Archive for Theology

The Peace of Christ

Here is the sermon I delivered to Kippax Uniting Church on Sunday 5 July 2020

Bible readings: Zechariah 9:9-12, Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 145:8-14

Sermon – The Peace of Christ
The prophet Zechariah lived more than 500 years before Christ, shortly after the captive Israelites returned from Babylon to Jerusalem. Zechariah’s vision of the coming Messiah is one of the most thrilling stories in the Bible, telling of the presence of God in history. Handel used this text for the wonderful soprano Air in The Messiah, Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! I have put a link to this Messiah piece on the Kippax Uniting Church Facebook page if you would like to listen to it. Here is a short excerpt.

Zechariah’s statement that the Messiah would command peace to all the nations is similar to Isaiah’s prophecy of the Prince of Peace, preaching a fellowship of reconciliation, a community of forgiveness and mercy, a world of restorative justice. These teachings envisage the advent of Jesus Christ as transforming our prevailing beliefs, including our systems of military security. Rather than seeking safety in war horses and chariots and armies and swords, the prophets predict a time when security will be delivered through shared universal faith in God, mediated by Christ.

Security is a primary theme for the prophets, with the idea that Israel as a small nation surrounded by large empires can only achieve durable peace by building friendly cooperative relations with its neighbours, removing any incentive to invade. Hence the ultimate security emerges through the shared identity and solidarity that comes through the trust of a common faith, the connection arising from open regular communication and friendship, a goal that of course has been elusive.

Zechariah points to the paradoxes of Christianity with his vision of Christ as King. Power will come through love rather than physical strength. The true leader is humble rather than proud and arrogant. The Saviour of Israel will humble himself to ride a donkey rather than a war horse. Triumph and victory come from speaking of peace and respect. What God sees within the inner life of our heart is more important than our reputation in the world.

Looking to the theology, the message is that actions that advance the Kingdom of God often conflict with the prevailing assumptions and values in human life. Many people who gain worldly power seek prestige and control and fame and wealth, whereas Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that the blessing of God is for the peacemakers, the meek, the poor in spirit and the pure. Christ tells us in the Last Judgement that if we want salvation, we should perform works of mercy such as feeding the hungry and visiting prisoners. Creating peace in the world is all about building deep connection.

We can well imagine how these teachings must have infuriated and confused the powers of Jesus’ day. The Gospels tell us the consequences when Jesus Christ proclaimed these teachings about the path of peace. He struck such fear into the local leadership in Jerusalem that they arranged for the Roman Empire to execute him as a seditious political criminal, in the most cruel and gruesome and painful way possible, mocked and scourged and nailed to a cross.

This idea from Zechariah of peace through a transformative faith looks idiotic to rulers when their nation faces invasion and military occupation. The leaders of Jerusalem wanted to send a signal to Rome that they rejected messianic prophecy as a practical government policy. And so they failed to see the true identity of Christ.

As Saint Paul wrote in First Corinthians, the message of the cross seems like foolishness to the world. However, the story of the resurrection tells us there is an eternal power of God in this apparent worldly weakness and failure. We need patience to await a time when such transforming ideas will get a serious audience. Jesus himself said in Matthew 24:14 that the sign of his coming would be that this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations. That is something that has only occurred with the global connections of modern times.

The world was certainly not ready for this prophetic message of peace two thousand years ago. So how remarkable that Zechariah brought such tidings of great joy, the prophecy of the Messiah as king of the world. The powerful story tells of Christ ruling the world in truth and grace through the wonders of His love, as the hymn Joy to the World proclaims. Zechariah imagines a time when Jerusalem will be a centre of peace and love rather than war and hatred. He calls his readers “prisoners of hope”, a very peculiar phrase. Zechariah seems here to suggest that people of true faith are captured by this seemingly impossible vision of a world transformed, that we are compelled to proclaim the good news of Christ. We are probably still not ready for such a paradigm shift in world politics, understood as a kingdom of this world. Yet as Christians we are called to imagine what it could mean.

What would it mean for Christ to rule the world as Zechariah imagines? Jesus himself tells us in the text for today that his aim is to lift our heavy burdens and relieve our weariness. He says his gentle and humble heart will lead us with an easy yoke and a light burden. This image of liberation from our troubles and traumas rests on faith in God as the source of transformation. Jesus calls us to overcome the weight of worldly corruption through the power of love, creating a path toward a universal life of grace and peace for all. That is not something that will happen quickly or easily, but it invites us to think about what the peace of Christ really means.

