Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Illogicality of Christianity

the following was written by The Lutheran Surrealist.(Oct. 14 2008) It is republished here with his permission.


THE ILLOGICALITY OF CHRISTIANITY

I am often reminded by non-Christians that Christianity isn't scientific, can't be proven, doesn't speak in logical terms.

It's not just Max. It's everywhere I go, I run into this THING called logic. It's supposed to be an insuperable argument, and on its own terms, it is.

That is, if you are going to believe only in what's logical, then it's only logical that you can't be a Christian.

Again -- it's not just Max. It's Christopher Hitchens, it's Richard Dawkins, it's the culture, stupid.

The problem is that Christianity IS stupid. That is, it was never an extension of Greek logic emerging from Aristotle. It was never even an extension of Jewish wisdom extending out of the OT. It's something else.

Jesus said, "I will bring to nothing the wisdom of the wise, and destroy the cleverness of the clever."

What did He mean by this?

He was ushering in the realm of the surreal. Jesus was the world's first surrealist. He ushered in a realm of the marvelous that was beyond understanding.

If we are not powerful, and haven't got a lot of property, it makes sense that we should not ride into Jerusalem on the back of an ass, and upset all the applecarts of the city, and presume to upbraid our elders.

If we are the son of God, it makes sense that we would end up running the world, rather than being nailed to a cross to die in utter devastation.

I'm reading a book by Alain Badiou, called St. Paul. (Stanford: SUP, 2003). Badiou is a Marxist who is trying to use St. Paul to discuss the notion of "universalism." He admires St. Paul but wants to hijack the logic of St. Paul to use it as a intervention in Marxist discourse (I'm not yet done with this wonderful book so I don't know precisely where he's going).

Paul, Badiou writes, was stuck between Jewish wisdom, which consisted of signs, and Greek logic, which consisted of logical discourse.

"The philosopher knows eternal truths; the prophet knows the univocal sense of what will come (even if he delivers it only through figures, through signs). The apostle, who declares an unheard-of possibility, one dependent on an evental grace, properly speaking knows nothing" (45).

Paul's "knowledge" consists of having been blinded by grace on the road to Damascus. (Evental, in this translated text, stems from the word "eventiellement," in the French original, which means of or having to do with an event.) A single event, rather than being caught up in logic, or having looked to the future for a sign, is what determines Paul's scandalous news that he seeks to spread throughout the Roman empire.

Everywhere he is met with Greek and Jewish resistance. His only weapon is a kind of outlandish love, an eternal love that he brings into the finitude of Greek logic in order to cause it to explode, and into the communal savvy of the Jewish upper crust of Jerusalem (about to be dispersed only ten years later when they finally provoke Roman fury to its limits with their riots in the years around 60 AD, just a few years after Paul's head is lopped off and bounces thrice to herald the Trinity).

Paul declares a new kind of truth that has nothing to do with science. It is not concerned with the niceties of logic or the proof theories of science. It has nothing to do with the priesthood and its elect.

This is a new truth, one that flies past logic like a dove. It is not part of any elite. It is for the poor, and the outcast, and argues that God arrives in the form of an outcast in a tiny province, and was born in a barn, and that its only message is universal love.

Badiou cites Paul, "Knowledge will disappear!" (1st Corinthians, 13.8).

In scientific terms, in terms of knowledge, in terms of verifiability, Christianity is a form of retardation in politically correct parlance, we would have to say that it is severely "mentally challenged." It is, in the words of a current film, "religulous." But that is precisely its point. That is precisely its sublimity.

This is a beautiful message which the mentally challenged of the world are more likely to understand than the scientists and Ph.D.s. It operates at a strangely tilted angle to knowledge-centered societies, and "brings to nothing the cleverness of the clever." The clever look at it and say, "But this doesn't make sense! It must be banned! Please make it stop! It's so STOOOPID."

And to the consternation of the clever, it continues to grow. Throughout Africa, there are people who get it. It's racing through the ranks of the untouchables in India, where the number of adherents continues to grow. Christianity tumbles men and women like dominoes in order to lift them up in the name of the Lord.

This most baffling and paradoxical of religions is defiant toward Greek knowledge and toward hierarchies of wisdom. It mocks the caste system in India, terrifying and embittering the Hindu hierarchy. Even the Buddhists look upon Christianity as a bloody mess filled with pain and sorrow, and can't see past the finite aspects of blood into the eyes of eternity itself. Christianity turns the tables on everyone and everything, and the "tables once turned, keep on turning" (apologies to Mike Kettner for stealing his long-lost one-line poem, and redeploying it in a different context), never coming to right, making it difficult to eat anything and not consider it a miracle, loaves are loves, coming to light.

