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A Response to Wayne M. Martin’s “The Judgment of Adam” and the Symbolism of the Snake

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A Response to Wayne M. Martin’s “The Judgment of Adam.”

By Dr. Peter D.S. Krey

A Preface addressed to Prof. Martin:

Thank you for leading me to your article, “The Judgment of Adam[1] after I responded to your study of “Hegel’s Bad Infinity.” Your thorough analysis of Lucas Cranach’s “Adam and Eve” painting in this study helped me see that there is a whole literacy involved in “reading” a painting that I did not know about. Lucas Cranach seemed to be presenting Luther’s theology through the medium of paint. The painting you analyzed was his Courtault picture of Adam and Eve of 1526.[2] In it all the layers of the interpretation of the snake 1) as the bronze serpent lifted onto a pole by Moses and 2) here painted on the tree with Adam and Eve and 3) as the snake that Cranach used for his signature can be reflected upon. Using the snake in his signature, Cranach following Martin Luther’s lead, probably wanted to imply that his painting like images and art per se were not evil, but just good or evil depending on their use or abuse, – the latter case if worshiped.[3] Islam strictly avoids all images. More relevantly for this study, at the time of the Reformation iconoclasm was in full swing, where Zwingli and Calvin white-washed the walls of their churches and proscribed not only art, but even music, both of which Luther championed.

When I first read the Genesis Lectures about how Luther called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil a church, it seemed bazaar to me. Now I realize that it was under trees that the ancients worshiped and they even sometimes worshiped the trees themselves – was it Boniface (or Winfrid?) who chopped down the sacred Oak tree of Thor? He did it to destroy a false ultimate. And in the book of Genesis, God appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre.[4] That these trees are mentioned with the theophany seems significant. They may also have been a place of worship.

According to Cranach’s painting and of course the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, shame and consciousness were awakened in humanity there so like a lion, we could no longer cruelly eat the warm meat of an animal that had not yet even died. While nature is red in tooth and claw, we received a conscience and we could feel shame. We could do right and wrong. We became aware that there was such a thing as good and evil. The Garden of Eden story can be related to evolution in the sense that we became human by dint of God, the consciousness of the universe, raising us up.

I also thank you for getting to the basis of Luther’s anthropology by declaring that we are in a helpless estate – Luther calls it being passive before God. Finding ourselves quite a way “east of Eden” and then when we are completely honest, we have to admit that we face evil choices whichever way we turn unless the Holy Spirit helps us live out of a new birth and a new strength from God’s consciousness on high. Perhaps the latter could be opposed to what you call our ontological self-consciousness: Adam knowing himself just enough to recognize Eve as his mate, but not yet really having human consciousness and conscience?

To admit that we face evil choices whichever way we turn, I’m thinking about our negative legacy here in the USA: the genocide of the Native Americans that continues in the reservations; the hangover from slavery and colonialism, where so much of our high standard of living has been at the expense of the oppressed. We never gave the slaves forty acres and a mule and have attempted to short change them at every turn for the unfair advantage of us Whites ever since, now as we realize we are in a new version of a Jim Crow era. Where is our protest against these injustices?

Thank you so much for writing that study and getting me to read it.

Part II: Now I am taking one more step in thinking about the symbolism that Wayne Martin discovers in Cranach’s painting:

Through his painting Lucas Cranach is superimposing the later story of Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the wilderness[5] upon the snake in the sacred tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Paradise of the Garden of Eden. The former serpent, perhaps like a scapegoat absorbed all the evil venom of the people bitten by snakes, allowing them to be saved; the latter snake beguiles Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, making her become conscious and ashamed of being naked.

The symbolism of the snake or serpent has so many phenomenological layers, because one can take the next step into the New Testament as well: because Jesus also refers to his crucifixion with the same symbol: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”[6] And thus the Lenten prayer:

Who by the tree of the cross gave salvation to all humankind, so that where death arose, life might rise up again, and that he (the snake) that once overcame by a tree, might also by a tree (the cross) be overcome, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Now we will not go even further and relate the serpent, Tiamat, the nature god of the sea, the personified ocean, representing chaos or Tohu va Bohu in Hebrew. Nor will we delve into the ubiquitous medical symbol, where two snakes are depicted climbing up a pole. Nor will we relate how a stick can be used to render a snake more harmless or the strange fact that poisonous snakes are milked of their venom to be used in vaccinations against snake bite.)

