The Good Singularity
by Robert Hamerton-Kelly
March 23, 2008
Scripture: Colossians 3:1-17; John 20:1-18
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” — Colossians 3:1
This year I am changing the focus of my Easter sermon. Those who have heard me down the years know that I usually dwell on the nature of the event itself, judging that because it is so extraordinary it warrants special explanation, and then interpreting the raising from death in the broadest possible context, as something that took place in the texture of reality as a whole and changed reality forever. Today I want rather to focus on the moral consequences of the Resurrection of Jesus, as expressed by the Letter to the Colossians, simply for a change, but also because Colossians interprets it as the warrant for a morality of universal humanity, which is the only moral view adequate to our time of global consciousness and universal moral responsibility. For Colossians the outcome of the Resurrection is that, “Here (that is in the orbit of the Risen Christ) there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and in all (3:11).”
Nevertheless, I cannot neglect to claim and proclaim the matter of fact nature of the rising of Jesus from the dead. It happened as the Gospels describe it, as for instance, the vivid account John gives of it, and of the characters involved, – John himself, Peter, Mary Magdalene, and the group of disciples. Jesus came forth from the tomb not as a ghost, a phenomenon of the paranormal, but as an embodied being – a phenomenon of the trans-normal. His resurrection body was not a resuscitated corpse but a transformed body, that is, not something old repristinated but something old transformed into something new – transformed not resuscitated. The apostle calls this new thing a “spiritual body” and explains it by analogy with the different bodies there are for different conditions of life, – fish bodies for water, bird bodies for the air, carbon based human systems for this earth, spiritual bodies for the spiritual world. This insistence on the bodily nature of the resurrected Jesus is part of the biblical insight that for animal life a body is essential – there is only embodied life- unlike the Orphic view among the Greeks, that the body is a nuisance that hampers the non-material soul and weighs it down, essentially unnecessary to life.
Now I must acknowledge that the claim that a man rose from the dead is hard for us to believe. David Hume the 18th Scottish empiricist philosopher said that if everyone in London came to him and swore they had seen a dead man rise and live again he would not believe their report; he would assume they had all been deceived, because such things are impossible in the nature of things. This is a good example of the prudence of reason on the way to bigotry. It might be restated as, “Don’t bother me with the facts, my mind is made up, and furthermore my mind knows the nature of reality as such and the limits of what can and cannot happen.” We are today a bit more modest that Hume. In 2006 there was held at Stanford a conference on “Singularity.” “Singularity” is a word coined in this usage by a man named Ray Kurzweil, – what the journalists call a “futurist,”- and it designates the coming moment when this human world will transform itself radically into something new and different. Kurzweil believes that the combination of advances in computer efficiency – trillions of semi-conductors mounted on molecules – and artificial intelligence will at a point of maximal complexity transform us humans from carbon based systems to silicon based systems, which will be immortal.
I do not affirm or deny Kurzweil’s vision, but I do affirm what theologians call the “miraculous.” I do affirm that transformations of a mind-defeating kind happen and have happened and the Jesus is a figure at the center of these phenomena, because he is a conduit for the power of creation and creativity, not merely a conduit, but the conduit.
So in the event of Jesus’ defiance of death I see the breaking in and breaking out of the real and essential power of all that is, the disclosure that life is the truth, not death, and therefore that hope is in the fabric of things, faith is possible, and love is real. Faith, hope and love are the expressions of the transformational power of creation, and they are the ecstasies of the Christian life, that is, to live according to nature is to live believing in Christ, hoping in God and loving one another by the power of the Spirit.
So now at last we come to the moral details of the life of Resurrection. Already we have see them; the faith, hope, and love of the Christian ecstasies are the moral demands of our faith, but now we see clearly that before they are demands they are gifts. What need we to add? Only this: Christ rose not as a Jew nor a Gentile, not as a man nor a woman, not as a free citizen nor as a slave, not as an intellectual nor as a nincompoop; Christ rose as a human being, and the transformation he wrought takes all the human race into a new world of simple, shared humanity.
This simple, shared humanity is what we all crave because it brings everything we ever thought or knew we wanted or needed: peace, justice, joy, respect, healing, and helping; beauty, delight, fullness of being and a good death. W e see in the rising Jesus that that there really is a power of creative life to do all this for us. Why then should we let the limits of our minds, the paucity of our expectations, the cowardice of our ambition, the fear of our peers, cause us to deprive ourselves of the life that flows like clear, cool water from the transformed body of Jesus? Why should we not call upon him in faith and draw near to him in love, and enter there the house of hope.
As a planet we are approaching a point of “singularity;” there are three conceivable kinds of singularity, a bad one, an ambiguous one and a good one, and each one is already underway. The bad one is the triumph of the decay already underway in the environment, melting icecaps, choking cities, poisoned water. The ambiguous one is the Kurzweilian transformation by human ingenuity bringing forth machines that are more human and more devious that our humanity ever could be, (cf. Big Fritz the indefeasible successor of Big Blue) and displacing us. The good moment is the moment of the Resurrection of Jesus, when the power that created the universe recreated it from within, from its most precious point, the point of perfect humanity, and is abroad in the world as faith hope and love. If you wish to save the environment, to enhance the human future this is the power you need. It is the “good singularity” where the miracle of new creation occurs.
So, you are concerned about the human future, you care about the planet? Worship Jesus in faith hope and love! Only then will you become an effective conduit of transforming creativity; without this power of life to battle the death star you will go down railing and regretting; with it you will see the triumph of our God who did not create this world for death but for life, to fail but to succeed to mourn but to rejoice.