The ground for all we need to know regarding the state of our being and for understanding the being of God begins in Jesus Christ. He is before all things, the Source and Origin of all things, the Sustainer of all things and the One who brings all things to perfection in Himself. This is of such vital importance if we are to maintain a strong discipline in making sure we stay within the bounds of truth that is likewise disclosed to us and personified in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
The very reason we are tackling issues such as Limited Atonement, the Calvinists and Arminianist doctrine of Predestination & Universalism is the fact they have lost sight of the all important Christological basis of theological study. We must remind ourselves what theology is. It is God speaking to us things regarding Himself and His acts in human history. Theology is not humanity speaking to God. Therefore we have a one time event where God has made Himself one of us and speaks to us in Person as the Man Jesus Christ. We must connect all His acts and His Words with His Being and His Being with His Words and acts as defining who He is as He defines Himself. Though we can accept that theology is a human activity, we have Jesus Christ who is at the heart of this activity. Therefore Jesus Christ is the Head of all we know regarding the ways and works of God, His relationship to us and our relationship to Him.
The mistake many in the history have made is the tendency to make an assumption in the natural world of human affairs and then take this to Scripture or to Jesus Christ to try and find support for their ideas. This is what Karl Barth calls starting in the general and moving to the Particular. It is the mistake of the heretics of the ancient church that have a clear understanding of who they believe God is in their own minds and moving to the Bible to try and fit their theory/hypothesis by cherry picking particular Scriptures to find justification for their ideas.
This is also the mistake made by both Augustine and John Calvin regarding their idea on Predestination. In particular for John Calvin, it was trying to address a pastoral question: Why is it that some are saved and some are not? Why is it that those who are not saved appear to behave in such a way that reflects their heathenism? The so-called ‘chosen’ behave one way and the so called ‘not chosen’ behave in another often contrary to Christian living. It did appear that some were chosen and some were not. Calvin took his observations to Scripture to try and find answers and with the help of his mentor, Augustine, he found the answers he was looking for. He went from the general to the Particular and on this basis was developed the doctrine of Limited Atonement. Universalism and atheism was the reaction to this, all of which lack a firm christological basis.
This is the difference between theology and mythology.
Mythology is looking and examining God through our own ideas. Theology is examining God on what God says about Himself. It is impossible for us to see clearly any other way. So it is what God says about Himself that causes a change in us. We then see more in what God says about Himself, we then change more and see more. The process is necessarily circular. We begin with the reality of Jesus Christ by encounter, engagement, relationship and communion who brings us to a continuing reformation of our minds to conform to Him. We are able to see more and more and this brings us back to Jesus Christ. Yet there is mystery to be worshipped and adored rather than a process we logically deduce into neat little parcels of facts.
Theology is God speaking to us the very things of Himself which He has done throughout the Old Testament and in Person as the Man Jesus Christ. As the Man Jesus Christ He defines God’s relationship to us and at the same time, our relationship to God. It is right here we understand how God feels about us, the extent He undertakes to draw us near and the subsequent reconciliation that has come about as a result. By this we understand we share in the real human relationship we have to the Father in Jesus Christ. This is in summary of what we see in the Person and the work of Jesus Christ and we are witnesses to this fact.
Mythology begins outside of the Person and work of Jesus Christ in human behaviour and tries to infer through logic and reason conclusions to the nature of who God is in Himself and who we are in ourselves. The problem with undertaking an exercise in this manner is it often begins in anthropological assumptions and presses them onto theological truths. Who are we to counsel God on who He is, what He has done and the Why’s of it all? We begin in our dark and depraved minds that are blind to the truth of who we are and take our blindness to the Light. We are in danger of placing a lampshade of lies over the Light of truth.
There are two truths revealed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ which is more graphically disclosed in the Passion: The truth about God and the truth about us. Firstly, we witness how God showed His love in the Person of Jesus Christ. Secondly, we witness how we responded to His love. The question often asked by Christians and non-Christian alike is this: Why did Jesus have to die? Even here there are two aspects of the truth revealed in how we answer this question. Firstly, it is widely believe God killed Jesus when in reality it is clear that we human beings killed Him. Secondly, God allowed this to happen.