Lucas Cranach himself additionally, uses a winged snake with a crown, also looking like the primordial dragon, for his painting signatures. In this 1526 Courtault painting of Adam and Eve, he places his signature right onto the trunk of the sacred tree of the knowledge of good and evil.[7]

As already mentioned, Luther believed that that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the place of worship in the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve’s eating the forbidden fruit brought about the Fall of creation. Perhaps we could identify the cross of Jesus Christ as the Tree of Life, which brings about our human ascent and that of all creation, so that God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. We may not be able to experience the feature presentation here on earth, but we can get the previews of coming attractions. We can go in reverse as well and say the same about hell.

Painting as an art deals with pictures and images and can be enhanced into sculpture so that churches are filled with statues and paintings. In Cranach and Luther’s time an iconoclastic movement was in full swing. Image makers had become image breakers. Zwingli in Zurich and Calvin in Geneva emptied their churches of all the images and paintings, white-washing the walls of their churches. They did not even permit music, except perhaps, for intoning a psalm. On the other hand, Luther argued that Moses lifted up that bronze serpent in the wilderness, so an image was not good or evil per se, it all depended on its use or abuse. Thus to worship an image makes a person guilty of having a false ultimate and being idolatrous, but when someone like Cranach expresses Luther’s theology in paint, so that people can “read” his painting, then it represents no abuse, but a perfectly appropriate use of art. Wayne Martin asserts the latter conviction to be the most likely reason Cranach, Luther’s close friend, used the winged snake as his signature.

From the cross of Christ, absorbing all the sin of the world and becoming the scapegoat for the forgiveness of all our sin and evil, Christ was like that serpent raised up on the pole by Moses in the desert; and like that serpent in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, people trying to be like God, made all things ambiguous, now vulnerable and at the mercy of their use or abuse, able to be used for good or evil. But in the eating of the forbidden fruit consciousness was won as conscience, so that Adam and Eve realized that they were naked and became ashamed; but they became aware as well that they would one day die. After Eve eats the apple, the animals on her side of the painting also awake and the lion gets ready to pounce on the doe and take that poor creature out of Paradise. Thus consciousness was won, but Paradise was lost. They experienced how the earth also could be cursed and not yield its fruit, even with hard labor and the sweat of their brows. But Christ transformed that curse into a blessing on the tree of the cross, when he was lifted up like that serpent in the wilderness, drawing all of humankind heavenward too God:

“For when I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself.”[8]

These are some of the symbolic layers of interpretation:

  1. Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness to save the snake-bitten people
  2. Christ describing his crucifixion by means of the Moses story
  3. Luther seeing Moses’ action as an affirmation of painting, sculpture, music and all the arts, because images are not evil per se, but good or evil in their use or abuse. Images cannot be done without in thought, language, and culture.
  4. Cranach superimposing the Moses story upon the story of the Fall. He depicts the sacred tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden as a snake on a pole once more, where consciousness and conscience are gained but paradise is lost.
  5. Cranach uses the image of a snake in his own painting signatures, even placing that signature on the trunk of the sacred tree affirming his vocation as an artist. But, of course, when culture represents the worship of elite secular people, it is an abuse of art. When art expresses the human condition before God, places a mirror before people, in which they can see themselves in, (like the deer in the painting seeing its reflection in the pond from which it drinks) generating consciousness and conscience for good and evil, right and wrong. Art can even be the painting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified showing the way of salvation.

____________________________

[1] Should you want to read Wayne M. Martin’s Study of Cranach’s painting, click on “Judgment of Adam”

[2] To view and study Cranach’s painting of Adam and Eve with a detail feature tool for the purposes of comparison, click on “Adam and Eve”: by Lucas Cranach

[3] Pope Gregory I (590-604) noted that “the illiterate could contemplate in the lines of a picture what they could not learn by means of the written word.” In a sense, Wayne Martin contemplates Cranach’s painting and in its lines reads Luther’s theology.

[4] Gen 18:1.

[5] Numbers 21:4-9.

[6] John 3:15.

[7] See a detail of his signature with the tool provided: Cranach’s signature

[8] John 12:32.

