Thursday, March 28, 2013

Christian Political Engagement & Origen's Peri Archon

Princeton professor Jan-Werner Mueller wrote in 2010:
'Christian Democracy, even if power machines such as the CDU keep winning elections for many years to come, is on a long-term trajectory of decline. If it turns left, it becomes indistinguishable from social democracy; if it turns right, charges of "neoliberalism" will be levelled. If it turns much more religious, there just won't be enough votes. This structural dilemma should also give pause to those looking to Christian Democracy as a model to invent a softer, compassionate, post-Thatcherite conservatism on either side of the Atlantic.'
Allthough this illustrates how dominant the communitarian (and/or Dooyeweerdian) narrative of Christian politics has been, it ignores the ongoing conversation on citizenship among Christians worldwide. And also, what does professor Mueller mean when he uses the expression 'more religious'? It depends on his understanding of faith and how he understands the link between faith and politics.

In february the conference Sojourning and the early Church took place at the Theological University in Apeldoorn, 'resourcing from sources in the early Church in a post-Christian world'. At this meeting Henri Keurhorst gave a presentation on Origen and the accusations against the church. Henri Keurhorst got his masters degree August 2012 for researching Origen's interpretation of Scripture as summarized theoretically by Origen in Peri Archon IV.1-3. Which reminds me of my recent blogposts Origen and the Epistle of the Diatheke and Perspicuitas of the Scriptures & the Quadriga.

Ruth Clements writes on Peri Archon IV in her paper (Re)constructing Paul: Origen's Reading of Romans in Peri Archon:
'I illustrate how, in Peri Archon, Origen constructs his theological opposition between “fleshly Jews”/“Jewish literalism” and “spiritual Christians”/ Christian “spiritual” interpretation by transformative readings of its Pauline building blocks, with particular attention to texts from Romans.  I end with a discussion of Origen’s use of key Romans texts in several sermons, to illustrate the complex interaction between rhetorical context and exegetical emphasis in Origen’s writings.'
I wrote in my post Origen and the Epistle of the Diatheke:
 'The homilies on Joshua of Origen might actually point to the importance of the letter to the Hebrews in his (Origen's) thinking'
Ruth Clements confirms this when she writes:
'Paul appears in the very first paragraph of Peri Archon’s Preface.[1]  Origen begins the treatise as a whole by setting forth the theological foundation of his hermenutical method.  He asserts that the “words and teaching of Christ” are the only source for the knowledge (scientia) which leads human beings towards a “good and blessed life." However, says Origen, these words encompass not only Christ’s earthly teachings, but also the “words and deeds” of Moses and the prophets, who prophesied about him.  As proof that the spirit of Christ spoke through Moses, Origen quotes “this one testimony of Paul, taken from the letter which he writes to the Hebrews,” Hebr. 11:24-26.'
In Hebrews 11:24-26 we read:
 'By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.'
Origen writes on the first pages of Peri Archon chapter 4:
'And if we observe how powerful the word has become in a very few years, notwithstanding that against those who acknowledged Christianity conspiracies were formed,...'
A significant phrase while quoting Acts 19:20 'the word (Logos) of the Lord kept spreading and growing stronger' betrays his specific approach to reading the New Testament. It betrays the missionary citizenship (we can find it for example in Calvin's golden booklet of the Christian life) which remains the fundament of Christian political engagement.

Ruth Clements also points to another central element of Origen's hermeneutics which articulates further how he understands 'the word':
'Scripture contains deliberate “stumbling blocks” (skandala), “hindrances and impossibilities,” in its bodily sense, to ensure that the perceptive reader is not lulled by the usefulness of much of the narrative sense into forgetting to seek the higher, truer meanings toward which all the words of scripture point (2.9). Thus, if it is held in too high a regard, the bodily sense in itself becomes a stumbling block to the Christian, because it prevents the reader from pursuing this more essential quest.'

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