The purpose of my post here is to emphasize that any and all hope for Christianity in this time and place inevitably lies outside of the System. Any message of hope that makes the System the foundation of any potential new life, rebirth, regeneration, or renewal is not only a dead end, but is also seriously misguided, likely evil, and ultimately, utterly hopeless.
Easter is about something that happened, launching a new world, prior to any transforming effects on believers.
Notice the emphasis on new world.
You can’t explain the rise of Christianity historically unless you say that Jesus’ tomb really was empty and that his followers really did meet him alive again. The stories are strange; they are not what people might have made up from what they believed ahead of time. Thus, for instance, the risen Jesus, though identified by the mark of the nails and the spear, seemed somehow different. He was not instantly recognized. Paul grasps the point: what has happened at Easter is the launch of new creation. Jesus’ resurrection body was the first example of a new order of being: a heaven-and-earth reality. That’s what the old prophets had promised; that’s what the New Testament reaffirms.
Notice the shift here - the onus is placed on the importance of the worldly aspects of the new creation/heaven-and-earth reality, which is neatly tied in with the promises of the old prophets.
The point of new creation, after all, isn’t about ‘life after death’ in the normal sense. We are promised that when God creates the final new heavens and new earth all his people will be raised from the dead to share in it (after an interim period, about which the first Christians weren’t particularly interested). But the new creation launched at Easter was about the present this-worldly reality.
The point of new creation is all about "life after death", both metaphorically and literally. Anyway, as far as the author is concerned, Easter was about the present this-worldly reality. I imagine the author believes it still is.
So here’s the difference.
If you promise the post-pandemic world a ‘spiritual’ experience of Jesus here and now, or a heavenly life after death, most people will shrug their shoulders. That’s not going to help rebuild the economy. It won’t provide jobs for the millions now out of work. It will be cold comfort for those who have lost loved ones. We would be at the same place as Martha when Jesus challenged her about the resurrection (John 11:23-25): Yes, she says, I know my brother will rise at the last day. Jesus’ response is what we need to hear right now: “I am the resurrection and the life!” Resurrection isn’t just a long-distance, far-off hope. (Nor is it about “going to heaven”!) It is a person. And it – he – has come forward from God’s ultimate future to burst into the present with new life and new hope. That was, and is, the message the world needs.
He's right. Modern people will not react positively to any mention of Jesus and spiritually. So what's the solution? Don't mention it. Yeah, there's no point talking to modern people about anything spiritual because spiritual doesn't pay the bills or put food on the table. It also won't make anyone who lost a loved one feel any better. So what's the point? Much better to talk to modern people about improving the economy or other short-distance, nearby hopes. And forget heaven! Jesus was a person, and as person, he would have wanted a post-birdemic world in which people had jobs and a great economy.
Ever since the eighteenth century, the Western world has done its best to squash the rumour of Jesus’ resurrection. That’s hardly surprising. The gospel stories are about the climax of world history and the birth of God’s new creation. But the so-called Enlightenment believed that history reached its climax, not with Jesus, but with the European and American culture of the time, and that its own science, philosophy and democracy had produced the real new world. There cannot, after all, be two climaxes to history.
I can't disagree with his assessment of the spiritually destructive currents that have plagued the West since the eighteenth century; however, I wonder why he raises them here. I believe the only solution to the missed opportunity of the past two or three centuries is a shift in religious consciousness that would allow us to leave our increasingly regressive spiritual adolescence and fully embrace the freedom and responsibility of our much overdue spiritual adulthood. Somehow, I don't think the author has this is in mind when he rightly criticizes the catastrophe of the last three centuries. Let's see . . .
The church, tragically, has gone along for the ride. We decided to leave the practical work of new creation to the “secular” authorities and content ourselves with – guess what – cultivating personal experience and other-worldly hope. As Nietzsche saw, the church has offered a form of Platonism with someone called “Jesus” loosely attached. That’s a comfortable place to be. No secular empires are challenged in the making of that movie.
The church failed because it refused to acknowledge the shift in human consciousness that had occurred as potentially good. It regarded the large-scale abandonment of churches as wholly negative and could provide people nothing beyond its medieval repertoire of obedience and church authority. It could not join the practical work of new creation because it had nothing to offer - but it might have, if it had recognized the increased agency and freedom of man as something potentially good. Unfortunately, the practical work of creation freedom and agency made possible outside of the church ultimately failed as well. Instead of seeking the spiritual beyond the limits of the church, Christians increasingly turned to materialism and atheism.