A Response to Wayne M. Martin’s In Defense of a Bad Infinity (2007)

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Wayne M. Martin’s essay, In Defense of a Bad Infinity: A Fichtean Response to Hegel’s Differenzschrift. To see his essay in the Internet:

http://privatewww.essex.ac.uk/~wmartin/BadInfinity.pdf

A response by Peter D.S. Krey

Again, I would argue that Hegel is a Lutheran philosopher and he gets a good deal of his philosophical inspiration from Luther’s theology. For example, one could interpret Luther’s justification by faith experience in terms of the bad and true infinities: locked into one’s own finite effort and strength one cannot fulfill what the infinite God demands. Thus to bring Aristotle’s critique of Zeno to bear: finite moments cannot traverse the infinite moments of infinity. But those that are infinite can traverse the moments of infinity. So the infinite effort and strength of God can fulfill God’s commands in Luther’s justification by faith experience. The passive finite understood in a Pauline sense becomes filled with infinite grace in Luther’s divine linguistic event. His experience needs to be understood in the contours of a language event, because he was struggling to understand the Pauline Passage, Romans 1:17:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”

Hegel thought that an infinite limited by the finite was a bad infinite. (I will go along with Wayne Martin and not call it a spurious infinite which would mean that a bad infinite was no infinite at all.) When the Holy and Absolute Infinite enters the finite and fills it, we have the fulfillment of the infinite demands, by the infinite traversing the infinite.

In Luther’s eighth point of his “Freedom of a Christian” he writes:

The commands teach and prescribe for us many good works. Merely prescribing them, however, does not make them happen. Laws point the way, but they do not help; they teach us what we ought to do, but they do not give us the strength to do it. They are set up only so that persons become aware of their incapacity for good and learn to despair in themselves. That is why they are called “old” testament and why they belong in the Old Testament.[1]

Luther then shows in point 9 how faith in Christ, how the Infinite accomplishes what the finite or even a bad infinite could not do:

Believe and you have it; don’t believe and you won’t have it.[2] For what is impossible for you through all the works of the commandments, which are so many and are of no use anyway, is quickly and easily done by faith. For I have placed all things in a compact form inside faith, so that whoever has faith has all things and whoever does not have faith has nothing. In such a way the promises of God provide what the commandments require and accomplish what the commandments demand, so that everything belongs to God, command and fulfillment. God alone commands and God alone fulfills. Therefore, the promises of God are the word of the “new” testament and belong in the New Testament.[3]

Faith is the way the infinite (God) enters and fulfills the finite such that the promises of God through their true infinity can fulfill the infinite requirements and demands of the law, because “everything belongs to God, command and fulfillment,” meaning that the infinite is at work though the finite.

Another way to say it: the finite through faith receives the power to grasp and contain the infinite. This is the way William Blake describes it in his famous poem, “To See the World”:

See a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.[4]

Thus justification by faith is the way infinite grace transforms the person, who no longer limits the infinite. In the Incarnation, God became a human being, as the Word became flesh. Mary can be beheld as the Mother of God, the Theotokos. The infinite body and blood of Christ is in the Eucharistic bread and wine. And while the finite “I” of Fichte cannot live the infinite Christ, the infinite Christ comes and enters and lives the life of the believer. Thus Paul can write, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” I first could not see how Wayne Martin could resolve the Pauline infinite demands with the teaching of kenosis or the emptying out of a person. But perhaps he means that the finite ego must become nothing so that the Infinite can completely enter the finite person.

Taking the side of Fichte and the bad infinite’s ideals, Wayne Martin keeps looking at our human condition from a human and finite point of view. Reinhold Niebuhr also spoke of our being responsible for ever increasing approximations of justice. Just because a person cannot do everything is not an excuse to do nothing. A person remains responsibility for the little something that the person can do. The bad infinity is like the perfect becoming the enemy of the thing that is possible.

I wonder what made the early Greek Philosophers, Aristotle as well as the atomists look askance at the infinite regression and progression. It does not lead to nothingness, but perhaps it defines the edges of the finite, beyond which the Creator God, the Absolute Infinite, as consciousness and word, is out there coming to us in continuous creation, incarnation, and the use of the sacraments.

