“The Lord Has Risen, Hallelujah!” will be a common refrain across official Christianity (Kierkegaard’s phrase) this morning. What is the significance of such a refrain? I want to be fair in an attempt to extract meaning. Then, I want to test. Remember, faith is for doing, for achieving well. It is not for merely believing in the intellectual sense. Intellectual activity is governed by the intellect which has as its primary modus operandi reasoning, weighing, comparing, verifying, measuring. On to significance.
The claim of the refrain is complex. It involves these various sub-claims: full and utter perfection took spatio-temporal living form. That living form was exhausted in death such that the spirit was separated from the body. Then, that spirit reinvigorated the body. After that things are murky. Where did the body go? Presumably there is an equivocation in the term body. Did the body rise? Did it remain a spatial existence? Is heaven (the residence of the divine) a spatially located place in which a spatially located body of the divine persists? My sense is that for the community under question the answer is no. The spiritualized body (resurrected form) was transferred to heaven. But again the murkiness in meaning is hidden in the poetically profound description of events.
That the infinite and utterly perfect inhabited a finite time and place is itself beyond reason. The incarnation itself is trouble enough for intellect. Anything after that is trouble but no more trouble than the original incarnation. That it walked, talked, was persecuted, hung on a cross, died, was buried, and rose again are all easily accepted after the incarnation is accepted.
The resurrection is merely a matter of the spiritualized disembodied divine reinhabiting what it once inhabited, and I fail to see the specific miracle in this moment. Presuming belief about everything else, what is the particular enthusiasm about the reinhabiting? The divine himself (ahem) was never dead. He was merely disembodied. Right?
Assuming all of this, wherein lies the enthusiasm for the member of official Christianity? The enthusiasm seems to come, so far as I can tell, from the thought that the divine achieved something. Indeed. The divine achieved, assuming the narrative, the enduring of life on earth while being targeted by the most brutish of human tendencies, without sin, and preserved sinlessness unto death.
But, wherein lies specifically the enthusiasm about the reinhabiting known as the resurrection? Did the divine die? Is that the overcoming? And when I mean “die” I mean to ask the member of official Christianity whether the spirit of the divine was itself dissipated such that it. was. no. more. Again, assuming this, per impossible, it is also completely un-understandable how the dissipation of spirit took place, given its original simplicity (Accepting Plato Aristotle and even the Stoics, rejecting Democritus and Epicurus and the Atomism they espoused). But assuming that is understood, it is completely un-understandable how the dissipated spirit was regathered unless by a magnetic attraction or by that other part of the divine itself which endured the entire time unharmed.
But still, wherein the enthusiasm? The enthusiasm seems to be from a transfer of evidence for the overcome-ability of death. This is what excites the Christian.
Oh, but there is more. The divine being is understood to have carried with him all the failures of mankind and disposed of them in some fashion which absolves mankind of some punishment which was otherwise inevitable. Now this is something. And it is not agreed, even in official Christianity, precisely what was achieved. The area of investigation is atonement theory. I leave you to further reading. I accept (if a gun is put to my head, Christus Victor. But I accept it for its murkiness. The clearer satisfaction theories are entirely untenable).
Typical today is the thought that the divine father was primed and ready to punish (beat) the disobeying child (humans) (who according to some popular Reformed traditions could not have helped their misbehavior in the first place because they lacked free will and the misbehavior was planned by the divine father to express his glory?) when the never disobeying brother (who is really no brother at all in the tradition being fully human AND fully divine, the latter feature not being a feature of the merely human at all) stepped in to cover the disobeying brother. The divine father decided he didn’t care who he hit, and decided he would be satisfied with beating the innocent son and accepting that as suitable payment for the disobeying son, the result being an “hallelujah” from the disobeying brother who ends up getting away with sin.
There is more to the story. But it is all in favor of the disobeying brother. On top of not getting the punishment he deserves he gets magically tranformed into a better human–not by his own effort at all, magically! This is also achieved by the innocent brother. Now this is something to be grateful for (unless one understands gratefulness to have conditions–say one has to do another a good to earn gratefulness. If that is so, then it is questionable whether the innocent brother does the disobeying brother a good by taking his punishment and taking from him the opportunity to learn by experience the relationship between his behavior and pain).
But there is more. When asked why the sin continues here and now, why the imperfections persist in spite of all this having in some sense taken place, there is much wiggling and hand wringing. If you are willing to swallow the answer, and so categorized as a “sincere” questioner (but you must be submissively ready to swallow) all will go well. But if you press the issue you will be condemned as a heretic and ostracized from the community. You see, everything in official Christianity is about maintaining intellectual commitment to the absurd. Do not look at achievement or righteousness in action and virtue of character. For demanding such you will be ostracized again as a heretic regarding “works”. No, any attempt to look for verification of any of this in the spatio-temporal realm will get you ostracized. So, in official Christianity it is maintained that I may continue in my sin under the excuse that in reality it is all done and my continued unrighteousness is not a sign of the failure of any of this to have actually happened.
Again I say, this is cause for enthusiasm.
But I will not cheer. I will not cheer for a story that excuses humanity from the difficult task of the pursuit of the best. The feral pig in me would rest when food is near and predators are not to be worried about. And everything in my human animal is ready to relax and fatten on ease. But the reality is that beyond material achievement is the much harder and much more worth pursuing moral achievement. Now, in America, and in many other places, I am tempted to relax by corporations who would prefer I trade any effort immediately for material comfort and stare-at-a-screen time. I am then on top of that tempted by government to become a dependent upon that coercive organization who takes by force, pays itself handsomely, and then distributes what it must to maintain allegiance to it. And now if I turn to look to religion for its historical emphasis on righteousness and virtue I am confronted with a “No worries. Its all done. Relax.” The maintenance of urgency, focus, discipline, readiness toward spiritual governance of the soul toward virtuous character and righteous action is mine alone if it is anything(oh, what a pity party). This is as it should be. And, in my best moments (which are still too few), I welcome the temptation to distraction from all sides. A greater achievement will be the resulting focus!
Kierkegaard was right. The walk of “faith” is silent, alone, and terrifying(Fear and Trembling). It looks unreasonable (because it cannot be explained in human language). It feels unnatural (because it is the pursuit of the spiritual by the animal). It is difficult and so few are the joiners (alone). It must be walked (chosen and embraced) by the individual (alone). Talking, which is connected with expressing accurate grasp of reality, which is connected with thinking, proves futile (silence). The walk of faith is the walk toward the grasp of reality. It is not itself the grasp. The grasp is by intellect. How to get there is through moral development.
You will find a retelling of the Christian narrative in Kierkegaard that disallows the excusing and pampering and cheap unintelligibility of official Christianity. His is an unintelligibility that promotes moral achievement. Official Christianity is the unintelligibility that promotes a ruin of intellect and a excusing of moral failure. In addition, the Stoics famously inspire toward moral development. Worth spending time with are the Stoics. This is a community for the better me. Where is he? Does he rise from the ashes of the worse me?
Happy Easter! Is moral development possible? Is it possible for the morally developed to rise from the morally undeveloped? I think so. Let’s get after it. How? No matter. Don’t think. Do!