The Myth of Modern Disenchantment

The disenchantment of the world with modernity may be on the order of Jesus’ depiction of the emptying out of one unclean spirit, leaving a vacuum then occupied by a multiple of seven. Like the idol maker in the book of Isaiah, the (dis)enchantments of modernity are a force so potent as to blind its adherents to their enchanting role, in animating and calling into existence what has no existence of its own. The secular or modern, are propped up by blindness to the animating force of human perception. It is easy enough to demonstrate the factual error (that modernity has dispelled the occult), what is more difficult is to reveal this trick of reifying from out of nothing an entity with God-like powers of determination. But the myth of modernity might be approached from these two directions: the factual error equating secularity with the occlusion of the spiritual, and the oxymoronic manner in which animating spirits are traded for an animate culture.

This latter is hard to see as it is hidden in plain sight, as the language of “secular” and “modern” fall into cultural reification picturing something like a sui generis animate force. This cultural reification tends to empty the world of human agency, historical causality, and ideological genealogy, to suggest the modern “arose” as a unique epoch unlike any other.[1] The story can be told in any number of ways: Descartes discovered the foundation of reason; Newton dispelled the occult with a mechanical understanding; the laws of nature explain, determine and create everything; and modern science has eliminated the need for God. As a result, we moderns now know there are no ghosts in the machine and we can trust in reason, science, and progress. In this modern age people no longer believe in magic and spirits as the myths have been dispelled, the gods have died, nature is subjugated, and instrumental reason, mechanistic materialism, modern science and medicine now rule. While there are still backward people in certain parts of the world and society, gripped by myth, animism and superstition, for moderns the world has been de-animated, myth has ended, and superstition is no more. A new form of human individual has arisen, as the old foundations have been erased, and a new form of thought and reason have been set in place. The world is forever changed and we moderns can march boldly forward, knowing that progress is an inevitable force unleashed by modern reason and science. There is a clean break with the past as a new age, unlike any that preceded it, has arisen.

What may not occur to the adherent of the modern myth, is that the work of religious myth is now performed by the secular myth. The world may have been emptied of one form of animate power, but now law, culture, and progress are the “new” animating forces (not so new but the force of law that has always been at work). To imagine a rupture has occurred, and a new age has dawned, is to be blind to history and how culture takes flight from its social moorings, in the projections of human agents. This blindness is illustrated in both Orientalism and capitalism.

The myth of the modern animates notions of the progressive West and the backward East. Orientals are stuck in the past, subject to nature, having not yet thrown off superstition, while the Occident is progressive, enlightened, and driven by reason rather than passion. The Easterner and African are still in early developmental stages (the premodern), while the West is modern, mature, a light set on a hill. Progress moves from East to West, so that Westward movement is advancement, while a visit to the East is a return to the past. The Easterner is driven by religion, and superstition undergirds Eastern political structures, while in Western secularism, the state is driven by humanitarian, democratic, principles and not religion.  

Eugene McCarraher in, The Enchantments of Mammon describes as his subtitle describes it, “How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity.” McCarraher suggests that, rather than disenchantment, modernity is simply one more “misenchantment” (as I have explored here). “Far from being an agent of ‘disenchantment,’ capitalism, I contend, has been a regime of enchantment, a repression, displacement, and renaming of our intrinsic and inveterate longing for divinity.”[2] McCarraher is refuting the story of Max Weber, in his supposition that capitalism is a disenchanting force, and he appeals to a series of counter descriptions.[3] According to David Brooks, acquisitiveness stems from a “sacramental longing,” a desire to enter “a magical realm in which all is harmony, happiness, and contentment.” Or as historian Steve Fraser puts it, in the stampede for consumer goods slumbers “a sacramental quest for transcendence, reveries of what might be.” Thomas Carlyle, speaking of 1840’s industrial England, perceived “invisible Enchantments” which left owners and workers alike, “spell-bound” by “the Gospel of Mammonism” in which money possessed and bestowed its “miraculous facilities.” Marx and Engels wrote of the capitalist, in The Communist Manifesto, as “like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world he has called up by his spells.” In the first volume of Capital, Marx writes of “the fetishism of commodities,” and of the attribution of human or supernatural qualities to manufactured goods. Even Weber, after tracing the supposed disenchantment which arises with the Protestant Reformation, writes that “many old gods ascend from their graves” avatars of the “laws” of the market animated by the spirits of “the gospel of Mammonism.” Capitalism, Walter Benjamin informs us, is a “cult” with its own ontology, morals, and ritual practices whose “spirit . . . speaks from the ornamentation of banknotes.”[4]

McCarraher maintains this is not hyperbole or metaphor but that capital bears similar enchantments to a world animated by spirits and deities. As he explains, capitalism is its own sort of cult with its own liturgical codes and high priests, or those who have mastered the arcane art of the deal.

