Friday, 28 November 2008

Suspicious Minds

It is a feature of our world to be suspicious. Some might say overly suspicious. In particular, we are suspicious of motives and what lies behind the facade of human behaviour and intention. And in this schema of suspicion it is power and coercion - ultimately violence - that is assumed to be behind all human activity. (Nietzsche casts a long shadow here.) From a traditional Christian point of view, this is not as far off the mark as it may at first seem. The universality of sin means that all human behaviour and intention is mired in a cul-de-sac of failure. We too are suspicious of all discourses (although this does not mean human goodness is absent, but just that it is never pristine). But Christian theology also claims a uniqueness for Christ: he is not impeded by original sin. Here we meet one of the points of conflict between traditional belief and a more post-modern version of Christianity. I don't think the doctrine of the Incarnation is about power and coercion, but many lump it with all the other ideologies of the world. I think Christ was truly for us, just as God is for us, and only for us. Christ has opened up for us a new and living way within history that leads beyond it (but never deserting it), and overcomes all violence. And this is spelt out (amongst other doctrines) in the Incarnation.

[See David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, pp. 1-2. The picture above is of Nietzsche. It is easier to see here.]

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