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Abolition Theology-Meditation Of Oneself with God

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Abolition Theology-Meditation Of Oneself with God
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  Evan R. Bunch DIV 6801 Constructive Christian Theology I Position Paper 28 NOV 16 Abolition Theology: Meditation of Oneself with God Hardly anyone has written a treatise on Gregory of Nyssa as abolitionist as Dr. J. Kameron Carter has done in his book, Race A Theological Account, that explicates Gregory an abolitionist of slavery, that reads against rather than within the social order. 1  In this paper, I will dialogue with Dr. Carter's text for a need for abolition theology. A theology that does more to deconstruct the social order rather than reform what is already in place. It is this kind of theology Gregory of  Nyssa posits to challenge the institution of slavery by exegeting the text in a way that attacks the root of slavery by reimagining human beings as not natural slaves. There is no doubt that the bible was used to justify slavery here in the United States. It is from this basis that Dr. Carter exposes how religion and race entered in matrimony in modernity. Dr. Carter calls it the "color of Constantinianism." 2  This idea that in modernity, the problem is not just how people differ on religious views but also how folks bodies, in particular, are subject to be categorized as lesser than other bodies. Whiteness becomes the telos for non-white  persons; in contrast, this notion makes whiteness a theological problem. Dr. Carter brilliantly explains his position by first showing how Irenaeus was anti gnostic due to the negation of Jewish ethnicity that Gnosticism posited. As Gnosticism was taking worldwide, it was ousting all things Jewish as well. When white folks took black folks from Africa, they not only took their bodies but ousted their religious practices as well. Dr. Carter explains in his book; 1  J. Kameron Carter, Race A Theological Account   (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2008) 231. 2  Carter, Race Theological Account, 230.  the Gnostics seized on the Pauline doctrine of election in order to rewrite it in Gnostic terms. Paul's concern was not YHWH's irrevocable promises to Israel, as the people of his covenant and, in this way, for creation as a whole and in all of its particularities. Instead, his concern, the Gnostics contended; was over the election of the real,  pneumatic Christians - that is, the Gnostics. They are a "new" Israel - the true church  beyond Israel, 3  With this "new Israel" and "pneumatic Christian" language, the Gnostics were redefining, reimaging, and constructing a new hegemonic category for Gnostics, that superseded and outlawed all things Jewish. It is this ethnic othering that calls into question the theology of the Gnostics. Like many denominations in the Christian faith today, denominations are in contestation over truth and who rightly proclaims the truth. Each one is trying to discredit the other to seem more trustworthy than the other. Like Gnostics and Judaism, Gnosticism discredited the YHWH God and the ethnicity by which the Jews knew as a culture. Irenaeus of Lyons who lived from 130 C.E. to 202 C.E. and pastored in Lyons was dealing with his congregants becoming Gnostic and undoing and negating the Jewish people and the Jewish faith. He provided counter exegesis where Gnosticism claimed to be of a supreme essence, Irenaeus claims in John 1, "They do not know that His only begotten Logos, who is always present with the human race, united to and mingled with His creation." 4  Here Irenaeus claims that there is none supreme than God, and even God came and dwelt among humanity whose essence was less than God. For Gnostics, God could never dwell among humanity due to the levels of essences that separated humanity from the Gods. Gnosticism severed the lifeline  between humanity and God by creating an unreachable God. For Irenaeus, God, Logos, came, 3  Ibid., 22. 4  Ibid., 24.  and dwelt among humanity to make God like humanity and humanity accessible to God. Irenaeus provided counter exegesis, and Gregory of Nyssa adds other religious practices to continue the work to undo the social order of Gnosticism. Gregory of Nyssa who lived from 335 C.E. to 394 C.E. bishop of Nyssa from 372 until his death, believed in the practice of self-contemplation. Regularly and consistently meditating on the words of scripture to bring one closer to God and to be in tune with the spirit. Is this practice of self contemplation Dr. Carter explicates Gregory's practice as a way in which, "the self is most fully itself only as it exits the self, only as it exits those modes of identity tied to this worldly order of things, tied to its modulations and modes of power, and tied to the ways this worldly order has structured our loves." 5  In other words, one finds unity with God by meditating and chewing on the words of scripture. As outside forces like the empire, Roman and U.S. laws that are holy, Gregory suggests meditation of the Word should govern one's life. U.S. and Roman empires may order our loves like the love for capitalism, militarism, and global control, Gregory suggests finding an order that is of Christ by entering into a meditation of the scriptures. During slavery in the United States, slaves were known to put coded messaging in the scriptural passages handed to them by their slave masters, to signal the time to run away towards freedom. It is this mediation of the Word; slaves were packing their freedom in the scriptures to remain vigilant and ready for the signal to run towards freedom. I can imagine the Word sitting in their bellies waiting for the song, "swing low, sweet chariot, coming fort to carry me home," waiting for the words, "Steal away to Jesus, steal away home." The Word became a tool to signal their voyage towards freedom. 5  Ibid., 234.   Like slave abolitionist preachers, Gregory denounces the slave system during his time by saying, "You condemn a man to slavery when his nature is free and is self-determining, and you legislate in competition with God, overturning his law for the human species." 6  Here the scripture for Gregory competes with the laws of the empire. For Gregory, humanity is free through Christ, and there is nothing that can or should legislate the freedom of a human being. For Gregory, world order is always under scrutiny and critique due to humanity being in constant meditation of the Word to make sure institutions are consistent with the Word. When thinking about interpreting scripture and what the body of Christ means today, there is still contestation on the essence of human beings. Christianity in the U.S. is the dominant group here and due to racism, sexism, homophobia, and other isms in operation. Christianity is still in debate on the treatment of human beings. 80% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, who is adamant about creating a registry for all Muslims here in the U.S, demeaned women, and consists of being a law and order president. The essence of woman, humans who happen to be Muslim, and black folks who are already over-policed and racially profiled, are still under the rule of religion and ethnic othering that considers them less than and disposable. It is not the position of this paper to make Gregory of Nyssa or Irenaeus anti-racist or non-colonizer. Racism, as we know it today, was not the system that created the slavery system in Gregory's day. He does give the Christian tradition something today to keep in mind, and that is the essence of humanity and the freedom bestowed to humanity because of the relationship God has with God's creation. Nothing separates, supersedes, or severs the relationship God has with God's people. As scripture is used to instruct how to treat others, simultaneously, bodies are at 6  Ibid., 237.  stake. It is the responsibility of the interpreter to continue to keep the body as sacred and holy as to God.
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