Death as Transformation

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Death as Transformation

A Contemporary Theology of Death Henry L. Novello A key tenet of Christian faith is that the crucifixion of Jesus Ch

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Death as Transformation A Contemporary Theology of Death

Henry L. Novello

Death as Transformation A key tenet of Christian faith is that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a unique death by which the powers of death in the world have been conquered, so that Christian life in the Spirit is marked by the promise and hope of ‘new life’ already anticipated in the community of baptized believers. Notwithstanding this basic tenet regarding the Christian life as a participation in the redemptive death of Jesus Christ, theology in the past, as well as much contemporary theology, tends to assign no salvific significance to the event of our own death, focusing instead on death in negative terms as the wages of sin. This work is a significant retort to theological neglect, both Catholic and Protestant, of the positive and transformative aspect of our death when conceived as a dying into the redemptive death of Jesus Christ. The development of Henry L. Novello’s proposed theology of death takes place in conversation with the pre-eminent contemporary contributors to this field of theological inquiry. By offering comprehensive critiques of Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karl Barth, Eberhard Jüngel and Jürgen Moltmann, Novello painstakingly pieces together a positive construal of death as salvific and transformative. What is especially distinctive about Novello’s work is that he develops the idea of death as a sharing in the ‘admirable exchange of natures’ in the person of Jesus Christ, from which emerges his theory of resurrection at death for all. The reach of the work is extended by exploring some pastoral and liturgical implications of a theology of death conceived as the privileged moment for the actualization of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, and thus being created anew in the power of the Spirit.

In memory of my father, Anthony Novello

Death as Transformation A Contemporary Theology of Death

Henry L. Novello The Flinders University of South Australia, Australia

© Henry L. Novello 2011 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. Henry L. Novello has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited Ashgate Publishing Company Wey Court East Suite 420 Union Road 101 Cherry Street Farnham Burlington Surrey, GU9 7PT VT 05401-4405 England USA www.ashgate.com British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data Novello, Henry L. Death as transformation : a contemporary theology of death. 1. Death – Religious aspects – Christianity. 2. Future life – Christianity. 3. Jesus Christ – Crucifixion. I. Title 236.1-dc22 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Novello, Henry L. Death as transformation : a contemporary theology of death / Henry L. Novello. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 978-1-4094-2349-2 (hardcover : alk. paper)—ISBN 978-1-4094-2350-8 (ebook) 1. Death—Religious aspects—Christianity. 2. Jesus Christ—Crucifixion. I. Title. BT825.N74 2011 236’.1—dc22 2011008624 ISBN 9781409423492 (hbk) ISBN 9781409423508 (ebk)

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Contents Acknowledgements    Permissions    Introduction: The Open-Ended Nature of History   1

The Conquest of Death by Jesus Christ: Real Time for Living   Realistic narrative and the development of Jesus’ individuality   Did Jesus experience hell on the cross?   The modus of being-related and the concept of kenosis   Christ the representative – participation in his divine identity  

2 The Proper Role of the Holy Spirit: Ecstatic Gift of Divine Communion   The biblical notions of Ruach and Pneuma   The Spirit as possibility of God and creative power of becoming in history   The Spirit as Spirit of the crucified and risen Christ   The Spirit as ecstatic gift of divine communion   Conclusion – a progressive Incarnation of the Word of God   3

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The Positive Character of My Death as Assumed by Christ’s Death: Perspectives on Death in Contemporary Theology   Reflections on death in contemporary Catholic theology   Reflections on death in contemporary Protestant theology   Bringing together the strengths of the various theologies of death   Death as Sharing in the Admirable Exchange of Natures in the Person of Jesus Christ   The mystery of the hypostatic union: the fullness of divinity dwells bodily in the man Jesus   The complex doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum: God participates in the human and the human participates in God   The gift of dying into Jesus Christ – participation in his paschal mystery   The ecological model of the Risen One as the ‘new emergent whole’  

vii ix 1 17 19 38 42 63 71 76 86 92 103 107 111 112 135 159 165 169 185 199 214

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Conclusion221 Bibliography    Index   