Thus what I am arguing for is Hegel’s true infinity, in terms of being filled by the Holy Spirit or concretely, by the Word of God, Christ, so the dynamic of the Infinite accomplishes untold wonders amongst us finite being. From the view point of the ideals of the bad infinite, we are locked into the incremental approximations, but they also will not be possible without the power of the True Infinity giving us those breakthroughs.

____________________________________________-

[1] Philip and Peter Krey, editors, Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 2007), p. 73.

[2] Glaubstu so hastu; glaubstu nit, so hastu nit. (In Luther’s German)

[3] Ibid., page 74.

[4] William Blake, Fragments from “Auguries of Innocence.”

Hegel and Augustine’s Triads and Hegel did not Deduce a Missing Planet

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I just wrote an essay and it is published in Scholardarity: Instrumental Rationality as Opposed to Hegel: Hegel and Augustine’s Triads

If Hegel is right, could the structure of reality be triadic reflecting creation by the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity? Or do triads have a privileged place as Augustine argues in their being the traces left by the Trinity? Contrary to all Hegel disparagement since 1801, he did not deduce a missing planet between Mars and Jupiter. But where Venus, the second planet is twice the distance from the sun as Mercury, and Mars the fourth planet, four times that distance, why is Jupiter, the fifth planet 13 times that distance away? In this essay that searches for a non-instrumental rationality in Hegel’s dialectical logic of life, the question also comes up: in the violent birth of the moon, when the Mars-sized planet Theia struck the earth, where did it come from? A hypothesis requiring scientific feedback is presented.

A Critique of Science (continued). 22. August, 2013, Blogging my thoughts

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A Critique of Science (continued). 22. August, 2013

I’ve been reading Polanyi on religion and science this morning and that is giving me more thoughts about the piece I just wrote yesterday about the MD’s setting up that health outpost in the jungle under a shaman. The question becomes how could the shaman have understood things that the medical doctor only learned in medical school?

I think it has to do with his living in and understanding his world as densely populated by spirits, to use Dr. Herndon’s description of their cultural thought world. Thinking in terms of spirits is a way of thinking in terms of faith and thus thinking in terms of God, because “God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

It is problematic when faith is replaced by one way of understanding, because, as a base,  a genuine faith is open to many paths on the way to understanding. As St. Anselm said, “I believe in order to understand.”[1] If we substitute one way of understanding for faith then a reductionism becomes involved that disregards the totality of the picture that a faith cognizant of the whole can provide. Faith, an open faith, that is, should not be marginalized for the sake of one way of understanding. It is rather foolish for some scientists of today to argue for the non-existence of God, as if science could replace faith. And it is as foolish for representatives of a faith to reduce their faith to one way of understanding.

Polanyi argues that the reductionism of science is problematic for human beings.

Modern science and scientific philosophy cannot analyze the human person without reducing it to a machine. This flows from assuming that all mental processes are to be explained in terms of neurology, which in their turn must be represented as a chart of physical and chemical processes. The damage wrought by the modern scientific outlook is actually even more extensive. It tends toward replacing everywhere the personal I-Thou by the impersonal I-It.[2]

To continue quoting Polanyi:

We can go farther. Evidently any attempt to identify the particulars of an entity would involve a shift of attention from the entity to the particulars. We would have to relax the intention given to the whole for the sake of the discovering its particulars which we had noticed until now only by being aware of them as part of the whole. So that once we have succeeded in fully identifying these particulars, and are in fact attending to them now directly in themselves, we clearly shall not be relying any more on our awareness of them as particulars of the whole and therefore will inevitably have lost sight of the whole altogether.[3]

The emphasis on ecology in science is now trying to correct this historical defect. Polanyi continues:

This fact is abundantly borne out by half a century of Gestalt psychology. We may put it as follows. It is not possible to be aware of a particular in terms of its contribution to a whole and at the same time to focus our attention on it in itself. Or again, since it is not possible to be aware of anything at the same time subsidiarily and focally, we necessarily tend to lose sight of an entity by attending focally to its particulars.[4]

That “entity” Polanyi is referring to is a person or spirit that even understands nature in an I-Thou relationship, let alone in relation to human beings. On the other hand, science has the tendency to make even human beings into objects in an I-It relationship.

The long citation from Polanyi above explains what Dr. Herndon described as “the narrow lens of science looking through a tunnel, becoming limited by what the scientist chooses to see.” Suddenly, the story about looking for a lost ring, that could have been lost anywhere, only under the street lamp of science, is the metaphor that came to my mind.

