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Expansion Angst

January 21, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

“The growth of large, multi-national urban centers around the Mediterranean basin” at the dawn of Christianity made it so that “cultural, economic, and religious exchange could flourish” (Oxford Study Bible, page 7). This, with the “new mobility” made possible by the common tongue of Koine Greek, and the “relative stability” of Greek and Roman rule, and the new sophistication in math, science and astronomy spelled PROGRESS in capital letters.

Why then the depth of angst that these people seemed to suffer?

According to their cosmology, God’s address had never before been so far away. As well as being at the center of the universe, the earth was now also the target of evil.

In such a state, Paul wrote that nothing could separate us from God’s love. Such assurances may be the product of such progress, which brought about such fear as a side-effect. It seems strange that this thrust toward international stability and, in its own way, globalization, brought with it such a side-effect.

Perhaps we grow afraid when the world expands and makes us smaller by comparison. This latest expansion in our own times – the intellectual expansion brought about by science – has certainly heightened my own angst. God’s address is now so far away that I do not even know if God exists, in the sense in which I once thought of God.

There is too, in our own times, a sense of the walls falling back in on us, though. Modernism made it sound like we could be citizens of anywhere we pleased – Mars, if necessary. Yet we are blood of the earth’s blood and flesh of its flesh, our resources are not infinite, our world is not ever growing. Perhaps, in the midst of this relieving collapse, we will find that God does not in fact live beyond the edges of an unknowable universe, but in the cardboard box we once felt comfortable overlooking.

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