Archive for September, 2014

Entrance to hell-For 400 years, Goree was a concentration camp

September 25, 2014

“… People talk a lot about the Jews in concentration camps, but those camps lasted only 12 years, while black slavery lasted for 350 years, yet people never talk about it! During these 350 years 15-20 million black slaves were taken via Goree… ”

Entrance to hell – For 400 years, Goree was a concentration camp. Here the past comes alive for thousands of ‘pilgrims’ seeking their African heritage

By Garba Diallo

For the third time in four years, I visit Goree. Each and every time I feel that there is hardly any other place on earth where I can live the past this close and vividly like here.

Of course, the most disturbing and yet fascinating thing about Goree is its history. For four centuries, from 1444 to 1848, Goree Island was a concentration camp for slaves. On this slave depot the Portuguese, Dutch, French and British fought and killed each other over the flesh of the blacks. Here they detained, tortured, raped and humiliated between 15 to 20 million Africans before shipping them to the Americas. Six million of them perished on their journey. As Jo Ndiaye insists, “they took away the youngest, the strongest, the healthiest, separating mothers from their children, and drastically disturbing the equilibrium of the continent’s population”.

All these crimes were committed in the name of profit.

The slave house

From his collection of quotations about Goree, Jo Ndiaye quotes “Only those who have dwelt within these walls have cherished liberty”.

Here the most basic human rights were denied the Africans. Without any empathy or shame, it was here emerging European powers competed to commit the worst and most durable crime against humanity. Here merchants and priests raped captive women whose feet and hands were chained. Built in 1780 by the Dutch, the living symbol of this crime is the Slave House. This house of shame was especially designed for the detention of slaves waiting to be sold or shipped.

150¬250 slaves were held in this house at a time. They normally spent 3 months here, before being shipped off to different destinations. Sometimes entire families were held here before they were taken to different countries: the father might be shipped to USA, the mother to Haiti, some children to Brazil. They left Goree with registeration numbers only, and never with their African names. Once they reached the plantations, they were given their master’s name. In the US they received British names, in Brazil Portuguese, on Cuba Spanish and in Haiti French. Therefore African-Americans do not have African names now, but slave names given to them by the slave masters.

Jo Ndiaye reminds the pilgrims that “Only a wooden floor separated the lustful behaviour of some people from the miserable decay of others.” Having taking care of the Slave house since its inauguration in 1962, Jo Ndiaye still wonders: “How could they live upstairs with everything that was happening downstairs?” How could they tolerate the smell of the slaves which the French writer Boufflers complained about. He could smell them wherever he was on the island.

These merchants of shame could not avoid hearing the groans and cries of their suffering captives. These masters were guarded and attended to by one-time captives who had been domesticated and totally brain-washed. They had the status of dogs and obeyed the orders of their sinful masters with pleasure.

Survival of the fittest

“Those selected to be shipped off to America were the most beautiful of the African race. Today, African-Americans are the best athletes in the world,” Jo Ndiaye assures the visitors. Just imagine. They were forced to stay here for three months and then spend three to four months crossing the Atlantic, making it seven months to reach the Americas. You had to be very strong to survive, both physically, mentally and culturally as human beings. Could the immoral slave merchants have survived this ordeal without loosing their lives or humanity?

As M. Renaudeau writes, “Just before being packed into the cramped and stinking holds, every slave was branded with the emblem of the company or the master. At such times, the whole island reeked with the nauseous odour of burning flesh”. The period was one of total absence of shame or scruple. Indeed, by a morbid twist of irony, one vessel named ‘The African’, was commanded by a certain captain Le Noir.

The slave trade had grave consequences on both the slave masters and the enslaved blacks. According to Jo Ndiaye, the slave trade inevitably led to the moral ruin of the West and the political downfall of Africa.

“Perhaps, the most obnoxious effect of slavery is the persisting myth of superiority or inferiority linked to the colour of one’s skin”.

But is it possible for one people to enslave and colonise another people for over 500 years without the former feeling superior to the other?

The magic of Goree

On this island, you cannot avoid being charmed, seduced and frightened by the past. The magic and the beauty of dignity, the warmth, colours and the light of the ship-shaped buildings, the narrow streets, the smell of incense, the laughter of children, the gracious walk and talk of the women and the constant sound of music on this tiny and barren island, combined with its history of suffering, make Goree very special. With its 1,500 inhabitants, and just 900 meters in length and 300 meters in width, Goree is small but beautiful. Goree is so tranquil. There are no cars, no crime, no noise from drunken tourists. Those who visit the island behave more like pilgrims visiting their holiest shrines than tourists.

Most visitors don’t even spent the night on Goree. There are only two hotels, one of them is the ‘Chevalier des Boufflers’. Many people are afraid of Goree. They are afraid of the memory of the past, especially because, Mr. Jo Ndiaye continues telling the visitors: “Two things ¬ the concentration camps for Jews and the Slave House ¬ must remain for the coming generations to see, so that the past will never be repeated.”

People talk a lot about the Jews in concentration camps, but those camps lasted only 12 years, while black slavery lasted for 350 years, yet people never talk about it! During these 350 years 15-20 million black slaves were taken via Goree.

During his visit to Goree in 1981, former French prime minister, Michel Rocard, confessed: “It is not easy for a white man, in all honesty, to visit this Slave House without feeling ill at ease”.

As Michel Renaudeau puts it: “One cannot take a single step along the streets of Goree without being reminded of that abominable trade”.

Jo Ndiaye summarizes the horror with the following words: “The toll of miseries and lives which the negro slave trade claimed, is beyond anything one can imagine. Uprooted from their native land, driven to foreign countries, without a common language, sold to their masters at random, overburdened with hard labour and without any education except obedience or flogging, these blacks were reduced to stray individuals who could not reconstitute families.”

Goree was ideal for the slave merchants, because geographically the Senegalese coast faces and points to the Americas. Therefore, Goree played an important part in the triangle trade between Europe, Africa and America.

The island is just three kilometers off the Senegalese coast. Its tiny size made it easy for the slave merchants to control their captives. The waters surrounding the island are so deep that any attempt to escape would mean sure drowning.

With a metal ball weighing five kilo permanently attached to their feet or neck, the victims knew far too well what jumping into the deep sea meant. They had often seen how quickly the resisting slaves, after being thrown into the sea, sank down to the bottom. The local people say that this attracted a lot of sharks to the shores of Goree.

World heritage

Since its designation as world heritage by UNESCO in 1978, Goree has become a center for meetings and exchange of ideas on tolerance. Despite its sad history, Goree has managed to keep its African hospitality and spirit.

Already before the turn of the century Goree hosted the first teachers’ training college, William Ponty, in French West Africa. From this school some of the first West African intelligentsia graduated.