Dr. Herndon claimed that the missionary and the government officials destroyed the “shell of spirit” in marginalizing the shaman and the tribal world of knowledge, their treasury of wisdom, making the tribe completely dependent upon them. [5] (Teilhard de Chardin would speak of the particular self-generated envelope of thought as their “noosphere.”) Evidently tribal members think not in terms of concepts, or with an experimental scientific method, but through experiencing and thinking in terms of spirits, which is their path to understanding.

In his world of thought, the shaman claimed that an evil spirit was in a forest, because that was his way of thinking and understanding in terms of spirits. He did not know the scientific particulars, in terms of rodents in the forest spreading a microbial disease, but he was grappling with the fact that tribal members who went into that forest died and he could not cure them, thus an evil spirit was at work.

In conclusion, science is of course a very important and crucial pathway to understanding and impacting our lives and environment, but it is not the only pathway, and it still has to make way for faith, for an open faith, not one that distorts it or tries to replace it, but a faith that checks our totalitarian attitude about its being the only way to reliable knowledge. Did our false, dominating spirit of monotheism somehow get into scientists? Christ showed us the way and it’s a humble, suffering helpfulness, even in epistemology.


[1] Compare St. Anselm with Descartes: “I think, therefore I am.” This philosophical conviction is certainly a reductionism of living, acting, and experience to thought. These can all be thought but not be reduced to thought, for example, a relationship is more than the analysis of it.

[2] Michael Polanyi, “The Scientific Revolution,” in Hugh C. White, ed., Christians in a Technological Era, (New York: Seabury Press, 1964), p. 28.

[3]Ibid., Page 30.

[4] Ibid.

[5] From notes that I took at Dr. Christopher Herndon’s power point presentation. See my previous blog.

Believing without Seeing, a Philosophical Sermon, Second Sunday of Easter, April 7th 2013

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Second Sunday of Easter, April 7th 2013

Acts 5:27-32 Psalm 118:14-29 Revelations 1:4-8 John 20:19-31

Believing without Seeing

 

Let me preach a sermon somewhat different from sermons as they usually go. The story of Thomas in the gospel of John is like the one about Mary Magdalene last time. These stories can stand by themselves and usually we preach about them by saying the angels rolled the stone away, but the disciples rolled it back because they locked all their doors cowering in fear. Or we speak about doubting Thomas in order to strengthen our faith. Or that the risen Christ brings the peace of God, so that with the Holy Spirit, that peace can spread throughout the world.

But the Gospel of John lends itself somewhat to philosophy, the way it speaks about truth and freedom, remember the text: you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. (8:32) Here in a similar way Thomas won’t believe until he has seen for himself and even more, until he has put his fingers into the nail-holes in Jesus hands and put his hand in Jesus’ wounded side. So let’s first look at the issue John is bringing up.

In the Scripture Thomas’ twin is never mentioned, so sometimes we say that we are really the twins of Thomas, because in our scientific way of thinking, we are right there with him wanting tangible evidence just like he did.

Going way back in how we know something, many of us, just like Thomas go by our senses: our touch and feeling, our sense of smell, taste, hearing, and sight. We think like he did that reliable knowledge comes from our senses. But our senses often deceive us. Our senses say that the sun goes around the earth and not the other way around, that our earth goes around the sun and that is a deception that humanity believed from the beginning of time until Copernicus only about five hundred years ago. We now realize that our earth is a planet going around the sun, but we used to think that the sun was like the moon, orbiting around our earth.

Because our senses deceive us, other thinkers believe that only reasoning is the way to reliable knowledge. But although reasoning sometimes helps correct places where our senses fall short, it can also run a collision course with reality, if it does not take account of observations we make and experiences we have.

Zeno is an old philosopher who argued that if you wanted to cross a room to get to a door, you first had to go to the half-way point. But before that you would have to get to the half-way point of that half-way point, etc., etc. In this way he proved by reason that you could not move at all and motion was illusion. We know that we can move across a room to get to a door and we observe motion all the time, so we say, so much the worse for reason. So later you have other thinkers who put these two ways of knowing together and mostly each one goes further in putting their fingers into the nail-holes in Jesus’ hands and their hand in Jesus’ side. This is especially true for the scientific method, where you make observations, you form a hypothesis and then test it by controlling variables and studying just one in an experiment. Slowly you come up with a theory about what is happening in nature and then you hope that other scientists can replicate your experiment so that the theory that you’re proving becomes stronger and stronger with their support.

