David Bentley Hart’s Ryan Lectures series at Asbury Seminary’s Chapel: Death, Sacrifice & Resurrection

Source Link: Listening online

Ryan Lectures 2011 – Death, Sacrifice, and Resurrection

Chapel – Death, Sacrifice & Resurrection (Part I)
11 a.m., Tuesday, November 8
Asbury Seminary Kentucky campus, Estes Chapel

David Bentley Hart offers an insightful perspective to see through the significance of Gen.22. Referencing to Martin Heidegger’s Sein-zum-Tode (Being-toward-death‎), in this particular lecture Hart approaches religions as human existential attempts to incorporate death as part of the inevitable [violent] cosmic order by making sacrifice in the name of god.

If we take this point to be true, it appears wholly absurd to see how Abraham‘s God would not take the life He has given as sacrifice, as if He wants to show us the tragic cosmic reality (and our serene acceptance of it) isn’t ‘it’ yet; as if He wants something more beyond what we can give.

Yet indeed the only life He takes is the one that He cannot give; the only life sacrifice He wills is the one He cannot keep, that is, not any of ours but His own life, so that we may live His own life– a life beyond death; so that it’s in and of Himself that we find the true and unique inbreaking of the phenomenological order of this universe- the beauty of the Infinite.

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Ryan Lectures 2011 – Death, Sacrifice, and Resurrection

Chapel – Death, Sacrifice & Resurrection (Part II)
11 a.m., Thursday, November 10
Asbury Seminary Kentucky campus, Estes Chapel

Dr. Hart opens the lectures by explaining that religion as a vast strand of meanings has one central thrust is  judgment– no matter it is mystical, ethical, or cosmological.

Above all, religious logic finds its ultimate expression in its articulation of the final judgment in terms of human destiny: Death, Sacrifice, and Resurrection.

We strive for purity in our soul, and we seek after harmony with the universe. Purity and harmony are ethical values that we embody in our religious praxes with the hope that we will pass this final judgment, that we fulfull the telos of our existence.

Whereas in the Egyptian tradition, only the rich can afford a next life by ritually adorning his or her corpse and connecting to the divine, Zoroastrian religion enacts the cosmological sacrifice that embraces and incorporates everyone—in the irredeemable and meaningless natural order though.

In light of this, we could say that the split between the priestly (ritual) and prophetic (ethical) strands of biblical witnesses in the academia is oversimplified at best and exaggerated indeed. For example, Dr. Hart explains, the Jewish festival Yom Kippur is both a ritual and moral sacrifice made to appease God’s wrath.

On the other hand, if we look at the history of Judeo-Christianity, the destruction of the temple and the colonial tension in the synagogue worship indeed pose some theological problematic.

What is at stake theologically in the eventful history is God’s fidelity to His own covenant that promises the vindication and resurrection of the righteousness through the manifestation of the Holy One.

This means that if God is God, then He must have not been done yet.

Pointing again to Christianity’s Indy-European predecessor and counterpart Zoroastrianism, Hart nonetheless directs us to see that this ancient religion founded during 6th century BC has long ago posited an end for its circular understanding of history.

Oddly enough, in Zoroastrianism, there is a final singular moment to be ushered by the anticipation of the divine future, a moment when endless repetitions of historical cycles shall be halted.

In Easter, the cross triumphs over all evils as an expression of divine love as well as divine justice—which are also the dual corresponding aspects of the divine passion. We have no doubt that the cross is first of all a sacrifice, as this is understood even in pagan and secular (e.g. Roman) cultures.

The underlying secular logic of crucifixion was always to preserve– to preserve the city and the people through the sacrifice and damnation of the criminal, aka “the factor of instability” , on the cross, just as the chief priest Caiaphas said in John 11:49-51: « it is more to your advantage to have one man101 die for the people than for the whole nation to perish. »

Analogically speaking, the cross is thus a sufficient event for the disruption of our history, our certitude, and the false solace offered by world religions.

But dialectically speaking, the cross is also made a necessary event for the preservation of the entirety of universal existence from destruction, in which a man‘s decision is set out to correspond to and fulfill the divine verdict.

It is the singular event of the cross and resurrection that defines our Christian existence and reveals the true story of humanity, an open story to be appreciated, apprehended, and appropriated by our “second naïveté” (Ricoeur), or–given the dialectical flavor of this whole logic– let me go off Dr. Hart for a second and pay a little tribute to Barth’s “critical naïveté.”

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Image by George M. Groutas via Flickr

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