Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Kerygma Café

My latest offering has appeared at Episcopal Café.

It relates to a previous entry on this blog too.

Here is a thought. Suppose God decided to raise up a man in South Africa, relating him to the struggle there for equality and against power. Then the man was transferred to India. By his writings, his speeches, and his actions, we can say that he reveals what God is like. Indeed he does this so much we associate this man with God. The God-man worked in India at the time of a bankrupt Empire and was able to remove it, but for his liberating effort he was both shot dead by one of his own and the chaos of partition resulted.

Thus I have here presented Gandhiology. Up front it connects Gandhi with God and revelation. It shows God working out his purpose, and if you want to see God look at Gandhi.

Yet no one sees the need to do this. People are content with allowing historical accident to come about and allowing history to do his unfolding. Gandhi's own religious tradition - though he was one of its modernisers - is that of the rolling dramatic story rather than a claim about history.

Why is it therefore necessary to have a Jesus kerygma? There is a kernel of the Gandhi story that we can arrive at through the contingencies of history. History and social anthropology does not allow us to turn Gandhi into one of the Godhead, but then no one is so bothered about that. Indeed Gandhi specifically said he did not want a movement after his name.

Why is it not sufficient to have the contingencies of history regarding the Jesus story, that loses none of its mythology as a good read, and why does it have to receive up front preferential treatment in terms of a kerygma?


Erika Baker said...

I think the real difference is the resurrection of Jesus.

Whatever happened there, it turned a rabble of very weak men into courrageous followers of Christ who gave their lives preaching what they had experienced him to be about.

That's a pretty powerful witness. And for some reason it still deeply touches people today. The structure of the church, its hierarchies, power games, divisions and distractions have not been able to destroy it. It keeps breaking through in people's lives in ways that Ghandi does not.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Well, it's interesting you say that: you are relying on 'the last miracle'.

I rather see that as part of the language and myth of the day, tied in with expectations that we can hardly understand. I don't think there is a historical nugget, and it certainly isn't accessible via historical methods.

We have no evidence that these were very weak men. Rather, they will have still expected the end. They will still have engaged with all the rituals. They will have had full notions of the appearance of Elijah and the rest. Therefore it is but another shift to see that Jesus is but away and ready to return, that now there could be no ambiguity in that either his is messiah or he is not, rather than possibly preparing for another. Not going to plan and disappointment has always been the feature of religion, and always been a means of transforming.

When I read the resurrection accounts I see a backward myth at work, and I'm not convinced that this miracle is any different from the other non-healing events. They are all explanations about the future state, often around food, with references to body.

Erika Baker said...

Fair enough.
But it's not a "last miracle", it's the psychology of it that is convincing.

You can argue what they were like, but they are portrayed as thoroughly human and I find that convincing.
And yet, all but one of them found an incredible strength and gave their lives for their faith. And not while Jesus was alive and his charisma carried them along, but afterwards, when the folly of the movement was clear for everyone to see and there was nothing but humiliating failure.

If that story means nothing, well, then everything in the bible can be interpreted as meaning nothing.

But if it means anything, at whatever level you want to read it, it's a story about a group of people who have been extraordinarily affected by one man, and who have somehow succeeded in igniting that passion in others too after his death.

That they expected the end is neither here nor there. You don't have to take what the church says about Jesus as the only yardstick.

He changed their lives radically in a hugely positive, life giving and God-focused way.
And he still has the power to do that to people today.

That's enough for me. The Second Coming doesn't come into it for me at all.

Rev R Marszalek said...

Ghandi didn't send us a comforter. Ghandi didn't send us the Holy Spirit. Ghandi did not free us from ourselves only from the oppression of others.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I think you might be confusing religious myth and something that actually happened.

Anonymous said...


Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I know of these approaches, done a number of times by a number of people.

If so why do you think so many of us, having looked at the matter in detail, think no?

Anonymous said...

many are called...few are chosen?

Erika Baker said...

And the chosen ones have to remain anyonymous?
Love it!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes....who wrote Hebrews, Erika?

Erika Baker said...

Dearest Anonymous

I have no idea who wrote Hebrews.

But I'm pretty sure he was known by name to the people he communicated with.

You find a lot of ancient writing where the origins got lost in time. You don't so often find people signing their writings with an evasive "anon". They usually had the courage of their convictions.

Anonymous said...

it does not change the substance of any comments...whether you are Erika or anon, a comment is only worth what it says......debate would be enhanced if all were anon - then people would have to focus on the issues