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Published:December 11th, 2008 14:32 EST
The Christ Event as a Process of Becoming

The Christ Event as a Process of Becoming

By Scott Bufis


In his How is Christianity Thinkable Today?, Michel de Certeau discusses his ideas on the Christ event and what that means for Christianity today.  In reference to his ideas on these matters, I will examine the dynamic of subjective writing, show that the Gospels are interpretations themselves, and claim that the Christ event itself is in a process of becoming considering the subjective interpretations and personal revelations that Christians have of this event.

Certeau begins his examination of how Christianity is thinkable today with the statement, If this statement should fail to win the recognition of other Christians, then my work will be simply the record of an individual search. ?[1]  With this statement alone, Certeau captures the essence of subjective ideas: I want people to consider these ideas, but if they do not, then, if nothing else, my ideas are fleshed out for my own understanding.  This is what is meant by the record of an individual search. ?  Writing on subjective ideas can be rather tricky. 


How does one write for others about his subjective ideas when these ideas may only be understood or accepted by the subject?  The Danish pre-existentialist philosopher Søren Kierkegaard also had to deal with the challenge of writing on subjective ideas.  Kierkegaard was very clever, utilizing the technique of pseudonymous authorship to contrast various ideas so that the reader is tricked ? into his own subjectivity.


But what good is subjective writing when dealing with a seemingly objective reality like the Christ event?  To answer this, what is meant by the Christ event ? must be examined.  Most Christians would claim that the Christ event is what happened while the historical Jesus was alive on Earth.  They would say that his words and deeds while he was alive make up the event.  But how do we know what happened during this time?  Again, most Christians, especially fundamentalists, would point to the Gospels as the recorded history of Jesus of Nazareth.  A problem exists in this, however.  The four Gospels were not written at the same time by the same author, nor were they written as the events in Jesus`s life unfolded.  Instead, they were written various decades after the fact.  Furthermore, the Gospels themselves differ from each other because, not only were they written at different times, but they were written by different authors for their corresponding communities.  For example, the Gospel According to John was not necessarily written by St. John, but for the Johannine community.  To elaborate, the Gospels, although usually very similar, do vary from Gospel to Gospel.  For example, it is only in the Gospel of John that Jesus claims to actually be God.  The reality of the Christ event for the Johannine community, then, may be that Christ was God, and for the community of Matthew, Christ may have been the son of God since that community`s text does not explicitly state the equation to Jesus and God.  The early Christian communities, then, experienced and interpreted the Christ event differently according to their varying Christ experiences " their communal texts.


Certeau writes, believers have fashioned when what they heard and learned became for them an event by ?opening their hearts` to new possibilities.  And the writings of those believers express not the event itself, but that which the event made possible in the first believers. ?[2]  What Certeau is saying here is that it is not the event itself that is so significant; it is more the interpretation of the event that is important because, for the subject, the interpretation is the event.  No one in this age is able to witness what happened during the time of the historical Jesus.  As was mentioned before, even the Gospels themselves are interpretations of the event.  Therefore, if the fundamentalist is pointing to the Gospels as pure objective truth about the Christ event, then he is relying on an interpretation as objective truth.


The Christ event, then, like people themselves, is in a process of becoming.  The Christ event perhaps started with the historical Jesus since has evolved.  With every new interpretation of the actions and words of Jesus, a new event has occurred.  Likewise, with every personal relationship and revelation from God to subject and vice versa, a new event has occurred.  It is in this manner that the Christ event is a process of becoming.  The subjective reality that is created with every new revelation and every new interpretation becomes a step in the process.


Looking toward history, one can clearly see this evolution.  During the first Council of Nicaea, the canon was put together and Christianity began to be structured " the Catholic Church.  Suddenly, faith in Christ was organized on a massive scale as opposed to the multiple and unique Christian communities that existed before this event.  For the following few centuries Catholicism reigned as the supreme, and objective, interpretation of the Christ event.  When the Protestant Reformation began in 1517, figures such as Martin Luther and John Calvin encouraged a more individual and subjective understanding of the Christ event.  Skip another few hundred years until today and one can see that a pluralism of interpretations exist.  Whether it be a classic Catholic perspective, Lutheran, Mormon, or Jehovah`s Witness perspective, each has its own interpretation of the Christ event.  It is fair to say that none of these perspectives knows exactly the events that occurred during the days of the historical Jesus since none of the patrons of these faiths witnessed firsthand these events.  On the same token, however, none of these faiths are completely erroneous since each is working within a unique milieu considering subjective interpretations and personal revelations.


Michel de Certeau seems to champion the subjective interpretation of the Christ event by claiming that one cannot understand exactly what happened during those days in which the historical Jesus was alive.  Instead, what is important is one`s subjective interpretation and personal revelation that adds to the process of becoming for the Christ event.

[1]De Certeau, Michel, How is Christianity Thinkable Today?, (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1997), 142.

[2] De Certeau, Chritianity, 144.