Friday, April 18, 2014

Quantum Theology: How Good Friday becomes God Friday

Quantum theology begins on Good Friday.  In fact, it turns Good Friday in God Friday.  Here’s how.

Quantum physics turned the world of Newtonian physics upside down by showing that it was not the whole story of the physical reality of the world.  It was partially true.  But that partial truth had been inflated into the whole truth such that Newtonian physics was the accepted orthodoxy.  That made quantum physics seem like a threat if not a thoroughly incoherent theory.
Quantum theology, which begins with the incarnation of Jesus at Christmas and climaxes at the cross and resurrection, entered a Jewish world full of orthodoxies about how God acts in the world.  Good solid orthodoxies.  Orthodoxies that seemed to have worked for centuries.  Around the edges of the canon are documents that question those orthodoxies (Job, Ecclesiastes) and there are those strange hints of a servant figure in the latter part of Isaiah, but nobody made much of them.  They did not upend these ways of understanding God’s action.

Yet with Jesus’ incarnation just such a quantum challenge to these orthodoxies emerged.  With him the very nature and shape of God’s action in the world morphed into something unthinkably new.  Not only did not most of Israel find it incomprehensible, but even the spiritual powers failed to grasp (to their everlasting hurt).  Key features of this new shape of God’s being God in his world include:

          -God’s presence with us as one of us in Jesus
          -Jesus’ suffering, non-violent servanthood that landed him on the cross
          -Jesus’ embrace of the no-accounts and outlaws of his world
          -Jesus’ rejection of the temple
          -Jesus’ embrace of death as God’s will and way of salvation

So God as made known in Jesus became human, loved in non-exclusive and non-retributive ways, acted against the orthodoxies and institutions that defined God’s ways through the ages, even died for the salvation of the world.  This is the quantum theology of the New Testament that revealed once and for all that the regnant orthodoxies told part of the truth about God in incomplete ways.  Jesus himself embodied the full picture into which those partial and earlier expressions now had to be rethought.  No longer could they serve as the defining picture of God’s nature and action.  Jesus is that now – at least after the resurrection.

The resurrection!  That brings us to most “quantumy” piece of the whole story.  Without it, Good Friday names the occasion of the slaughter of a good and noble, though possible deluded, prophet who desperately and for a while successfully seemed to call Israel back to its best self.  Indeed, his crucifixion as a traitor was perhaps, after all, a fitting epitaph to his life.  But then came the resurrection.  And Good Friday morphs into God Friday!

The resurrection itself was not unexpected by Jews.  But it was supposed to happen to all Israel at the end of history at the Day of the Lord.  That it happened to one Jew, especially this one, in the middle of history broke all the molds and models Israel had for grasping how God works.
Somehow, incomprehensibly, in light of this astonishing occurrence, “the cross,” as Brian Zahnd puts it,

is about the revelation of a merciful God. At the cross we discover a God who would rather die than kill his enemies. The cross is where God in Christ absorbs sin and recycles it into forgiveness. The cross is not what God inflicts upon Christ in order to forgive. The cross is what God endures in Christ as he forgives. Once we understand this, we know what we are seeing when we look at the cross: We are seeing the lengths to which a God of love will go in forgiving sin.”

And with that, all bets are off!  The world as we knew it, the old “Newtonian” world of religious orthodoxies, is no longer the world that defines us and forms our destiny.  To paraphrase the apostle Paul, “If anyone is in Christ – everything has become quantum!  Everything old has passed away, behold, all things are made new!”

And that’s how Good Friday becomes God Friday – the deepest, profoundest revelation of God’s love for his rebellious creatures imaginable.  The day of death for Jesus becomes a day of life for all, for everything, when God raises him from the dead on Easter morn!


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