Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Call from the Cross

 "Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" [1 Cor. 22-24, NIV].

Paul could have barely calculated how his words would resonate today when theology must fend off secularism with one hand and rewrite the Cross in the postmodern world with the other. If the cross is not a scandal or foolishness for today's mind, many would find it at the very least peculiar. What kind of 'call' from the cross is heard today, from such a dim and remote past? Such a 'call' would have to be transhistorical to be heard in the din of the technological world, but what would make it so? Still, positivism's death knell to religion and faith is premature, and the cross limps through the desert of the real seeking out hearers of the 'call.'

This is a very strange kind of power here. The cross is the assertion of the secular power to keep the malcontents in check, and daydreamers in fear. Rome has no need to call anyone; Rome demonstrates, marches and executes the pax Romana. The cross is the symbol of Rome's reach, and of the impotence of its subjects. This power of the cross is of a different order.

A few years ago, John Caputo could write about The Weakness Of God, and the powerlessness of the cross even as the cross makes unconditional claims on those who respond to its 'call'. Certainly Catholicism is no stranger to a God for whom nothing is impossible that is real and possible, and a God who acts in the world through secondary causes, but Caputo's thesis does not hover over the palimpsest of Catholic theology comfortably. How could Caputo's theory of God be comfortable atop a theology of a triune God and dogmatics? No, that could not be the model.

Yet, a weak God and a weak theology does indeed speak to the postmodern world and post-structuralist thought. I am not certain that Caputo has not moved the theological dialogue forward in an authentic way.

Thought of as an event, the cross is a strategem within the Christ event. It is only through the lens of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus that the cross can 'call' at all. Were it not for the resurrection, for example, what would have become of his life? Would he not be yet another failed messiah? How does hearing the call make such a man the 'power' and 'wisdom' of God?

My next post will engage Caputo's work in depth and attempt a synthesis with Catholicism. Or maybe not. Perhaps several posts, or several series of posts, will be required to engage this provocative thinker. A response to the call of the cross is what God intends by his invitation through the event. This conundrum is a struggle worth pursuing. Deconstruction calls as well, from its position at the foot of the cross. Such calls demand a response from those who hear them, from those who see a signature.

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