Now, there is a school for 30 of the smartest girls who achieve the highest mark for the annual secondary school exams in Senegal ¬ Mariama Ba, named after the internationally famous female author who died at an early age. There is also a center for development and democracy with its base at the Sudan House.

In fact, the whole island is a museum. It hosts the historical museum of Senegal, the maritime museum, the women’s museum and above all the Slave House. During his visit to Goree in 1991, the Pope knelt for 30 minutes and asked Africa for forgiveness. Among the personalities who have made a pilgrimage to Goree are Jesse Jackson, Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela.

A major project to build a memorial to Goree on the main land is planned. This will help Africa forgive without forgetting the crime of slavery.

As Jo Ndiaye ‘insists’: “Those two things ¬ the concentration camps and the Slave House ¬ must remain for coming generations to see, so that the past will never be repeated.”

Goree gives me strength

“I come to Goree because I think it is important to remember our history. It is very important for me, because I take it back home and share it with young people who don’t know anything about this ¬ or have very little idea about what it was really like for the Africans who were enslaved here and in America.

They should understand what we went through then, so that they feel there is a reason to continue to be and to continue to struggle. We know that they can. I mean, if anybody can survive this, you begin to understand that there is a strength in you that can make you survive. You can do things in this world that are beyond what you have been made to think you can do,” says Sandra Louis, African-American pilgrim from New Jersey.

Cultural base

“Slavery is something that I think about almost every day of my life. To be here, in this part of the world which was such an important place of transition, is very special. I want to be here and learn more about it.

Some African-Americans come here and see people who look just like them, but I haven’t. So I can’t tell if my ancestors originate from Senegal. I know that I have some European ancestry and some Native American, but people tell me that I look Fulani. But I don’t know if that is because I am mixed or what.

I think Goree could serve as a cultural base for intercultural communication, because I believe that the spirit of our ancestors is still here. I think it should be kept as a testimony to them and as an enshrinement of their spirit , to study, preserve and understand it,” says Lise Witten, African-American, third time pilgrim from New York.


The Genocide Edict from the Vatican, 1493

September 25, 2014

The Bull Inter Caetera (Alexander VI.) May 4, 1493 Alexander, Bishop, servant of the servants of God, to the illustrious sovereigns, our very dear son in Christ, Ferdinand, king, and our very dear daughter in Christ, Isabella, queen of Castile, Leon, Aragon, Sicily, and Granada, health and apostolic benediction. Among other works well pleasing to the Divine Majesty and cherished of our heart, this assuredly ranks highest, that in our times especially the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.

Wherefore inasmuch as by the favor of divine clemency, we, though of insufficient merits, have been called to this Holy See of Peter, recognizing that as true Catholic kings and princes, such as we have known you always to be, and as your illustrious deeds already known to almost the whole world declare, you not only eagerly desire but with every effort, zeal, and diligence, without regard to hardships, expenses, dangers, with the shedding even of your blood, are laboring to that end; recognizing also that you have long since dedicated to this purpose your whole soul and all your endeavors–as witnessed in these times with so much glory to the Divine Name in your recovery of the kingdom of Granada from the yoke of the Saracens–we therefore are rightly led, and hold it as our duty, to grant you even of our own accord and in your favor those things whereby with effort each day more hearty you may be enabled for the honor of God himself and the spread of the Christian rule to carry forward your holy and praiseworthy purpose so leasing to immortal God.

We have indeed learned that you, who for a long time had intended to seek out and discover certain islands and mainlands remote and unknown and not hitherto discovered by others, to the end that you might bring to the worship of our Redeemer and the profession of the Catholic faith their residents and inhabitants, having been up to the present time greatly engaged in the siege and recovery of the kingdom itself of Granada were unable to accomplish this holy and praiseworthy purpose; but the said kingdom having at length been regained, as was pleasing to the Lord, you, with the wish to fulfill your desire, chose our beloved son, Christopher Columbus, a man assuredly worthy and of the highest recommendations and fitted for so great an undertaking, whom you furnished with ships and men equipped for like designs, not without the greatest hardships, dangers, and expenses, to make diligent quest for these remote and unknown mainlands and islands through the sea, where hitherto no one had sailed; and they at length, with divine aid and with the utmost diligence sailing in the ocean sea, disscovered certain very remote islands and even mainlands that hitherto had not been discovered by others; wherein dwell very many peoples living in peace, and, as reported, going unclothed, and not eating flesh. Moreover, as your aforesaid envoys are of opinion, these very peoples living in the said islands and countries believe in one God, the Creator in heaven, and seem sufficiently disposed to embrace the Catholic faith and be trained in good morals. And it is hoped that, were they instructed, the name of the Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, would easily be introduced into the said countries and islands. Also, on one of the chief of these aforesaid islands the said Christopher has already caused to be put together and built a fortress fairly equipped, wherein he has stationed as garrison certain Christians, companions of his, who are to make search for other remote and unknown islands and mainlands.

In the islands and countries already discovered are found gold, spices, and very many other precious things of divers kinds and qualities. Wherefore, as becomes Catholic kings and princes, after earnest consideration of all matters, especially of the rise and spread of the Catholic faith, as was the fashion of your ancestors, kings of renowned memory, you have purposed with the favor of divine clemency to bring under your sway the said mainlands and islands with their residents and inhabitants and to bring them to the Catholic faith. Hence, heartily commending in the Lord this your holy and praiseworthy purpose, and desirous that it be duly accomplished, and that the name of our Savior be carried into those regions, we exhort you very earnestly in the Lord and by your reception of holy baptism, whereby you are bound to our apostolic commands, and by the bowels of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, enjoy strictly, that inasmuch as with eager zeal for the true faith you design to equip and despatch this expedition, you purpose also, as is your duty, to lead the peoples dwelling in those islands and countries to embrace the Christian religion; nor at any time let dangers or hardships deter you therefrom, with the stout hope and trust in your hearts that Almighty God will further your undertakings. And, in order that you may enter upon so great an undertaking with greater readiness and heartiness endowed with benefit of our apostolic favor, we, of our own accord, not at your instance nor the request of anyone else in your regard, but out of our own sole largess and certain knowledge and out of he fullness of our apostolic power, by the authority of Almighty God conferred upon us in blessed Peter and of the vicarship of Jesus Christ, which we hold on earth, do by tenor of these presents, should any of said islands have been found by your envoys and captains, give, grant, and assign to you and your heirs and successors, kings of Castile and Leon, forever, together with all their dominions, cities, camps, places, and villages, and all rights, jurisdictions, and appurtenances, all islands and mainlands found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole, namely the north, to the Antarctic pole, namely the south, no matter whether the said mainlands and islands are found and to be found in the direction of India or towards any other quarter, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde. With this proviso however that none of the islands and mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, beyond that said line towards the west and south, be in the actual possession of any Christian king or prince up to the birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ just past from which the present year one thousand four hundred ninety three begins.