233 243

Acknowledgements The beginnings of this book can be traced to conversations that I had with Frans Jozef van Beeck, SJ, when I was undergoing postgraduate studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In the boisterous atmosphere of the Gregorian’s coffee bar, Professor van Beeck and I discussed the controverted issue of the Christian obligation to pray and hope that all will be saved. The setting was certainly conducive to stimulating thought on the topic, for the 130 different nationalities of students converging at the Gregorian University served as a concrete sign and precursor of the universal dimensions of the Christ-event. Those conversations conducted over the course of a semester found a stronger and more sustained voice in my PhD dissertation, and this book is a revisiting of one of the fundamental ideas proposed in that study, namely, my death as the gift of dying into the death of Christ, although not much of the material found in my doctoral study remains in the pages of the present work. Nonetheless, I owe a special debt of gratitude to Professor van Beeck for kindling in me the desire to express in an intelligible fashion how Jesus Christ is the Saviour of the world and the basis of our exceedingly abundant hope in the life of the world to come. I will always be grateful to my supportive parents, Anthony and Pierina Novello, for providing a family home in which Christian prayer and charity were exercised on a daily basis. At times the practice of Christian faith was radically tested, especially when my younger brother Jason succumbed to leukaemia, yet my parents were able to guide the family through the ordeal by acknowledging that Christian life is always lived ‘in the fray’, hence faith is always tested and questioned by the real challenges that everyday life poses to the follower of Christ. The theology of death formulated in the present book has its earliest beginnings, then, in Jason’s untimely death which prompted in me the need to reflect ever more deeply on the mystery of Christ’s death and how the death of each and every human being is assumed into his saving death, so that God will be worshipped by all as Creator precisely because God is the One who brings new life out of the midst of death.

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Permissions I am grateful to the publishers who have given permission to use excerpts from the following works: The Cross in Christian Tradition: From Paul to Bonaventure, Edited by Elizabeth A. Dreyer. Copyright © 2000 by Elizabeth A. Dreyer. Paulist Press, Inc., Mahwah, NJ. Selections reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc. www.paulistpress.com. Theological Investigations, vol. XVI, by Karl Rahner. Copyright © 1979 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd., London. Selections reprinted by permission of Darton, Longman & Todd. Theological Investigations, vol. IV, by Karl Rahner. Copyright © 1966 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd., London. Selections reprinted by permission of Darton, Longman & Todd. Foundations of Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Idea of Christianity, by Karl Rahner. Copyright © 1978 by Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd., London. Selections reprinted by permission of Darton, Longman & Todd. The Identity of Jesus, by Hans Frei. Copyright © 1975 by Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN. Selections reprinted by permission of Augsburg Fortress Publishers. Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Edited by Theodore Tappert. Copyright © 1959 by Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN. Selections reprinted by permission of Augsburg Fortress Publishers. Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity, by Kathryn Tanner. Copyright © 2001 by Kathryn Tanner. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN. Selections reprinted by permission of Augsburg Fortress Publishers. The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, by Jürgen Moltmann. English Translation Copyright © 1996 by Margaret Kohl. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN. Selections reprinted by permission of Augsburg Fortress Publishers. Christ the Representative: An Essay in Theology after the ‘Death of God’, by Dorothee Sölle. Copyright © 1967 by SCM Press, London. Selections reprinted by permission of SCM Press. Starting With the Spirit, Edited by Gordon Preece and Stephen Pickard. Copyright © 2001 by ATF Press, Hindmarsh, S.A. Selections reprinted by permission of ATF Press. The God of Jesus Christ, by Walter Kasper. English Translation Copyright © 1983 by Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, NY. Selections reprinted by permission of Copyright Clearance Center.