 Its sacramentals consist of fetishized commodities and technologies— the material culture of production and consumption. Its moral and liturgical codes are contained in management theory and business journalism. Its clerisy is a corporate intelligentsia of economists, executives, managers, and business writers, a stratum akin to Aztec priests, medieval scholastics, and Chinese mandarins. Its iconography consists of advertising, public relations, marketing, and product design.” Capital is “the mana or pneuma or soul or elan vital of the world, replacing the older enlivening spirits with one that is more real, energetic, and productive.[5]

The evidence suggests there has not been disenchantment, or an occlusion of the occult, but its reinforcement. As pointed out by Jason A. Josephson-Storm, not only the enchantments of mammon, but the new age has also ushered in crystal healing, energy balancing, chakra yoga, tarot readings, wicca covens, witches and warlocks, ghosts, near death experiences, psychics, extraterrestrials, miracles, etc. A 2005 Gallup poll found that a third of Americans believe in ghosts, while a YouGov survey in 2015 found that 48 percent of Americans believe people can possess one or more types of psychic ability (e.g., precognition, telepathy, etc.) while 43 percent agreed with the statement “Ghosts exist.” As Josephson-Storm concludes, “taken together it appears the majority of Americans are at least open to the idea of ghosts and psychic powers, while a not-insignificant number believe in necromancy.”[6] This then supports his larger point “that the human sciences have internalized the modern project” in “the notion of ‘modernity’ itself as the sign of a pure rupture or difference. In this way modernity has functioned as a master paradigm or episteme—what I have been calling a myth.”[7]

I presume that all that falls short of Paul’s exposure of the animating, enchantments of the law, will displace God with subordinate mythical powers. The reification of idols, the letter of the law, Jew/Gentile, male/female, slave/free, are all of one piece with the enslaving elementary principles, thrones and political powers. The human tendency is to construct a counter reality, in which the human artisans are blind to their role of manufacture – whether a piece of metal, a principle, an ideology, culture, or the ego. Like Aaron’s explanation to Moses, the golden calf was not shaped by human hands, it miraculously emerged from the fire and all were forced to worship with its “natural” appearing. Modernity as a final explanation is made of the same stuff as Aaron’s idol, and the deconstruction and exposure of this means of manufacture is an apocalyptic reordering of human understanding of reality.

[1] See Jason A. Josephson-Storm, The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity, and the Birth of the Human Sciences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017).

[2] Eugene McCarraher, The Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity (p. 4). Harvard University Press. Kindle Edition.

[3] McCarraher, 3.

[4]McCarraher, 3-5.

[5] McCarraher, 5-6.

[6] Josephson-Storm, 24.

[7] Josephson-Storm, 309.

Love, Power and Violence in Hannah Arendt and Paul

Hannah Arendt arrives at a Christian insight that many Christians might find more believable or even recognizable from a political scientist and social theorist. A central teaching of the Bible, that the greatest power is the power of community, of communication, or of love, is easily passed over as a religious pablum which has to be acknowledged but without any real consequence. We all “know” that those who have the most weapons or the most material resources, are the real power brokers in society. Afterall, what is power except power over other people, the power of exploitation, the power of the master over his employees or slaves.

