Before the Book
03 Dec 2019

 

Sr. Laurie Brink, OP

Before the book, before the best sellers list (I wish!), before the publisher, before the manuscript, before the research, the reading, the deep thinking, and re-thinking, before proverbial pen is ever set to paper, there is a question. Sometimes just an inkling of a question, an intellectual tickle at the back of your mind that won’t go away. What if…? What might…? How do…?

For most who pick up a book (or open its less-enticing alter ego, an e-book), they have little idea of the behind-the-scenes orchestration and sometimes machinations that go on before those questions emerge as published answers. So, at the risk of revealing that the Great Oz is merely an academic with unbridled curiosity, I am going to pull back the shroud that too often obscures the process of intellectual thinking, writing, and publishing. I’m not so much giving away the (Ph.D.) family secrets as attempting to be transparent about the process. Before the book.

Why? Because I am at my core first and foremost a teacher. A teacher who happens to have a doctorate. So, a teacher who is also obliged to research, write, and publish. But first, the teaching. I have the privilege of helping form women and men for ministry in our church and for our world. I walk with them as they endeavor to exegete, interpret, and actualize the biblical text. And in that process, I hold to two values: transparency and collaboration. I hope to show my students how I came up with an insight—the method behind the interpretation—not just the answer at the end. And I hope to engage in the process with their input. After all, the principles of Catholic Biblical Interpretation uphold the role the community plays in coming to meaning (Pontifical Biblical Commission, Interpretation of the Bible in the Church, III.B.3.) And so, we take Ezekiel 3:3 and Revelation 10:10 to heart and chew on the text. Together.

This blog is an attempt to be public about those two values: transparency and collaboration in the research and pondering of the question. Before the book.

So the question: Where’s Jesus? Actually, I’ve had similar musings but the actual out-louding of the question came from two of my own Sisters. Our congregation held a virtual assembly to explore the concepts of the New Cosmology. As the presenters introduced the breadth of this engagement with science and evolutionary theory, these two Sisters asked, “Where’s Jesus? What role does Jesus play in the New Cosmology?” And in that moment, their questions became mine.

And so I began the pondering that led to this research project generously funded by the Louisville Institute. In summary, my project is attempting to answer the question, “Where’s Jesus?” “Why is that even a question?” you rightly ask. Well, chiefly, because my Sunday School notions of Jesus are no longer adequate. And the findings of science and theology urge a deeper dive into how that question might be answered in the 21st century. For all Christians, but I’m chiefly focused on Women Religious or Catholic Sisters.

Women Religious (Catholic Sisters) are on the forefront of advocating for and engaging with the New Cosmology, which embraces creation as an on-going process but for which concepts like “original sin” and “redemption” are irrelevant (at least according to some who articulate the New Cosmology). Yet these same women have taken public vows that align them with their congregations and the institutional Church and thus with Scripture and Tradition.

The question arises: Is there room for the historical Jesus – and not just the Cosmic Christ – in the New Cosmology? And how might these Women Religious embrace the New Cosmology while also remaining faithful to their original commitments? How do the ideas of the New Cosmology bring new depth, richness, and nuance to our vowed Christian commitment, and how does our vowed Christian commitment take on new meaning given this perspective?  Where are the points of confluence and where are the points of tension?  This project proposes to do a critical review of the relevant literature, to survey Women Religious, and to invite their participation in a process of creating a new hermeneutic through which to read Scripture in light of emerging science and the New Cosmology.

So there it is. The question at the heart of it all. Where’s Jesus? And along the way to an answer, I invite your thoughtful responses in the comments section. Periodically, either my research assistant, Sr. Rhonda Miska, O.P. or I will offer our reflections on what we’re reading and learning.  We invite you to join us.

A note to commentators: I am a Catholic Christian scholar for whom the Gospel directs not only my teaching, but my actions and hopefully my speech. I look forward to your insights, and I ask that in the spirit of Christian charity and courteous discourse you write with love and civility. Hateful or vitriolic speak has no place in thoughtful dialogue.

“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29).

Sr. Laurie Brink, OP, PhD

Professor of New Testament Studies

Catholic Theological Union

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Nancy Eisinger, Associate
Nancy Eisinger, Associate
10 months ago

Now your questions have become mine as well.
I look forward to participating in this dialogue. Thank you for this opportunity for sharing and spiritual enrichment.

Laurie Brink
Laurie Brink
10 months ago

Thanks for responding Nancy. I hope we come to some answers to those shared questions!

Chaplain Donna Zuroweste, BCC, MDiv.
Chaplain Donna Zuroweste, BCC, MDiv.
10 months ago

Jesus is the human male, incarnated by the Word in a patriarchal time, re-membered by male writers in their own image. He made God known in human form so that humanity might come to know that Adonai is more than the vengeful old man portrayed in the OT, Whom the Israelites thought demanded/needed sacrifices and rules to command hierarkos. That was perhaps needed in that milieu of evolution, in that time. Today, Jesus is understood by cosmological theologians to be God Incarnate inbreaking the Cosmos visibly in humanity. But has humanity evolved enough to know/consciously understand (?) that the Trinity… Read more »

Laurie Brink
Laurie Brink
10 months ago

Thanks for your insights. I would propose that the God of the OT isn’t quite as one-dimensional as you write, though what I think you are suggesting is that some of these biblical portrayals are culturally-bound and historically situated. I agree the “historical Jesus is still relevant as a stepping stone…to the Cosmological Christ.” I’m trying to figure out what that actual path looks like.

Beth Fritsch
10 months ago

Love this. i tried name or describe the resistance above in my own comment. It’s the investment in the relationship I feel that may be an actual blocker. It’s the old story, the old language and an inability to help speak a new reality into existence which is the first way it happens, first through imagining it and then speaking it.

Patty Caraher
Patty Caraher
10 months ago

Love the question and look forward to the discussion.

Laurie Brink
Laurie Brink
10 months ago
Reply to  Patty Caraher

Thanks for joining the conversation!

Beth Fritsch
10 months ago

This is such a great question on so many levels. Although I imagine it being asked by people who have invested a huge amount of time and effort in forging a somewhat exclusive relationship with Jesus which elevates him to a unique status designed to make him uber-meaningful. I don’t say that with disrespect for them or Jesus. But I guess in my heart of hearts I am not sure it’s a question he himself would have asked. Is it? I know it’s not a question I carry. I guess I feel he is subsumed into the Cosmos and holds… Read more »

Ciara Wagner
Ciara Wagner
10 months ago

I would like to be a part of this conversation.
I have for a log time thought of Jesus as an evolutionary
leap in the human species. I will open that up more fully
as others enter the conversation. This sounds like a
stimulating conversation.

Ciara Wagner
Ciara Wagner
10 months ago

I would like to be a part of this endeavor. I have long thought of Jesus as
an evolutionary leap in the human species. I look forward to more conversation.

Caroline Sullivan
Caroline Sullivan
10 months ago

Jesus is one of the human players in advancing our evolution of counciousness of the immensity of the Cosmos.

David Gordon
David Gordon
8 months ago

Jesus is ‘Logos’ of God, the summit and the first born of all creation (John 1:10) through whom all things were made, caretaker of the Creator’s realization from its ‘arche’, who entered into ‘sarx’ as the Alpha and Omega Point to accompany, unite, transform, and draw all of creation to Godself. So, where’s Jesus? Where Jesus has always been: consubstantial with the Father, active in creation, revelation, redemption, bringing forth all that comes to be and into which they are resolved in a final state, who through incarnation in the totality of all that is essential to humanity, i.e., spirit,… Read more »

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