I studied New Testament in seminary with Johan Christian Becker, who was both a seminal Pauline scholar and a riveting classroom lecturer. I'll never forget Becker's lecture on the doctrine of the incarnation. He was merciless in his ridicule of what he named, in his Dutch accent, "da svoop down teory." The swoop-down theory was, to Becker, any notion that this material world of ours is normatively void of God and that only in the years of Jesus' life among us does God "swoop down" to inhabit, for but a while, our usually godless materiality. What Becker argued for, and what I believe scripture witnesses to, is a theology that understands the incarnation as the definitive sign, in one time and place, of the ever-presence of the Living God within God's good material creation.
This leads me to the most pregnant of ironies I have come to embrace about materiality. The problem, I think, is not so much that we like stuff too much; rather it's that we don't like it enough. Before you cry heresy, let me explain. We acquire things, but then quickly tire of the things that seemed so important when first obtained. We replace rather than repair because we have such fickle and passing romances with our things. The real soul danger is not exactly in liking things too much, nor in owning them, nor in caring for them well. In fact, there can be great virtue in such a caring relationship with physical things.
The soul danger lies in the insatiable longing to acquire new things one after another, more and more things, as if the getting of them somehow proves our worth in comparison with others, as if the having of them can fill the emptiness. It's this insatiable drive to acquire stuff rather than the stuff itself that's the problem.
what do you think? is this good theology or just so much dismissive realignment of problematic greed? or is it the actual source problem behind the monster of Mamon?