 “Power,” said Voltaire, “consists in making others act as I choose.” According to Max Weber, power is present wherever I have the chance “to assert my own will against the resistance” of others. He defines the power of war as “an act of violence to compel the opponent to do as we wish.” Robert Strausz-Hupe claims bluntly, power signifies “the power of man over man.”  C. Wright Mills equates violence, politics and power: “All politics is a struggle for power; the ultimate kind of power is violence.” Mao Tse-tung maintained, “Power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Marx noted that power is “the organization of violence.” Bertrand de Jouvenel claims that the power of death or the power to make war is the very essence of the power of the state: “To him who contemplates the unfolding of the ages war presents itself as an activity of States which pertains to their essence.” As he describes it, “a man feels himself more of a man when he is imposing himself and making others the instruments of his will,” and this gives him “incomparable pleasure.” Elsewhere he says, “To command and to be obeyed: without that, there is no Power – with it no other attribute is needed for it to be …. The thing without which it cannot be: that essence is command.” Arendt concludes, that if the essence of power is the effectiveness of command, then there is no greater power than that which grows out of the barrel of a gun, and it would be difficult to say in “which way the order given by a policeman is different from that given by a gunman.”[1]

In short, power is the power of death and the one who controls and can mete out coercion and violent death, in this understanding, is the one with power. War and the capacity to make war is a primary ordering structure such that “war itself is the basic social system, within which other secondary modes of social organization conflict or conspire,” such that “economic systems, political philosophies, and corpora juris serve and extend the war system, not vice versa.” In this understanding, it is not just diplomacy and politics that are war by other means, but peace itself is war by other means.[2]  The peace of the cold war reckons with the reality that deterrence, larger and more powerful weapons of war ensure the peace, such that mutually assured destruction, or the constant threat of total war and annihilation is the only realistic peace.

It is not just the violence of war which ensures peace, but at a personal level there is a similar sort of subjection to the inevitable nature of struggle, chaos, and coercion. Humans seem to be born with an instinct of domination and aggressiveness. According to John Stuart Mill, there are two competing forces in the individual, “the desire to exercise power over others” and the “disinclination to have power exercised over themselves.” As Arendt, points out though, the will to power and the will to submission seem to be interconnected.[3] The security of slavery in Egypt is a very real temptation, certainly present in my experience in Japan, but present to some degree in every society. But perhaps the lengths to which the tyrant will go to maintain rule is the clearest marker of the limits of violence.

The Stalinist regime demonstrated that total domination based on terror cannot afford support, as the supporters and friends of totalitarianism threaten through the most subtle form of power; namely support and friendship. In the end it was the friends and supporters of Stalin who he saw as posing the greatest threat. “The climax of terror is reached when the police state begins to devour its own children, when yesterday’s executioner becomes today’s victim. And this is also the moment when power disappears entirely.”[4] Thus Arendt reaches her conclusion:

To sum up: politically speaking, it is insufficient to say that power and violence are not the same. Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent. Violence appears where power is in jeopardy, but left to its own course it ends in power’s disappearance. This implies that it is not correct to think of the opposite of violence as nonviolence; to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant. Violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it.[5] 

Nonviolence or the capacity for peace as means and end, is the very definition of power. The power of community, the power of communion, the power of consensus, the power of love, the power of democracy, all stand over and against the notion that violence is power. Violence contains no possibility of communion, other than the communion of the scapegoat, or the contradictory notion that the common enemy is the means of cohesion. Rene Girard’s depiction of the lie surrounding the scapegoat, or Peter Berger’s depiction of the social construction of reality, illustrates Arendt’s and the biblical point, that the deception surrounding death is the universal lie.  The fear of death, or the imagined capacity to manipulate and control death is the singular lie exposed by Christ.

Paul names this lie directly, and counters it with the truth of community: “Therefore, shedding the lie, let each one of you speak the truth to his neighbor, because we are one another’s corporal members” (Eph. 4:25, DBH). Dispelling the lie with the truth gets at the prime reality that we are “corporal members” of one another. This is the missing fact in the notion of equating power and violence. True power builds on the reality of mutual interdependence. Violence may gain a certain control but at the cost of this prime reality. The lie here is singular and seemingly universal in its import so that all of the darkness and deception may be tied to this singular deception. Paul ties it to the hostility or enmity unleashed by the Jewish law as expressed, first in Jewish and Gentile hostility, but then in a “futility” of mind which he equates with a hardened heart and darkened understanding (Eph. 4:17-19).