One text that I have always admired in this light is the old Chinese wisdom book from Taoism, the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. The title Tao Te Ching translates as the Book of the Way of Integrity. It includes a remarkable statement about leadership that I think bears comparison with the messianic vision of peace in Zechariah. Lao Tzu tells us that the best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects, while the next best leaders are those who are loved and praised. He says bad leaders are feared, while the worst are despised. When the best rulers achieve their purpose, their people claim the achievement as their own.

I was reminded of this text firstly by the comment from Jesus that his yoke is easy, rather like the leader who is not even known. A yoke keeps two oxen in line to pull a plough, joining their strength together. This forced obedience of the yoke is often used as a symbol of political oppression, but Jesus inverts the symbol to suggest that obeying the light yoke of his teachings will create freedom. This is the type of king who Zechariah suggests can bring universal peace to the world by tuning in to the will of God, liberating rather than dominating. The king who freely chooses to make his triumphant entry riding a donkey displays that his concern is not for his own advantage, but entirely for the good results that will come from his decisions and actions. As Saint Paul explains in his letter to the Philippians, Jesus emptied himself of all but love, making himself a slave to God. This obedience to the moral call of God is what Zechariah called becoming a prisoner of hope. The eastern philosophy that sees the individual as united to the whole universe expresses this self-emptying idea by comparing our personal identity to a drop of water in the ocean.

We are so far away from rule by the unknown king of love that it seems impossible. Yet this high prophecy calls us to imagine and create the world we want to eventually build, a world of complete freedom and justice and peace. As the Lord’s Prayer puts it, a world where the will of God is done on earth as in heaven. This is a utopian dream of universal abundance and trust, where material needs are fully met and everyone can focus on spiritual fulfillment, creating a situation of high ethical values and education. In this imaginary future, good governance will arise naturally and democratically from shared values. Ability to make local decisions will be so strong that there will be no role for rulers other than to gently guide and coordinate the decisions that people have made for themselves. As Lao Tzu suggests, the best leaders will bring peace and justice to the world in a way that is not even known to the people, because these values of trust and care will be so strongly ingrained in the structure of society. The yoke of government will be easy to bear. These things do all sound fanciful. And yet we have been constantly amazed at how technology has transformed our lives in a few short years. Perhaps in the future such a vision will become reality, although changing people is probably much harder than changing technology. The timeline of the ancient wisdom of the Bible sees a thousand years as a day for God, which is the sort of period that would be needed for such a change in human nature through broad acceptance of the values of the gospel.

Jesus tells us that the gospel values that are needed to gradually aim toward such a heaven on earth are all about caring for the least of the world as though they were him. That is an integral vision that includes care for the poor as well as care for nature, as Pope Francis proposed in his Laudato Si encyclical. The scale of trauma in the world means that such a vision might well take another thousand years to bring about, but if the goal is set clearly, then gradual steady progress can occur. Setting such a positive hopeful goal and discussing it can support the social purpose of confronting the negative values that are dragging us towards conflict and collapse.

As the Psalmist said in our reading, God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The immense problems in our world mean the slow anger of God is gradually building. And yet the presence of authentic faith has a redeeming quality, with capacity to help to atone for all our heedless destructive actions. The abounding steadfast love and gracious mercy of God will remain with us and protect us through the holy word of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

Amen

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Blessed Are The Meek – An Evolutionary Perspective