But the church is supposed to be offering comfort to others, not seeking it for itself. The post-pandemic world needs the real Easter message: the message of a new creation which began when Jesus was raised from the dead. A new heaven-and-earth reality, energized by God’s powerful new breath surging through Jesus’ followers, turning them (to their own surprise, and in some cases alarm) into a multi-cultural, outward-facing community, determined to be the good news the world so obviously needed. Paul’s great vision in Ephesians was of God summing up everything in heaven and earth in the Messiah (1:10), a reality anticipated in the coming together of Jew and Gentile into a single family (2:11-22), sending a signal to the powers of the world that God is God and Jesus is Lord (3:1-13). When Paul said that we are “created in the Messiah for good works”, he didn’t mean “so that we could behave ourselves properly”, though that’s obviously implied too. “Good works” in Paul’s world meant people making a positive difference in their wider communities. The church has no business outsourcing its heaven-on-earth mission of hope to secular agencies. We should be upstaging them.
No mention of the church closures. No mention of our new global totalitarian reality, either. Anyway, again with the heaven-and-earth reality, now tied in with "good works." Is it just me, or does the author appear to building up to the old "our job is to make the world a better place" routine? Just think of all the fun stuff that happened in the twentieth century when people like the communists became hellbent on making a positive difference in their wider communities. So how does the author suggest the church upstage the secular authorities in terms of heaven-on-earth missions, which will inevitably be shrugged off by modern people if any mention of the spiritual is included?
Fortunately, this is already happening all over the place. The Holy Spirit is often way ahead of the church’s teaching and preaching. In my country, Christian groups have led the way in initiatives like food banks. The use of Cathedrals as vaccination centres (not, of course, as an alternative to worship, but as its natural outflow) has sent a powerful signal: the church is there for the healing of the community. Again and again the church in practice has been what St Paul said it should be: people of prayer and hope at the places where the world is in pain.
So, the upstaging of the secular heaven-on-earth mission will occur via food banks (sorry, though charitable and noble, I cannot conceive of anything more mundane or threadbare) and the use of Cathedrals as vaccination centers (hey, at least they're using them for something)!
Is it just me, or is there really no upstaging at all there? I mean, food banks? Okay, you've got the earthly bread thing covered. Vaccination centers? Isn't that just sharing the stage with the totalitarian secular power's earthly heaven-on-earth missions? Whatever, just make sure its multicultural and outward looking, you know . . . exactly the same as the what the System espouses. I get the sense the author is building up to a "we have to work together with the unmentioned and unnamed global totalitarian overlords in order to do any good works" argument.
But this cheerful, outward-facing life is easily blown off course, or diverted into the wrong channels. To avoid that, the real resurrection message needs to be grasped, preached and lived. The world changed when Jesus of Nazareth came out of the tomb on Easter morning. It takes precisely the same faith to believe that truth as it takes to roll up your sleeves and go to where help is most needed – from the soup kitchen in the below-the-tracks parish, all the way to the World Economic Forum.
And there it is. Roll up your sleeves and go to where the help is most needed - within the various tentacles of the totalitarian System itself - because that is what Jesus would have done and that's what Jesus wants us to do. That's why he came out of the tomb!
Heck, why not go all the way to the World Economic Forum and help them implement their destined-to-fail Great Reset and support their other totalitarian endeavors like global anti-racism, the ushering in of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and saving the world from dreaded climate change, which have all shifted into hyper-drive since the outbreak of the birdemic roughly one year ago?
After all, the Easter stories in the gospels do not end up with people saying, “He lives within my heart”. Nor do people say, in those first stories, “Ah, that’s all right, so we can go to heaven after all.” They end up with people saying “Jesus is raised – therefore new creation has begun, and we have a job to do.”
And the fortification of our new totalitarian System is the new creation we all need to work on, and my job is to willingly, consciously, and actively turn my back on Christ and heaven and get to work helping the totalitarian System be an even better totalitarian System! I don't have to think about it at all! I can outsource my thinking and every other aspect of my mortal life to the System. Yea, me!
There is a straight line from the heaven-on-earth reality of Jesus’ resurrection to the heaven-on-earth vocation of his followers. By his Spirit, we can be the difference the world needs. We can make the difference the world needs.
I can't comment anymore. This is more than blasphemy - it's a spiritual death sentence.
Anyone who willingly, actively, and consciously partakes in anything resembling this kind of vision of hope is beyond all hope.