Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Crux of the Crucifixion II

The meaning of Christ's abandonment can be disclosed only through the hermeneutic of the Cross itself. Crucifixion is humiliation, violence, death, horrific solitude untouched by any number of witnesses to this execution by the Roman state with the consent of the religious authorities. Narratologically, the execution is rooted in betrayal, betrayal of someone close and betrayal of religion itself; for it is better that one should die than the whole nation perish (John 11:50). Jesus could see it all coming, but it was not the occasion of his death, but the event that would be released, that moves the story to the Cross, which reads the occasion as the death of the religion that brings death to God: not 'a' religion, but the machinations of religion. We are not to read the Cross as the death of Judaism, but as the event of the death of the anthropomorphism and anthropopathism of God in all religion. The Cross cuts a vast apophatic space that negates the insinuation of the human into God, the space of not human being, not human feeling, in God.

Love is not a reification or a feeling. It is not a possession or an emotion. It is not something one feels but something that one does. It is like this for God when he is free from the human. God is, apophatically, not Love, but God loves. The very phenomenality of God presents to us on a horizon of Love before he can present to us on a horizon of Being. In a compressed synthesis of what concerns this blog lately, I suggest that Jean-Luc Marion's saturated phenomenon of revelation presents in Love, for God loves before he is; Catherine Keller walks us through the space of unknowning entanglements, bringing us to the call of the insistence of God, who through the enfolding and unfolding of the Cusanian cloud, enters John Caputo's plane of existence on the horizon of Being (God's call insists, that God might be). It is all 'spooky action at a distance,' it is real, and enfolds and unfolds everything that is real. We know its wholeness only by its nickname, "God."

The apophatic space cut by the Cross is the space of negation created by Christ's experience of abandonment. It is a vast and sacred space from which the human projections onto God are vacated, thereby releasing the event of God coming into view on the horizons that displace those that had prevented God from being God. It is the space of unknowing because it is the space God enters as he is in himself. He comes in the luminous darkness where we can see only dimly, for darkness had come over the land (Matt. 27:45).

Cut loose from the Big Other wrapped in anthropomorphic and anthropopathic 'borrow'd robes,' the abandoned Christ is left in the loving mercy that moves the Psalm. The Marcan and Matthean final, wordless cry, [re]unites Jesus to the Father, or so Luke would have it (23:46). It would be an injust theology of the Cross, were it to empower abandonment to Leave Jesus orphaned. It has been my contention that God witnesses the suffering of the Cross hypostatically: God's nature, united in the single divine person of Christ, witnesses to the suffering in the human nature in the closeness of solidarity. This solidarity redeems the human creature.

The Resurrection can never mean less than the total affirmation and vindication of the life and death of the Christ. His Sonship was so integral to his mission that the Cross would be absurd were Christ's forsakeness to eradicate the relationship with the Father. The Cross, therefore, does not read the abandonment of the human projections onto God as the abandonment of God as he is in himself, the God revealed in the Cross. After the evacuation of the human from God--the Big Other--there is remainder: the God who is.


  1. "The Cross cuts a vast apophatic space that negates the insinuation of the human into God, the space of not human being, not human feeling, in God."

    This is a contradiction with Jesus's ministry of miracles, forgiveness and mercy. I'm not sure if the contradiction is one of mistaken interpretation or mistaken theology by Christian reception of the gospels today, like yours, or if it's a contradiction that belongs to the gospels and/or to the disciples' interpretation of Jesus and, if that is the case, the probability this contradiction was part of Jesus's own self-understanding and theology.

    The miracle-working Jesus, you've said, makes any future Job impossible. There are no Jobs after Jesus, you've argued. This is the basis for your explicit rejection of Bannon's embrace of Job in response to Fry after Bannon had seemed to reject Job in favor of God's solidarity with us in Jesus. I don't think Bannon ever rejected theodicy, since he will use whatever arrows he has in quiver to defend his beliefs like all good apologists. Solidarity would grant Fry far too much intellectual and spiritual ground. Better to reinforce the position which grants him none (e.g., you don't KNOW that children dying from cancer is ACTUALLY so great an evil that God wouldn't create children-dying-from-cancer).

    But now you simply reject your rejection of Bannon's point. The cross doesn't give us solidarity, it gives us a God without humanity at all, a God who isn't going to end Jesus's suffering. You're now telling us that no only does Jesus not mean the end of Job, Jesus IS Job, this time absolutely real and historical. The God that saves Job from suffering is a fiction, just like the God who might save Jesus from a torturous death. The cross negates our certainty that God couldn't witness this and let it be. THAT God is a fantasy.

  2. But if that God is a fiction, what happens to Jesus's ministry? You can't cut that space out of God without cutting Jesus's ministry out, too.

    If the cross reveals the God that actually is, why didn't Jesus have a very different ministry? Why didn't Jesus act like that God who is? Why did Jesus end the sickness of the sick rather than tolerate that sickness in the name of solidarity with the sick AS the sick? Why take sickness away if you prize solidarity with the sick above all? Why, to use your chosen idiom, did he give more time to those who had none left?

    I don't see how a Jesus who works miracles is compatible with a God who suffers with suffering people. Though you don't work miracles, you don't offer your patients THIS kind of solidarity when they suffer, you offer them the hope in the possibility—if not always the outcome—of making them a person who no longer suffers or no longer suffers as much. If you can't help end or mitigate their suffering, that's failure. What other word is there for it? "Solidarity" is no consolation or plan B. You don't JOIN them in their agony, rendering yourself as helpless as they are and therefore foreclosing that possibility of a more human existence. You don't address a person in the ER with stab wounds by stabbing yourself. Even resurrection, in its withdrawn transcendence, only guarantees more evil and suffering.

    This divine solidarity is, frankly, hopelessly misguided. It leaves the world as miserable as you found it. If Jesus was like that God, he would not have worked a single miracle. As it is, the only thing everyone seems to agree on, whether it was his contemporaries or 20th-century biblical historians, is that Jesus was a miracle worker.

    Jesus's ministry made the world less sick, less blind, less tortured, less despairing, less deathly. He didn't come to ADD his suffering to the world. That would be grotesque.

    That you convinced yourself this is something holy or sacred is bizarre. It's a theology worthy of a Lars von Trier horror movie. It only adds God to our misery.

    Misery, then, and all its causes, hasn't a thing to fear from God. It continues its gnawing unabated, confident. It's only real enemy is time.

    But there's plenty of time.

  3. I think Rahner would agree with this, by the way. The entire order of creation is one vast apophatic space God carves out of himself. Creation is God removing himself so that another, or an other, comes. Rahner spoke eloquently about the God that never appears, the God the suffering cry out to, the God who will not ease the torment and pain endured by the guilty and the innocent, the young and the old. Rahner spoke, almost incessantly, about the God which does not show up, a God whose silence and indifference isn't a quality but an essence.

    What continues to perplex and chill me is why you or Rahner are able to remain Christians, how you are able to worship such a divinity, how you are able to pray or hope in such unfathomable inhumanity and true otherness. It disturbs me how you can write what you have above, and across this entire blog, about God, and think you've justified faith in this God or that, at the *very* least, you've not called that faith into question.

    How? You're not a cruel person. Rahner wasn't cruel. And it's clearly not a question of glibness. So what is it? Is it the resurrection of Jesus? Is that what makes belief in this God palatable? Yes, God will not save a person from a gruesome torture, despair, an utterly dehumanizing death, but, maybe, afterwards...after the end...