Some time ago a friend discovered I had been reading Jurgen Moltmann’s, The Crucified God. He suggested I leave Moltmann alone. If you know anything about me, that is like pouring gas on a fire.
It called to mind moments in college and seminary where friends, even professors, indicated there is a “Do Not Read” list. They forgot the way negative prohibitions give rise to desire. They likely had not read any Zizek.
Many of us like to think we are our own person, independent-minded. We are a tabula rasa. Our blank slate serves as the canvas for our creation. If we were ever a bare medium, at some point, we learn that others began painting on it before we were aware our lives were anything resembling an art project.
Influences, those elements contributing to who we are, include our place and time of birth, the community into which we are born, our family of origin and other social/religious/political forces at work in the given culture.
When we become self-aware of these influences, we may turn them into kindling for the fire that becomes fuel for our quest Anselm described as, “faith seeking understanding.” It did and does for me. Over time I have learned I am not alone.
Do We Know More?
Not everyone’s questions are the same. Different influences and experiences shape our interests and concerns. Take some time to read Womanist Theology, for example, and quickly you may become aware how different contexts create questions from a different horizon.
My guest for this podcast episode took an interest in how what we know about human biology intersects the birth narratives of Jesus. What do we make of the human Jesus whose story is absent the human Y chromosome? How are we to understand the development of the perpetual virginity of Mary and what it might say about the Christian view of the body? Do we tend to be Doecetic?
Immediately these questions may be upsetting to you. They may not be your questions. But they are questions the Church has grappled with since Christians began reading Matthew and Luke whose narratives have prompted the Church’s dogmatics.
Could the question to which we could all agree be, What is getting done?”
What Is Getting Done?
Kyle Roberts, Schilling Professor of Public Theology and the Church and Economic Life at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, examines the birth narratives of Jesus and interrogates them by asking, What is getting done in these stories? My question after reading Kyle’s book was similar, What is getting done in Kyle’s book?
For instance, Paul Penley points out that the way Luke gives us his birth narrative of Jesus intentionally undermines the Cult of Ceasar in Rome. In Reenacting the Way (of Jesus): How can you follow Jesus when you don’t know what he is doing? Penley describes the angelic announcement in Luke as a better victory announcement than the paid choirs of Rome telling citizens of the latest victory in the Empire.
The point? Luke is getting something done in the way he tells the story of Jesus.
Roberts is interested to explore what we mean by the humanity of Jesus. If today we understand human biology as requiring both the X and Y chromosome, how do we know what is getting done in a story about the human-divine Jesus where the emphasis is on the Y chromosome?
While Kyle may be asking a question you are not asking, he does seem to be addressing how we understand the Incarnation. He is asking how are we to understand the human experience of Jesus, like our own, when our origin story is different? Roberts is not interested in dispensing with the Diety of Jesus. He is sincerely concerned that Christians have developed a doctrine that masks a Docetic vision of Jesus, where humanity is more illusion than reality.
Incidentally, Roberts calls into question our discomfort with the human body. It may not be his primary concern, but it is a deep interest nonetheless.
Take some time to listen to the questions and see if you identify what is getting done in Roberts book.
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