And we make, appoint, and depute you and your said heirs and successors lords of them with full and free power, authority, and jurisdiction of every kind; with this proviso however, that by this our gift, grant, and assignment no right acquired by any Christian prince, who may be in actual possesssion of said islands and mainlands prior to the said birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ, is hereby to be understood to be withdrawn or taking away. Moreover we command you in virtue of holy obedience that, employing all due diligence in the premises, as you also promise–nor do we doubt your compliance therein in accordance with your loyalty and royal greatness of spirit–you should appoint to the aforesaid mainlands and islands worthy, God-fearing, learned, skilled, and expeienced men, in order to instruct the aforesaid inhabitants and residents in the Catholic faith and train them in good morals.

Furthermore, under penalty of excommunication “late sententie” to be incurred “ipso facto,” should anyone thus contravene, we strictly forbid all persons of whatsoever rank, even imperial and royal, or of whatsoever estate, degree, order, or condition, to dare without your special permit or that of youraforesaid heirs and successors, to go for the purpose of trade or any other reason to the islands or mainlands, found and to be found, discovered and to be discovered, towards the west and south, by drawing and establishing a line from the Arctic pole to the Antarctic pole, no matter whether the mainlands and islands, found and to be found, lie in the direction of India or toward any other quarter whatsoever, the said line to be distant one hundred leagues towards the west and south, as is aforesaid, from any of the islands commonly known as the Azores and Cape Verde; apostolic constitutions and ordinances and other decrees whatsoever to the contrary notwithstanding. We trust in Him from whom empires and governments and all good things proceed, that, should you, with the Lord’s guidance, pursue this holy and praiseworthy undertaking, in a short while your hardships and endeavors will attain the most elicitious result, to the happiness and glory of all Christendom. But inasmuch as it would be difficult to have these present letters sent to all places where desirable, we wish, and with similar accord and knowledge do decree, that to? copies of them, signed by the hand of a public notary commissioned therefor, and sealed with the seal of any ecclesiastical officer or ecclesiastical court, the same respect is to be shown in court and outside as well as anywhere else as would be given to these presents should they thus be exhibited or shown. Let no one, therefore, infringe, or with rash boldness contravene, this our recommendation, exhortation, requisition, gift, grant, assignment, constitution, deputation, decree,mandate, prohibition, and will. Should anyone presume to attempt this, be it known to him that he will incur the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.

Given at Rome, at St. Peter’s, in the year of the incarnation of our Lord one thousand four hundred and ninety-three, the fourth of May, and the first year of our pontificate.

Gratis by order of our most holy lord, the pope. June.

For the referendary, For J. Bufolinus, A. de Mucciarellis. A. Santoseverino. L. Podocatharus

Dominant Rhetoric on Freedom and Democracy

September 25, 2014

Promotion of freedom and democracy is a leading theme of dominant powers in the present day world. The rhetoric of freedom and democracy is used to perpetuate and protect a particular system of freedom and democracy fostered by these powers. Promotion and protection of the system of freedom and democracy are used to justify wars on other sovereign countries and to perpetuate social segregation. For all the propaganda surrounding the promise of freedom and democracy by dominant powers, the fact remains that individuals, communities and nations continue to experience nonfreedom to a greater or lesser extent. “Freedom” and “democracy” have become mere buzzwords as evident in phrases like “free speech”, “free market” and “free world”, which have little to do with freedom. Thus, freedom and democracy have become empty words that dominant powers use to serve their interests. This system of freedom and democracy is jealously guarded and zealously defended by these powers both locally and globally, in order to continue the status quo of powerlessness and subservience of other communities and nations. Dominant powers depend on the continuation of this system on centralized power, and silenced, apathetic and poverty-stricken masses who pose no danger to the status quo.

Commenting on the emergence of the modern world system, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed says that the modern world system has emerged “through a process of systematic genocidal violence conducted across disparate continents, killing in total thousands of millions of indigenous peoples in Africa, Asia and America.”1 He further notes that the modern world system “systematically generates genocidal violence against hundreds of millions of people…and systematically finds ways to legitimize this violence as normal, functional, necessary…for us to live, breathe and prosper.”2 In other words, the dominant culture “mystifies and obscures the systematization and globalization of genocidal violence in the emergence, expansion and consolidation of the modern world system — not only since 1492, but even continuing past 1945 until now.”3

However, there is also continuous opposition against and striving for freedom from the dominant world system. Individuals, communities, and nations have undertaken the struggle for freedom from the dominant, exploitative and oppressive system promoted by the dominant powers, be they state powers or religious powers. Some have chosen a way of living that challenged social and political situations of oppression and exploitation. Mahatma Gandhi called on people to take a stance with him of nonviolent active resistance against the oppressive, exploitative and violent domination of the British empire. Martin Luther King Jr. confronted the oppressive and exploitive social order of exclusionism fostered by the dominant system. Luther King demanded freedom for African Americans from the shackles of the evil system. In all these cases freedom has been sought against the prevailing structures or social order that have kept certain nations or groups of people enslaved to dominant powers.

How do dominant powers maintain a social order that is oppressive and exploitative of other communities and nations? To maintain the dominant social order, dominant powers know that people and nations have to be muzzled and rendered powerless. No legal issue arises when dominant powers respond to a challenge to their power, position and prestige, and to their efforts to promote and protect their form of freedom and democracy around the world. Thus, these powers create a culture of fear in the world, and silence any opposition to imposition of their will, authority and system of freedom and democracy. The intellectual rationalization for promotion of this system of freedom and democracy is provided by political pundits and state-controlled media. Propaganda, biased and filtered news, and violent punishment of disobedient individuals or groups or nations are the tools for maintaining the dominant system.

Dominant powers, both locally and globally, not only keep general populace in ignorance of reality with their propaganda and biased information through state-controlled media, but also create a culture of fear through violent punishment of the disobedient. Opponents of the dominant system are portrayed as enemies of freedom and democracy and cause of disorder. Thus, dominant powers not only portray victims as the cause of violence, but also justify their violence against victims. Carina Perelli comments that the culture of fear is “conducive to an extreme individualization and privatization of human beings.”4 Perelli adds that people try “to isolate themselves from their social environment and emotional attachments in order to attain that state of detachment necessary to ignore the shouts for help and the cries of despair of their neighbors….”5 Thus, the culture of fear results in the silence of victims, making any opposition powerless and voiceless. The powerlessness and voicelessness of victims of dominant powers may be noticed under the apartheid regime of South Africa. According to the Truth and Reconciliation Report of South Africa, “much of the country’s populace was silent through fear, apathy, (and) indifference….”6

The silence of victims of the dominant system is conducive for the narrative of dominant oppressive powers. Teresa Godwin Phelps says, “In that silence, a new…narrative is created by the oppressors. The oppressors symbolically “have the microphone”7 and construct the dominant story, the master narrative” about the society or nation and its citizens. The narrative of the oppressive powers arises out of the silence of the oppressed. The apartheid regime in South Africa constructed a narrative about the necessity of separation of people based on race, with Europeans as ruling class and the native people as inferior class. Thus, the native people were driven to the margins of society.

