The Last Temptation of Christ

August 6, 2013

The Last Temptation of Christ opens with its manifesto: that the realm of man is a battlefield between Heaven and Hell. Hell, it seems, belongs to the desires “of the flesh”. To indulge in the world is to be sinful and is to belong to the realm of eternal damnation, where those who enjoyed the attributes of life, such as happiness derived from their corporeal senses, are sentenced. They did not choose to be with God in other words.

 

Christian metaphysics is a peculiar thing. As the reward for asceticism, of avoiding feeling good in this lifetime, is to be with a God that will enable one an eternity of the same pleasures refused. Why would God not be consistent and make his paradise an even higher form of bland vanilla living which champions cowardice over feeling happy with fulfilling a desire? Genuinely, the nature of the proposition of Christianity has unraveled during modernity, in part because of the absurd logical conclusions of its narrative that reveal its religious nature as definitively slavish.

 

The entire proposition is centered on the claim of Jesus, and furthermore, the claim of what the Messiah is. That Jesus as the Messiah redeems humanity through sacrificing his flesh as a metaphysical act of heroism whereby he overcomes the battlefield between God and Satan acts as the lynchpin of the entire narrative of Heaven and Hell as ontological substances within the narrative of the God of Israel’s activity within human history. Jesus creates Heaven and Hell in the narrative, through his sacrifice, implicating sin not as materialistic, but as an attribute of an ideal permanent reality, Hell. Ergo, every human action falls under a grander idealistic narrative. The goalpost moves from seeking God to live well, toward seeking God to escape Hell.

 

The Messiah under this qualified context is a perfect human being. As necessary for his perfection, he is God in human form. Only God, in other words, can triumph over Hell, liberating the human soul from eternal damnation. This “liberation” in the Christian paradigm is phrased “salvation”. Nevertheless, no man in history is capable of this level of heroism. Hence the necessity in this paradigm for God’s activity in history to evolve. His salvific nature manifests itself in its highest form, as flesh. But what makes the flesh of man distinct from any other animal? It is his freedom to choose what to use his flesh for. Clearly in Christianity this is towards Heaven or Hell, towards God or towards the Self.

 

This is actually an important dichotomy to realize. Christianity’s vividness of sin is actually a strong antagonism towards self-idolatry, even more sophisticated than the 2nd commandment. Yet it throws the baby out with the bath water. Human freedom suffers because of the all-encompassing depiction of restraint as spiritual. Can one, for instance, not be perfecting, aligned towards God, and enjoy what the flesh has to offer? Such a scenario would be considered a form of self-mastery. Yet it would be inconsistent with Jesus, the Savior, who must be obeyed, lest biting the hand that feeds is an act of self-worship and therefore sinful.

 

What The Last Temptation portrays is the struggle of being this perfect human. We understand in a new perspective that the quality of being God in human form is a distinct consciousness from the Father. And with that consciousness, which is human, comes the ordinary uncertainties of mortality. And particularly the metaphysical qualities of Heaven and Hell are more sensitively acute. Jesus hears the voice of God, but he also hears and sees Satan. It is no surprise that Satan emerges in the realm of the flesh, yet God is still invisible to human form. The flesh, because of its lack of spiritual quality, belongs more to Satan, as his trial for entrance into his own domain.

 

What is also excitingly new is the genuine visceral feeling of the desperation of the Hebrews under Roman rule, and their genuine sense of aimlessness, like lost sheep in the wilderness. Clearly history supports this view, as the emergence of Jesus was paralleled by many mystical sects of Judaism, each attempting to discover the God of their ancestors in the aftermath of the loss of prophesy. John the Baptist roars onto the screen, as a Shaman of Judea promising the lost souls a direction and meaning to their lives. Even further, we have the sensation of the ordinary life of antiquity, which created time for men to contemplate God out of the constancy of a stratified social order. There was no social mobility as an aim for life. Finding purpose was the central intellectual ambition, and the gluttony of answers out of this pressure cooker created Jesus of Nazareth as a Master and Rabbi.

 

His spiritual metamorphosis is on display. Albeit desultory and haphazard, such roughness to his evolution only demonstrates the humanness of Jesus, i.e. the uncertainty of what his path in life is aim towards. He becomes a reluctant leader after fully embracing that he is God. But the emphasis with the entire work is that this awareness is not sufficient for him to live a fated life. He still faced Odyssey.

 

Grade: A

 

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