"Napalm" by Banksy. Is even this art? Read the end of the essay.
I will take a stab at a theory of postmodern aesthetics, although I haven't read aesthetics intentionally nor can I name names. Nevertheless, I have thought about issues of meaning, power, ideology, semiotics, and representation from folks like Baudrillard and Zizek on the left, to Tolkien-esque mythopoetic folks on the right. And my job lends itself to dealing with aesthetics and "pop culture" on a regular basis as a sort of mediator between the worlds of the sacred and the mundane; Between the dimensions of the "real" (everyday human experience), the "hyper-real" (or virtual, or representational), and the "hypo-real" (the "ground of being", or founding Reality).
For me the contemporary aesthetic question can be summed up as: "What is beauty now that we are gods?"
The following are my lecture notes on the issue of "Jesus and Mythology". They are somewhat fragmentary and could be filled out in great detail if I had time to write a book. But I don't. So here are my notes on the question: How is the Jesus of the Bible related to the Mythology found in ancient cultures?
One of the earliest theological views of the relationship of Jesus to what we would now call "world religions" was surprisingly positive. Greek theologians such as Justin Martyr, Clement, and Origen consistently taught that the Spirit of God has planted "seeds" of the Word of God (Greek: "logoi spermatikoi") in all people, all cultures, and thus all religions.
Many skeptics (and thoughtful Christians) find problems with the model of God as a "God of the Gaps". By this, they mean a God who periodically invades history to keep the universe running when the complexity of the physics gets beyond our current ability to model. I agree that "God of the gaps" is a bad idea, both because of what it does to our image of God and what it does to human learning. However, I would also caution against understanding the universe as such a closed-system that it rules out interactions with other dimensions in an "a priori" manner irrespective of the evidence.
The following mediation uses quite a bit of philosophical jargon. It is based on two propositions I have been playing with for a while in my mind, which seek to provide a relation between three major area of philosophy: Ethics (how we act), Metaphysics (what we know about Ultimate Reality), and Epistemology (how we know). I'm not entirely sure what I think about these propositions, or how they relate to my theology as a whole. And the only way to figure it out is to write it out. So, here is attempt #1.
Proposition 1: Ethics precedes Metaphysics and constitutes Epistemology.
Proposition 2: We choose therefore we are, and our choices shape how and what we can know.
A friend of mine recently wrote me and asked for some advice on "witnessing" with some Mormon missionaries who had come to his home several times. I want to share what I shared with him, because it represents what I find to be the central flaws in Latter Day Saint theology.
However, I must preface this by saying that I have the utmost respect for many Mormons I have known and worked with for their commitment to their faith, to Jesus, to their families, and to moral integrity. They set a lifestyle example that many Christians should learn from. In terms of many moral issues, you would find me in total agreement with Mormons. Yes, I differ with them when I drink coffee and have beer with dinner. And yes, I would expand the definition of family beyond what Mormons would, to include families with two dads or two moms. But as far as core moral values of integrity, love, compassion, justice, and commitment to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ: I would be in full agreement.
Where we differ is in the explanation of WHY these moral values are core to life. We may agree on the practice of moral integrity. And we may agree on many details of Old Testament and New Testament history. But we differ as to the theory of history and view of God that upholds this moral practice and this Biblical narrative.