Monday, February 9, 2015

Being and Becoming

Looking at the Wall Street Journal this morning an ad caught my eye: “How Jesus Became God.” That sort of headline will snag me, to be sure. It belongs to a category of icons that signal to me the entire thrust or essence of something without my having to expend even a tiny bit of energy to know whether I’m interested or not.

The ad is promoting The Great Courses (The Teaching Company, LLC), and the professor who teaches this course is Bart D. Ehrman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

It seems to me that, given a forced choice, people may be divided into those who are for Being and those who are for Becoming. Count me among the former. I assume that those who vote for Becoming (certainly the inclination of modernist thought) can also have their arms twisted hard enough to confess that Being has some role to play in reality, albeit it is but a momentary sort of thing before becoming has changed it into something else which, itself, is getting ready to become yet something else again in a nanosecond or so. Those who vote for Being do not deny Becoming but certainly rank it as something hierarchically lower than Being. Thus they assert the reality of something absolute.

Now that title acts as a badge of modernism, which is marked by paradox—like the Liar’s Paradox. If Jesus can become God, God is evolving. That’s been done more extensively by Hegel, but to do justice to Hegel in a Great Course would cost the buyer more than the $79.95 (marked down from $269.95) to learn how Jesus evolved. Ehrman describes himself as an agnostic (from the viewpoint of knowledge) and an atheist (from the viewpoint of belief) (link), but certainly not in the ad or on his own website. So why does he bother with this subject? Is Christianity so irresistible even to unbelievers? Or is the problem that once you have a PhD and Master of Divinity, you’ve got to talk about something?

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