled from a dying form. It is attractive to many because, lacking any positive character, it offends no one. It creates discussions groups, but not churches; it rests on thought and not on feelings. It is not wonder that it appeals widely to the religiously indifferent, for it is an abstraction, and thus it stirs up on of the strong feelings aroused by concrete realities. Who can hate an abstraction? But then again, who can love one? (Makers of the Modern Theological Mind: Friedrich Schleiermacher, by C. W. Christian).

It makes me wonder... how many of our churches are already mere 'discussion groups.'

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cosmic Evangelizing: The Need to Shoot Bibles Into Space?

After reading Sagan's Gifford Lectures, I turned anxiously to his novel Contact. The vastness of space and the seemingly inexhaustible amount material that comprise the comets, moons, planets, stars and black holes leaves one reeling. It is even a bit scary.

My good friend, The Monad, responded to my last post by writing,
"The question of what salvation would be on other planets is mind-boggling. I suppose if there is evil on those other planets than salvation is necessary...can Satan exercise dominion on other planets? What's to say that he can't? Then the question becomes one of soteriology. How does Jesus save? Is there something about the way in which Jesus brings salvation that is unique to this planet? We have no way of knowing."

The question indeed is of soteriology. If there is tripartite (mind, body and soul) life that is shackled by sin on other planets how are they saved? Are they saved?

My other good friend sees orthodox soteriology as being not only an anthropological but a cosmological panacea.
"The problems of finite-thinking have come about because of the belief that Christ's redemption ONLY applies to humans and not to rest of creation as well. Once we understand salvation as applying not to the salvation of souls but to the promise of the 'new heavens and new earth', the question about life on other planets and how they fit into the overall scheme of things, really is a moot point."

This answer isn't satisfying.

The value of reading Sagan is that we are challenged to strongly critique the entire anthrocentric enterprise. Christianity, wrongly or rightly, has a soteriology that is completely enthralled with the notion of humanity. Early Church history and controversy deal almost exclusively on the communicatio idiomatum.

Patristic thought may concede that Christ vindicated creation (universe and all), but they will stubbornly hold that specific salvation of humanity was only possible through the Incarnation.

St. Athanasius famously states, "He was made man, so that we might be made gods."

Poignantly, the soteriological question for St. Anselm was, Cur Deus Homo? or Why Did God Become Man?

Perhaps most provocative is St. Gregory of Nazianzus claim, "That which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved."

Extraterrestrials (a name for that itself is thoroughly anthropocentric) are not going to have a human nature. In that case, will their unassumed nature not be healed? If they are in every way like humans, except for having three eyes instead of two, will that third eye not be saved?

My friend writes,
"Sure the life, death and resurrection of the incarnate God happened in a remote corner of the universe, but that shouldn't limit its cosmic implications."

Well, of course it does!
The Gospel is the Good News. Thus, any good soteriology should be able to pass the scrutiny of the most important question for pastors: Is it preachable?
This is only conjecture, but Christian soteriology will probably not stir the soul of E.T.

On the other hand, if my good friend is right: God has vindicated all creation and creatures and promised a 'new heaven and earth' (or earths?). Then it seems that Evangelicals need to set new priorities. Forget Asia and Africa - there are as many as a billion worlds that need to know that God through Christ has given them new life! Evangelicals should become the biggest supporters of NASA, and begin a program to shoot bibles into space.

I'm not joking.

If one is convinced that Christ has undeniably, solely saved the fate of the entire cosmos one ought to feel an uncontrollable desire to rush headlong into the vast blackness of space only to hope to come across intelligent life and proclaim, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again!"