Augusto Pinochet, dictator of Chile, constructed a narrative of a critical fight against the forces of communism that threatened to take over the country. He portrayed himself a savior of the western civilization, and so freedom and democracy in Chile. Fight against communism, according to the dictator’s narrative, required draconian measures to ensure safety and security, and freedom and democracy in the nation. Thus, Pinochet justified his dictatorship and cruelty towards opponents of his rule, by depicting the latter as the cause of social disorder, and a threat to freedom and democracy.

Thus, the language of the oppressive dominant power(s) constructs a myth about itself, the victim, and its violence against the victim. This myth “constructs social categories, it gives orders, it persuades us, it justifies, explains, gives reasons, (and) excuses….”8 The persuasive power of the myth constructed by the oppressive and exploitative powers is expressed by the myth of Jules Harmand, a French advocate of colonialism:

“It is necessary, then, to accept as a principle and point of departure the fact that there is a hierarchy of races and civilizations, and that we belong to the superior race and civilization, still recognizing that, while superiority confers rights, it imposes strict obligations in return. The basic legitimation of conquest over native peoples is the conviction of our superiority, not merely our mechanical, economic, and military superiority, but our moral superiority. Our dignity rests on that quality, and it underlies our right to direct the rest of humanity. Material power is nothing but a means to that end.”9

Therefore, what is at stake is the very meaning of freedom and democracy in the rhetoric of dominant powers. These terms are in crisis. Every kind of violence is being committed in the name of freedom and democracy. They have become hollow words, “a pretty shell, emptied of all content or meaning.”10 Thus, these terms have become euphemism of dominant powers. Because what has been regarded as freedom by dominant powers is certainly experienced as nonfreedom by other communities, and nations and their citizens.

What is that needed is that the voices of victims — individuals, families, communities and nations — must be heard and acknowledged. These victims must be given space in which they may speak for themselves. The story of victims told by victims must be heard. The poem of Antjie Krog, who reported the painful experiences of victims during the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, expresses the need to declare the story of victims. Krog writes, “Beloved, do not die. Do not dare die! I, the survivor, wrap you in words so that the future inherits you. I snatch you from the death of forgetfulness. I tell your story, complete your ending – you who once whispered beside me in the dark.”11

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “The Hidden Holocaust: Our Civilizational Crisis, Part 2: Exporting Democracy,” in, 10th December, 2007, p. 1.

Ahmed, “The Hidden Holocaust,” p. 10.

Ahmed, “The Hidden Holocaust,” p. 4.

Carina Perelli, “Memoria de Sangre: Fear, Hope and Disenchantment in Argentina,” in Remapping Memory: The Politics of Timespace, ed. by Jonathan Boyarin (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), pp. 43-44.

Perelli, “Memoria de Sangre,” p. 44.

Truth and Reconciliation Report of South Africa (1998), Extract 4, Section 138, quoted by Teresa Godwin Phelps, Shattered Voices: Language, Violence, and the Work of Truth Commissions (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006), p. 50.

Phelps, Shattered Voices, p. 49.

Truth and Reconciliation Report of South Africa (1998), Extract 4, Paragraph 124, quoted by Phelps, Shattered Voices, p. 49.

Quoted by Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Vintage Books, 1993), p. 17.

Arundhati Roy, “Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy: Buy One, Get One Free,” (May18, 2003).

Phelps, Shattered Voices, p. 128.

God and Doctrine

September 17, 2014

From the book “Provocations” by Soren Kierkegaard, Danish Theologian

“Before Christianity became a doctrine, when it was only one or two affirmations expressed in one’s life, God was closer. And with every increase and embellishment of doctrine, with every increase of “success,” God was distanced. When there were no clergy and the Christians were all brothers, God was closer than when clergymen, many clergymen, a powerful ecclesiastical order, came into being. For clergymen are an increase in appearance, and God always relates inversely to outward show.

“This is how Christendom has step by step become so distant from God. Christianity’s history is one of alienation from God through the gradual strengthening of appearance. Or it might be said Christianity’s history is one of the progressive removal of God – tactfully and politely by building churches and monumental buildings, by a monstrous doctrinal system, with an incalculable host of preachers and professors. Established Christianity is about as far away from God as one can possibly get.”


Undercover Clergy

September 17, 2014

From the book “Provocations” by Soren Kierkegaard

Seeker: Tell me, Preacher. What in the world are you doing in our neighborhood?

Preacher: No, first things first. A glass of schnapps to open the meal and the heart. (Drinks a schnapps.) Well, to be brief, I am out here on behalf of the Temperance Society.

S: Ah, now I see why you had to have a glass of schnapps, for if you had not asked for one, I certainly would not have been able to have offered you a schnapps.

P: Please don’t misunderstand me. I have by no means joined the Temperance Society. Anything but! I will drink a second glass in honor of the Temperance Society. I always drink a second glass in honor of the Temperance Society. (They clink their glasses, both drink and say: Long live the Temperance Society!) Now to the business at hand. You see, it is well known that I have an extraordinary speaking ability. The Temperance Society became aware of my talents and in the interest of the Society it decided not to let them go to waste. To put it briefly, I have been called and installed as “Pastor” to the Temperance Society. That I do not fully subscribe to the Temperance Society’s explicit aims is understood. Yet, the Temperance Society Board is of the opinion, “What does it matter if the pastor drinks a schnapps or two? What does it matter as long as by using his gifts he is able to win scores of members for the Society?”

S: The Society is right about that. Even the strictest teetotaler knows that every such glass of schnapps for the pastor is well utilized, presupposing that you do get members for the Society.

P: So you agree. I, of course, am completely convinced it is right, and if I had not already done it I would drink another schnapps in honor of the Temperance Society. To go on with my story, I have made an agreement with the Society, whose activity involves diet, that I have my diet: four schnapps every day, two glasses of punch, and an extra glass for every one who signs up as a member. It all goes on the expense account. Just as I believe they are satisfied with me, so I am also satisfied with it. I really don’t want to make any alteration or to leave. I even grieve to think of leaving a congregation which I love and esteem and which loves and esteems me in return.

S: You have become a “pastor” and somebody of influence in this world. Maybe you can tell me one more thing. I have often imaged myself as a pastor. It must be easy to stand and preach the very opposite of what you are doing – after all, you certainly cannot feel what you are saying.