The statement by Jesus Christ in the Beatitudes that the meek will inherit the earth is counterintuitive and controversial. We usually think the strong, the powerful and the assertive will inherit the lion’s share. The meek are seen as weak and ineffectual. The Bible tells us that this vision of the meek inheriting the earth will be despised and rejected.
However, we can also read the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 as Jesus presenting an accurate long term vision of power, seeing the power of love and integrity as the key to the kingdom of God, not as an afterlife but as a necessary vision of sustainable living on earth.
Implementing the prayer of Christ that the will of God may be done on earth as in heaven means transforming the current fallen state of depraved corruption into an enlightened community of grace and love, confronting flawed worldly assumptions with a higher wisdom. The divine blessing on the meek challenges our instinctive beliefs with a vision of salvation that we can interpret in terms of natural evolution.
What does it mean to inherit the earth? Natural evolution is all about scientific understanding of who will inherit the earth. The biological question is which genes will prove most stable, durable and fecund over the long term.
Think about the long term – not just decades and centuries, but millions of years. Who will still inherit the earth in a million years?
For humans to survive that long, we need to engage with the earth with humility. In evolutionary terms, those who inherit the earth are those who adapt to selective pressures. Will humans have overcome our current madness? Will we go extinct? Will the earth be inherited by bacteria, algae and insects? Do humans have the brains to transform our destructive culture to create a path of sustained flourishing and abundance for all?
The Bible presents a stark challenge to this prospect of evolutionary transformation, with the apocalyptic vision of global catastrophe. The bleak prophecy of the future is that the power of evil delusion is so great that civilization collapses and human population falls to a tiny number. War, famine, plague and death stalk the planet as the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
The only hope of salvation the Bible presents from this destructive outlook is through Christ, who provides a vision of how to connect our lost culture to the enduring eternal truths of God.
Such prophecies can be read as more than supernatural fantasy, in presenting symbolic parables for the current planetary risks posed by climate change, and how we can respond to these risks. Human arrogance imagines we can ignore the power of nature. The last great catastrophe was 65 million years ago with the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs. Only the meek survived, while the powerful creatures that required a large quantity of energy could not endure the crisis. We are now causing the sixth planetary extinction, illustrating that on the current trajectory, humans could well follow the example of the dinosaurs and go extinct.
Our world is highly fragile, even though at first glance things might look robust. We need to think and plan carefully if we are to understand the forces at work determining our planetary fate. Against this planetary agenda, we can read the ideas of Jesus in terms of the power of meekness as a way to respond to the power of evil.
Jesus says in the story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 that in the global clash between good and evil, victory will go to those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, visit prisoners and welcome strangers. These works of mercy provide a definition of meekness as the moral understanding that what we do to the least of the world we do to Jesus Christ. This old parable of the saved and the damned is not a story of supernatural magic but a deep prophetic analysis of our evolutionary situation today.
How can being meek be an adaptive evolutionary trait? In evolution, we can look at traits in the animal kingdom to see how they might apply in human culture. The opposite of being meek is dominating and controlling. In nature, any organism that has a dominant role is an apex predator. Everything else must meekly submit to its fate, relying on its natural abundance to prosper in the ecological system. Generally only a small number of apex carnivores are sustained by a large number of herbivores, who in turn rely on abundant plant food which depends on the microbes forming healthy soil and stable climate, and similarly for the food chain in the ocean. The predator can only flourish when the whole food chain is healthy and productive.
The evolutionary principle of survival of the fittest does not at all refer to the strongest physically, but favours creatures which are best adapted to their niche. Natural selection favours the genes that are stable, durable and fecund. In terms of cultural evolution, this natural law has a long term power, including through our ability to see love and compassion as adaptive traits.
Evolution points to a human path of cooperation rather than competition as the main condition for success in our global civilization. Human adaptation requires that we harness intelligence as our primary selective advantage, overcoming the dangers of a world run by dumb instinct. This triumph of intelligence over instinct is a key to understanding what Jesus meant by saying the meek will inherit the earth.
For cultural values, who are the meek? Those with the humility to adapt to the world as they find it. Those with the detachment to avoid being ensnared by ideological delusion. Those who do not try to force false beliefs onto others in order to control the world through the power of money and weapons and ideology.
What does this say about the story of Jesus? The long term vision in the Bible presents a story of human fall from grace, and then Jesus showing the way to transform our culture to achieve redemption. Jesus is portrayed as coming at the bottom of the cycle of grace and depravity, representing the spirit of truth in a world ruled by lies.
The resurrection shows the vision of grace and love gaining victory over the instinctive impulses of control represented by the cross. The inheritance of the meek is about the victory of a messianic faith as a basis of planetary salvation, as distinct from the traditional Christian focus on the power of the church.
We tend to imagine that victory goes to the strongest, not to the meek. The Bible reverses this assumption by setting spiritual vision above the power of instinct. Jesus tells us the least of the world will be first in the kingdom of God, with the metaphor that the stone the builder refused will be the keystone of the bridge. The meek are like the stone that the builders ignore, the ones who do not conform to the superficial patterns of worldly success, but who seek integrity and honesty, aiming to achieve results through respect and dialogue, not through domination.
Jesus’s vision of how we can inherit the earth is summed up in his statement in Matthew 25 that what we do to the least of the world we do to him. His statement that we are saved by works of mercy for the hungry, thirsty, imprisoned, sick, naked and strangers tells us the values of the world are the opposite of the values of God. The values of God are the practices that are sustainable, that will deliver long term stability and prosperity to human societies, clashing with the instinctive desires for power and control.
Transition to the values of Jesus Christ involves a paradigm shift for our global culture. The story of climate change shows we are on a trajectory towards destruction. Even looking at the Paris Accord, there is no globally agreed vision of how to avoid dangerous warming that could turn our planet into a hothouse. It is possible to turn that trajectory around, but the shift has to understand evolutionary process. Evolution in a stable system builds incrementally on precedent, and in culture that means defining a theory of change that can transform our current world into a sustainable global culture.
The Biblical value of meekness is confronting for the dominant values of the world. Nations and companies cannot deliver stability and prosperity by meekly giving in to every pressure they face. Nor can these goals be achieved by arrogantly ignoring the real pressures at work.
Competition is central to human life, and is recognised in the parable of the talents, also in Matthew 25, with its vision that the works of mercy of the Kingdom of God can only be paid for through the abundance created by everyone using their skills to the full, including by taking risks rather than the safe course. We should not meekly bury our talents in the ground or hide our light under a bushel, but work in the world to develop a vision of transformation.
The model of the meek inheriting the earth is speaking about a long-term transformation of human values. Saying the meek shall inherit the earth is not calling for a revolution to a communist or anarchistic society, but rather an evolutionary vision of a gradual transition to an ethical vision of the values of the kingdom of God, understood in a practical and scientific way as central to our ongoing life on earth, as we transform our communities to make earth as in heaven, seeing the vision of Christ in the Bible as our moral guide.