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Creation and Redemption, by Gabriel Daly. Copyright © 1988 by Gabriel Daly. Gill & Macmillan Publishing, Dublin. Selections reprinted by permission of the publishers. Mysterium Paschale, by Hans Urs von Balthasar. Copyright © 1993 by Wm. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI. Selections reprinted by permission of the publishers. God as the Mystery of the World, by Eberhard Jüngel. Copyright © 1983 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. Selections reprinted by permission of the publishers. Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. 5, by Hans Urs von Balthasar. Copyright © 1998 by Ignatius Press, San Francisco. Selections reprinted by permission of the publishers. Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. 4, by Hans Urs von Balthasar. Copyright © 1994 by Ignatius Press, San Francisco. Selections reprinted by permission of the publishers. Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. 3, by Hans Urs von Balthasar. Copyright © 1992 by Ignatius Press, San Francisco. Selections reprinted by permission of the publishers. Does Jesus Know Us? Do We Know Him?, by Hans Urs von Balthasar. Copyright © 1983 by Ignatius Press, San Francisco. Selections reprinted by permission of the publishers. Church Dogmatics, vol. IV, part II, by Karl Barth. Copyright © 1958 by T & T Clark, Edinburgh. Selections reprinted by permission of The Continuum International Publishing Group. Barth on the Descent into Hell: God, Atonement and the Christian Life, by David Lauber. Copyright © 2004 by David Lauber. Ashgate Publishing, Farnham, Surrey. Selections reprinted by permission of the publishers. Seven-Headed Luther: Essays in Commemoration of a Quincentenary 1483–1983. Edited by Peter Newman Brooks. Copyright © 1983 by Clarendon Press. Selection reprinted by permission of Oxford University Press.

Introduction

The Open-Ended Nature of History A key tenet of Christian faith is that the crucifixion of the Son of God is a unique death by means of which the powers of sin and death in the world have been conquered so that the future is marked by the promise of the plenitude of life to come in the ‘new creation’ which will glorify the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. In the past, however, the good news of the coming of the ‘Saviour of the world’ (Jn 4:42) was often portrayed in juridical-forensic categories that conveyed a certainty with respect to the majority of sinners being destined to suffer the eternal punishments of hell while a baptized minority would be saved from God’s wrathful condemnation of sinners. When one surveys the major works in contemporary theology, by contrast, it would be fair to say that a general consensus is apparent amongst theologians, both Catholic and Protestant, who treat statements about heaven and hell in terms of a basic asymmetry: in light of the triumph of the Crucified One over the powers of death in the world, ‘The possibility of hell stands in stark contrast with the reality of heaven.’1 A prominent feature of the contemporary theological scene is that grace is treated as the exclusive point of departure in the conception of the God-world relationship, and one of the limitations of this book is that its investigations are confined to contemporary theology. There are no historical surveys that disclose what is to be found in the earlier theological tradition in respect of the nature and scope of redemption in Jesus Christ. This study is concerned with the formulation of a theology of death which hinges on the key principle that not only life, but also death in a special and privileged way, is the location of relationship to God through Christ the Saviour, hence it is intended as a contribution to speculative theology.2 It is contended that the saving significance of the life, death and resurrection of Christ is communicated to all at death by virtue of our humanity being ontologically joined to the humanity of the Son. When we examine the New Testament we find that there is only one explicit mention (Acts 3:21) of the time in which God will finally bring about all that was

  Zachary Hayes, ‘Hell’, in The New Dictionary of Theology, ed. Joseph A. Komonchak, Mary Collins and Dermot A. Lane (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1987), p. 459. See also Zachary Hayes, Visions of a Future: A Study of Christian Eschatology (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1989), pp. 186–9. 2   The present study is an elaboration of the issues raised in an article of mine entitled ‘Death As Privilege’, Gregorianum, 84/4 (2003): pp. 779–827. 1

