What we will be169The Question of the Preserved Identity

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In chapter 2, I objected to the notion of the immortality of the soul. Although I oppose such generalizing labeling, this means that my position should be classified with what is generally called the "total death theory." In the background of my theory of death as "neither less nor more than death" was the thought that the radicality of the Christ event prohibits an escape through the back door.170 Resurrection presupposes death; life beyond death cannot be achieved by avoiding death. It also appears to be rationally and scientifically difficult to substantiate the notion of a soul that flies away from the body at the moment of death.

Nevertheless, a notion that does not consider the immortality of the soul is also fraught with difficulties. The main problem that remained unsolved (see pp. 115—16) is the problem of "preserved identity": If death is understood as radical discontinuity and a complete end, how can continuity and a new beginning still be conceived? How can one then speak of identity and individuality? Precisely this problem is therefore also addressed by critics of the total-death concept.171 There are basically two possible alternatives: First, it would be conceivable that God simply recreates the identities of the dead; or, one could imagine that identity is preserved by living on in the memory of God. While the first possibility is linked to the intricate question of why God would be forced to choose the path of the identical second creation, the second alternative appears to be able to find greater spontaneous acceptance in the computer age. If the "memory" of an electronic computer is already able to store an unimaginable amount of the most diverse data and visually reproduce them upon command, why then should the memory of God be unable to store the identities of countless human beings and embody them again physically in some form?

Theodor Mahlmann, who argues for the immortality of the soul, rejects both the theory of God's memory and the theory of the new creation. He finds the solution of living on in the memory of God unsatisfactory primarily because it is a survival in the memory of an Other.172 I will return to this argument shortly. First, however, we must ask: What can be said from the perspective of a theology of time with regard to the question of preserved identity?

First, the anthropological perspective is inescapably tied to our temporal existence. From the human perspective, we are unable to see death as anything other than the end, which no part of a person can circumvent. Second, over the course of this study, it has repeatedly been shown that a chronological-linear understanding represents at best a partial understand ing of what time is. This means that it would be a bottleneck that, from the very outset, would necessarily lead to false results if one wanted to base theological reflections about death and resurrection on a purely chronological-linear understanding of time. That the idea of a preserved identity cannot simply and exclusively be tied to the continuity of time is, according to this view, an important insight. Precisely this happens in the notion of the immortality of the soul, however. Circumscribing death with the words "to step out of time" [att ga ur tiden], which is customary in Swedish, proves to be an appropriate reference to discontinuity. From the human perspective of our dependence upon time, death must be described as non-relationali-ty,173 as well as complete deprivation, and thus also as deprivation of the self. The person who has died is deprived of her self. What she will be, she cannot make; she can only receive it. And, thus, as my third point, I return to Mahlmann's feeling of unease about the possibility of preserving identity in the memory of an Other (in this case, in the memory of God). In contrast to Mahlmann, I see the great advantage of this model precisely in this relationship to an Other, since, here, one finally takes relationality and alterity seriously. Mahlmann, on the other hand, makes the possibility of eternal life dependent "upon a human existence—independent of another person's knowledge, but self-known—that continues beyond the person's death,"174 an existence that is also continuously bound to a timeline. Due to its fixation on self-known existence, this eschatological model remains an-thropocentrically restricted from the very outset and thus leaves little room for cosmic dimensions.

In contrast, I would propose to understand eschatology as a hope that is precisely not hope in oneself. The preserved identity does not lie in a static conservation of one's own sameness along an infinite timeline, but is rather found in relation to the Other—or, to use Ricoeur's terminology again, when the immortality of the soul is made the precondition for eternal life, it seems to me that preserved identity is understood in the sense of memete, of Idem-Identity, while the understanding that I am proposing goes more in the direction of ipseite, selfhood or Ipse-Identity.175 I do not see this selfhood as being constituted primarily through self-conservation, but rather through self-reception, that is, through receiving one's self. Only in this way is it completely possible to come to oneself and to find oneself; and, indeed, eternal life then presumably has to do with finding more than one's self. Identity thus becomes a question of relation. If death and eternal life are described as that through which one's life or self finds itself eternally,176 then the basic assertion that God is love is violated, for love is inconceivable without alterity, without a dynamic giving and receiving. Without surrender and letting go of oneself, selfhood is impossible. Thus, the key to pre served identity does not lie in the self-knowledge of human existence as an infinite finding-of-oneself; rather, it is found in the relation, in the receiving of oneself from an Other.177 This must then always imply a coming-to-the-Other and a coming-together. What Theunissen claims to be the relationship of self and faith also applies to the eschatological self: It would be a "communicative genesis of selfhood."178

In this context, I would like to question the self-evidence with which individual self-preservation is so frequently declared as the highest good. Does the concentration on the identity of the self in the form of an autonomous individualism not more closely reflect a particular, Western tradition than it does global reality? Does it not say more about the power of the Enlightenment than about the totality of the biblical evidence? This is not to be a plea for the opposite and an assertion of the dissolution of identity. My concern is rather with changing the rank order: The consummation of an ego is not the preeminent goal, but, rather, the healing of relations. This change in order has consequences for the shaping of theology, life, and the world. An example used by Keller may illustrate this. She talks about mothers in El Salvador whose foremost wish is not the resurrection of their murdered children but the realization of those qualities and opportunities of life for which their sons and daughters had fought: healed relationships rather than perpetuation of individual life.179

