Tuesday, April 8, 2014

You can't put together what is already together

Painting: Yago

I sincerely hate to say it, but I fear that Platonic philosophy has had more influence in Christian history than Jesus. The Jesus and Christ event says that matter and spirit, divine and human are not enemies, but are two sides of the same coin. They, in fact, reveal one another. For Plato, the body and the soul are mortal enemies and largely incompatible. Our poor sexual theology and our lackluster history of care for the earth and its resources, our disrespect for animals and all growing things, show that Christians have not seen matter and spirit as natural friends. Much of our history, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant, has created Platonists much more than Incarnationalists or Christians.

Matter and spirit have never been separate. That’s really the ultimate Christian heresy, and what Jesus came to undo. At its best, religion did try to put matter and spirit together (“sacramentalism”), but you can’t put together what is already together. You are taking yourself too seriously. That is God’s job, and all we can do is come along later and second the motion. That’s what Christians should mean when they say Jesus has become “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36); Jesus is the epiphany in personal form of what has always been true. Yet this really is a switch for most of us raised in organized Christianity. We overplayed the Jesus card and largely ignored the Christ card. Most Christians just believe in Jesus. They have never moved to the level of cosmic mystery that was revealed both in the bread Paul called the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 11:23-24) and the people that he also called the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Some do not like Paul for other reasons, but he did get Incarnational Christianity in very specific implication and corollary. He was the true Christian philosopher, but the dualistic Western mind preferred Plato instead.

Richard Rohr