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spoken by the mouth of the prophets of old.3 Notwithstanding this fact, there is no shortage of texts, to be found mostly in Paul and John, which express the universal scope of God’s saving action in the person of Jesus the Messiah, risen from the dead. A prominent Pauline text, for example, is 1 Corinthians 15:22, where Paul says, ‘For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive’, while perhaps the most significant and beautiful of the Johannine texts is John 12:32 where Jesus says, ‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ From the perspective of the Christ-event, what has been made known to us is the mystery of God’s will ‘to unite all things’ in Christ (Eph 1:10) in whom ‘the fullness of God was pleased to dwell’ (Col 1:19; 2:9), so that through him all things are reconciled to God (Col 1:20) and made ‘new’ (Rev 21:5). Therefore, on the basis of the presence of the Risen One in the Spirit, the Christian faith proclaims that God desires all men and women ‘to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim 2:4) and ‘become partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Pet 1:4; cf. 2 Cor 3:18). Yet at the same time, given the seriousness with which human freedom is treated in Scripture, we find just as many texts, especially in the Gospel of Matthew, that affirm eternal punishment for the wicked at the end of time (e.g. Mt 25:46). What is more, the notion of eternal punishment is upheld not only in the biblical writings but also in the official creeds and confessions of the churches. The Athanasian Creed, Fourth Lateran Council (Canon 1), the Augsburg Confession (ch. 17), the Second Helvitic Confession (ch. 26), the Westminster Confession (ch. 33), and the Dordrecht Confession (art. 18), all affirm eternal torment for the unrepentant sinner. This means that the biblical writings, together with the creeds and confessions of the churches, are all characterized by a fundamental tension constituted by the definitive conquest of sin and death in the person of Christ – ‘objective’ redemption – on the one hand, and the need for sinners to willingly receive the gracious offer of eschatological salvation in Christ – ‘subjective’ redemption – on the other. This study is the result of wrestling with this basic Christian conundrum and it takes the view, as does Jürgen Moltmann, that this dispute cannot be resolved by appealing only to scriptural texts but must include theological arguments that highlight the qualitative difference between God’s decision ‘for us’ in the crucified and risen Christ and human decisions for faith or disbelief.4 The author was motivated not only by the need to reflect in what ways this basic impasse at the heart of the Christian faith might be transcended – without, of course, dissolving 3   Hans Schwarz rightly points out that Acts 3:21 is not the best text upon which to base the idea of a universal homecoming, since Peter in this text has in view the fulfilment of the Old Testament promises. Texts such as 1 Corinthians 15:22 provide a more solid basis for the notion of universal salvation in Jesus Christ. Hans Schwarz, Eschatology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2000), p. 338. 4   Jürgen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, tr. Margaret Kohl (London: SCM Press, 1996), pp. 240–46, at p. 245.

Introduction

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the mystery of God’s action in Christ – but also by the exigency to suggest how Christians might more effectively proclaim the universality of the Christ-event in the context of interreligious dialogue, in an age of postmodern pluralism, and in a time of heightened suffering and instability in our world. One of the key magisterial statements which prompted the author to investigate the saving power of the paschal mystery of Christ is to be found in the Second Vatican Council’s ‘Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’ which states that ‘since Christ died for all, and since all are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery’ (Gaudium et Spes 22).5 There are a number of important points that emerge from this key statement in respect of the project undertaken in this book. Firstly, talk of being called to one and the same divine destiny is primarily ontological language, which reflects a significant move of the Council away from excessively juridical and forensic language used in the past. Secondly, the one final destiny of humanity as a whole is talked about in terms of ‘being made partners’ in the paschal mystery of Christ, which recalls the patristic principle of the wondrous or admirable exchange (admirabile commercium) of natures in the person of Christ. The latter principle is clearly in evidence in the Council’s ‘Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation’ where it is stated that God’s will is that we humans ‘should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature’ (Dei Verbum 2).6 Thirdly, the Council’s statement is not purely christological but is made within a pneumatological framework: it is through the universal presence of the Spirit that God the Father offers to all the possibility of becoming partners in the paschal mystery of Christ the Son. Once it is appreciated, moreover, that the Spirit is the principle of God’s self-communication to the world, then it becomes apparent that the traditional Logos Christology needs to be complemented by a Spirit Christology which does full justice to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of the Father in the power of the Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35). The importance of recognizing the integral role that the Spirit plays in Jesus’ life and mission to Israel is at least threefold: firstly, the life of Jesus is more effectively portrayed as a truly human life open to the promptings of the Spirit as God’s self-communication in time and history; secondly, the notion of Jesus as the one who possesses the Spirit in eschatological fullness serves to effectively highlight the continuity of his life and mission with the history of Israel and Jewish expectations; and, thirdly, attention is drawn to the need to think of the divinity of Jesus not as an inner core of his person but in strictly relational and trinitarian terms as his total receptivity to his Father’s will through the mediation of the Spirit which he possesses in eschatological fullness. 5   Austin Flannery (ed.), Vatican Council II, vol. 1, The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, revised edn (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1988), p. 924. 6   Ibid., pp. 750–51.

