“It was suffering and incapacity that created all afterworlds – this, and that brief madness of bliss which is experienced only by those who suffer deeply.
“Weariness that wants to reach the ultimate with one leap, with one fatal leap, a poor ignorant weariness that does not want to want any more: this created all gods and afterworlds.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra
“Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today, but the core of science fiction — its essence — has become crucial to our salvation, if we are to be saved at all.” ― Isaac Asimov
“Redemption” is a most important religious concept more specifically in the Judaeo-Christian faith and theological tradition which in a very significant way is closely associated with salvation. Redemption/salvation as a divine act operates in a situation of “captivity” where “evil forces” have held people in a state of “imprisonment”/“confinement” /”enslavement” and must therefore be released and liberated therefrom through a much stronger and mightier power. In Judaeo-Christian theological understanding, redemption requires the sacrificial act, even to the point of death, of a “redeemer” in behalf of those who are “held in captivity”. Such a redeeming act serves as a payment to finally free the captives.
The theme of redemption in the Christian theological apparatus highlights the role of Jesus of Nazareth as the divinely anointed (mashiach) saviour and redeemer to liberate all of humanity from being captives of sinfulness whose final judgment is death. Without Jesus (which in Hebrew is “Yehoshuah” meaning “saviour”) the Anointed (which is the English for the Greek “christos” and the Hebrew “mashiach” transliterated to “messiah”), there is no redemption and salvation of humanity from the judgment of death. In traditional Christianity, Jesus Christ (which literally means, “the anointed saviour”) is therefore the ultimate redeemer and saviour of humanity.
But this matter cannot simply be isolated from its historical rootage in the Judaistic (or Jewish) faith experience and theological formulation. The very concept of an “anointed saviour” is fundamentally Judaistic/Jewish. It is the Judaistic weltanschauung (or worldview) which holds the ontological view that humanity has “fallen” from divine grace because of the “original sin” committed by the first “divinely created” human beings. Such event led to the emergence of a human world conditioned by “sinfulness” which has not only affected human morality but also the entirety of “creation”. In this sense, the Judaistic worldview gives us the metaphysical notion that “God” created a universe basically endowed with absolute perfection but such perfection has been marred and thereafter destroyed by the sinfulness of humanity. It is from this present state of moral failings and cosmic imperfection that the world has to be redeemed and finally saved. With that in mind, the flawed condition of humanity is powerless to even initiate the simplest act to restore and redeem the “old glory”; such role is solely God´s, no more, no less. This mindset has led the Jewish people to conceive of a “God-anointed” saviour—a “Messiah”—who should come on earth to redeem and save humanity and the cosmos and hence restore God´s creation into its original state of perfection.
The worldview which highlights the significant mission and role of a messiah to redeem and save humanity from sinfulness and imperfection is not therefore exclusively Christian but originally Jewish. In this connection, we may logically infer that Judaism doesn´t have a necessary connection with Christianity but it is and will always be the case that Christianity derives and is thus necessarily connected with Judaism. It is from Judaism that the “messiah-ness” of Jesus finds meaningfulness and legitimization. Originally, the long wait for the coming of a “messiah” is a Jewish hope which until this point of time hasn´t yet been fulfilled. But in Christianity, such has already been realized in Christ (the anointed) Jesus (saviour).
Christianity has taught Christians—both serious and nominal—that all human beings are sinners and hence need a redeemer and saviour to liberate them from divine judgment which is death. Though faced with such a grave problem, Christians are however assured of God´s omnipotence to provide a “redeemer and saviour” which is God´s very own “son,” Jesus. This Christian ontological formulation is derived from the Jewish metaphysical conception that human sinfulness has been “inherited” from the original sin of the first human beings whose story is mythologically expounded in the Genesis accounts of creation and fall.
However, a much deeper and more serious understanding of this matter has led the majority of most recent more erudite Bible scholars and theologians to trace the historical events which triggered the rehearsal of stories that found their niche in the first book of the Jewish bible. From their more in-depth investigative research studies which are mainly qualitative in character, the notions of humanity´s sinfulness, imperfection and “lostness” as well as humanity´s being in captivity and the judgment of death which requires the coming of a redeemer and saviour all emanated from the Jewish people´s experience of captivity in Babylonia from 605 BCE to 538 BCE. The event was of course historical but the “existential” reflections of the Jewish people on the tragic experience of being exiled and enslaved in a foreign land (Babylonia) became the rallying point that led to the articulation of a speculative cosmology which highlights the absolute and vital significance of divine power in the Jewish “faith narratives”.
This cosmological conception creates in our minds the image of an originally perfect cosmos which includes the earth and the life found in it whose “crowning glory” is humanity (“adam” in Hebrew). Historically, this was Israel whose apex of glorious existence as a great and powerful kingdom was achieved during the Davidic and Solomonic reigns. Then the kingdom was divided with the north being the Kingdom of Israel and the south being the Kingdom of Judah. From then on, the process of gradual deterioration has seeped into the cultural lifeblood of the two kingdoms: The north had been overrun by the Assyrians and the south had been held in captivity by Babylonia under King Nebuchadnezzar. Such events are theologically represented as the “captivity and fall of humanity”. Israel of the north and Judah of the south had fallen because they “sinned” against God. With this was an anticipation of death which to them was the inevitable consequence of their transgression. This tragic state of being was even poetically expressed by the Psalmist:
By the rivers of Babylon
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remember Zion.
We hanged our harps
Upon the willows in the midst thereof
For there they that carried us away
Captive required of us a song
And that they that wasted us
Required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the Lord´s song
In a strange land?
From this existential reflection of the Jewish people´s faith experience emanated the need for a “messiah” to redeem the “fallen people of God”. This is the historical event that triggered the Genesis mythology of creation and fall. The original rootage therefore of the Christian doctrines of human sinfulness and redemption/salvation through a messiah is the Jewish faith experience. Taking the matter at its core, what Christianity has actually done through centuries and generations is to swallow hook, line and sinker the Jewish ontological formulation and theological metanarratives to feed the non-reflective Christians with the “universalized” parochial stories of an ancient people and in the process create in them a cultural apparatus that doesn´t realistically connect with the most recent developments in modern science.
To further intensify the grim and dismal sinfulness and “fallen-ness” of humanity, Christianity has even concocted terrifying stories based on pre-Copernican cosmogony of a three-tiered universe to control and manipulate the so-called “believers” that there is a place of unquenchable fire called inferno for people who have not been redeemed and saved by the “blood of the lamb” (i.e., Jesus). However, the promise of redemption and salvation is eternal bliss in a place called heaven.
Instead of highlighting and enhancing human spirituality, Christianity has capitalized on the materialistic power of behaviour manipulation instead of promoting the spiritual and ethical teachings and principles of Jesus, an honourable and humble human being who once walked on earth and whose serious advocacy was focused more on love and compassion towards the disadvantaged, the destitute and the dehumanized.
In the light of what has been so far discussed, the redemption that we need at this point of human history is from the unrealistic, unscientific, manipulative, exploitative and enslaving teachings and doctrines of pre-Copernican, pre-Galilean, pre-Newtonian, pre-Einsteinian and pre-quantum-mechanics religions that have continued to persist even as late as in the present third (in fact, fourth) wave civilization of the twenty-first century.
© Ruel F. Pepa, 23 April 2014