Robert Tulip

Talk given at Kippax Konnex Retreat, 15 September 2018

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Commentary on Carl Jung’s Answer to Job

The Canberra Jung Society has uploaded the draft essay I used for my talk on Jung’s book Answer To Job on 6 July, as well as recordings of the talk and of the question and answer session.

The link above is to the Society’s home page. Direct link to the talk is here. I will revise this paper for publication in the Canberra Jung Society Journal.

Here is the diagram mentioned in the essay, providing an astronomical framework for mythology.
Orbital Drivers of Mythology and Cultural Evolution

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The Precessional Structure of Time

In this essay, I seek to explain the connection between astronomy and mythology as the basis for a new paradigm.

Table of Contents
Overview 1
The Physics of Precession 2
Precession and Climate 3
Earth and the Solar System 6
Zodiac Ages 6
Precession, Gas Giant Planets and The Solar System Centre of Mass 7
Fourier Transform Decomposition of Solar System Barycentre Wave Function 11
The House of the Age 12
Thematic Principle of the New Age of Aquarius 13
Dynamic Structure of The Age of Pisces 14
Precession and Evolution 15
Precession in Myth and Culture 15
Precession and Man-Made Climate Change 17
Precession and Christianity 18
Indian Sources of Western Precession Myth 20
Platonic Origins of The Christ Precession Story 22
Precession Encoded in Art: Leonardo’s Last Supper 29
The Age of Aquarius 31

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Lecture on Aion by Carl Jung

Link to text R Tulip Lecture to the Canberra Jung Society on the book Aion by Carl Jung 5 May 2017

Opening Paragraphs

Aion – Toward a Gnostic Reformation
Robert Tulip
Canberra Jung Society, 5 May 2017
In his book Aion – Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self, Carl Jung analysed archetypes of the collective unconscious against the identity of Jesus Christ as a model of psychological wholeness, providing ideas about cultural transformation into a New Age. Building upon Christian traditions, Jung reinterpreted the Christ story through astronomy, examining how images of Jesus provide symbolic reflection of slow changes in the visible stars, with a focus on the archetype of the fish. Jung applied the old hermetic idea from the Lord’s Prayer, ‘on earth as in heaven’, to explore how Jesus symbolises eternal truths, aiming to develop a scientific psychology of religion rather than accepting any claims from traditional dogma. My reading of Aion is that Jung’s symbolic cosmology presents a pathway to a Gnostic Reformation of Christianity, pointing to a paradigm shift that uses knowledge to reconcile religion with logic and evidence. Aion investigates a radically different interpretation of Christian historical origins as primarily Gnostic and cosmological.
An archetype is a pattern with strong symbolic meaning in human life. Archetypes can include common patterns of character, action, situation and art. The universal symbols emerging in archetypes are not generally understood, and can exercise social power through popular resonance in concealed unconscious ways. In Aion, Jung applied methods of analytical psychology to uncover hidden meanings in powerful collective symbols of Christian religion, aiming to bring unconscious spiritual tendencies and energies out of the irrational realms of mythology and into conscious awareness. As an exercise in the philosophy of culture, Jung studied how widely shared experiences manifest in enduring rich archetypal forms of expression.
Aion explored “the myths that underlie Christianity and the whole of mythology as the expression of a universal disposition in humanity”. Jung saw symbolic archetypes of Christian faith, such as the Christian fish, the snake, the cross and the stone, as “complex thought-forms which [are] unconscious organizers of our ideas.” For Jung, archetypes and the collective unconscious come together in the person of Jesus Christ as “an ever-present archetype of wholeness”. As he explained in the Foreword, “the archetypal image of wholeness, which appears so frequently in the products of the unconscious, has forerunners identified very early with the figure of Christ.”

Discussion and further links https://www.booktalk.org/post162590.html

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River of Life

This sermon on the River of Life I delivered at Kippax Uniting Church on 24 September 2017, explaining how the River of Life in the Bible is a metaphor for the sun.

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