Bringing God to Life

Wilson from ahouseonfire.tumblr.com writes:

Let’s say if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, and that for all intensive purposes, God is actually dead. However, the way in which the resurrection that is championed throughout all of church history is enacted through us.

“God” stirs within the actions humans commit, when these actions are akin to the nature of God revealed in Jesus.

What if the resurrection was up to us? How differently and passionately would we live if it was upon our shoulders to bring a resurrected Jesus to the lost, and without us, God was dead.

Because I would argue without a church willing to live as though this is true, we’ll continue to live in a world that views God as nothing more than an antique.

If God is dead, we must be the Resurrection.

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16 Comments

  1. Reply
    Abigail March 14, 2013

    ^[sits back, crosses her arms across her chest, and shoots a pointedly skeptical glare at the professor].

    Do you know how ridiculous this comes across to me? You haven’t convinced me that “the church” as an institution is worth keeping around. The concepts are dying to “the church” that validate its existence… so? Why should “the church” champion “resurrection”?

    Let’s retell your story, Wilson, only ever-so-slightly modified:
    “Let’s say if Osiris didn’t rise from the dead, and that for all intensive purposes,[sic] the gods are actually dead. However, the way in which the resurrection that is championed throughout all of the history of the cult of Osiris is enacted through us.
    The gods stir within the actions humans commit, when these actions are akin to the nature of the gods revealed in Osiris.
    What if the resurrection was up to us? How differently and passionately would we live if it was upon our shoulders to bring a resurrected Osiris to the lost, and without us, the gods were dead.
    Because I would argue without a cult of Osiris willing to live as though this is true, we’ll continue to live in a world that views the gods as nothing more than antiques.”

  2. Reply
    Wilson Garrett March 14, 2013

    Wow, Peter, I was pretty starstuck when I saw you quoted me. It’s incredibly encouraging to see someone of your caliber of academia agreeing with something an eighteen year old pseudo theologian had to say. Your work has challenged me and caused me to grow as a person more than any other persons writings prior, so this is an incredibly feeling for me. Keep doing what you do, man. :)

  3. Reply
    Ronald W Alliston March 14, 2013

    Definitely, the church being able to live as though it is dead, hands down, any day of the week is way more upsetting. Boy, reading the fantasy of God being dead and it was left to the church to raise Him, kind of sent this hope through my mind. That would cause people to be ultra-nutty, worse than today, but at the same time this wouldn’t be a dull affair either like it is, for the most part anyway.

  4. Reply
    Karen March 14, 2013

    Abigail, perhaps he is not speaking of “the church” as an institution but as the body of Christ. The transfer of the metaphor to Osiris does not seem to me to show that it is ridiculous so much as that it may have an application that extends beyond Christianity.

    • Reply
      Abigail March 14, 2013

      “the body of Christ” means….? Can you escape the fact that this term is a cultural construct?

      Are you suggesting that you want to resurrect Osiris? How about Baal? Ra? Dionysius?
      This passage, that the resurrection of God depends on whether or not we humans do something about it, reminds me of the myth of Baldr:
      “Baldr does not come back to life because not all living creatures shed tears for him, and his death then leads to the ‘doom of the gods’.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dying-and-rising_god

      To which I say, so what? Nietzsche feared the collapse of society, but that hasn’t happened. And if it does, it probably won’t be due to a huge number of people stopping their belief in something that nobody can prove exists, a story that nobody can prove is true.

      • Reply
        Paul March 14, 2013

        Does the fact that the “body of Christ” is a cultural construction negate the fact that some narratives, may “out-narrate” other narratives? Are all narratives equally worth reviving or burying?

        Can we appreciate the relative and constructed nature of reality without going all the way down to relativism, where all things are equally good or bad? Are there not some “objective” criteria that may act as an adjudicator?

        It seems as though this post presupposes that the narrative of the metaphorical church values care for one another, compassion, etc…

        These are some questions I wrestle with, regarding your post, Abigail.

        • Reply
          Abigail March 15, 2013

          Paul, I normally really love what you write, but I’m having a hard time understanding what you’re trying to say here. Can you elaborate a bit more?
          I was trying to say that resurrecting the Christian “God” (presumably the “God” Nietzsche was referring to in his parable) is equally non-real as resurrecting Osiris, or Persephone, or any of the other culturally-created mythological figures who died and came back to life in the course of human civilization. Karen responded by substituting a synonym, as if the second term, “body of Christ,” were more real than the first term, “the church.”
          To the ancients who believed that the return of Persephone brought Spring… if they’d felt it was up to them to revive her, they’d have done their darndest, to be sure. What if they “woke up,” realized Persephone wasn’t “real,” and stopped their spring-initiating rites? Darned if I don’t have crocuses growing in my yard these days, nonetheless…
          Today’s OP really feels like that kind of appeal–an appeal to superstition! “If we don’t X, then God will stay dead. [and the urgency of the tone implies that something tragic would happen if that were to be the case.]” Am I missing something here??

