Sneak Peek: Death, Doubt, and Salvation
The following is the introduction I’ve just finished hammering out for an upcoming paper I will be presenting in Baltimore at the American Academy of Religion conference. It also is shaping up to be the heart of my dissertation work. Perhaps for that reason, this did not come easily to me, but I’m pretty happy with it now. I’ll post the full text to my Academia.edu site after the conference, but I thought I’d offer you a sneak peek. Feedback is always welcome!
This paper argues that it is the fear of death and meaninglessness that drives us to seek salvation in some power greater than our own limited powers. However, since nothing we can point to, talk about, or conceptually define is able to overcome death and doubt, the threat of death and doubt is largely driven from our conscious awareness. In this state of blindness, salvation can be bought more cheaply. The consequence, however, is that life must be lived within the limits of our cheap salvation; for the fullness of life runs to the limit of life, and this limit, death, is something we simply cannot face. Under such conditions, intimacy, both in the form of cognitive union and human relationships, is impossible. We are too committed to living our illusions to risk being that vulnerable.
The question I seek to answer is therefore one of salvation. Faced with these circumstances, what could ever have the power to save us? What could grant us the courage to be weak, and therefore lay our defenses aside, creating the conditions for intimacy and life to its fullness? My conclusion is that the paradox of Christian salvation is such a power. In order to show this I will be introducing two different examples of this paradox in action. The first is its appearance in a philosophical mode, namely that of Paul Tillich’s treatment of reason and revelation. The second is its appearance in the mode of desire. Here we will consider the psychoanalytically influenced Christology of Dom Sebastian Moore. Finally, these threads will be brought together by suggesting that the practice of Centering Prayer can be thought of as a sort of daily training in this paradoxical salvation.