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Colloquium On Violence & Religion



COV&R-Bulletin No. 18 (April 2000)

Abstract of Boston American Academy of Religion COV&R paper (Nov. 20, 1999)


The Holy Spirit is the matrix of all Christian experience (James D.G.Dunn). Without Holy Spirit there is no New Testament. Yet in Christian theology the Spirit can often appear as a remainder in the economy of salvation events, its dynamism relegated to the status of an apostolic and non-current phenomenon. Mimetic anthropology provides a description of the culturally subversive power of the cross (an eschaton of judgment). If it is to be faithful to the creativity of the New Testament should it not also attempt to describe the regenerative effect of the Spirit (eschaton of a new humanity)?

Using mimesis Borch-Jacobsen (The Freudian Subject) develops the idea of "primitive alteration:" the "self" becoming the self by virtue of already being the "other." Such a radicalization of mimesis allows us to propose the figure of the Crucified as the possibility of myself-as-other, the self as the Christ who has entered by com-passion into the depth of my situation. Through the alterity of Christ the self experiences "alteration," dies to its old self (with Christ) and repeats the self-giving other, that is Christ, in a new, liberated self. Following from this we can then say it is Christ's act of abyssal compassion that gifts the Spirit to humanity: a new principle of human relationality experienced as the reality of the self enters human affairs. Luke-Acts provides evidence of a continuity from the pre-Pentecost situation of Luke 23.48, where the crowd is moved to sorrow, to the full conversion scene of Acts 2.37-38 where the Spirit is received.

Tracking back in the Hebrew Scripture and apocryphal literature we can identify the figure of Wisdom as the culturally evolved pattern for the presence of God's Companion/ Spirit/Torah in creation, then finding her home in Jacob but also rejected (1 Enoch). We might say that this is a work of biblical culture constructing a theological account that progressively shapes the possibility of an alternative way of being human (anthropogenesis). In Christian Scripture this may be understood as the ital cultural background to the emergence of Jesus of Nazareth, personally radicalized by him in his chosen pathway to the cross. Jesus-Wisdom-Spirit opens a decisive new page in the repertoire of human possibility, and the outpouring of the Spirit is the exponential realization of this turning page. The author of Acts presents thematically this new possibility of being human: for example in his telling contrast of being "with one mind" (homothumadon) EITHER around violence and scapegoating, OR through faithfulness to the memory of Jesus and the generative Spirit that results.