 As a result of the Gospel, “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:14–15). The cure points to the heart of the problem: “speaking the truth in love” displaces the lie (the deceitful scheming and the trickery of men) which serves dis-communion, hostility, and enmity. Paul continually links deception and alienation while also linking truth and love: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Eph. 4:25). Being members of another is a truth, that by definition should result in the putting away of violent falsehood.

Another way of getting at this same truth is in Girard’s and Paul’s deployment of mimesis. Girard inadvertently displaces the primacy of mutual membership in one another (mimetic desire), and pictures it first of all as built upon a necessary violence and rivalry. If one person imitates another person’s desire, then their desire for the same thing results in rivalry and violence. Girard comes to his theory of the scapegoat beginning with violence, rivalry and sacrifice, and it is only later that he realizes in Christ there is a positive mimesis, and even in the development of his theory he explains mimesis in the context of rivalry and violence. Much like political theorists or social scientists who begin with the presumption of an original chaos and violence, here too the presumption on an individual level is that rivalry and violence are originary. But what if we were to reverse engineer what Girard is doing and put mimesis front and center not simply as a negative force, but as the shaping force in our lives.

Paul has his own theory of imitation and community which locates reality, not in violent rivalry but in the necessity of relationship and love. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph. 5:1-2). To the rivalry prone lovers of hierarchy and false power in Corinth, Paul has a singular recommendation and resolution: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). The passage in full reads: “Give no offense [do not become a scandal] to Jews or to Greeks or to the Church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ (1 Cor. 10:31-11:1). Paul understands the scandal and violence of mimetic rivalry, but this mechanism is undone in his recommendation: “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage.” Domination and coercion are set aside and with it the violence producing rivalry that is damnation itself. To be saved, is to imitate and commune in love.  

Paul warns against a “whoring acquisitiveness” (5:3) and likens the acquisitive man to an idolater (5:5), as one who has been deceived by “empty words” (5:5) and who lives in darkness (5:8). These things that are “hidden” are exposed by the light of Christ and now life reigns in place of death (5:14).

The conclusion of the chapter is a displacement of the mystery of sins alienating violence through a mutual submission to one another in one body: “’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church” (5:31-32). This communion and participation in a singular body is the power of peace that counters the lie of violence as power.

[1] Hannah Arendt, On Violence (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1969) 35-37.

[2] Arendt, 9.

[3] Arendt, 39-40.

[4] Arendt, 55.

[5] Arendt, 56.

Abba – Father as Fulfillment of Cosmic Incorporation

“What is God to man, that is man’s own spirit, man’s own soul; what is man’s spirit, soul, and heart – that is his God. God is the manifestation of man’s inner nature, his expressed self; religion is the solemn unveiling of man’s hidden treasures, the avowal of his innermost thoughts, the open confession of the secrets of his love.” Ludwig Feuerbach – The Essence of Christianity

Ludwig Feuerbach’s notion that God is a projection of human values and needs is a key modern theme. Nietzsche maintains God and religion are a product of the resentments of the weak; Freud teaches us that God-language is really about sex; Marx teaches us that it is an instrument of economics, and Carl Schmitt teaches us that God-language is the structuring principle of the state. Psychoanalysis, atheism, Marxism (Communism and Socialism), fascism, and nationalism, all turn theology on its head, claiming that the theological and divine are really about the human.

The proper theological move is to turn theology back round by reclaiming secular insights: instead of God language being for the weak, weakness is really about God and how God comes to us; instead of God language really being about sex, sex is really about God – the erotic is not over and against agape love but is woven through it and indicates its proper end; instead of religion being an opiate to numb economic oppression, economics and economic justice is all about God; instead of allowing for the modern theory of state to occupy theological concepts and structures, the theological must challenge the sole sovereignty of the state.

This final point, Schmitt’s recognition of the sovereign as the exception which establishes the law and the order of state power, pinpoints the unified theme underlying all of these realms. In each instance, God was marked out as a point of exception, the means of escape, the point of oppression, a tool of legitimation, so that the transcendent concept of God came to occupy the supreme place of power, emptied out of immanent categories and these categories were then turned, in secularism, against his transcendence. “God is dead, and we have killed him,” is not an admission of defeat but a claim of power. The power of state, the power of sex, the power of money, the power of the human psyche, each unleashed from its sun have proven deadly and out of control. Capitalism, nationalism, the state as sovereign, sex as an identity, or simply the manipulation of psychic categories, each have claimed their own legitimating frame in pure power, but in their own way each realm has bottomed out. Which is to say God cannot simply be dropped back into the formula as a continued resource for exploitation. Inasmuch as the God of modern religion is a stop gap, a legitimating source for state power, the exception which establishes the law, the gold standard of capitalism, modern religion is atheistic in its practice.

