Archive for June 2010
I wrote a note a while ago that Theology is psychology infused with the light of God. Theology is sociology infused with the light of God. And Theology is anthropology infused with the light of God. After reading Oswald Bayer I have to try to revise those statements:
Because Oswald Bayer argues that Theology proper is what God does. Theology is therefore the on-going speech acts of God in the form of performatives, that is, in the form of promises (gospel) and commands (law) from God to us. Thus Theology is God speaking to us and God acting in us.
Psychology in the theological sense is our under-going God’s therapy; sociology is divine forces capable of redeeming all the social forces overcoming us. Theology is then the anthropology, caught up in the reversal of our justification, wherein God transforms us bringing about our growth and maturation into the fullness of the stature of Christ.
Often in worship service thoughts come into my head and I just write some on the bulletin. Today right after the lector read Galatians 5: 14-15: “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.” That made me think of Holy Communion. God became a human being in Jesus Christ and knowing the radical evil in us, he offered himself for us to devour and to consume so that we might be forgiven, come to our senses and eat and drink at the table together sharing love.
Last week the New York Times had an article about fifty years of oil spills in the Niger Delta. The people there wonder how we get such response to BP’s destroying livelihoods and life in the gulf, when they have to live in such spills all the time. That reminds me how the military dictator of Nigeria quickly hanged eleven environmental activists, among them the great Ken Saro-Wiwa in 1995. Now whenever women there demonstrate, soldiers beat them with billy-clubs and drive them away.
Had we cared about them and found out what oil companies did over there, would we have so uncritically listened to the refrain, “drill, baby, drill” ? And now that we hear how oil companies are destroying the Peruvian Amazon (Today on NPR Morning Edition) and the children have cadmium and lead in their systems from the spills, and the rain forest there will never recover, do we care? We care about our own disaster in the gulf. Had we cared about what happened in Nigeria, where that government back in 1995 was for and of and bought “buy” the oil companies and against its own people, then we would have been on guard when the “drill, baby, drill” craze got going here in Cheney’s secret energy policy.
Having mentioned that secret energy meeting in which Cheney stonewalled congress, it turns out that the cocktails of chemicals that natural gas companies use to frag the rocks (the shale) and free the natural gas are EPA exempt. They consider the cocktail proprietary, like the recipe of a baker; don’t mind the possibility that they are highly toxic to the people of Pennsylvania, Colorado, and other states. Only here, where government is a bad word, can you turn on your water spicket and find out that it is now mixed with natural gas and has become flammable!
When our wallets get in the way, it is very hard to understand simple truths and when huge amounts of money are involved, the inertia for profit rather than losses, can hurt many people, before regulations find the traction to stop the hurtful practice. Remember Love Canal? The company pouring all those toxic chemicals into the ground was called “Grace”! Some companies have ethics, others keep on doing rot, as Grace continued to do in a later asbestos scandal. If corporations are persons – in the eyes of the law – then how come they can get away with murder by changing their names? A person can’t do that. If they have to be limited liability operations to function, they should not be considered persons, because person have full responsibility for their actions.
“Far from Gulf, A Spill Scourge 5 Decades Old” by Adam Nossiter, (NYT 6/16/2010)
 USA Rivers Being Polluted Like the Gulf by Nat Gas Fragging
I’m reading Oswald Bayer, a German theologian, who seems very much oriented in Luther. The late Robert Goeser opened my eyes to understanding that the creation should not be considered God’s action relegated to the past, but God’s continuous activity in the present. I imagined the supernova and how God was even now creating new stars and how I was not finished yet, but God was making a new person and new self out of me and all other children of God. Oswald Bayer has helped me understand why Robert Goeser emphasized the creation so, because he presents it as an article of faith. The point is to once again become opened to the awe and wonder of God’s fulfilling divine promises to us through creation, filling us with good gifts through nature. When our eyes, ears, hearts, and hands are opened by Christ once again, when he says to us, “Ephethah!” “Be opened!” then the dead world of nature opens up into the wonderful creation filled with the miracles that God is constantly doing.
Luther said that we are not worthy that even one bird should sing to us nor that we hear the grunts of a sow! We have closed up upon ourselves and deadened the whole of nature so that it no longer fills us with awe and wonder. It has long ago lost all its enchantment, when we “grew up.” Luther said that God did not merely fill the universe, but was also inside a little dung beetle. We can see that the hard shell of a seed breaks, because it gets soft at just the right time, and a marvelous plant shoots out of the ground, a consummate miracle before our eyes, but we take the miracle completely for granted, we pay no attention, unless livelihood, money, having possessions, and self interest is involved.
God speech is addressed to creatures through creatures (G.H. Hamann). Luther notes that Pythagoras could hear the music of the spheres, because the nature of creation was finely tuned harmony. But we cannot hear God speaking to us, because in our deaf ears and blind eyes and self absorbed and hardened hearts, nature is mute. “Creatures are so beautiful,” Luther says, “but we take them for granted” and we are [over satiated with them], because they represent things as usual.”
The instrumental rationality and the scientific drive to harness, control, and manipulate nature for our advantages has locked nature out of creation, and Christ says, “Be opened!” Then our ears hear God speaking to us through creatures of divine creation, we begin to see the wonder of God’s works, and our hearts are filled with awe once more, because God has given it all to us freely and it is overwhelmingly good.
I remember the sadness with which Max Weber spoke about how the enchantment of the world was gone and how Matthew Arnold’s poem “Dover Beach” says it in so many words as well. Weber complained about “dead religious beliefs” and being locked inside the “iron cage” of rationality. Well, Luther argues from one little miracle, like the healing of a bird, to the miracle of the whole world as creation. Christ saying “Be opened!” makes Weber’s iron cage burst open and we become addressed by the promises of God so that we are no longer Weber’s “specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; [and as] this nullity [we] imagine that [we] have attained a level of civilization never before achieved.”
A dead world and nature that we have divided, soiled, and “conquered” returns to become God’s creations filling us with wonder and awe. So there is wonder in the miracle that God can create new stars with supernova, that the gold in the hills of our earth came from these stars, and the new selves, the new persons, were who we were created to be, but with open ears, eyes, hearts, and hands for God’s promises spoken to us, addressed to us in the wonder-full creation.
 Oswald Bayer, Martin Luthers Theologie, (Tuebingen: J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 2003), pages 95-109.
Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, p. 181-182.
At the end of three pages, where my father is teaching me the old German script he has the spoof-poem:
Heil dir im Siegerkranz
Pellkartoffeln und Herringschwanz
Heil Kaiser Dir.
(Hail to you in your victory wreath
herring tail and potato peals
Hail Kaiser to you.)