Sunday, July 17, 2005

the death of God

I watched an episode of the new FX television series 30 days the other day. It was about a down-home country boy from West Virginia who moved into a Muslim neighborhood in order to live the Muslim life for 30 days. At one point in the show the guy was speaking to the head of one of the mosques in his area about Jesus. The Imam explained that Islam simply could not believe in a theology where God dies. For Islam, God cannot and would not ever die.

This got me thinking. As Christians, do we believe and preach the death of God? We certainly affirm the trinity. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit are all three in one. We also affirm the divinity of Jesus Christ. Indeed, all of this kind of language and these beliefs are mysterious. Plenty of heresies have tried to splice God into three modes rather than persons and have tried to divide Jesus into two people. All of this would probably be considered outside of Christian "orthodoxy."

But if we do believe that Jesus was God and that Jesus died on the cross, then we believe that God died. So it seems that Christians and Nietzsche-like nihilistic philosophies have something in common, that is, the death of God. It seems this way, at least, until we begin to look beneath the surface.

The death of God can either change our view of God or our view of death. For many who do not believe in a "life-everlasting," death is the end of existence. So for God to die is for him to cease to exist. And with God dead, we are freed from any sense of oppressive universal judgment and after-life. This view is what happens when we allow our understanding of death to change our understanding of God. But what happens when we do the opposite?

What does it look like for the death of God to change our view of death? If God remains God, even in death, then that says some profound things about death. It says that death is a part of life not the end of it. It says that God can enter into every part of creation including the parts resulting from the Fall. It says that God is even God over and through death. And it seems to hint at the idea that death is not "ceasing to exist" but merely a transition from one kind of existence to another.

We Christians label that new existence with words like "resurrection" and phrases like "New Heaven" and "New Earth." And that new kind of existence begins in this life. Words like "redemption" and "salvation" are used to describe the beginning of this new existence that will be fully realized after our death.

So do I believe in the death of God? Absolutely. And death has never been the same since.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

moving: heaven and earth

Moving is such a struggle but has become so common in our transient society today. Imaging growing up in the same town your entire life and then in your mid-twenties moving to a completely new city. There are so many transitions that have to happen.

You leave your family that you are used to seeing. You leave all your best friends behind. You leave the familiar roadways and restaurants. You leave your old place of work and all of your relationships there. You leave behind your church, your faith community. You change climates, normalcy in weather and general temperature norms. You move to a new place and try to start over.

New places and new faces. Getting lost wherever you go becomes normal again. Being overly dependent on those who you do know in the new town, loneliness creeps in. Wishing old friends and family were close by. Not knowing where the "nearest" anything is. Trying to find a new apartment, a new job and a new faith community. All which include their own form of interviews and piles of paperwork.

Stress and bouts of depression meet isolation and unfamiliarity. The "good-byes" are hard. And sometimes the "hellos" are even harder.

I was reminded of Christ last night as I sat in bed and thought about all the complications in moving. I wondered if Christ had anything to say about the struggles that come with the moving process from one city to another. God reminded me of His Son's big move. Many times when we move, the memories of our home town make it seem like heaven on earth. And on top of that, the frustrations of the new place make it feel like hell. But Jesus, quite literally, moved from heaven to earth. From perfection to imperfection. From a place of pure holiness to a place infected by sin.

We think we are close to our friends and family. Jesus said goodbye to his Father, with whom there is no separation. He moved from the all-powerful position of God to the place of being an infant child completely dependent on his frail, sinful parents. Knowing his purpose, Jesus spent many days and many nights alone in the world. His only comfort was found in prayerful conversation with his Father in heaven. And just when he seemed to have a community of faith formed around him, he moved again. This time back Home. Finally at his death, true love met true isolation. Though he made some good friends the last few years here on earth, the proof was in the pudding when the crap hit the fan.

Now that is a move. He experienced the worst a move has to offer. He moved because his Father told him to. He moved for you and me. And his move has made all the difference.