In the western imagination YHWH and his messiah have most often been equated with Zeus, lord of the sky, and Apollo, his light giving son ... or is it sun?
And yet, the scriptures again and again speak YHWH as Lord of earth, sky and sea and everything in them. Would it not be just as apt to imagine Jesus in terms of Dionysus, whom Greeks thanked for wine, or Demeter, whom Greeks thanked for bread? After all, the ancient Isaelites saw YHWH as Lord of the harvest and Jesus spoke of God’s harvest often enough!
You were hungry and I was sorry. You were thirsty and I blamed the world. You were a stranger and I pointed you out. You were naked and I turned you in. You were sick and I said a prayer. You were in prison and I wrote a poem.
I have to say, I think contemporary Christianity is way too anthropocentric. Some expressions are very individualistic, focussing on the “personal relationship with Jesus” and not much else. Others are more communal, emphasizing the “Kingdom of God” in which, refreshingly, horizontal relationships are affirmed as well. But this still falls short of affirming Jesus as Lord of earth, sky and sea and everything within them. It still falls short of the cosmic focus we find in Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1. Why is this important (when it sounds so esoteric)? Well, not only does it lead to short sightedness in the field of ethics (in terms of sins against God’s creation and God’s creatures) but it devalues the work of people primarily engaged with nature (such as artists and engineers) rather than other people (such as teachers and social workers). No wonder so many artists and creative types feel more affinity with occulture than contemporary church culture, even when considering some of the more missional expressions of it. So, as esoteric as it sounds, I think there is a missional imperative explore cosmic Christology, and it corollary, Christian cosmology more deeply than we have been. This is one of the things I have learned from engaging with alternative spiritualities.
Several years ago, evangelical author Gerald McDermott wrote a superb book entitled, “Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions?” The text explored the ways theologians of the likes of Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin had historically engaged with Pagan philosophers of the likes of Plato and Aristotle and asked what a similar exercise might look like today. In the process McDermott explored aspects of Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism and Islam that Christians, evangelicals included, could profit from … even if only to rediscover forgotten aspects of their own tradition.
Now, I would like to broaden question. Can evangelicals learn, not only from world religions, but from new religious movements and underground traditions as well? McDermott explored aspects of eastern mysticism. I would suggest it is equally urgent to engage with western esotericism. Or to put it more bluntly, I would assert that there are aspects (note this is a limited statement) of astrology, alchemy, qabalah, ceremonial magic and tarot that a Christian - yes even an evangelical Christian - can learn from.
Now, I know this will sound unsound to some. Given the misunderstandings towards the other on both sides of the evangelical-occult divide this is only to be expected. I only ask that you refrain from shooting first and asking questions later, and like, ask first.
I was thinking this interlude from Job sounds a bit alchemic :-)
There is a mine for silver and a place where gold is refined. Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from ore. Mortals put an end to the darkness; they search out the farthest recesses for ore in the blackest darkness. Far from human dwellings they cut a shaft, in places untouched by human feet; far from other people they dangle and sway. The earth, from which food comes, is transformed below as by fire; lapis lazuli comes from its rocks, and its dust contains nuggets of gold. No bird of prey knows that hidden path, no falcon’s eye has seen it. Proud beasts do not set foot on it, and no lion prowls there. People assault the flinty rock with their hands and lay bare the roots of the mountains. They tunnel through the rock; their eyes see all its treasures. They search the sources of the rivers and bring hidden things to light.
But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? No mortal comprehends its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living. The deep says, “It is not in me”; the sea says, “It is not with me.” It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed out in silver. It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir, with precious onyx or lapis lazuli. Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it, nor can it be had for jewels of gold. Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies. The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it; it cannot be bought with pure gold.
Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds in the sky. Destruction and Death say, “Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.” God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, when he made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm, then he looked at wisdom and appraised it; he confirmed it and tested it. And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”