I believe that the basic error in a position such as Mahlmann's lies in an inadequate theology of time. Because Mahlmann assumes—evidently without reflecting upon it—a constant timeline, and understands eternity as infinite time,180 he ends up with "bad infinity," with an endlessly extended sequence of ages. Due to this understanding of time, the difference between identity and continuity escapes him, at least partially. His problem is not in fact that of preserved identity, but, rather, of preserved continuity. These two, however, coincide only when a linear model of time is presupposed. In a relational model of time, the question of continuity recedes, giving way to the question of identity constituted by relation, which, in turn, is coupled with the question of what a person actually is.181

The "Already" and the "Not-Yet": Eschatological Disruption of Linear Chronology In chapter 2 (see pp. 64—81), it became clear that the tension between the "already" and the "not-yet" is constitutive for the New Testament understanding of time. The reign of God has already dawned, but it has not yet been realized. According to Paul, a person who has been baptized has already been dead and buried with Christ, so that he or she can live a new life; however, according to 1 John, what we will be has not yet been revealed.182

But how can something not yet exist and yet already exist? Is this not a paradox that one simply has to accept, unless, for the sake of intellectual honesty, one merely rejects it altogether?

One way out would be to declare that this dilemma is only an apparent contradiction. Ratschow chooses this solution when he presents the view that the paradoxical relation of the "already" and the "not-yet" has in fact nothing to do with temporal categories. In his opinion, the issue instead concerns the relationship of hiddenness and clarity.183 Ratschow thus attempts to circumvent aspects of time by making eschatology a question of hiddenness and unveiled emergence. This combination is distinguished from the concepts of promise and fulfillment inasmuch as that which is promised actually already exists. The End Time has dawned, but is hidden. The obvious strength of this approach consists in detemporalizing the problems by elevating them beyond a merely linear understanding of time without thus succumbing to an existential reduction, that is, an exclusive focus on the moment of individual existence. Furthermore, this also takes into account the insight that time cannot simply be abstracted, but instead has to be seen as "time for something." The weakness of this approach, however, is its fading out of history and history's significance. The hidden God, whose unveiled emergence must be awaited, seems to be a God who has largely been removed from history. It is also difficult to see how an "already" and a "not-yet" understood in this way can become relevant for shaping the world. If everything already exists and simply awaits its unveiling, then what could I still contribute, except perhaps the longing for my own death? With regard to a theology of time, Ratschow does not quite live up to the standards that he himself previously set.184

Moltmann's eschatological concept in The Coming of God offers an alternative to this "unhistoricalness" in Ratschow. Without getting entangled in either individual eschatology or universal-historical eschatology, Moltmann sees in the coming God a possibility for conceiving both, i.e., of not having to sacrifice either earth for heaven or heaven for earth.185 History does not become universal history; instead, it becomes a place of struggle and of messianic hope. For this reason, he also cannot—as Ratschow does—dismiss chiliasm as an idea that misses the basic concept of Christian eschatological thought.186 Properly understood, chiliasm does both: It conceives of and anticipates crises of an apocalyptic nature, and it calls for responsibility for the world. Moltmann therefore also rejects the notion of a "final Big Bang" and speaks instead of a chiliastic eschatology of transition. This model has strengths in that it mercilessly criticizes various types of millenarianism by claiming responsibility for the world, precisely in the face of the eschaton, and by overcoming individualistic salvation by means of social physicality.187

Eschatological existence can be structured as a comprehensive exercise in multi-perspective vision. Conceived individually, the breakthrough of the eschaton means a reorganization of one's lifetime. Justification can be understood as the breakthrough of the "already" into the present circumstances of life. The process that is referred to as sanctification then corresponds to the "not-yet." Thus, the kairos of the breakthrough stands in relation to the chronos of continual development. The point at which the "already" and the "not-yet" touch each other appears to be characterized by an indeterminacy that is similar to quantum physics. A fixation of the "already" means inexactness with respect to the "not-yet," and a concentration on the "not-yet" obscures the view of the "already." The multi-temporality of the Spirit that was addressed by Dalferth is useful here as the factor that integrates the proper times into a common history. This multi-temporality would then correspond to what the theories of relativity accomplish in physics: Determination and comparison of the motion-dependent proper times, and the combining of time, space, matter, and energy via gravitation.

In addition to this, one should consider whether the Spirit can also be assigned an anti-entropic function. The Spirit could be understood as a force that counteracts the relentless increase in entropy.188 The role of faith in the tension between the "already" and the "not-yet" could be further examined with ideas from chaos research. In a combination of determinacy and unforeseeability, a higher level of complexity is reached by a self-organizing "build-up." The emergence of faith can be understood similarly as the interaction and cooperation of that which is given and that which realizes itself: a self-organizing "build-up" to a higher level of complexity. This model permits an understanding of how faith can be described both as a gift and as one's own "accomplishment." It also explains why faith refers to two different things: the unique event of coming to faith—the "already" of faith, and the unending need for further growth—the "not-yet" of faith. The opposition of realized and future-oriented eschatology therefore turns out to be only apparent.

The role of the "already" and the "not-yet" can thus build bridges between the given and the unforeseen, between pure determinism and unforeseeable development, between freedom and causality. In this way, path and goal are held together—something that scientific eschatology is unable to accomplish. The dynamic nature of the "already" and the "not-yet" also holds together ethics and expectation, struggle and hope. This dynamic relation is the quintessence of Christian eschatology. It can be reconciled with findings from the field of natural science, but it cannot be derived from them.

In this regard, the absence of a fixed time—eternity relation in more re-

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