The Christian isn't required to be from any class, any race, or any sex. Unlike Nazism, it doesn't speak for a self-selected elite. Unlike Judaism, there is no chosen race. Unlike Marxism, it doesn't even speak for a class. It is infinite in its line of flight, constantly deterritorializing every settled structure, turning all conventions on their head, and instantiating a laughter that can only be seen as mentally challenged by the Greeks, and as impossible by the Jews.

When I read the astonishment and anger of the Christopher Hitchens', and the Richard Dawkins', I am reminded of the astonishment and anger of the authorities in Athens who laughed Paul out of the city, and of the astonishment and anger of the authorities in Jerusalem, who had Christ put to death for the audacity of his hope.

But in the strange face of Jesus I nevertheless see something infinite, something that can never be known, something so vast and puzzling, that the human mind looks upon it, and can only combust before its endless surrealism. Hosannah! Hosannah in the highest!

2 comments:

TheEO said...

You say:

"The Christian isn't required to be from any class, any race, or any sex. Unlike Nazism........"

This does not invalidate your argument but I should point out that the Nazis (including modern day versions) were Christians. There is heaps of first order evidence for this in the form of artifacts and photographs. Hitler made many references to his belief in Christianity in his books, speeches and (private) letters.

Try:

http://www.nobeliefs.com/mementoes.htm

or

http://www.nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm

or

http://atheism.about.com/od/adolfhitlernazigermany/tp/AdolfHitlerQuotesGodReligion.htm

Skittles, The Huntress said...

Dear EO,

I appreciate your comment. This piece was written by Kirby Olson, a philosophy professor at State University of New York. His blog is Lutheran Surrealism.

I cannot speak for him, but my understanding of his writings is that he will use labels to make a point. Nazis believe in a superiour race, marxists believe in a classless society, and so on.

His argument here is that Christianity transcends race, class, gender, etc.

As far as some Nazis claiming to be Christians....well, history has shown us that many evil people have claimed to be Christians, and not just Nazis.

WW

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Illogicality of Christianity

the following was written by The Lutheran Surrealist.(Oct. 14 2008) It is republished here with his permission.


THE ILLOGICALITY OF CHRISTIANITY

I am often reminded by non-Christians that Christianity isn't scientific, can't be proven, doesn't speak in logical terms.

It's not just Max. It's everywhere I go, I run into this THING called logic. It's supposed to be an insuperable argument, and on its own terms, it is.

That is, if you are going to believe only in what's logical, then it's only logical that you can't be a Christian.

Again -- it's not just Max. It's Christopher Hitchens, it's Richard Dawkins, it's the culture, stupid.

The problem is that Christianity IS stupid. That is, it was never an extension of Greek logic emerging from Aristotle. It was never even an extension of Jewish wisdom extending out of the OT. It's something else.

Jesus said, "I will bring to nothing the wisdom of the wise, and destroy the cleverness of the clever."

What did He mean by this?

He was ushering in the realm of the surreal. Jesus was the world's first surrealist. He ushered in a realm of the marvelous that was beyond understanding.

If we are not powerful, and haven't got a lot of property, it makes sense that we should not ride into Jerusalem on the back of an ass, and upset all the applecarts of the city, and presume to upbraid our elders.

If we are the son of God, it makes sense that we would end up running the world, rather than being nailed to a cross to die in utter devastation.

I'm reading a book by Alain Badiou, called St. Paul. (Stanford: SUP, 2003). Badiou is a Marxist who is trying to use St. Paul to discuss the notion of "universalism." He admires St. Paul but wants to hijack the logic of St. Paul to use it as a intervention in Marxist discourse (I'm not yet done with this wonderful book so I don't know precisely where he's going).

Paul, Badiou writes, was stuck between Jewish wisdom, which consisted of signs, and Greek logic, which consisted of logical discourse.

"The philosopher knows eternal truths; the prophet knows the univocal sense of what will come (even if he delivers it only through figures, through signs). The apostle, who declares an unheard-of possibility, one dependent on an evental grace, properly speaking knows nothing" (45).

Paul's "knowledge" consists of having been blinded by grace on the road to Damascus. (Evental, in this translated text, stems from the word "eventiellement," in the French original, which means of or having to do with an event.) A single event, rather than being caught up in logic, or having looked to the future for a sign, is what determines Paul's scandalous news that he seeks to spread throughout the Roman empire.

