An Interview with Dr Jordan Daniel Wood

So the idea of Christ becoming flesh and of that “becoming” not being subject to temporal limitations, is that related to Maximus and other church fathers like Justin Martyr with the logos spermatikos? So is the idea that the incarnation permeates temporal sequences or time? Is that a corollary to the point you’re making?

Jordan: Yeah, I guess one way to put it would be, well, we could approach it two ways. Let’s just do it through scripture for a second. I like to start there and hopefully end there. There are statements in scripture like Ephesians 2:10, “You were created in Christ Jesus.” That doesn’t say, “You were created in this principle, that’s the power of God, called the Word that’s just cosmic and only exists, like, way up there somewhere.” It sounds like it’s saying that the human being who is also God, Jesus Christ—that is where and when you were created. Okay. That already sounds a little bizarre. And so I think most of the time we just sort of move on to the next part of the verse and fight about grace and works, which is the rest of that verse.

Or you could go to Colossians one where it’s clearly like this sort of early hymn to Jesus. And it says he is the arche, the “beginning” of all creation. He says the same thing of himself in Revelation, chapter three, verse 14. He refers to himself as “the first of God’s works.” And so what does it mean to say that God’s act of creation (which is an act of creating the conditions of all time—past, present, future) may have occurred in the middle of that time, rather than, as we would naturally assume, at the beginning, like hitting the first domino, you know? There are a few considerations here. One is, it doesn’t seem immediately clear that God’s act—the positive act of creation—must only coincide with the first moment of time, because, of course, the first moment of time is just as distant, as it were, from eternity as this one is right now. So you’re not really getting anything by correlating it automatically with the first moment of time.

But I think the other thing is—and it’s back to “the word became flesh,” that kind of idea—is that God’s act of creation is this act of creating the conditions of time, and so it can’t itself be conditioned by time. That means that it can occur or appear or emerge anywhere in time as the first, as it were, ground zero. And what I suggest is that the New Testament is also suggesting—the Christian faith suggests—that it’s actually the historical incarnation which is the act of God’s creation of the entire world, including all of history.

And that’s not just something I think. Maximus says, for example, in a famous line, he says that in Christ, the hypostatic union, which happens in history—he says in Christ “all ages and all the beings within those ages have received their beginning and end,” not just their end. I think, normally people think: okay, first, creation by God is like the first step, like setting the stage. Then you have to watch the drama unfold, and then this character comes in, and finally it’s maybe, like, the perfection of humanity, but that’s a later act or episode in the story. For Maximas, what he just said was Christ is not just the telos (the end), he says, he’s also the arche (the beginning), and he’s both at once.

(Check out the entire interview)

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4 Responses to An Interview with Dr Jordan Daniel Wood

  1. David says:

    Thanks for sharing this – what a great set of reflections.

    re: the notion that God can change the past, I had a few thoughts:

    1) If this means that – from the perspective of eternity – our present sinful timeline is literally rendered ‘unreal’, how can we really say that God ‘knows’ what is happening?

    2) How can we understand the idea that ‘God creates the world from the cross’ if the cross is ultimately eliminated from the timeline?

    3) Or – if it’s ‘just’ that time can in some sense re-experienced and relived, but not in a way that literally retroactively changes the past and eliminates the ‘original’ sinful timeline – then I’d suggest Time in Eternity: Pannenberg, Physics, and Eschatology in Creative Mutual Interaction’ by Robert John Russell as a work with a lot of synergies.

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    • Jesse says:

      David, of course Jordan would be best to clarify, but my impression from the conversations with him was that he is talking about two things that are really corollaries:

      1. Much of the phenomenon that we have experience as “the past” is the result of false ideas of ourselves (individually and collectively) that we try to make real or the result of such false ideas that others have of themselves which we fall prey to in some sense.

      2. Even more importantly, however, these past events are left unfinished or incomplete. Jordan is careful to point out that the fathers he cites say that every event contains a seed of the Logos, and so not event is entirely false or unrealized. However, most events are very poorly realized and must be completed (with the false projections that we have inserted being utterly destroyed as the true event replaces them).

      In answer to your three numbered questions, this all means, I think, that:

      1. God does not know the false events, certainly not in any eternal way. God only knows the true good that is a seed or that is incompletely realized in each event, and of course God knows the final and good outcome that we ultimately achieve in each event.

      2. Jordan is very careful to say that the event of the crucifixion is not erased or destroyed. In fact, Jordan says that there is no event in any part of cosmic history that is erased or destroyed entirely. Jordan says of the cross specifically: “o even the crucifixion, even if we undo, as it were, the crucifixion, it’s not as if we take away an event or that you delete it from a line. It’s that the crucifixion proved to be something far greater and totally and infinitely good rather than what it was, which was tragic.” This clearly means that there is some real and complete event of the crucifixion as we ended up failing to experience in this clouded and blinded history. Clearly, there is still the Eucharistic sacrifice as the Lamb of God gives His blood and flesh freely as the nourishment of the world. There is still the event of the Son’s perfect kenosis for the sake of creation. However, this true and full event of the cross does not involve Christ being tortured or us in our blindness and hate (“knowing not what we do” as Christ himself said) betraying our Lord, killing him, and deserting him to die almost alone. There is a mysterious true event of the sacrificial offering of the Lamb of God that is only good and loving and eternally perfect for all involved.

      3. It is not “that time can in some sense re-experienced and relived, but not in a way that literally retroactively changes the past and eliminates the ‘original’ sinful timeline.” Jordan is talking about the very real and very difficult death and destruction of our false selves (individual and collective, human and non-human) as well as the very real “rehappening” of events so that new experiences fill up the many gaps within each event of the past. Among several other writers, Jordan recommends Paul Griffiths with his book Christian Flesh.

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  2. This is strange to anyone? I mean, I’ve always thought that even if there is no beginning to Time – no first moment – that has no effect on whether or not there is a Creator. The Lamb slain from the foundations of the world. That gives it all away, right there. Does everyone not start with that Jesus, the Man Who is God, the Incarnation, is the very Center and Beginning and End, not even of all Time, but of all that Time and that is not Time, as we say in the Creed that God is Maker of the Visible and the Invisible?

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    • I finished reading it – not just the excerpt here – and put together “sin is the result of ignorance, ignorance of God, ignorance of self … it is impossible to act rightly without a true judgment” – I’m sure this is an incorrect quote, and I know Jordan didn’t say these things first, but no matter – put that together with, “He shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” What does judgment mean for sin?

      I actually have a lot of thoughts to relate and consider and develop related to things mentioned in the interview, but I can’t go into all of it here, or even now, but I think put those two together, and you have kind of the heart of this notion of redemption. Apokatastasis.

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