Thursday, December 3, 2009

Origen and God-as-Samuel-L.-Jackson

Thomas J. Bridges of theology blog An und für sich has turned up some interesting bits of Origen in a post called "The Word of God Was Messing With Us":
“This was to conceal the doctrine relating to the before-mentioned subjects in words forming a narrative that contained a record dealing with the visible creation” (PA [Peri Archon] IV.2.8).

“Consequently the Word of God has arranged for certain stumbling blocks, as it were, and hindrances and impossibilities to be inserted into the midst of the law and the history, in order that we may not be completely drawn away by the sheer attractiveness of the language…or else by never moving away from the letter to fail to learn anything of the more divine element” (PA IV.2.9).

“…whenever the Word found that things which had happened in history could be harmonised with these mystical events he used them, concealing from the multitude their deeper meaning…[T]he scripture wove into the story something which did not happen, occasionally something which could not happen, and occasionally something which might have happened but in fact did not” (PA IV.2.9).
These immediately reminded me of a post by Adam Kotsko from earlier this year that I saved it to my hard-drive, so much did I admire it. An excerpt, all bolding mine:
He didn’t submit to the cross because that would really fuck with our preconceptions. Right? God isn’t just willfully trying to screw with us because he would be mad if our expectations were too accurate, right? Seriously. It’s perverse, the way so many Christians fetishize Christ’s suffering as though it’s the key to everything. [...]

Look at things from the perspective of the oppressed. To them, is “the power of Emperors, legistlators, or Priests” a self-evidently desirable and good thing? Sure, it’s better to be powerless than not if you’re in the current system, but once you see an alternative to that entire structure in Christ, those power positions don’t seem very appealling. No one is going to follow Christ if he’s saying, “Just suffer for its own sake, because I’m God and I’m here to mess with your shit!” No — they follow Christ because of the joyfulness of his life, because of the unexpected abundance he brings along with him.
If the question is why God sometimes misleads us and lies to us, the answer very well might be "Because I'm God and I'm here to mess with your shit!" That's why Bridges's Origen excerpts are interesting—they make the case that sometimes God is being provocative for provocation's sake.

But, then again, I might be twisting the text to fit my favorite idea, that "Is this statement true or false?" is one of the least helpful questions a person can ask, certainly less helpful than whether the statement is interesting, or whether it's motivated by love.

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