P: Why do you say that? I can assure you – and every one of my many listeners is able to testify – that I sometimes am so moved that I can scarcely talk. In the first place, I think of the four schnapps, the two glasses of punch, an extra glass, and also the fact that I am successful in the world and have a good living – isn’t that moving! Next I think of my useful and beneficial activity. While I stand there speaking I look at the people I am talking to and can read their eyes: there sits one who as sure as my name is Pastor H. will go right out of this meeting and sign up as a member. I can get so emotional over this that I sometimes start to cry, and this has such a powerful effect that I can see on his neighbor’s face that he is going to do the same. Now, if that isn’t moving then I don’t know what is. If I were a saint do you think I would be able to produce such an effect? The people would quickly lose interest. Am I right?

S: Perhaps. But isn’t it untrue to call yourself a pastor?

P: Not at all. If a person can proclaim the teaching that we should not aspire after earthly honor, esteem, wealth – if a person can proclaim this in such a way that he convinces people to live their lives accordingly, does it make any difference if he himself does just the opposite? Or isn’t this the best proof of his extraordinary talent for speaking, of his being truly a great orator, the fact that although he doesn’t exactly do what he preaches he still has such an enormous influence?

S: But doesn’t it ever happen that people complain that you are not a member? Don’t you get reproached for it?

P: Yes, of course, but I dismiss it. I explain it as a conflict of personalities, of style. Anyway, it is my job to preach, and one should stick to the subject of what I am teaching. That slays them.

Neighbour Love (Luke 10.25-37)

September 12, 2014

To a question of a lawyer of the Jewish law about inheriting eternal life, Jesus answers him with another question about the teaching of the law on inheriting eternal life. The scholar of the Jewish law answers by saying one should love their God and love their neighbour. Jesus appreciates him for giving the right answer. When he asks him to go and do this, the lawyer asks Jesus another question, “Who is my neighbour?” (Lk. 10.29).

Doesn’t the scholar of the law know who his neighbour is? Of course, he knows who his God is, and who his neighbour is. According to Leviticus 19.17-18 neighbour means a fellow Israelite or a fellow member of the covenant community. However, the law to “love your neighbour as yourself” is extended to include the resident alien or resident foreigner (Lev. 19.33-34). Therefore, for a Jew, a neighbor is a fellow Jew and a resident foreigner. A Jew knows who his neighbour is. So there are set boundaries or limits to a Jew’s duty or neighbourly love.

The lawyer is confident that he has fulfilled the commandment. So in order to “justify” – to show himself righteous and acceptable to God – he asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?” (Lk. 10.29).

To this question, Jesus answers with a question after telling the parable of a compassionate Samaritan, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” (Lk. 10.36). The lawyer answers correctly, “The one who showed him mercy” (Lk. 10.37). This means by doing your duty or by doing your loving act you easily discover who your neighbour is. He/she towards whom I have a duty or an obligation to show neighbourly love is my neighbour, and when I fulfill my duty I prove that I am a neighbour.

Jesus does not speak about recognizing your neighbour, but being a neighbour yourself, about proving yourself to be a neighbour, as the Samaritan did by showing compassion.

Finding a friend or a partner is a hard and time-consuming job. But finding a neighbour or recognizing a neighbour is easy – if you yourself recognize your duty and be a neighbour.

Samaritan in the parable knew his duty when he saw a wounded person lying by the roadside. His compassion, not the identity of the wounded person, moved him to act. Identity of the “wounded person” is immaterial for neighbourly love. A neighbour is unlike one’s spouse or friend. A spouse or a friend is chosen on the basis of preference – education, complexion, social status, economic status …. However, a neighbour is not someone of higher social status, and you love him because he has higher social status. Or a neighbour is not someone of inferior social status, and you love him because he is inferior to you. No, a neighbour is every person, for on the basis of preference or distinctions he/she is not your neighbour. He/she is your neighbour on the basis of equality with you before God.

The fundamental equality in love lies in the category of neighbour. The one who is in need and the one who responds to the need come under the category of “neighbour”. Thus, there is horizontal relationship between both of them. This relationship is unlike the relationship between patron, the one who “gives”, and client, the one who “receives”, in the Greco-Roman society. Here the relationship is vertical, and because of that the client is obligated to the patron and the patron has power over the client. This is not so in the relationship between “neighbours”, where neighbourly love binds them. Both the “giver” and the “receiver” are neighbours and so are equal.

In a sense neighbourly love is blind. Perfection in the object (i.e. to whom you show neighbourly love) has nothing to do with perfection of love. Precisely because one’s neighbour has none of the attributes or credentials which the spouse, friend or an admired person may have. For that very reason love to one’s neighbour has all the perfections which other “loves”, such as love towards spouse or love towards a friend, do not have. Love to one’s neighbour is the most perfect love. It is determined by love and no other criteria. Since your neighbour is unconditionally every person, all distinctions are removed from the object of love. Your neighbour is absolutely unrecognisable between one person and another. It is eternal equality before God.

To love one’s neighbour, therefore, means essentially to will to exist equally for every human being without exception. Then whether you meet a rich person or a poor person, an educated or an illiterate, belongs to same religion or not, belongs to same caste or not – whatever his/her “outer garment” may be – you see them unconditionally equal – as neighbour.

Same Road, But Different Roads

Life is metaphorically compared to a road (Mt. 7.13-14; Ps. 1.1; Jer. 21.8). When life is compared to a road, the metaphor expresses the universal, that which everyone who is alive has in common by being alive. To that extent we are all walking along the road of life and are all walking along the same road. But when living becomes a matter of truth, then the question becomes: How one ought to walk along the road of life. The important thing is, not the road of life, but the road one walks along the road of life. In other words, the road is how the road of life is walked. This road is unlike the physical road. The physical road is external to the person who is walking on the road. However a person walks – whether keeping his head high or low, joyfully or sorrowfully, fast or slow- the road remains same and the road exists. But not the road of virtue. We can not point to the road of virtue and say: There is the road of virtue. Road of virtue does not exist outside of a person. The road of virtue exists only when a person walks on the road of virtue. We can only show the road of virtue by walking along the road of virtue, and if anyone refuses to walk along that road, he is walking along another road.

All the five persons – traveler, robbers, priest, Levite, and Samaritan – walked along the same road, i.e. the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. But each one walked his own road. The highway makes no difference, it is the spiritual – how they walked the road of life – that makes the difference and distinguishes the road.

In the parable, the first man was a peaceful traveler who walked along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, along a lawful road. The second man was a robber (robbers) who walked along the same road, but on an unlawful road. Then a priest walked along the same road, saw the wounded traveler, but walked on a road of indifference. The Levite came along the same road, he too saw the wounded traveler, but walked on a road of indifference. Finally a Samaritan came along the same road, saw the wounded traveler, and walked on a road of mercy. He showed by example, how to walk along the road of life. The Samaritan demonstrated the road of a neighbour.