To truly believe in the Trinitarian God, the Abba of Christ, and the Spirit of love, has economic, sexual, ascetical, psychoanalytic, political, and environmental requirements. God With Us, comes to us in and through the realms of the world and where deity has been evacuated from these realms both God and world are lost for us. Where there is no horizon beyond the economic, the sexual, the ascetic, the psychoanalytic, the political, and even the environmental, this becomes sole horizon. There is no proper ordering of these realms, no telos, but only a random groping as in each instance in money, in sex, in the psychoanalytic, etc. we live and move and have our being and this is not a realm apart or a distinct entity in our life but is our life. On the other hand, to picture God as accessible apart from these realms is not to elevate God, but is to demean him to a projection, an instrument, a justification, an opiate, an abstraction who leaves the world to our power.

The point is not that we understand God on the basis of the categories of the world but the categories of the world are mediated to us on the basis of our understanding of God. For example, we do not understand God as Father on the basis of human fatherhood, but we grasp the meaning of human fatherhood as it mediates to us the Fatherhood of God. But, of course, it is not simply fatherhood per se that pertains to recognizing God, but all things, all categories, all ordering of the world, must pertain to being able to rightly realize the identity of God. We understand what children are, what fathers are, what sex is, what a healthy psyche is, what a proper politic is, and what love is on the basis of rightly integrating God and world in Abba (as in Ro 8:15 and Gal 4:6). I presume the realization of this truth of God and world integrated, is what is conveyed in the proper name given to God, communicated by his Son, and realized through the Spirit. God is integrated into our lives and world, not on the basis of the world but on the basis of who he is in Christ in the world, and it is also on this basis that we receive the world. In the incarnation we receive God in the world and the world and all of its categories are transformed in light of Christ. The world is not too low for God; the womb is not beneath God; eating and working and growing tired and living and dying are transformed by Christ. All that is of the world is taken up by Christ and through the world we are now given divine insight.

God has poured himself into the world and into human experience due to his yearning and love, and he draws all things back into himself through this same yearning. So, for example, we can say with Dionysius, that human desire originates in divine yearning and that the basis and end of eros is agape: “let us not fear this title of ‘yearning,’ nor be upset . . . for, in my opinion, the sacred writers regard ‘yearning’ (eros) and love (agape) as having one and the same meaning.”[1] The desire of love pertains to ultimate reality, to God himself, as source and substance (as I have described it here). But this is an understanding that opens up every phase of human subjectivity and experience. The erotic or embodied as agape points to the deepest and earliest phases of human subjectivity as the groundwork of the divine. Just as the erotic rightly ordered is the root of agape, so too all unconscious/conscious origins of development, though we may know only of their disorder, must serve as ground and structure of divine love. As Dionysius puts it, through excessive yearning of his Goodness he is transported outside Himself “to dwell with the heart of all things”:

hence this universe, which is both One and Many; the conjunctions of parts together; the unities underlying all multiplicity, and the perfections of the individual wholes; hence Quality, Quantity, Magnitude and Infinitude; hence fusions and differentiations, hence all infinity and all limitation; all boundaries, ranks, transcendences, elements and forms, hence all Being, all Power, all Activity, all Condition, all Perception, all Reason, all Intuition, all Apprehension, all Understanding, All Communion—in a word, all, that is comes from the Beautiful and Good, hath its very existence in the Beautiful and Good, and turns towards the Beautiful and Good.[2]

All perception, all intuition, all development is in and through and drawn toward His goodness. It is only where this flow and development is stopped short or stunted that the disorder of sin enters in. This principle of sin, a misorientation toward the law, would interject law in place of God and might be described as a misperception of God’s fatherhood. God or the law is pictured as a delimiting factor or a point of proscription. The law is taken as an end in and of itself and God perceived through this law does not beget, desire, or engender but forbids and disrupts. Just as rightly ordering the world is summed up in the realization of Abba-Father, so too the disordering of sin is summed up in the failed orientation of perceiving God through the law.