Now here is the trouble with science. When you study a rock, for example, it just sits there, so it works pretty well. The rock is an object that you as a subject can study. But when you are dealing with other people, you are one subject observing another subject, who is meanwhile also observing you. The kind of an objectivity that science can have over nature is impossible for the humanities. But over and above knowledge, we can attain some wisdom that rivals the knowledge that science can attain.

Now when we speak about God and divine matters, like God being in Christ and the resurrection, then we go up another level. Now we rely not on reasoning and our senses, but on revelation. From it we learn that God is the source of yourself and myself as subjects. We are speaking about the light in which we see light. God is the origin of our life and thought and love out of which our consciousness springs and flows. Thus we have our five senses, as well as our minds that make our reasoning possible, allowing us to have experiences and make observations so that we have identities, have relationships, and enjoy living in society.

When we contemplate God we cannot have the objectivity of science and even our human wisdom falls short. “My ways are not your ways and my thoughts are not your thoughts,” saith the Lord. “But as high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways over your ways and my thoughts over your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Now with revelation all we have to go on is belief, in the sense of faith and trust in the goodness and friendliness, in the love, joy, and peace involved in our encounter with the God, the Ultimate. And Jesus taught us how loving this God is and bid us to call him our Father and bask in the knowledge that we are God’s children. Thus he taught us to pray: “Our Father who art in Heaven.” So when we gaze up in awe at this universe, when we wonder at all the plants and animals, the trees and mountains, rivers and oceans, even the cities with their skyscrapers, and other products that human hands produced; even cars, airplanes, computers, and three-D printers that we produce when working together in corporations; and otherwise, the awe we feel when we gaze at master-pieces that are created by the hands of artists: God’s gifts are so overwhelming we become awe-struck!

In order to be honest, however, we have to admit that although we are the crown of God’s creation and wonders of divine handiwork, we did not create our wonderful existence, but we are creatures in it. Thus the psalm says, “It’s the fool who in his heart says there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1) And meanwhile the love of God is drawing all upward into growing and maturing, because we are challenged by the Ultimate, the source and ground of our existence to participate in continuing this creation.

We can participate in continuing the creation or we can participate in the destruction of this wonderful life here on earth that we have received as a gift.

Jesus said, “’And I when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all people to myself’ … to indicate the death that he was going to die.” (John 12:32) and many of the greatest minds of the earth and many of the greatest souls have beheld Jesus and realized that God was in him – reconciling the whole world, so that we can escape a nose dive of destruction and pull back into an ascent, in which we participate in the continuing creation, with which God is not finished yet and in which you and I are not finished yet: who you are and who I am are not finished yet. We are being called and sent by God into the great plan of salvation, which is another way of speaking about God’s continuing creation.

God began this plan of salvation by calling Abraham, continuing with Moses leading the exodus out of slavery into the Promised Land, and then, because Jesus is the Lord of all the nations, his globalization of the promises of God that were first made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and of course, Sarah, Hagar, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah, God’s promises to all the patriarchs and matriarchs for all the races, nations, and people of this world.

Jesus Christ is also calling us to participate in God’s plan of salvation for this world. The Risen Christ represents a breakthrough into a new Passover and Exodus, so that we even speak of a new covenant, now not only between the Jews and God, but between God and all the people of the earth through Christ. The risen Christ leads our new exodus out of sin and evil, death, and destruction into reconciliation with God the Creator, into goodness and love that has overcome the fear of death and knows that in the resurrection of Christ, we have a passage way through death itself in which we become more than victorious, in which we are made more than conquerors. We grow and mature to be able to lead people in our time on the way of salvation.

The risen Lord appeared to all those he had called, like he called us, in order to send us out with the Good News to all people. He comes right into their midst and says, “Peace be with you!” Jesus did this after he had already died. He was already on the other side; he had already experienced the Passover dying on the cross, and from the other side, he appeared to those whom he had called to send them out to show all people the way: love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, be a peace-maker, if someone strikes you on the cheek, turn your other one to him also. In other words, practice non-violence. Gandhi called it “doing the truth.” Have a change of heart; make your love, compassion, and forgiveness as extravagant as the amazing grace Jesus brought down from heaven.