Therefore, a neighbour is determined by how a person walks along the road of life, or along which road he/she walks the road of life.






Charles E. Moore, ed., Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard (Farmington, PA: The Bruderhof Foundation, 2002).

Christ Has No Doctrine

September 11, 2014

By Soren Kierkegaard

A true believer is infinitely interested in what is real. For faith this is decisive, and this interestedness does not just involve a little curiosity but an absolute dependence on the object of faith.

The object of faith, understood Christianly, is not a doctrine, for then the relation is merely intellectual. Neither is the object of faith a teacher who has a doctrine, for when a teacher has a doctrine, then the doctrine is more important than the teacher. The object of faith is the actuality and authority of the teacher; that the teacher actually is. Therefore faith’s answer is absolutely either yes or no. Faith’s posture is not in relation to a teaching, whether it is true or not, but is the answer to the question about a fact: Do you accept as fact that he, the Teacher, actually exists? Please note that the answer to this is a matter of infinite concern. Of course, if the object of faith is only a human being, then the whole thing is a sham. But this is not the case for Christians. The object of Christian faith is God’s historical existence, that is, that God at a certain point in time existed as an individual human being.

Christianity, therefore, is not a doctrine about the unity of the divine and the human, not to mention the rest of the logical paraphrases of typical religious thought. Christianity is not a doctrine but a fact: God came into existence through a particular human being at a particular point in history.

Christianity is not to be confused with objective or scientific truth. When Christ came into the world it was difficult to become a Christian, and for this reason one did not become preoccupied with trying to understand it. Now we have almost reached the parody that to become a Christian is nothing at all, but it is a difficult and very involved task to understand it. Everything is reversed. Christianity is transformed into a kind of worldview, a way of thinking about life, and the task of faith consists in understanding and articulating it. But faith essentially relates itself to existence, and becoming a Christian is what is important. Believing in Christ and wanting to “understand” his way by articulating it and elaborating on it is actually a cowardly evasion that wants to shirk the task. To become a Christian is the ultimate, to want to “understand” Christianity, as if it were some doctrine, is open to suspicion.

That one can know what Christianity is without being a Christian is one thing. But whether one can know what it is to be a Christian without being one is something else entirely. And this is the problem of faith. One can find no greater dubiousness than when, by the help of “Christianity,” it is possible to find Christians who have not yet become Christians.

Faith, therefore, and the object of faith is not a lesson for slow learners in the sphere of knowledge, an asylum for the ignorant. Faith exists in a sphere of its own. The immediate identifying mark of every misunderstanding of Christianity is that faith is changed into a belief and drawn into the range of intellectuality – a matter of understanding, of knowledge. Infinite interestedness in the actuality and authority of the Teacher, absolute commitment, becoming Christian – that is the sole passion and object of faith.

The Folly of Proving God’s Existence

September 11, 2014

“The fool says in his heart that there is no God, but he who says in his heart or to others: Just wait a little and I will prove it to you – ah, what a rare wise man he is! If, at the moment he is supposed to begin the demonstration, it is not totally undecided whether God exists or not, then, of course, he cannot demonstrate it. And if that is the situation in the beginning, then he will never make a beginning – partly for fear that he will not succeed, because God may not exist, and partly because he has nothing with which to begin.

“In short, to demonstrate the existence of someone who already exists is the most shameless assault. It is an attempt to make him ludicrous. The trouble is that one does not even suspect this, that in dead seriousness one even regards it as a godly undertaking. How could it occur to anyone to demonstrate that God exists unless one has already allowed himself to ignore him?

“A king’s existence is demonstrated by way of subjection and submissiveness. Do you want to try and demonstrate that the king exists? Will you do so by offering a string of proofs, a series of arguments? No. If you are serious, you will demonstrate the king’s existence by your submission, by the way you live. And so it is with demonstrating God’s existence. It is accomplished not by proofs but by worship. Any other way is but a thinker’s pious bungling.”

Love – The More Excellent Way (I Cor. 13.1-7)

September 8, 2014

After the argument in I Cor. 12.4-30 about the gifts of the spirit and various ministries, I Cor. 12.31 starts with an imperative: “Strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” Notice I Cor. 14.1 also starts with an imperative: “Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts….”

Here Paul is not presenting love as the greater gift that all should pursue. Paul never calls love as a gift. He is not contrasting love with the gifts mentioned in I Cor. 12.4-30.

What Paul intends to explain is what he calls “an excellent way” (I Cor. 12.31), a way that is beyond comparison. Why is Paul intending to explain this “excellent way”? In order to know this, we need to understand the context.

A. The Context
Corinthians have given the gift of speaking in tongues an exalted position. Since they were speaking in tongues they considered themselves possessing the spirit and highly spiritual. Paul says, this way they are going is basically destructive to the church as a community. Because speaking in tongues without interpretation edifies only the speaker, but not the community.

Paul sets out to put their zeal for tongues within a broader ethical context that will ultimately disallow uninterpreted tongues in the assembly. That context is love, as defined by the cross of Christ as existing or living for others (this is what we learned yesterday). In I Cor. chapter 14 such love is specified in terms of “building up” the church.

Paul calls this the “more excellent way”. It is the way of seeking the common good (I Cor. 12.7), of edifying the church (I Cor. 14.1-5). That means one should seek or desire for spiritual gifts for the benefit of the community. Since love is acted out by Jesus Christ on the cross as living for others (II Cor. 5.14-15), love is the only context for exercising spiritual gifts. Without love, spiritual gifts are useless, or lose their purpose.

B. Description of the “Excellent Way”
Paul begins his description of “the way that is beyond comparison” with a series of three conditional sentences. He begins with tongues because that is a cause for the problem in the church. He then includes a variety of spiritual gifts from the list in I Cor. chapter 12: Prophecy, understanding, knowledge and faith. Finally he includes examples of self-sacrificial deeds.

In each case the conditional clause presupposes that the activity like speaking in tongues, prophecy etc., has value. These are good things. What is not good is the exercise of gifts by a person who is not acting as described in I Cor. 13.4-7. The problem is the person whose life is not governed by love.

What is underlying here is two opposing views on what it means to be “spiritual”. For the Corinthians it meant speaking in tongues, wisdom and knowledge, without corresponding or equal concern for truly Christian behaviour. Their spirituality showed evidence of all kinds of behavioural flaws. Their “knowledge” led to pride (8.1). Their wisdom led to quarrels and rivalry (1.10; 3.4). That means, theirs was a spirituality that lacked the primary evidence of spirit, that is, behaviour that could be described as “having love”. For Paul, to be “spiritual” means to be filled by the spirit, whose fundamental expression is “to walk in love”.
When Paul says “do not have love”, he does not mean to suggest that love is a possession of some kind. To “have love” means to “act lovingly”. To “act lovingly” means actively to seek the benefit of others as expressed by the cross of Christ.

