Christ & Horrors—Part 1

9780521686006_p0_v1_s260x420Top three books read in 2013? The top read has to be David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss. The second and third are Marilyn McCord Adams’ Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology and John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. I read McCord last summer and I’m starting this year off re-reading her. The first time though I was just a listener. This time through I want to move slower and take notes as I go an And I’d like as occasion permits to post relative passages from the book. So they’ll pop up occasionally as Christ & Horros—Part 1, 2, etc.

Her thesis? I’ll let her describe it:

“My topic is Christology; my thesis is the coherence of Christology; my theme, Christ as the One in Whom all things hold together. Metaphysically, Christ is the center both of Godhead and cosmos. Existentially, Christ is the integrator of individual positive personal meaning; psychologically, our inner teacher; body-politically, the organizer of Godward community. Christ saves us by virtue of being real and really present.”

She poses the human predicament:

“Western theological majority reports—as asserted in Augustine and refined by Anselm and later medieval western school theologians as well as (and perhaps most emphatically) by Protestant reformers—and late twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy of religion alike root human non-optimality problems in sin, construed as the rebellion of relatively competent agents against God, and identify our psycho-spiritual disarray, our estrangement from God, our vulnerability to a generally hostile environment, and the certainty of death as natural and/or punitive consequences of the sin of free creatures.”

No doubt (she admits), sin is a problem. However, in the book she employs a different category, that of “horror” of which “sin is a severe symptom and disastrous consequence.”

“I begin with the exitentialists’ category of personal meaning, and define “horrors” as “evils the participation in (the doing or suffering of) which constitutes prima facie reason to doubt whether the participant’s life could (given their inclusion in it) have positive meaning for him/her on the whole.”

And again:

“Participation in horrors furnishes reason to doubt whether the participant’s life can be worth living, because it engulfs the positive value of his/her life and penetrates into his/her meaning-making structures seemingly to defeat and degrade his/her value as a person….At the heart of the horrendous, what makes horrors so pernicious, is their life-ruining potential, their power prima facie to degrade the individual by destroying the possibility of positive personal meaning.”

I very much like the soteriological shift in focus from sin to horror, from acts that violate expressed commands to the degradation of personal meaning-making capacities. I think this is a right and beneficial move because sin (construed as “acts”) is itself motivated by a more fundamental misidentification of the self. This shift to the existentialist category of personal meaning opens a way to think soteriologically which, for me, confirms an already present shift motivated several years ago by exposure to Greg Boyd’s Trinity & Process and aspects of the Orthodox vision of God.