      • Reply
        Karen March 14, 2013

        It’s interesting to look at the various social constructs that shape our lives, but it can also be paralyzing.

        I’m not interested in resurrecting Osiris or Baal, since this isn’t a literal resurrection. It’s a frame of reference, a metaphor. The body of Christ is the community of people who align themselves with his teachings (or, sure, the cultural construct). Many things help us to organize how we want to move in the world.

        I wouldn’t expect the world to collapse because people stopped believing in any particular version of god. They just find a different way to orient themselves.

        I’m very partial to stories.

        • Reply
          Abigail March 15, 2013

          I like stories too, a lot. But I prefer to be able to differentiate between stories and consensus reality. (With the understanding that the two influence each other powerfully.) I read stories about Santa Claus to my kids, but I never pretend like he is real, and I correct adults who try to play that game with my kids around Christmastime. We can learn a lot from the myth of Santa, but if that myth died, I wouldn’t shed any tears, nor try to resurrect him; most likely because if he did die, it would be an indication that consensus reality no longer needs him (for whatever reasons.)

          Karen, what I am kind of reading between the lines (and correct me if I misunderstand you), is that perhaps if those labeled as Christians did not engage in the “resurrection” being advocated in this post (whatever that would mean or look like), then the world would lose the teachings of Jesus? Or it would lose the desire on anyone’s part to follow the teachings of Jesus? (Because, essentially, there would be no “body of Christ”?)

          I’m not trying to be antagonistic. :( I’m trying to clarify what people are trying to say. Using mythological language always brings us into a foggy semantical world, by nature.

  5. Reply
    Rebecca March 14, 2013

    For those who use God as the ultimate scapegoat for personal responsibility, this is the ultimate wake-up call. Perhaps what has died is our idea that God will “save us” from pain, an illusion that needed to die since we, ultimately, bear the responsibility for our choices. Our choices are the only power we have – and isn’t the old “God” model all about power? Perhaps it is our powerlessness that has died. Perhaps by becoming what we wish for, we will find we have what we want, and the resurrection occurs in us.

  6. Reply
    Will March 15, 2013

    Intriguing thought, seems to be a bit of proselytizing statement. I thought we were being Atheists for lent.

    I don’t need a god that requires my help to live.

    • Reply
      Abigail March 15, 2013

      Thank you, Will, for putting words to my feelings. Yes, exactly.
      I am starting to feel a little betrayed, by today’s post. Though, I should have expected something like this, since the home page does use religious language. Maybe I’m irrationally responding from old wounds here, but try as you might, you’re not going to convince me that willingly taking the Christian label is essential for any real reason, except to fit into certain social situations. If that’s the point of the site, I’ll stop participating.
      But maybe I’m wildly misunderstanding the intent of the post. If so, someone please clarify. What are we trying to resurrect, and why?

      Apologies to everyone if I’m coming across as vitriolic. I’ve been a bit under the weather the past couple days, and feeling grouchy. I’m at about 90% today though, and we had lovely warm temperatures today, so I’m trying to cheer up…

  7. Reply
    Rebecca March 22, 2013

    Abigail, I hope you’re feeling better! I didn’t get any vitriol from you, just refreshing honesty. I think what I was trying to say in my poorly-written paragraph is that perhaps (I use this word a lot, since I’m sure of very little but I love asking questions), perhaps the “God” that died is actually just all of our hopes and ideas of what that “God” represented (salvation from pain, unconditional love, a sense of greater meaning… all those things we wait for that never seem to arrive). Nietzsche’s take on God’s death is that it was a sad event, something to be mourned, the end of an era, but I remain unsatisfied with Nietzsche’s conclusion that no hope remains to replace the hope we one had in God.

    Proselytizing repulses me – I have only questions. In this context, I’m asking, “What are the qualities of the God that has died, and could it be, perhaps, that we as humans can embody those qualities we once searched for outside of ourselves?” It’s just an idea I’m toying with, but when I look at it like this, the death of God actually enables me to, as Gandhi said, be the change I wish to see in the world. Instead of waiting around for Someone to descend and make it all better, I “resurrect” those qualities I once passively awaited, and begin to actually make it better myself.

  8. Reply
    Alf March 14, 2014

    Again, I really like the conversation! I sense no vitriol, Abigail… hope you feel better…

    To answer the question, ‘Which is more troubling: a God who is alive meaning the church can live as though it is dead or a God who is dead meaning the church must be the life of God in the world? Why?’

    For me, I believe, I’ve been part of the first, and I wouldn’t want to be part of the second… I don’t want to live a ‘truth’ as though it meant nothing (religion), or live a ‘lie’, and tried to make it mean something it wasn’t, again religion.

    I know I shouldn’t use ‘truth’ with God, as though to betray the intent of the website, but the question led to my answer. Not proselytizing!

  9. Reply
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