Without recounting the details of this failure, I presume this stands behind Paul’s culminating point of the Gospel found in the name Abba. The realization of God as Father puts right, not simply the failure of earthly fathers and mothers, but it completes compliments and teaches a true form of subjectivity by locating the human subject in the Trinitarian Subject. Just as Christ calls God “Abba,” we take up this relationship through the Son and the Spirit and this relationship re-appropriates and fulfills the worldly order. This order displaces the monism and pantheism of the world as mother (the law of oneness), and it escapes punishing patriarchy (the binary law of difference). It is in the Trinity, in the place of the Son that brings out the cry “Abba,” through the Spirit. This is not a law-like relationship imposed from outside but describes an interpenetrating realization of true subjectivity. Kittel notes, “Jewish usage shows how this Father-child relationship to God far surpasses any possibilities of intimacy assumed in Judaism, introducing indeed something which is wholly new.”[3]

As John explains, No one has seen God at any time but God the only Son who abides in the bosom of the Father has made him known or explained him (Jn 1:18). As both Galatians and Romans explains it, the Son is born under the law so as to deliver the future sons and daughters from enslavement to sin under the law. In both Romans and Galatians, the shift from slave to adopted child is realized in the heart cry induced by the Spirit: “Because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, ‘Abba! Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:6-7). The explanation and the adoption accomplished through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, in Paul’s explanation, confronts the lie of sin in regard to the law and defeats the enslaving death dealing orientation. The Abba relationship to God involves all of the work of Christ but it must also involve every aspect of human subjectivity. Paul pictures it as involving the conscious and unconscious self; it addresses the punishing and enslaving aspect of the law taken up into the self and replaces this form of subjectivity with one who is able to imitate Christ.

The Abba relationship and naming of the Father is specific to the work of the Son and the fulfillment of the Spirit, such that to change the name (for example, to Mother) would seem to miss both the universal father problem of the law and the cosmic answer to this problem found in Christ. To erase, evade, or change the name would seem to create the danger of falling back into or failing to be extracted from the original predicament. This in not to occlude the feminine characteristics of God, as it is precisely where we encounter the mothering, birthing, nurturing images of God in the Holy Spirit that the Abba relationship is made possible. This Abba relationship must be a fulfillment of the child’s early concept of mother/father as the unified source engendering one’s individuality. The child’s development is not unlike Paul’s depiction of the Spirit’s (feminine) engendering of sonship as enabling the Abba relationship.

 In conclusion, the development of human subjectivity in all of its stages, known and unknown, along with “all Being, all Power, all Activity, all Condition, all Perception, all Reason, all Intuition, all Apprehension, all Understanding, All Communion” comes from God and turns all things toward God. This pull of divine desire is realized in the Abba relationship, a fulfillment of the specific work of Christ as it overcomes the universal problem (a perceived problem of father) in a cosmic and universal human incorporation into the family of God.    

[1] Pseudo-Dionysius, Divine Names, IV. 12.

[2] Dionysius, IV. 10.

[3] Kittel, G. (1964–). ἀββᾶ. G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley, & G. Friedrich (Eds.), Theological dictionary of the New Testament (electronic ed., Vol. 1, p. 6). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.

Deconstructing “Absolute Truth” to Arrive at the Truth of Christ

The New Testament understanding of the meaning of the death of Christ, reflected in the earliest theology, is that humankind exists under a delusion or a lie from which the truth of Christ redeems.  This is an understanding largely abandoned with the turn, worked out by Anselm, to the law as the final and full explanation of the meaning of the death of Christ. An aspect of the shift surrounding the atonement (from Christus Victor or its near equivalents to divine satisfaction) is that Christian truth was no longer counter to the truth of the principalities and the powers of this world. The era of Constantine, through Anselm, Calvin, and the modernist era are characterized by the development of a notion of secular truth which parallels the truth of Christ. The New Testament depiction of the truth of Christ is that it challenges the truth offered by this world and constitutes a new world and a new order of truth. Continue reading “Deconstructing “Absolute Truth” to Arrive at the Truth of Christ”