Not even death made Jesus depart from those whom he loved to the end. Those words come from the vows that Ruth made to Naomi. Read that love story, called Ruth. Just look it up in the table of contents of your Bible and read that wonderful story. It comes right after Judges and is only four short chapters, just a few pages long. But the way Jesus says “my Father and your Father, my God and your God” and the way Thomas says, “My Lord and my God!” comes from Ruth and Jesus is revealing that God, the Ultimate One, the Creator, is hopelessly in love with the people of this earth and wants oppression, slavery, violence, wars, environmental degradation, and all things that inflict death and destruction to cease. God’s love in Christ made God die for us, dying to give us life, dying to give us a change of heart.

The word “mission” means “sending” and it will take many, many missions to save this sorry world. It will take many, many loving acts of kindness, forgiveness, love and compassion, and even a new human organization called the Church to bring about God’s plan. The trouble is that our church itself is captive to a large part in participating in the plan that continues the destruction of the creation and our Church has to bank on love and faith to such an extent that it is willing to send us on Christ’s mission from the other side of our dying, than means, making our baptisms real. We have to pass-over into the Promised Land and make an exodus out of a survival mode into mission. The survival mode that our churches are in is based on the fear of dying, while mission is based on our faith in the Resurrection.

It’s the resurrection that the founders of Our Redeemer’s trusted and believed in when they called believers together in this place here in South San Francisco. With your new pastor, you will be challenged to understand what faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ means and what it means that he sends you to participate in saving this creation. Because like Mary, Peter, Thomas, Paul, and all the other disciples, the risen Christ is your Redeemer, who did not purchase you with gold and silver or money, but with his own precious blood and now you belong to God. You are in this world but not of it. Your souls are in God’s keeping, and now you too have to become bold witnesses, who obey God rather than human authorities when they are bent on destroying the creation. You too are called to help the distressed and bring about the Passover from this culture of violence into the gentle and tender reign of God filled with God’s wonderful promises. You too, and I as well, have to take an exodus out of the fear of death, knowing that Christ gave us a passage-way though death into heaven.  You and I are called into that marvelous kind of courage and into that strong life that knows of the love of the risen Lord, a love much stronger than death and one that death can never stamp out.

When you rely on the risen Lord, when you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, not seeing but believing, you will experience the promises of God coming true as if you had placed your fingers into the nail-holes in Jesus hands and you hand into the side of Jesus. With Thomas you will exclaim, “My Lord and my God!” and experience your sending to participate in God’s great love affair with this world. Amen.

Pastor Peter Krey

Written by peterkrey

April 8, 2013 at 2:03 pm

The Fifth Dimension: the Dream-State Reality of a Greater Being

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I was looking into some of my responses to Student Philosophy of Religion essays of about 2005. The students had already left for the semester, so I could not give them my response. On one of them by a student called Santos I wrote:

This is a very interesting exploration of the fifth dimension: the dream-state reality in the mind of a greater being. St. Paul quoted the Greek philosophers: “For in [God] we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) And in the Gospel of John, we read, “God is spirit; and those who worship [God] must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) That gets to Hegel’s philosophy of the spirit. Could “spirit” be the concrete thought of God and as our thoughts are abstract and reflect and affect reality, while God’s concrete spirit is reality?

Footnote from December 31, 2012: Thinking about Plato’s Cave, my son Mark noted that the way our shadows are projected by the physical person, our physical persons themselves are projected by a Being even greater.  I responded with Bishop Berkeley’s “Being is perception”. The fact that we do not stop existing when humans do not perceive us is that we remain perceived in the eyes of God. But that perception could be our very life and the source of our being. The Spirit of God could be creating us out of the fifth dimension, if time is considered the fourth.

Written by peterkrey

January 2, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Philosophers’ Carnival

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Jason Zarri is hosting the Philosophers’ Carnival. He has also entered Notes on Timothy Williamson’s Lecture on Logic as Scientific Theories for the carnival. Check it out: Philosophers’ Carnival.

Written by peterkrey

November 10, 2012 at 6:18 pm