The actual work of the whole of Jesus’ life from His birth to His death is the process by which humanity is born again or born from above or born from eternity in Jesus Christ. We are given some insight into the life and nature of the divine clearly through the Person and work of Jesus Christ as much as we are able to take in as fallen creatures. This much we know: the light of knowledge of the Father, Son and Spirit has broken through into our darkness. Those in darkness who participate and frolic in the Light now see some of the Light who stays in us. We are witnesses to this and it is to this we testify. However, we do not have full insight into the true nature of the Light. There are many things about the Light that is too far beyond our ability to perceive and fathom. We know only as much as has been revealed in Jesus Christ. It is here where true theology has its clear source and is the foundation for all truth.
Considering the fact the Word has now become flesh and eternally dwells as one of us, we can gain enormous insights into our anthropology. The mere fact no one took Him in says a lot about us as human beings and provides insight into how flawed we truly are. The Creator turns up as one of us and we could not take Him seriously. He provides clear proof of who He claimed to be through inexplicable signs and miracles, yet we could not join the dots. Though we claim we could see very clearly what this Man had done, we could not see who this man was because of things He had done. We all tried to interpret Him through the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The One who made all creation not only revealed who God is in Himself but the gravity of our evil intent towards our Creator. If we are to explore anthropology in the Christian context, then it must have Christological direction. It is the fact that we crucified Christ which reveals to us something about ourselves that many of us do not like to confront. Though it sheds the true light of the victorious resurrection and assurance of God, it also sheds the fearful darkness and depravity of our fallen nature.
It is in the light of the resurrection where the truth of Jesus Christ is disclosed and the truth of the darkness and depravity of our minds are laid open. When revelation breaks through and we see the truth as it really is, we become very aware of how so very wrong we were about our Creator. In John’s gospel, there is clarity in what Jesus Christ did giving enormous credibility to the very things He said about Himself which should have convinced the Israel people that He indeed was the Messiah. We heard, but did not hear. We saw, but did not see. Our minds could not work out the Truth of all truths was standing before us. Jesus Christ revealed God as He truly is to His chosen people but their preconceived ideas, their reasoning and their conclusions did not recognise Him despite the overwhelming evidence contrary to what they believed. When the truth of the resurrection broke through into the minds of those whose ears and eyes were opened by the Spirit of Christ, they were silenced by the Truth Himself. God personally went to great lengths to teach things of Himself to His people. Yet, they got it so wrong and killed the Creator of all things. This places a huge question mark on every human being throughout history and even to this present day. If the incarnation of our Creator as the man Jesus Christ was so misunderstood by even those who were closest to Him, then He is the only one that can set things straight about who He is. Our reasoning, our logic and our conclusions about God are all under question in the light of truth of the risen Lord and Creator, Jesus Christ.
Through the early church, they established the truth of God as was revealed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ deep in the context of the history of Israel. They seriously took what happened in the Incarnational event of Jesus Christ as the guiding rule for all the ways and works of God. The attention to detail to maintain the things of the Spirit showed the contrasting errors of the flesh of the world trying to press in and reframe the gospel into something else. The humility of the ancient church to not allow ideas foreign to the gospel began with the very fact that it is only God who can teach the very things of God. We have to take extreme care that even though we adopt the very tradition of the church regarding who Jesus Christ is, what has become of us in Him and the implications not to press conclusions using our logic and reason regarding matters of the atonement, in particular, universalism. Though it can appear that the truth of the work of Jesus Christ appears to press us in this direction, we must not rely on human logic and reason to conclude as such. The best of human logic and reason failed us to conclude Jesus Christ is Creator who made Himself man and came to us as man resulting in us putting Him to death by the cruelest means available to humanity. It always serves us as a warning not to engage in logic and reasoning with semantic juggling to conclude in things that are not clearly revealed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
Once we have humility to know that the knowledge revealed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ is not exhaustive, we begin to understand the very same about our own fallen condition. The reality of our condition is that it is far greater and deeper than many of us can understand. As our sinful nature is beyond our understanding, our capacity to properly diagnose ourselves is beyond our understanding. We can gain no insight into the greater depths of our sin and depravity. We are not only left in the dark about the ways and works of God but we are also left in the dark about properly understanding the ground of our dark ways and works. If we are truly blinded about ourselves, then how are we to understand and properly diagnose our condition? This is the horror of the Incarnation which God steps into knowing full well the condition of His creatures and is well positioned to be the perfect Patient. At the same time, He is also the Doctor who sets about the task of undoing the evil within us. As He ministers to His creatures, Jesus allows the evil to rise up in us and have its way.
The horror of the crucifixion of Christ exposes humanity at its very worst. The mere fact God shows up in Person and refuses to be into the very things the world treasures, which is so in contradiction to God, so clearly riles the true nature of our darkened humanity and exposes itself in their judgment on the Son of God. Such is our estrangement from God, when he placed Himself in our hands and at our mercy, we gave Him the most cruel manner of humiliation, beating and death. We refused Him even though He refused to let go of us. It contrasts humanity and God in an entirely different way than we usually think. As God draws Himself near and gets under our religious skin, the deep rebellion of humanity against God is unveiled. It graphically highlights how much we have no clue about Him when the truth of the matter exposes the fact that the creatures killed their Creator.
The root of our sin is so deep into the abyss of darkness that we are in no position to be able to get to the bottom of it. No matter how bright the human light of the endeavour to seek the truth of the knowledge of ourselves, the depth of our sin, depravity and darkness runs far deeper and out of reach. It is like throwing a stone into a pit and waiting for the sound of it hitting the bottom and it never comes. It is from this depth that our anxieties and behavioural disorders arise. It is here we know the terrible flaw in our being resides but it is too far out of our sight to know how to remove it. We may be able to observe people on the surface and make tentative conclusions about what might lie at the root of their being. However, our ability to put it right is far too deep into the abyss and out of sight. It is this fear of the unknown that is the root of all fears. Nevertheless this is the unknown place God ventures into in the incarnation.
Attachment theory is a useful model for understanding human relationships, human trauma and subsequent human behaviours. While it is useful and as much as I see the truth of it, I cannot understand, view, or limit Christ through the attachment model. Rather, through Christ, I can see aspects of the attachment model that resonate with who I see Christ to be. To limit Christ through attachment structures or limit Him to these attachment structures is to introduce mythology.
Now I have spent a considerable amount of time watching the Youtube videos regarding the topic of Mimetic Theory. One of the main points of Mimetic Theory is the understanding of the development of sacrifice in ancient culture. “Desire”, “Scapegoating”, “Imitation” and “Sacrifice” are key words discussed.
Mimetic theory sheds some light on who we are. We can see Christ through some of these theories. I love attachment theory but I will take great care not to use this theory to place a bird cage over Jesus Christ. Others like anthropology in its many forms, human sciences and mimetic theory all show wonderful light on human behaviour. At no stage do we limit Christ to these theories. All of these theories will help us see Christ more clearly but at no stage do we limit Christ to these theories. All theories regarding human behaviour can give us helpful insights but are not the answer to everything, especially in theology.
The human rational is very complex. Discoveries on how and why we behave are being made constantly. As a foster carers, we have undertaken many courses to understand the complex nature of children who have been neglected, traumatised and abused. We are thankful to the human sciences for providing us with excellent resources in this area. Intuitively, I can see there is some truth in it and it bears witness with my understanding on Trinitarian theology. However, it is far from theological. Yet, research has shown the importance of attunement as a result of encounter that plays a huge role on the neural development of our brain, especially in the infant years. Positive and negative encounters during these years can lay a pathway that is very difficult to shift once we enter into adult life.
As much information there is out there on attachment issues, the availability of information to undo the damage caused is almost non-existent. Unless the child grows in their ability to receive love in a relationship there is little one can do to help with the badly needed healing process. From the perspective of carers, the ability to help damaged children gain insights into how they behave and the impact they have on others is an enormously complex and difficult task. Though we have access to many professional services and very helpful advice, the general consensus is it is very hard to undo the damage of neglect, trauma and abuse. There is enough humility to accept that even though we know what the problem is, fixing the problem remains somewhat of a mystery. As a result, many of these children grow into adults and have very difficult lives with deeply complex problems through no fault of their own.
What is interesting to note here with foster children is the closer we get to them showing love and affection with no ulterior motives, the more their hostilities and rebellion would arise. We were given endless courses on the nature of reactive attachment as a result of trauma, neglect and abuse. However, the tools to undo the damage that had been done are very few and at best, ‘guesses in the dark.’ This is the humility we find in the disciplines that endeavour to find solutions. Even the very best of experts in the field will clearly tell you they do not have the answers. Primarily it is because the children need love in a relationship to heal, and yet a relationship, a dysfunctional one, was the cause of their pain. By their very nature, they rebel against the very loving and well meaning help they so desperately need. In our attempts to draw close with real and genuine motives, more often than not, it drives a further wedge with increased challenging behaviours. This is the very same that happens with God in Jesus Christ. The only motive for God to undertake such an act was to be true to Himself and be loving. He wanted to freely provide us with the gift of Himself. In this undertaking, His closeness to us brought out the worst in us.
For me, this sheds some light on human behaviour but I must not see Christ in the light of this alone. I would suggest these attachment issues are more widely evident than just with foster children. Attachment issues appears to be at the heart of humanity. This is not to say that new ideas should not be explored but rather we cannot limit Christ with these new ideas. We have rebelled against the very One who is the ground of our existence. The impact this has had on the human psyche and behaviour is enormous. Our minds have been cut off from the reality of who God is and how he feels about us. The core of our fear is alienation. Because our alienation runs so deep, we are hardly able to peer into and determine what this alienation looks like. In trying to determine or define our sinful condition, our minds are even blind to this. It is utter blinding darkness. The level at which we are damaged runs far deeper than we are able to access. I believe this is why ethics and morality can be such a minefield in the light of truth of the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
Understanding who we are is like seeing the tree in all its beauty but having no access to the roots. Therefore, we do not know what is going on below the surface. Our emotions, desires and motives rise up from below the surface. We may get clues from what we see but the surface of the ground denies us access to what is going on at the ground of our existence. Our emotions, our desires, our strengths, our weaknesses all rise up from the overflowing of a place we cannot see into. The overflowing of the heart gives us indications through our words and actions but what is really going on is a mystery and closed to us. Behaviour gives us clues but not necessarily the answers to undoing our questionable behaviours. What it means is there is no predictability in human actions today and in the past. We may never know if and when we encounter sociopaths or even psychopaths because they appear to us to be charming well adjusted people above the surface but below the surface could be a dark and frightening hunter seeking out its prey. Some may mean no physical harm but are using and manipulating people to meet their own ends.
Such is our ability to feel emotions (passibility) they may cause us to act irrational, fickle and in unpredictable ways. This is in stark contrast to the passibility of God in Christ Jesus whose ability to feel emotions did nod lead to unusual behaviour. Whereas our passibility can impact us to the degree it causes us to waver in our convictions, the passibility of God, though under the full weight of human emotions and weaknesses in the Incarnation, did not waver in His conviction to achieve His ultimate end for Himself and for the whole of humanity. To use a mathematical term, God is the only constant in the whole human equation. Thus God had to become human so that His Being and Person can infiltrate and become part of human existence. In this undertaking, God was able to enter into the utter darkness of the ground of our fallen human existence and heal from under the very bottom and ground of our being upwards to a visible place. Jesus Christ defines and re-mints our anthropology in Himself. In Jesus Christ, what we see is our new humanity totally reconciled, affirmed, assured and loved by God. At the same time, all we know is below the surface way deep down within our beings far beyond what we can see are the everlasting arms of Christ.
Anthropology, Human Sciences, Mimetic Theory and Theology
One of the main points of Mimetic Theory is the understanding of the development of sacrifice in ancient culture. If we go straight to the point, what they believe is sacrifice was needed by a group to alleviate tension and restore harmony through the use of a scapegoat. Someone notices the positive affect this has on the community and suggests placing aside a day each year where this scapegoat is offered for sacrifice for alleviating tensions. This places the person in an increased status. They gain much power as a result and a prominent position in society. The fact one may choose to join others against a victim is not by choice but as a result of imitating other’s desire.
