Monday, June 22, 2009

Reclaiming Our Origen

Dare I suggest that for many Unitarian Universalists, Christmas festivities trump Easter celebrations in terms of theological comfort and cultural familiarity. The former, after all, lift up the miracle of birth, the reverence we share for the inherent worth and dignity of every person. In contrast, the latter smack of anti-scientific, psuedo-historical supernaturalism.

I would ask us to rethink this stark dichotomy in light of early Christian universalist Origen's philosophical system. Writing in the late second, early third century CE, the brilliant though highly controversial theologian from Alexandria in Egypt sought to infuse a neoplatonist worldview into the religion of/about Jesus Christ - in short, to sublate the Greek world into Christianity. This move has had profound consequences: Unitarian Universalists readily flock to Origen's doctrine of the restoration of all things (apokatastasis ton panton), which paves the way for the rejection of eternal punishment in hell - even the devil must hold out for the promise of redemption. Yet, Origen's model of 'scientific theology' (another Unitarian Universalist favorite: viewing religion and science as compatible) similarly shifted the theological 'center' from salvation history to soteriological meta-structures - in other words, from Good Friday's exaltation christology (human Messiah made Son of Man/God) to Christmas' incarnation christology rooted in the realm before and above (the pre-existence and incarnation of the Son of Man/God). Apocalyptic temporalism gave way to cosmic spatialism. Ontological concepts replaced biblical metaphor. God's dynamic revelation in history took on the form of a more static image of God's location in divine eternity.

For deeply personal reasons, many Unitarian Universalists may reject the Easter story a priori, filing it in an archive of offensive and hurtful theologies that privilege suffering and the irrational. However, I would encourage those of us who have been spared such doctrinal torment to reconsider these two nodes of Christian worship. Before eagerly dismissing the crucifixion narrative, let us appreciate some of its more empowering elements: that a human being may reach spiritual union with the Holy; that in our time cataclysmic change may take place; that the lived poetic complexity of life may rival philosophical abstractionism; that God's immanence may enflame our hearts and souls in this life, in this age, in this moment - our moment.

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1 comment:

Diggitt said...

Hi Erik -- apologies for leaving a comment but I see no email address for you. I link to your blog from mine, and here is my posting today.

Just fyi, about censorship.