Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Meaning and History

Some thoughts based upon Leslie Newbigin's book "The Open Secret"......

Given the reality of death, a big problem for us is to know how to keep together the meaningfulness of both our own personal histories (i.e. me) and big public, world history (i.e. humankind). How can both matter and have meaning at the same time? For example, you can choose to abandon public history and just care about myself. In religious terms, this means that my hope is for individual life after death in another spiritual reality or world. Many religious ideas cater for this and focus on this. Of course, this means that public history is meaningless. What happens in this world is not really significant as it's all 'going to hell'. Society, institutions, politics, world events, the body - none of these things really matter. On the other hand, I can abandon personal, individual meaning and history in favour of Progress. What matters is humankind, poverty, society and the world. The problem with this is, firstly, that I am cut out of the imagined future by my own death. I won’t enjoy it! Secondly, though, the danger is that individuals disappear in the grand scheme of things. The personal and individual no longer matters. It has no value - only ‘mankind’ counts. This is basically where you find Marxism, for example.

Now, the wonderful thing about the gospel is that it holds both the personal and the public together. The gospel of resurrection deals with both. It gives us the hope of a new body/life but also the hope of a renewed world. My personal history and longings matter. But public history also matters. God is working to transform both. Death is not the end of either of them. They are kept together by Jesus. The resurrection, then, lays the foundation for the meaning of the world.