One can look in more detail if they choose to do so but I feel we have covered the main points here, though I admit, very briefly. At the end of the day, I perceive “Mimesis” to be a “Theory” and not the “Rule” for human behaviour. It may give us some clues but not all the answers regarding human behaviour. Attachment Theory also give us clues but does not necessarily give us all the answers for human behaviour. It too is not the rule for human behaviour.
Mimetic theory suggests, therefore, that the nature of sacrifice may have originated in humanity rather than something that was instituted and put in place by God. It appears here that the whole of the Old Testament sacrifice has to be redefined according to a ‘theory’ regarding sacrifice and atonement. Instead of Jesus Christ Himself re-defining the Old Testament, there is the tendency to reframe the Old Testament to fit in with the Mimetic model. Yet, we must not limit Christ to this theory. The main question we must ask ourselves is whether or not this idea has its foundation in the general (i.e. a fabric of human ingenuity/imagination etc outside of Jesus Christ) or is it from the Particular (i.e. Jesus Christ) who by the Spirit of Christ informs us things of Himself. Does anthropology inform Jesus Christ who is God come to us as Man and is therefore limited by its ideas? Or does Jesus Christ inform us on the possibilities in anthropology? This leads us onto further questions we must constantly ask ourselves which we have raised previously: If we begin outside the Person and work of Jesus Christ such as we find generally in anthropology, human sciences and Mimetic Theory, is it therefore a theological truth? Does it limit Christ to this truth? It may bear some truth on some aspects of theology but this does not necessarily make it a valid theological truth. A theory must not become the rule in Theology. Christ is much bigger than this theory. If we say it is not a valid theological truth does not mean there is no truth to what is testified in certain academic disciplines outside the field of theology. We must take care to maintain a clear distinction in this. I believe there are valid grounds for theology and other disciplines to have dialogue with each other but the final word in theology is always Jesus Christ.
Let us draw this out a little further. Each field of study in the sciences are governed by the object of study as the their controlling factor. Generally speaking, in each discipline we find certain methods that can govern and test its outcomes according to its own rules. When we speak of something as according to empirical sciences, we make the claim based on what is concerned with or verifiable by observation or experience within the field rather than on some arbitrary theory based logic. In our particular field or discipline we strive to gain authentic knowledge from the object we study. There is the endeavour to maintain a high degree of integrity which can be useful for further enquiry that further maintains its integrity. Therefore our private opinions need to be opened up and laid bare within the whole community within that particular field and allow it to come under scrutiny. In anthropology, human sciences etc there will be constraints which are governed by its discipline and not according to arbitrary convention by making up rules to fit one’s own criteria.
These methods of research are not necessarily a modern characteristic. In the ancient church, there was a careful endeavour to keep within the discipline of maintaining a Judaeo-Christian or Hebraic frame of mind when engaging in theology, particularly in Alexandria around the 4th century. Yet it can be shown also that Athanasius, who is of the Alexandrian tradition, fits squarely in the tradition of Irenaeus. So we have a connection between this 4th century period and the 2nd century showing a consistent and common way of understanding the gospel, Scripture and the Incarnational event. They had developed guidelines for proper ’scientific study’ of the Scriptures. There are two ways T F Torrance as highlighted in his essay, ‘Athanasius – A Study in the Foundations of Classical Theology, in Theology in Reconciliation, pp. 216-217,
The two ways we can proceed in our investigation are:
- “The first begins with fixed premises and axioms that draw us to specific conclusions.
- Through questioning, we allow our minds to fall under the compelling evidence of the reality of things, where it is to the basic assent of the mind to the evidence which is the decisive factor – that is to say, the sheer fidelity of the mind (what we call today the ‘scientific conscience, at least in certain texts) to the nature of what we are investigating.”
We have to be aware that our preconceived ideas not consistent with the Judaeo-Christian or Hebraic way of understanding Scripture are not the starting point for our investigation. Rather than press onto the object of study our premises and axioms towards a desired outcome, we allow the object to speak for itself and assent to its truth that it reveals. Therefore, in theology we lend an ear to the risen Word through the witness of Scripture and allow Him to reveal things of Himself to us. We accept as fact of the Word made flesh, dwelt among us and in us, died, rose and ascended to the right hand of the Father.
