Thursday, August 19, 2010

The phenomenology of Christ in the face of an over-emphasis on his Jewishness.

Modern sophist scholars who pose as theologians of the Word regularly confine the activity, the life, the personality, the being of Jesus to the context of 1st Century, Second-Temple Judaic Palestine. With this historical springboard they immediately (and naively) assume full access to all theological and philosophical questions pertaining to Jesus, modifying or disparaging them at will. Those who do this have usually already jumped into bed with vain heresies (oweing in no small manner to the fact that orthodoxy belongs to a Hellenistic context, not a Jewish one!), be they a swift denial of Christ's resurrection in history, circumspection as to his miracles, his Incarnation etc..

In the face of this utter failure to "Let God be God" one would do well to apply himself a little to the topic of phenomenology ("being as it appears or is revealed", to use the definition given by philosopher Hazel E. Barnes).

According to Jean-Paul Sartre, "...the appearance [of an object] becomes full positivity; its essence is an "appearing" which is no longer opposed to being but on the contrary is the measure of it. For the being of an existent is exactly what it appears." (All remarks in brackets are mine).

To apply this to Jesus: that which he appears to be he actually is. But before the sophist counters by saying," Yes, and he appeared in 1st Century Nazareth as a circumcised, Torah keeping, Jewish Rabbi", I will extend the above selection of the passage from Sartre:

"Although an object may disclose itself only through a single Abschattung [appearance, or shadow], the sole fact of there being a subject implies the possibility of multiplying the points of view on that Abschattung. This suffices to multiply to infinity the Abschattung under consideration....But the appearance, reduced to itself and without reference to the series of which it is a part, could be only an intuitive and subjective plenitude, the manner in which the subject is affected."

Sartre elsewhere afirms in this passage that the being of an existent is the synthetic unity of the whole series of appearances (and possibilities of appearances) that it will make.

Getting back to theology, if we reduce the being of Jesus to the one appearance of his Jewishness rather then to the whole series of appearances (including who he was as a friend, a brother, a child...his physical and genetic make-up, his psychology, his hopes and aspirations, his telos, his spiritual origins, his intellect, his relationship to God, his relationship to Rome or Idumaea, what he revealed of himself on the Mount of Transfiguration, or to the men of the Decapolis, or to the thief on the cross) we have, according to Sartre, refused the infinite number of appearances given by each object (according to the premise that the act of appearing always requires a subject to whom the being appears, and the factor of a subject requires a multiplicity of appearances). As he explains: "...if the series of appearances were finite, that would mean that the first appearances do not have the possibility of reappearing, which is absurd, or that they can be all given at once, which is still more absurd."

The sophists I mentioned earlier (whether they know it or not) have inculcated a phenomenology of Jesus that is intrinsically self-defeating and poorly thought out. Jesus will always be more than just a Jew. And the statement: "Jesus was a Jew", if divorced from all of his other appearances as man, God-man, wise teacher, human, and all of the infinite actual and possible appearances that exist, will never suffice to sufficiently reveal his being. In the end this particular appearance, rather than manifesting being, has manifested "only an intuitive and subjective plenitude, the manner in which the subject is affected."

Nor is the above phenomenology atheistic or secular. It is also proposed and developed by Husserl (who was a committed Christian) and by Martin Heidegger (who was a friend of Bultmann, as everyone knows). Sartre favorably references both men in the section where these quotes are taken from (Being and Nothingness, 1-7)

Since the sophists always insist that they alone have a right to make accurate historical and theological descriptions of Jesus, we shall give them a taste of their own medicine and refuse them the right to dapple with phenomenology, even as it pertains to men of times past.

No comments: