Friday, 29 February 2008

Christian Metaphysics No More

Much of the baggage surrounding Christianity has been acquired over centuries of contact with culture and other religions. The highly evolved angelology and demonology were inherited from certain sects of Judaism, which in turn inherited them from the Hebrew exile to Babylon. Oddly enough, the strong claim of strict monotheism by Deutero-Isaiah that Yahweh was the one who creates good and evil (Is 45:7) came out of this same period. Only Yahweh was responsible for the heavens and all other gods were nothing more than blocks of wood or stone. As far as this Isaiah was concerned, the only things in the universe were matter and Yahweh.

The Pauline tradition, perhaps not unlike an ink blot, has been read to support all sorts of metaphysical systems, but ultimately makes no real claim one way or the other. In fact, as Badiou and others point out, Paul's message is really about a single thing: "Jesus, son of God, and Christ in virtue of this, died on the cross and was resurrected." All other issues are peripheral to this. Circumcision? Peripheral. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision are anything. In other words, unless it has something to do with the central issue of Jesus and the resurrection, it should not be evaluated within the language of the Christian message. Peripheral doctrines that divide the community don't have value.

So it is with metaphysics. The traditional evangelical worldview of dualism has no value to Christian theology. The traditional Catholic heirarchies of angels and demons, saints and sinners, planes of existence outside the material... all have no value to Christian theology. Even contemporary views of Christian physicalism (whether creationist, Darwinian, intelligently designed!) are nothing. Extend this far enough and the very problems of metaphysics are not Christian problems. It is not that the Christian philosopher is ill-equipped to tackle those problems – that has nothing to do with being a Christian – but rather the case is the opposite. Christian theology has not been excluded from metaphysics, but metaphysics has been excluded from Christian theology. There is little reason to pursue it as an explicitly Christian activity. Theology will only be distracted by it. Rather, theology is closer to its home when concerned with the consequences of the resurrection rather than any back-filled metaphysical explanation for the resurrection.

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