Everywhere he is met with Greek and Jewish resistance. His only weapon is a kind of outlandish love, an eternal love that he brings into the finitude of Greek logic in order to cause it to explode, and into the communal savvy of the Jewish upper crust of Jerusalem (about to be dispersed only ten years later when they finally provoke Roman fury to its limits with their riots in the years around 60 AD, just a few years after Paul's head is lopped off and bounces thrice to herald the Trinity).

Paul declares a new kind of truth that has nothing to do with science. It is not concerned with the niceties of logic or the proof theories of science. It has nothing to do with the priesthood and its elect.

This is a new truth, one that flies past logic like a dove. It is not part of any elite. It is for the poor, and the outcast, and argues that God arrives in the form of an outcast in a tiny province, and was born in a barn, and that its only message is universal love.

Badiou cites Paul, "Knowledge will disappear!" (1st Corinthians, 13.8).

In scientific terms, in terms of knowledge, in terms of verifiability, Christianity is a form of retardation in politically correct parlance, we would have to say that it is severely "mentally challenged." It is, in the words of a current film, "religulous." But that is precisely its point. That is precisely its sublimity.

This is a beautiful message which the mentally challenged of the world are more likely to understand than the scientists and Ph.D.s. It operates at a strangely tilted angle to knowledge-centered societies, and "brings to nothing the cleverness of the clever." The clever look at it and say, "But this doesn't make sense! It must be banned! Please make it stop! It's so STOOOPID."

And to the consternation of the clever, it continues to grow. Throughout Africa, there are people who get it. It's racing through the ranks of the untouchables in India, where the number of adherents continues to grow. Christianity tumbles men and women like dominoes in order to lift them up in the name of the Lord.

This most baffling and paradoxical of religions is defiant toward Greek knowledge and toward hierarchies of wisdom. It mocks the caste system in India, terrifying and embittering the Hindu hierarchy. Even the Buddhists look upon Christianity as a bloody mess filled with pain and sorrow, and can't see past the finite aspects of blood into the eyes of eternity itself. Christianity turns the tables on everyone and everything, and the "tables once turned, keep on turning" (apologies to Mike Kettner for stealing his long-lost one-line poem, and redeploying it in a different context), never coming to right, making it difficult to eat anything and not consider it a miracle, loaves are loves, coming to light.

The Christian isn't required to be from any class, any race, or any sex. Unlike Nazism, it doesn't speak for a self-selected elite. Unlike Judaism, there is no chosen race. Unlike Marxism, it doesn't even speak for a class. It is infinite in its line of flight, constantly deterritorializing every settled structure, turning all conventions on their head, and instantiating a laughter that can only be seen as mentally challenged by the Greeks, and as impossible by the Jews.

When I read the astonishment and anger of the Christopher Hitchens', and the Richard Dawkins', I am reminded of the astonishment and anger of the authorities in Athens who laughed Paul out of the city, and of the astonishment and anger of the authorities in Jerusalem, who had Christ put to death for the audacity of his hope.

But in the strange face of Jesus I nevertheless see something infinite, something that can never be known, something so vast and puzzling, that the human mind looks upon it, and can only combust before its endless surrealism. Hosannah! Hosannah in the highest!

2 comments:

TheEO said...

You say:

"The Christian isn't required to be from any class, any race, or any sex. Unlike Nazism........"

This does not invalidate your argument but I should point out that the Nazis (including modern day versions) were Christians. There is heaps of first order evidence for this in the form of artifacts and photographs. Hitler made many references to his belief in Christianity in his books, speeches and (private) letters.

Try:

http://www.nobeliefs.com/mementoes.htm

or

http://www.nobeliefs.com/nazis.htm

or

http://atheism.about.com/od/adolfhitlernazigermany/tp/AdolfHitlerQuotesGodReligion.htm

Skittles, The Huntress said...

Dear EO,

I appreciate your comment. This piece was written by Kirby Olson, a philosophy professor at State University of New York. His blog is Lutheran Surrealism.

I cannot speak for him, but my understanding of his writings is that he will use labels to make a point. Nazis believe in a superiour race, marxists believe in a classless society, and so on.

His argument here is that Christianity transcends race, class, gender, etc.

As far as some Nazis claiming to be Christians....well, history has shown us that many evil people have claimed to be Christians, and not just Nazis.

WW