The various disciplines we have in science in all its varieties can communicate with each other to further their goal in their particular field. We find this too in theology where we can allow the other disciplines of study to further understand who we are as human beings. The object of study in theology is God and in fact it is ‘God speaking to us.’ It is not what we say about God but what God says about Himself. Here is the linchpin of Christian theology: God has come to us as the Man, Jesus Christ, and has spoken in Person regarding things of God to us. This is the object of our continuing study. He is the One Person in the whole of human history who can tell us the very things of God not only by what He said, but the very acts He conducted throughout His life. If God had not come to us as this Man, we would have no idea who He is. This is what R T Walker noted as editor of T F Torrance in his book The Atonement p. xli which says:
“Obedient Christian theology therefore can only follow Christ in His Word and act, in his word and deed, knowing him to be the reality we seek to understand, a reality which was not there until he did it, which was inconceivable until he did it and which no one but he could have done.”
In Christian theology, the object of our study is a Person, a fellow human being with us at the right hand of the Father. There is an inseparable unity between God and humanity in this one human being through which we draw all we need to know regarding all the ways and works of God. It is two ways inseparably united, God’s unity to humanity and humanity’s unity to God expressed in the One Person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, our definition of God and our humanity in the discipline of theology cannot begin anywhere else but in the continuing Person and work of Jesus Christ.
What is a concern is to approach the object of study in theology the premise of mimesis on Jesus Christ. There is the danger of falling into the trap of trying to form a relationship between the signs in the Biblical witness of the New Testament expressed by the Risen Jesus Christ with the imperative implications on us in an imitative or mimetic relational way. This fragments and creates a dualism between Being and Act and tries to turn the work of Jesus Christ into some form of socio-ethical issue, eg. non-violence. We are at risk here of watering down the ontological connection between humanity and God in the vicarious work of Christ. This is studying the Object by reading into and seeing things that are not available for us to see. It is by hearing and obeying that we learn from God things about Himself.
Mimetic theory helps some people to see the atonement in a non-violent way. However, God has given us Israel as the furniture and the structures of our mind. Some people who follow mimetic theory believe the Old Testament understanding of sacrifice has to be thrown away. We do not have to put sacrifice away because as it says in Leviticus 17 ‘the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement by reason of the life,’ shows us that it is given by God. Christ is the offering of God to man and the offering of Man to God. At no stage do we interpret this from within our limited capacity to understand God’s justice. Mimetic Theory draws light to the non-violence of God but we do not want to throw things away that do not fit with Mimetic Theory. This is the same for all anthropological theories. Nevertheless if Mimetic Theory introduces God in a non-violent way, then we can be truly grateful for this. Again we must re-iterate that at no stage do we place Jesus Christ in a cage by these theories.
The only way the Old Testament and New Testament can be interpreted with any degree of consistency is to maintain the anchor well within God who has come to us as Man in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. The mere fact that there are many images of Old Testament atonement and redemption played out in the very life of Jesus Christ, gives credibility to the cultic practices as established by Yahweh in the Old Testament who came to us as Jesus Christ in the New Testament. The understanding of redemption in the New Testament was drawn from the Old Testament. T F Torrance believes the New Testament is only properly understood in light of the the Old Testament implications of redemption and the uniqueness of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and how it is applied to Him. If we try and explain away this significance, then we might misunderstand the doctrinal significance of the atonement. The only resource the early church had to make sense of the Person and work of Jesus Christ was the Old Testament.
