Tuesday, April 07, 2020

What do you hear?

Imagine that I have just heard this challenge from a smart student in a classroom: “How can even part of us be resurrected in the Spirit, with one foot in the Age to Come, when we are so obviously still caught up in the world of the Flesh?” Instead of responding with some elaborate argument about false Newtonian dualisms or some such, I click on a link and start to play a song by Zao through the classrooms loudspeakers. I crank up the volume a bit. “Praise the War Machine” floods the seminar space—the music (with due apologies to death metal rock music) of the Flesh. “We shall destroy the earth. Rebuild it. None shall inherit it.” Then, while Zao is in full voice, I take my iPhone and flick to Bach’s Air on a G String and begin to play it—quite softly. I can just catch the delicate resonances of the strings as they move through their interlacements of pizzicato and bowing—the music of heaven (at least, for those who love Bach). Then I begin to slowly turn down the volume on Zao.

As the death metal fades—perhaps we catch “Carry us off in your claws”—-Bach’s music begins to become audible. I turn down Zao’s music still further and turn up Bach a little more. The Air can now be heard easily all over the room and begins to dominate Zao, although the pulse of the death metal can just be heard in the background. Then I explain the metaphor to my doubting but intrigued students.

There is nowhere in the room that lacks thusic of both pieces. Every part of the space that we occupy together is touched by Zao and by Bach at any given moment. Both pieces of music were fully present, within and alongside one another, and yet completely distinct. Moreover, even when the volume of one piece was drowned out, we knew that the music was was still there. Both pieces were present, but we couldn't hear one because our senses were dominated by the other arrangement.

Just so, Paul’s suggestion that we live in two dimensions simultaneously makes sense when it is conceptualized sonically and musically. The music of the Flesh might dominate, but this does not in any way prevent the music of the Spirit from being fully present and accessible. Both arrangements occupy exactly the same space in all their fullness. Christians live with the music of the world and the music of heaven playing in the same location all the time. So if the presence of the music of heaven is doubted, the volume on the music of the world might be turned up too high. If it is turned down the Spirit’s music might emerge—a gentle, delicate music present there all along that we were just unable to hear. The problem was not the music itself then, but our inability to hear and our lack of attention. Hence the real question for our doubter might actually be—as it has always been——“Where do I go to hear God?”

In short, the resurrected mind of the Spirit can coexist quietly in, behind, and within the jarring music of the Flesh. So to affirm the presence of the resurrected mind is by no means to deny the ongoing presence of the Flesh, of sin, and of death. Paul’s basic claim that converts to Christ possess the resurrected mind of Christ remains plausible as long as we remember that reality is musical.Douglas A. Campbell, Paul: An Apostle’s Journey —Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 38–39

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