"If a grain of corn falls to the ground and does not die, it stays one/alone [monos]. But if it dies, it bears much [polun] fruit."
"The one who loves his life shall lose it, but the one who hates his life in this world shall keep it to eternal life.”
What do I say to THAT!?
Phil I'm somehwat removed from the everyday western reality - as far as my aesthetic convictions go - but you live in THE MOST EXTRAORDINARY world I think I've ever been exposed to. To be honest I've always been a hint afraid of ventruing too near you as (as I remember you) you struck me as a little dogmatic. But now when you articulate your beliefs in the way you just have - it's utterly astonishing.
In its biblical context (as I understand it) the passage has an eschatological dimension that is totally life-affirming, though in a slightly more paradoxical and radical way then simply creating the psychological conditions for receptivity to “the Divinity.” It's predicated on the idea that the life of the created world has gone awry and is in need of rectification. We humans are part of the problem, given our hearts of stone, and so God has intervened from the outside, stepping into history to save the world. Because this world cannot help itself, it is dependent on this help from the outside. Death, then, both negates this life and reaffirms it in that it creates space for something new, and that which is new (the “new creation”) is a perfection of what was originally there but had become perverted (a return to Eden?). So dying in order to live is both an affirmation of the world and a judgement of it. On the lips of Jesus it's an echo of his crucifixion and bodily resurrection, the supreme moment in which God himself takes the evil of the world onto his shoulder and in death “exhausts” its power. With the resurrection of Jesus we have the first instance of new creation, the true life which is what creation was all about in the first place, a life which is both continuous and discontinuous with the imperfect life we know now. That's why the agricultural metaphor gets used further as Jesus is described as the “first fruits of the new creation.” Paul develops this further in Corinthians, where he applies the idea to all believers. I'd read what he has to say. The seed metaphor gets developed further and we see its true biblical meaning as referring to God's eschatological renewal of the cosmos. The implication is that we who accept Jesus into our lives, who are enabled to participate in his cross-and-resurrection-work, are also born anew with birthrights to this new creation, which is still only anticipated in the present and waiting for consummation. Hence the missiological dimension of Christianity: we need to proclaim this good news to the world that Jesus has conquered death and sin so that we too, sinners once contributing to the corruption of this life, can be redeemed and participate in God's work of salvation.