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There is a fourth and final point which emerges from the Council’s statement cited above, namely, it is asserted that all are offered through the Spirit the possibility of being made partners in the paschal mystery ‘in a way known to God’ – the Council does not say ‘in a way known only to God’, in which case we are permitted to reflect theologically on how all might partake of the paschal mystery of Christ as their final destiny. The call to freedom associated with the Christian faith is a freedom not only of the person and action, but also a freedom of thought. Freedom of theological thought is especially problematic, however, given the sheer weight of the doctrinal tradition which inevitably gives rise to anxiety in all theological systems. The Scriptures, the Creeds, the history of doctrine, the various confessional writings, Denzinger’s Enchiridion and the pastoral concern not to unduly disturb the faithful, all set formidable standards and limits to the fides quaerens intellectum. Nonetheless, new insights in theology do inevitably occur as the fuller meaning of the apostolic faith is drawn out gradually over time by the lived experience of the worshipping faithful. This book clearly reflects the anxieties and tensions that arise from the formidable standards that every theologian must face in carrying out their investigations, yet it is committed to the task of addressing problem areas that arise in connection with the basic tenet regarding the significance of Christ’s paschal mystery for the attainment of personal identity, real freedom, and ontological perfection. The latter call for a new line of inquiry, particularly given the fact that baptized Christians experience the perfection of Christian life as elusive and the lion’s share of the human population is not Christian. According to Vatican II, those who are not baptized into Christ cannot be said to be ‘incorporated’ into Christ, although it is permissible to speak of them as being ‘related’ to Christ if they are moved by grace in their hearts and live according to the ‘dictates of their conscience’ (Lumen Gentium 16).7 To be moved by grace, though, is to affirm that God is present through the activity of the Spirit living within people’s hearts, hence Vatican II is saying that those non-Christians who respond to the promptings of the Spirit are related to Christ and to the Church of Christ, and may attain eternal salvation by partaking of the paschal mystery of Christ (cf. Gaudium et Spes 22). The theory of resurrection at death developed in this study is intended to be a theological response to the fundamental issue of how Christians can intelligibly hold to the claim that Christ is the Saviour of the world, the One in whom all things hold together and are brought to full flowering. In light of Scripture’s testimony that the powers of death in the world have been conquered by Christ’s unique death on Calvary, it strikes the author that when our own death is conceived as a dying into Christ who has assumed our death into his death, it is simply inadequate to view death in purely negative or neutral terms; rather, such an ‘event’ acquires a distinctly positive flavour as the hope of new life out of a situation of death (cf. Rom 4:17, 6:5; Rev 14:13). New life out of the abyss of death means that something transformative happens to the person at death, in which case the   Austin Flannery (ed.), Vatican Council II, vol. 1, p. 367.