By trying to establish the work of Christ and how it impacts the believer based on the characteristics of human behaviour externally to the Person and work of Jesus Christ, we run the risk of engaging in idolatry. We are using a theory that has no theological ground to try and turn God into something that has been created in our mind. Anthropology must not be the starting point for understanding the ways and works of God. It is the opposite. We are witnesses to an event where we have to be continually mindful that there are limits to the capacity of understanding from the perspective within the weak and frail mind of the fallen human being. Jesus Christ has shown us something of Himself that we would otherwise never have known. A true Christian witness in regard to the Gospel accounts of Jesus Christ is to try and stand where the apostles stood, see what they saw and hear what they heard so that we engage in the actual events in such a way that the truth of God is revealed to us in a deeply personal way. We come with humility and allow the gospel, the Humanity of God in Christ Jesus, to draw us into the sphere of its effective operation on us. When we allow the Person of God to teach us the gospel we are then in a position to allow ourselves to be changed by His own truth on and in us. The result of His work in us, transforms us to live in communion with Him.
The rules of other disciplines may not need to conform to the rules of Christian Theology and this may not be necessary in any case. What will not do in theology is an anthropology or any other science that ignores the reality of God eternally bound to humanity in the Person and work of Jesus Christ throughout the Old and the New Testaments. At the same time, expecting contemporary anthropology to conform to this theological rule is not necessarily relevant to their discipline. However, what anthropology or any other science must not do is expect Christian theology to ignore their theological rule so that an anthropological rule can maintain its consistency. If we use some other way apart from God revealed in history in the Person and work of Jesus Christ then we are in danger of losing our test and control. Theology has a touchstone reference through which all ideas regarding the ways and works of God can be tested i.e. Jesus Christ. Other disciplines have a different touchstone reference. In anthropology it is the human species that are the object of scientific enquiry. Their rules are vast and rather complex. Yet their rules do not apply in theology and the rules of theology do not apply in anthropology. However, we can have dialogue with one another.
Jesus Christ comes to us as the One through whom the image of all are made and through whom the image is to be brought back to its original glory in Him. We have our lives hid in His image. Therefore, the full realisation of our image in Him is yet to be realised in us. Though we have learnt through the empirical sciences much about our human behaviour, there is so much we do not know. There is so much more that anthropology has to uncover of what it is that makes up our whole human nature. The most startling thing about the Incarnation is we have our Creator who stands alongside us as one of us who now also informs us what it is to be human and thereby has a guiding force in our understanding of anthropology.
This leaves us in a position where we have to accept that the knowledge of the Man Jesus Christ is limited to our capacity to understand Him. We have heard what He has said and we have seen what He has done, but this does not tell us everything about humanity in general. Though we do accept as fact that what become of the Son of God is also what became of us in Him. This is without question. It is also clear however, that as our knowledge of God in Jesus Christ is limited to what is disclosed, our capacity to understand His humanity is also limited to what is disclosed. Thus the ‘real man’ of Jesus is also limited to what is disclosed in Him. The heart of the matter is because we are limited in vision to what the true ground of our being looks like, we can never be sure about what truly motivates our behaviours. The darkness within us prevents us from an accurate analysis.
We can gather to the best of our ability behaviours that often are motivated by fear or motivated by love. Even Scripture shows us behaviour in these two categories i.e. according to the Spirit or according to the flesh. Nevertheless, we are not given insights into the nature of the Spirit other than what we see and/or hear in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Generally speaking, living by the Spirit is treating others with dignity, courtesy and mutual respect holding the same value in people as Jesus does. It is the Spirit of service. Conversely, living by the flesh is taking away the dignity, not granting courtesy and treating others without respect. It is opposite to service and is a power struggle. It is holding less value for others and using them for your own benefit ignoring Christ. Yet the ground of the being in each one is a mystery. We are too blind to see all the way into the Light of the Spirit of truth in Jesus Christ and we are too blind to see all the way into the darkness of our sin filled beings. Such is the blindness, to navigate into our problem needs someone who can enter into the dark depravity of our beings and heal it from the inside out.
We know there is an enemy somewhere but we do not know who this enemy is and how to properly deal with ‘him’ or ‘it.’ In the New Testament times, Jesus came to defeat death and darkness and to take us back to where we ought to be. In this sense, Jesus is the Doctor who could recognise the symptoms and properly diagnose the disease of our being. Jesus is the One in whom we live move and have our being. He assumed all of what we are in the Incarnation so as the Doctor He can see to the very edge of His own being and can also see into the darkest part of our being. He is the Doctor with insight into precisely everything about our being. He also becomes the perfect Patient where every aspect of our diseased humanity is laid out bare and by uniting Himself to it, He is also the Doctor who can rectify and restore our being with His very own Being. Only Jesus knew the enemy. Yet, we cannot be precise in how He endeavours to defeat Him. At this level of the atonement we do not have the ability to see the efficacy of His saving work.
