July 12, 2004
The Lord of History?

Apologies to those who tried to visit over the weekend and found the server down. Here is the reason.

I probably wouldn't have posted even if I could have, because chapter 6 of TPOJ turned out to be a real slog. It has so many arguments and sub-arguments crammed into it even the summary makes me dizzy. (And what the heck does the title mean, anyway?)

One interesting thing it cleared up, however, was a phrase I've heard before but never understood: the "cosmic Christ." I heard it when I visited All Saints, and also commenter Cory described it here as a more "advanced" way of understanding God. Basically, it refers to Jesus as the eternal Word who existed at the beginning and shall always exist, and who can be understood in the created order of things, rather than the carpenter and itinerant rabbi from Nazareth.

Yoder evidently accepts Christ's eternal nature, but still focuses on Jesus of Nazareth as the best representation of him. To him, the move toward the cosmic Christ detaches the Christian from Jesus' teachings and gets him too comfy with the fallen world and in a pragmatic accommodation with it. The apparently cosmic direction of the later epistles such as Colossians, he says, are meant to assert Jesus' unique and divine nature rather than to depersonalize and de-historicize him.

Yoder makes a similar point regarding Trinitarian thinking. Some, he says, have turned to the Father (as the creator of the structure of things) and the Holy Spirit (as manifested in church tradition) as sources of "correction" to the basic teachings of Jesus. Yoder rejects that also, seeing Jesus as described in the Bible as the primary source on the nature of God.

This is all plausible, I suppose, although Yoder asserts this more than he proves it. It's what you'd expect from a Mennonite, but I doubt he'd convince a Catholic (or a Lutheran, for that matter) that their deference to tradition is all wrong, or a scientist of why the physical world is a lesser source of information about its creator than post-mortem writings about an ancient rabbi. Yoder admits at the outset that his "paper" (which I guess the book started as) is going to be sketchy on some points, and I guess this is one of them.

Posted by Camassia at July 12, 2004 06:29 PM | TrackBack

Yes, I'd say there's a problem with having a separate understanding of the Cosmic Christ and Jesus of Nazareth. Not only would you de-historicize Christ, but de-Jewishize him (not a real word, I know) and that, as we have seen, has horrible consequences. There are still some Christians who think Jesus is Christian.

It's all about the scandal of particularity : )

Posted by: Jennifer on July 13, 2004 07:50 AM

It would seem to me that our collective making of pragmatic accommodations to the fallen world is the exact stumbling block that has the world in the fix we find it in each day of our lives. It also seems to me that the collected teachings of Jesus comprise a manual on how to be in the world without making those accommodations: understand how to do so and discover the Cosmic Christ that is the Kingdom within you. Science will never be able to tell us why there is something, rather than nothing.

Posted by: Rob on July 13, 2004 08:50 AM
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