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Introduction

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traditional Catholic teaching that the person or soul is unaffected by death is challenged by the author, as is the Protestant tendency to ascribe no significance to death because personal existence ceases at the time of death until the Final Judgement when those who belong to Christ will share in the glory of eternal life. In Catholic theology today, the personal element of death as a dying into Christ is often aptly described in terms of ‘encounter’8 with God, although this terminology too suffers from a shortcoming inasmuch as it implies that the person must make a final choice of eternal significance regarding their salvation or perdition in the encounter with Christ. The result is that human freedom is presented as the truly ‘last thing’, not God the Father’s unfathomable gift of the Son and the Spirit who are his ‘two hands’ (Irenaeus of Lyons) in the divine economy of creation and salvation. In light of this limitation pertaining to the language of encounter with Christ at death, the author came to the view that the principle of admirable exchange of natures in Christ, which was used by the Church Fathers to express the essence of the Christian faith as the ‘divinization’ of humanity in his person, is better able to convey the primacy of God’s freedom in the economy of creation and salvation, not human freedom – otherwise what hope could be entertained for the world? When death is reflected upon in terms of our being ‘drawn up’ (cf. Jn 12:32) into the wondrous exchange of natures in the person of Christ, the stress falls very much on what God in his sovereign freedom has done for us, in order that we might enjoy true freedom (libertas) as sons and daughters of God in the Son of God (filii in Filio). Integral to formulating this view of death as the gift of being drawn up into the exchange of natures in Christ, moreover, is the contention that the exchange of natures reaches its zenith in the paschal mystery of Christ. This study therefore proposes a gradual or progressive view of the Incarnation of the eternal Word, which repudiates the static (ahistorical) and simple picture of the assumption of humanity by the Word of God as completed at the moment of Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb. What is presented is a dynamic and complex picture of the Incarnation as involving the following dimensions: the ontological aspect acknowledges Jesus as the eternal Word of God; the historical element gives due recognition to Jesus’ individuality as unfolding in the context of concrete happenings in his proclamation of the kingdom of God; and the pneumatological 8   Ladislaus Boros, for instance, proposes that death is a completely personal act because the final decision about one’s eternal destiny is made at death in the encounter with God. Ladislaus Boros, The Moment of Truth: Mysterium Mortis (London: Burns & Oates, 1965), pp. ix, 84, 165. Boros builds on the work of Rahner who contends that death is not merely suffered passively but involves ‘an active consummation from within brought about by the person himself.’ Karl Rahner, On a Theology of Death, tr. C.H. Henkey, 2nd edn (London: Burns & Oates, 1965), p. 30. A notable difference between the transcendental theologies of death formulated by Rahner and Boros is that for Rahner the consummation of freedom takes place on this side of death, whereas for Boros the final decision takes place in the encounter with God at death.

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aspect attributes due significance to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God in the Spirit and that the Spirit is actuated in new ways at different stages in Jesus’ life. All these interrelated dimensions are portrayed as reaching a climactic point in the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. In this complex picture of a progressive Incarnation, the union of Christ’s humanity with the Father is understood as perfected on Calvary where he ‘learned’ perfect obedience as the Son (cf. Heb 5:8–9), while the power of the Spirit is actuated in a new way in the Son’s resurrection from the dead (cf. Rom 1:4) where we see his humanity raised to the glory of the ‘imperishable’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:42) which constitutes a ‘new creation’ (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). In such a perspective, what takes place in the exchange of natures in the person of Christ is the ‘union of life and death for the sake of life’9 so that God reveals himself definitively in the Son’s ‘going to the dead’10 and in the Spirit’s raising of the Son from the dead (Rom 8:11). It is the resurrection of Christ that reveals what salvation in his person ultimately consists of and this study argues, in support of scholars such as F.X. Durrwell,11 that Easter Sunday should not be viewed merely as God’s vindication of the crucified Christ. The term ‘nature’, moreover, is not employed in this study in a static or closed sense but in a dynamic and open sense that highlights the divine as the ‘event’ of inner-trinitarian love and pure self-giving that encompasses temporality and mutability, and the human as the ‘event’ of God’s self-bestowal in grace and thus as an emerging reality that is destined to partake of the glory of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. The title of this book is designed to convey the view that death is a special locus for entering into new relations with the Creator of all that is. In the Old 9   Eberhard Jüngel, God As the Mystery of the World: On the Foundation of the Theology of the Crucified One in the Dispute between Theism and Atheism, tr. Darrell L. Guder (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1983), p. 299. In view of the cross of Christ, God must be thought as being in union with all that is perishable and temporal, ‘as having identified the divine self with the struggle between being and non-being, for the sake of life. Jüngel contends that the ‘death of God’ (Holy Saturday) is the story to be told by the Christian community of faith, which points to a positive element of possibility in the process of change and becoming, in contrast to Greek thought which is only capable of attributing negative characteristics – the decay into nothingness – to the temporal world. 10   Hans Urs von Balthasar states his preference for speaking of Christ’s ‘going’ to the dead rather than Christ’s ‘descending’ to the realm of the dead, because the former suggests no activity of Christ and thus the passivity of death and the situation of utter powerlessness in which Christ finds himself on Holy Saturday. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1993), p. 150. The self-emptying of the Son reaches its climax on Holy Saturday when the dead Christ wholly identifies with the human condition ‘from within’ so as to redeem it conclusively and raise it to the glory of eternal life. 11   F.X. Durrwell, The Resurrection: A Biblical Study, tr. Rosemary Sheed (London: Sheed & Ward, 1960), chs. 1 and 2. Durrwell argues on biblical grounds that Christ’s resurrection is the fulfilment of the Incarnation.