The Character of Love (I Cor 13.4-7)

With a series of fifteen verbs Paul describes the love that should be the context for exercising spiritual gifts. In other words, Paul describes the Christian behaviour. Exercising spiritual gifts is good. But it is imperative that the one who exercises spiritual gifts should have the Christian behaviour as described in 13.4-7.

“Patient” “kind” “envious” “boastful” “arrogant” “rude” “irritable” and “resentful” are verbs. Verbs denote action. For Paul love is not a sentiment. It is an act.

The description of love in 13.4-7 is basically in three parts: it begins with two positive expressions of love (patient and kind); these are followed by seven verbs expressing what love is not (envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, insists on its own way, irritable, resentful); these are followed by what love does not do (“love does not rejoice in wrong doing”), which is balanced by its positive counterpart (“love rejoices in the truth” v.6); finally there are four verbs (bear, believe, hope and endure) with the object “all things”. The last verb “endure” is a synonym of the first one “patient”.

1. In I Cor. 13.4 Paul uses two verbs positively: “patient” and “kind” (I Cor. 13.4)

Patience means “long forbearance”. Kindness means active goodness toward others. In Rom. 2.4 these are mentioned as the attributes of God. “Patience” and “kindness” appear together also as fruit of the Spirit in Gal. 5.22. They appear also in the description of Paul’s apostolic ministry in II Cor. 6.6.

In I Tim. 1.12-16 Paul succinctly describes how he experienced God patience and kindness in his life.

This is what we all have experienced. And this is what we are asked to show towards others.

2. In I Cor. 13.4-5 Paul uses seven verbs negatively: “envious”, “boastful”, “arrogant”, “rude”, “insists on its own way”, “irritable” and “resentful”. These verbs describe how love does not behave.

The first five verbs: “envious”, “boastful”, “arrogant”, “rude” and “insists on its own way” are the qualities of the Corinthians at present. It is as though Paul were saying, “You must have love; without it you are simply not behaving as Christians. And what is love? It is to behave in ways opposite to the way you are behaving now.”

a. “Love does not envy”
The adjective “envy” appears along with “quarrelling” in I Cor. 3.3 to denote rivalry found in the Corinthian church. Paul says, love does not allow fellow believers to be in rivalry or competition, either for positions or to gain favour of people or leaders.

b. Love does not boast
“Boasting” suggests self-centered actions in which there is an excessive desire to call attention to oneself. That means, it is not possible to love and boast at the same time. Boasting wants others to think highly of oneself, whereas love cares for the good of others.

c. Love is not arrogant
The verb literally means “puffed up”. This word is used more in this letter (I Cor. 4.6, 18-19; 5.2; 8.1).

d. Love is not rude
The verb means “to behave shamefully or disgracefully”.

e. Love does not insist on its own way (love is not self-seeking)
Love seeks the good of others.

f. Love is not irritable (love is not easily angered)
The one who loves is not easily provoked to anger. This is a further expression of patience or forbearance.

g. Love is not resentful (Love keeps no records of wrongs)
Literally it says that love “does not reckon/consider the evil”. Although it might mean “love does not devise evil against someone else”, most likely, the meaning here is “love does not consider the evil done against him/her, in the sense, no records are kept to settle the score.”

3. “Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth” (I Cor. 13.6)

The Greek word adikia means “injustice”, “wrong”, “falsehood”, “deceitfulness”. It literally means “love does not rejoice in injustice.” Love does not rejoice either in doing injustice to others, or in seeing injustice done to others.

Rather, love rejoices in the truth. The Greek word aletheia means “truth”, “sincerity”, “practice in accordance to the gospel truth”. Love rejoices in the behaviour that reflects the gospel truth – every act of kindness, every forgiveness offered. It refuses to rejoice in evil, either in its more global forms – war, exploitation, oppression of the poor, human rights violations-, or in failure of others, in gossiping about the misdeeds of others. Love stands on the side of justice, but not on the side of injustice.

4. The final stack of verbs (bear, believe, hope, endure) brings the description of love to a conclusion. In each case the verb is followed by the object “all things”.

“It bears all things” Paul uses the same verb in I Cor. 9.12 “We endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” Here Paul is talking about “putting up with” all kinds of hardships for the sake of proclaiming the gospel to others. The sense here is, enduring hardship for the benefit of others. This is what the final verb “endure” also means.

In a way, it means, “you suffer for the benefit of others.” This is what we noticed in the two paradoxes: power in weakness and life in death.

When Paul says “love believes all things, hopes all things”, he meant “love never ceases to believe, it never loses hope.” That is why love can endure.

The best way to capture or understand Paul’s point in I Cor. 13.4-7 is to substitute our name for the noun “love”. As we substitute our name for the noun “love”, if we find any area of failure, let us take time to repent and ask God for forgiveness and for his grace and strength to live a life of love.

The Cross of Jesus Christ: The Basis of Our Perception and Value System

September 8, 2014

We have seen that the problem in the Corinthian church is factionalism and the root cause of that problem is that their basis of knowledge, perception and value system is “flesh”. In other words, their perception and value system belong to the old age, from which they were redeemed by their faith in Jesus Christ. That means, the members of the Corinthian church are trying to live in two diametrically opposite worlds.

After pointing to them the problem and the root cause of that problem, Paul turns their attention to the crucified Christ. Paul says that their basis of knowledge, perception and value system are in contrast with that of the cross of Christ.

So, today we discuss the significance of the cross of Jesus Christ.

II Cor. 5.14-17 “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from human point of view, even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.”

Paul says this in the context where some were boasting “in outward appearance” (II Cor. 5.12) or “according to flesh” (II Cor. 11.18). Because of that Paul was directing Corinthians’ attention to the significance of the death of Jesus Christ.

Verse 16 starts with “Therefore”. However, the appropriate word is “Consequently”. Verse 17 also starts with the same word “Consequently”. That means, both verses 16 and 17 refer to the consequences or results of what is mentioned in verses 14 and 15. Vv. 14 and 15 mention the death of Jesus Christ.

What are the consequences or results of the death of Jesus Christ?

1. Epistemological Change
The simpler definition of epistemology is, it is the basis of knowledge or the window through which a person acquires knowledge. It is the window through which you look at or view things, people and the reality around you. In that sense it is also connected to one’s perspective or perception and value system.

V. 16 “Consequently we now know no one according to flesh; even if we knew Christ according to flesh, but now we no longer know.”

Three times the word “know” is used in this verse. Paul also used the word “know” in I Cor. 2.2: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Once Paul knew Christ according to flesh. But NOW he no longer knows Christ according to flesh.

What does it mean when Paul said that “we knew Christ according to flesh”?

