Thursday, June 19, 2014

GKC Wrap-Up, Phase 5: Re-Essaying Jacob's Ladder

Phase 1. Phase 2. Phase 3. Phase 4.

The rabbi whose identity continues to morph from Saul to Paul spent the rest of his life trying to communicate how his understanding of things had changed after the interrupted trip to Damascus. Clearly, that change was radical.

Paul and his followers are not an easy read. I’ve read their letters all my life, and it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve sensed just what a revolutionary cross-pollination of religious* understanding they represent — and promote.

My penny-dreadful summary: in the death and resurrection of this itinerant Jewish rabbi “Jesus,” who’d devoted the bulk of his time, energies and teaching to the outcasts of the empire and his own religion, the entire species’ presumed Pantheon was turned upside-down. God-through-Jesus brought into harmony not just Jewish efforts at atonement, but pagan ones, also.

“Overturned” is not “obliterated.” Paul anticipated that at some point all Powers will submit themselves to the authority of Jesus — either as willing and grateful servants, or as damned subjects. “Powers” seems a vague appellation — a nearly empty metaphor — to a modern imagination beguiled by the West’s simplistic dualist execution of secularism. There was nothing vague about it to the ancient imagination, which saw an elaborate (and corrupt) Chain of Command that led directly into the ether.

I believe Lewis’s imagining of Bacchus’ place within Narnia’s Pantheon is an exercise inspired by, and respectfully aligned with, Pauline cosmology. Moreover, any Christian who presumes the banishment or outright obliteration of all pagan modalities has a severely impoverished and predominantly egoistic comprehension of the cosmology to which they claim subscription.

If it is true a person cannot comprehend Christianity without some comprehension of its Jewish origins, I would suggest this is equally (if not more) true of its pagan origins.

"Overturned," not "Obliterated."
*Or “mythical,” if you’d rather.

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