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Testament the earthly life is regarded as the locus of relationship to God, but when we come to the New Testament where the Crucified One is at the heart of the ‘good news’ of final salvation in his person, not only life but also death is now affirmed as the locus of relationship to God. In light of the Crucified One’s conquest of the powers of death in the world, the New Testament requires us to think of divinity in terms of pure self-giving in merciful and sovereign love and of humanity as the event of God’s self-giving in grace.12 A particular difficulty associated with the development of the argument in this study, needless to say, is how to do justice to the human act of appropriating God’s objective salvation in Jesus Christ. The key to dealing with this difficulty will be the recognition of the qualitative difference between God’s freedom and human freedom, as well as the recognition of human freedom as essentially the capacity for God, and, finally, the acknowledgment that the event of death constitutes a new environment of complex interacting between the divine and the human so that human freedom does not operate in exactly the same way as it does in the pilgrim life prior to death. It is proposed in this study that all the dead attain true freedom as a dynamic ‘moment’ intrinsic to their being drawn up into the admirable exchange of natures in the person of Christ and divinized. In addition to taking Christology as the central focus of theological inquiry, this study also takes the view that Christology should be reflected upon within the contemporary evolutionary perspective of the world as dynamic, processive and therefore ‘emergent.’ The proclamation of the Risen One as the eschaton or omega point of the movement of creation is particularly well suited to constructive dialogue with an evolutionary view of the world. In this dialogue, what is especially brought to our attention is the need to appreciate – against Neo-Scholastic thought – that grace is not extrinsic to nature. It is well worth listening to the beautiful way Gabriel Daly expresses this fundamental point in respect of the grace-nature relationship: Grace is not a detached entity; it is something magnificent which happens to nature. It is nature lit by a new light and fired with a new vision. Whatever metaphor we choose, it should convey the image of suffusion not juxtaposition. We must take careful note of the ambiguity of the word ‘nature’ when it is used as one limb of the nature/supernature dialectic. If we take nature to mean essence or substance, neither grace nor sin can alter the nature of homo sapiens … If, however, we take ‘nature’ in a non-essentialist sense, then nature does

  Karl Barth spoke of the ‘common actualization’ of divine and human essence in the concrete event of Christ. This study proposes that since in the person of Christ our human essence is conjoined with the divine essence, then our death as a dying into the atoning death of Christ should be thought as a salvific happening in which the common actualization of divine and human essence takes place in a conclusive manner. 12

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change, and morality as well as physical evolution depends on this possibility. It is precisely evolving nature which makes the humanum possible.13