Before his conversion, the basis of Paul’s knowledge was the “flesh” or the old age. From that point of view, the crucified Christ was considered as the cursed one of God (Gal. 3.13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree”” Deut. 21.23). A crucified person can not be the messiah of God. Moreover, the cross of Christ has made the important Jewish customs or their identity markers insignificant: “But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed” (Gal. 5.11). The cross has, thus, become a stumbling block for the Jews because it brought Jews and Gentiles together by making their important identity markers insignificant. That was why Paul persecuted the Christians and wanted to destroy the church. This was THEN. Before his conversion.

BUT NOW. Here “now” refers to the new age or new creation. After Paul’s conversion, his existence is no longer in the old age. He no longer belongs to the old age or the flesh. His existence is in the new age or new creation. So in this new age Paul’s basis of knowledge is no longer “the flesh” or the “old age”. Paul’s perception and value system are not according to the flesh or the old age.

For the one who is in Christ, knowing on the basis of the flesh is past. Flesh is no longer the window through which he/she gets the knowledge. Flesh is no longer the window through which you view or perceive things, people and the reality around you. The value system is not based on the flesh.

What brought this change?

Paul says, this is the consequence of the death of Jesus Christ. Now Jesus Christ is no longer perceived as the cursed one of God. He is the “wisdom of God” and the “power of God”.

Therefore, the first consequence of the cross of Christ is the epistemological change. It brought about a change in the basis of the knowledge. Paul’s basis of knowledge is no longer the flesh or the old age. It is the cross of Jesus Christ. It brought about a change in the perspective or perception and value system of those in Christ.

2. The New Creation
The second consequence of the cross is: v. 17, “Consequently if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away, behold! Everything has become new.”

The second consequence or result of the death of Jesus Christ is the new creation.

New Creation is characterised by reconciliation and unity

Paul mentions “New Creation” in only two places in his letters: II Cor. 5.17 and Gal. 6.15. In both the places new creation is contrasted with “flesh” or the “old age”.

Paul describes the nature of the new creation in II Cor. 5.18-21. He says that God through Jesus Christ has reconciled us to himself. By demolishing the wall that separated human beings from God, the death of Jesus Christ has brought God and human beings together.

In Galatians 6.15 Paul says, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything.” Circumcision was significant in the old age. Circumcision, along with dietary laws and Sabbath, formed as important values in the old age. They have formed as walls of separation between Jews and Gentiles. By demolishing these dividing walls, the death of Jesus Christ has brought the estranged groups of people together.

So in the new creation the perception and value system of the old age or the flesh are not valid or significant. That is why Paul says, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3.28).

Therefore, the cross of Christ has reconciled not only God and human beings, but also the estranged communities and individuals. New creation or new age is characterised by reconciliation and unity.
Therefore, the implication are:

– Factionalism has no room in the new creation. It belongs to the old age. That is why Paul says: “For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?” (I Cor 3.3).

– Perception and value system based on socio-economic, culture, caste, creed and region have no place in the new age or new creation.

3. The Cross Introduces Paradoxes

II Cor. 5.14,15: “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”

The Greek word that is used for “therefore” is ara, which denotes transition from one thing to another by natural sequence and logical inference. The meaning is “therefore”, “then”, “consequently” or “as a result of”. The consequence of Jesus Christ dying for all is that we all have died. Died to what? V. 15 explains: “He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”

There are several important things that these two verses convey:

a. In II Corinthians the cross of Jesus Christ is characterised as “weakness”. II Cor. 13.4: “He was crucified in weakness.”

Paul also characterises his ministry in terms of “weakness”.

– I Cor. 2.3-5: “And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the powerful Spirit, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

– II Cor. 4.8-9: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down; but not destroyed.”

– II Cor. 6.4-10: “But as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger, by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying and see – we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

– II Cor. 12.7b-10: “Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

In all these references Paul introduces a paradox.

Paul says that according to the perception and value system of the old age or the flesh, the shameful death of Jesus Christ on the cross, and Paul’s hardships, sufferings afflictions, beatings, imprisonments and so on signify “weakness”.

Paul argues, this may be “weakness” according to the perception and values of the society. But this is not an evidence of powerlessness.

Rather paradoxically God’s power is at work or manifested in this weakness:
– II Cor. 13.4: “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God.”
– The salvation of people manifests that the power of God is at work in the “weakness” of the cross of Christ: “But to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1.18).

In Paul’s list of hardships he introduces a series of antitheses:
– I Cor. 2.3-5: “And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the powerful Spirit, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
– II Cor. 12.7b-10: “Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

All these references show that the “weakness” actually discloses the power of God. That is why, Paul says that he boasts in his “weakness” because of this paradox of power in weakness, rather than “outward appearance” or outward manifestations of power such as visions and revelations (II Cor. 12:1-10).
The paradox of power in weakness stands in contrast to Corinthians’ understanding of power. For them, power makes an individual powerful in some noticeable sense. For them weakness and power are incompatible. For Paul, weakness and power are not mutually exclusive, but are coterminous.

– The “weakness” of the cross of Christ and Paul’s ministry have an intended purpose of benefiting others
In II Cor. 5.14,15 Paul twice says “he died for all.” For Paul, the love of Christ is manifested in Christ dying “for all”. That means, the love expressed by the cross of Christ is defined as existence or living for others (II Cor. 5.15; Gal. 2.20, Rom. 14-15).

The “weakness” of the cross of Christ has an intended purpose of benefiting others. Christ died for the benefit of others.

In all the lists of “weakness” or sufferings that Paul enumerates in II Cor. 4.8-10, 6.4-10, 11.23-33, the notion of “service” is included. Paul is not rejoicing in his “weakness” or sufferings per se, but because of their constructive purpose of serving Christ and the community. Paul maintains that his “weakness” in his apostolic ministry has an intended purpose of community building (II Cor. 10.8; 12.19; 13.10).
That means “weakness” refers to a mode of existence, marked by willingness to endure suffering and hardship for the purpose of building others up.

b. The second important thing that the death of Jesus Christ conveys is:
II Cor. 5.15: “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”

In II Cor. 4.10,11 Paul characterises his ministry as “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus” and “always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake”. The purpose is: “so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” and “the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.”

This is what we see in II Cor. 5.15: “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” Jesus died for all, so that his life, i.e. the existence or living for others, may be imparted to us.

The cross, thus, introduces second paradox, i.e. the paradox of life in death. Paul states this briefly in II Cor. 4.12: “Death is at work in us, but life in you.”

Thus, the paradox of power in weakness and the paradox of life in death are very much evident in the cross of Christ. The paradox of power in weakness and the paradox of life in death are fundamentally associated with Christian life and ministry. Therefore, the cross of Christ is intrinsically associated with the concrete existence of Christians who belong to the new age or new creation.