There is enormous power in the saving work of Jesus Christ. It takes the strength of character of God to be fully human and to resist all that tries to undo who and where we ought to be. The violent onslaught of darkness began at the Incarnation and increased in intensity throughout His life and to the Cross. What Jesus refused to do was use the powers of darkness to defeat darkness. He refused to use tactics of non-being to restore our being, something which non-being could not understand. Yet, He took advantage of the methods of non-being to destroy non-being by allowing Himself to let non-being have its way. By allowing non-being full of darkness and depravity to have its way, Jesus was able to get to the very foundation and fountain of our being and destroy all that was in the way of His love and re-mint our being with His being.
What does human sciences, anthropology and Mimetic Theory have to offer into the field of Christian Theology? They have much to offer in helping us understand human behaviour. Their contributions offer some interesting insights into the various aspects of behaviour and culture as well as many other things about our humanity. We have outlined the fact that one of the features of Mimetic Theory is they endeavour to show God in a non-violent way and we do acknowledge their part in showing God in this way. Mimetic desires offer some interesting insights into behaviour between human beings and various groups. It has its own interpretation of sacrifice and endeavours to reframe the Biblical understanding on their basis. It generalises their idea of myths without any real verifiable support other than through logic, inference and reason. Therefore, it might be reasonable to suggest that there is a goal of allowing philosophical views to determine the validity of the very witness at the heart of the Christian faith. The idea of, ‘What makes sense in philosophy should make sense in Scripture and therefore theology should bow its knees to philosophy,’ must never happen.
At the end of the day, René Girard has made huge inroads into his field and has earned a great deal of respect amongst his peers. Nevertheless, there are concerns within his own field that he may have gone too far as to suggest Mimetic Theory is the answer to everything. There is no “one horse pony” alongside Jesus Christ. It is Jesus Christ and nothing nor anything else, period! In theology, we can only agree entirely that he has gone too far in his effort to try and introduce a new epistemology for the interpretation of the gospel narrative. We must take seriously what Paul says to the Corinthians;
“These things we also speak, not inwards which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has know the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ”
Yes, we have the mind of Christ and not of Girard. We cannot compare spiritual things revealed in Christ with those things that are revealed in the flesh. There appears to be an obvious conflict between the epistemology of Mimetic Theory and Christian Theology that no amount of semantic juggling will reconcile. Therefore we must allow this conflict to remain and choose the mind of Christ.
The gospel says so much about our humanity and says so much about God who is now and eternally human in Christ Jesus. Though we are united to God in Jesus Christ, we must continue to respect the distinction. Jesus is God and we are not. Again we must remind ourselves that mythology is looking and examining God through our own ideas. Theology is to examine God on what God says about Himself. It is impossible for us to see clearly so it is what God says about Himself that causes a change in us. We then see more in what God says about Himself, we then change more and see more. The process is necessarily circular. Nevertheless, in Jesus Christ, our humanity has been redeemed and sanctified so we are able to see what God wants us to see and know. Yet, we have to take great care to not let our general ideas influence and tarnish what is clearly revealed by God as the man Jesus Christ. We are mere witnesses to His majesty. If we try to extrapolate ideas outside of this witness and impose them on the Witness event through logic and causality, then we run the real danger of buying into mythology. In Jesus, our human knowledge has its ground in Him and can never be cut off and isolated from Him. The secrets to our humanity and the universe has its ground in their Creator. Whatever truth we discover and declare in theology must have the truth of the Trinity running through it. This ultimate Source as the pattern for all human relationships and the ground for which we live, move and have our being is the eternal connection that can never be broken. If we lend an ear to the Word, Jesus Christ, as we endeavour to unlock the secrets of human behaviour and the other sciences, the truth will reveal itself and it is to the Creator we can give thanks and praise.