Friday, October 15, 2004

Water Buffalo Theology: Chapter 9

Water Buffalo Theology by Kosuke Koyama on Amazon

water buffalo theology coverChapter 9: Ten Key Theological Issues Facing Theologians in Asia

Ages ago on this blog I posted this list, which I made in response to this chapter in this book, but here it is again:

10 theological issues facing theologians in the U.S.

• Interdependent World

• the Bible

• proclamation, accommodation and syncretism

• U.S. megalomania, economic and cultural imperialism

• economic greed and consumerism

• cultural, spiritual and religious relativism

• the Church's identity and the meaning of that identity: can the organism known as the Body of the Risen Christ coexist with the institutional church?

• education of clergy and especially education of laity

• ecumenism - can we mainline churches (Protestant and Roman Catholic) live, study, talk and work with those not-like-us church bodies?

• taking academic theology to the streets, as some already have been doing

In an excellent book I read during the past year, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identify, Otherness, and Reconciliation, Miroslav Wolf quotes Daniel Boyarin as he points out although the Pauline solution of

1) relativizing Torah;

2) discarding genealogy; and

3) for the sake of all the families of the earth embracing the crucified and resurrected Christ as the seed of Abraham in whom "there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female,"

...offered a "possibility of breaking out of the tribal also contained the seeds of an imperialist and colonizing practice; Paul's universalism even at its most liberal and benevolent has been a powerful force for coercive discourses of sameness, denying...the rights of Jews, women, and others to retain their difference." -pages 45-46

And Wolf says, "...baptism into Christ creates a people as the differentiated body of Christ...[which] lives as a complex interplay of differentiated bodies—Jewish and gentile, female and male, slave and free—of those who have partaken of Christ's self-sacrifice. The Pauline move is not from the particularity of the body to the universality of the spirit, but from separated bodies to the community of interrelated bodies—the one body in the Spirit with many discrete members. -page 48

We've talked about the West's arrogant cultural imperialism and exploitative economic greed with its super-production and super-destructiveness that keep insisting newer is better and bigger is best - particularly when we harvest most of the benefits! Those characteristics seem never-ending, though sometimes they're vaguely disguised. And this means the West will need to become more ointment than gun in the future -but how? It's easy to relativize all of the West's multitude of impacts on the non-Western world by pointing out for every act of cultural or economic violence there's always a host of positive contributions we can point to with pride - though that pride is generally smug and self-satisfied.

We do need to acknowledge not only will any true missionary encounter needs to be a 2-way street and we need to expect to gain at least as much as we give; we also need openness to the surprise of finding benefits and gains in areas we never imagined. That old adage about its being far easier to give than to receive keeps holding true - the constant challenge of the non-self-sufficiency of grace.

"Asian ointment?" For me also, tai chi and yoga are blessings of mind/body/spirit healing, but that's so individual! To an extent the sum of the individuals is synergistic, but (my thinking and writing are rambling today)…

What will "Asian ointment" suggest about God's creating, caring and self-revealing activities?

It suggests God is not partial - even to us earth creatures that sometimes imagine ourselves creation's crown! It also suggests God's passion for creation and especially for relationship with creatures, even though we're not talking about the "like us" but rather about those "not like us": "the people I created for myself that they might declare My praise!" And reminds us though creation's not necessary, still God rejoices in creativity.

As Christians, despite affirming our creation in God's image, we know God and humans are discontinuous in many ways, so at least logically absolutely everything created is the recipient of both fallenness and wholeness.

As Paul says in Romans 5, the law entered human life and awareness that offense against God's holiness might abound, but where sin abounded, grace was much more abundant: God gave Torah not so much as to actually increase the trespass but to increase human's awareness of their depravity - IOW, the law convicted a creaturely humanity that otherwise was blissfully unaware of its sinfulness and, as Paul admits, grace/resurrection is God's final Word. Because, in any case, we're talking about creatures rather than Creator, even though not about terrestrial creation. Your asking if fallenness and grace are "totally terracentric concepts" shows how fruitful this discussion is! We're all actually realizing how culture-bound we tend to be!

Scripture says one like us in every way - except sin - was born, lived, was broken and "became sin," died, was raised from death and ascended to sovereignty at the right hand of God in order to complete the salvation/wholeness of all creation; God in Christ reconciled "all creation," and not just humanity, to Godself. Having said that, even emphasizing "all creation," it's a highly humanity-centric statement! The Bible does tell us so; however, we've been celebrating our God as a still-speaking God! We also confess Jesus Christ's sovereignty not over humanity alone, but once again over all creation.

As to the possibility of God's becoming incarnate or being "present" in other forms, my reply is predictable: we're living in Pentecost, the Spirit and the gifts are ours, along with God's call to continue doing the work of reconciliation as the Body of the Risen Christ. As Luther affirmed, the right hand of God is everywhere, therefore the Lordship of God in Christ is everywhere. Why would God's "right hand" of sovereignty not also be outside of known galaxies? Aren't they part of "everywhere?" That doesn't quite answer your excellent question, though - I'm still thinking about it.

Likely you've noticed what a Luther fan Prof. Koyama is? I confess I may be becoming one too, since my reading "project" during Winter 2002-2003 was Luther's The Christian in Society..

About God's presence in other manifestations in other than this-world expressions of creation... there's only a single Logos, Jesus Christ, still the "logos" concept was one already known that Christianity seized and appropriated. That Logos was present at creation and through that Word all things were created, and there's no reason to imagine other worlds beyond ours weren't part of that creativity! Yet ultimately, isn't even that particular cosmic metaphor shaped to our human understandings and perceptions?

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