These words of Daly clearly repudiate the notion of ‘extrinsicism’, that is, the view of grace as a superstructure to which nature has only the negative relationship of non-contradiction, which gives rise to the possibility of viewing our daily lives purely within the substructure of nature, unaware of and largely unaffected by grace. Instead, Daly rightly insists that grace be thought of as intimately involved in the process of evolving nature, as ‘suffusing’ nature, but in a way which safeguards the distinctiveness of the two realities of grace and nature. The notion of evolving nature is an important one because it expresses the understanding that the process of becoming involves not merely the quantitatively more but also the qualitatively new, that is to say, a ‘higher nature.’ The notion of evolving nature is also supported by Karl Rahner in his reflections on Christology. To Rahner’s mind, matter develops out of its inner being, through a process of ‘active self-transcendence’, in the direction of spirit – self-consciousness, freedom, knowledge, transcendence towards God – and reaches a climactic point both in the emergence of the human being on the cosmic stage and in the event of the Incarnation of the Word.14 The notion of active self-transcendence is intended to convey the understanding that the process of becoming something qualitatively new is truly a self-transcending, yet at the same time it is the power of absolute being that is interior to the finite being in its becoming without, however, becoming a constituent element of finite being itself.15 This process of becoming, since it involves an increase of being proper to the previously existing reality, is described by Rahner as ‘a leap to a higher nature’ since the emergent species has greater ontological reality.16 With regard to the Incarnation of the Word, Rahner therefore maintains that this event is at one and the same time the climax of the process of   Gabriel Daly, Creation and Redemption (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1988), p. 132.   Rahner’s position is set forth in the following writings: ‘Christology Within an

13 14

Evolutionary View of the World’, Theological Investigations 5, tr. Karl-H. Kruger (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1966), pp. 157–92; ‘The Unity of Spirit and Matter in the Christian Understanding of Faith’, Theological Investigations 6, tr. Karl-H. and Boniface Kruger (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1969), pp. 153–77, at pp. 174–6; and Foundations of Christian Faith, tr. William V. Dych (New York: Crossroad, 1978), pp. 81–9. 15   Rahner intends to stress that God’s immanence in the world is not merely a conserving power, but a power of becoming in collaboration with matter. He bases his understanding on the Thomistic doctrine of primary and second causality: God as ‘primary’ cause continually imparts existence at the level of being to all contingent and finite things (conservatio), but God’s continuous action as absolute being does not interfere with the actions of a particular creature as ‘secondary’ cause, doing whatever it is inclined to do naturally (concursus). God, however, is not present in all things as an essential part of them, but as maintaining them in their being. See Summa Theologica I, ques. 105, art. 5; ques. 10, arts. 4, 8; ques. 45, art. 5; Contra Gentiles III, chs. 66, 67, 70. 16   Rahner, ‘Christology Within an Evolutionary View’, p. 164.

Introduction

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active self-transcendence towards higher levels of being as well as the climax of God’s self-communication in grace to the world. The mystery of the Incarnation should therefore be treated ontologically as the goal of the evolution of matter towards spirit that has been occurring for billions of years, for the body of Christ was made up of the same chemical elements common to the world as a whole and the same genetic elements common to all humanity. The writings of Daly and Rahner serve to underscore the fundamental point that the purpose of the Incarnation of the Word cannot be restricted to the remedial work of forgiveness of sins; rather, it must be elaborated in terms of the constructive work of elevating the whole of reality to a higher nature, that is, to a higher ontological level of glorious communion and union with God. Put more simply, the Incarnation has to do with the formation of being. In this picture, the living God appears from all eternity as having predestined evolving nature to a glorious final flowering in the Son, through the Spirit, so that the first divine thought was self-bestowal in grace to humanity and the world, which presupposes a capacity and openness towards the divine on the part of evolving nature. What we are dealing with here, in other words, is an ‘ontology of grace’ which points to the created world as the stuff of sacrament, as charged with the Spirit of life. The potential of evolving nature to be the sacrament of God’s self-communicating presence is fully realized in the person of Christ, the incarnate Son, and the saving benefits of this definitive actualization of creation’s potentiality continues today, through the Spirit of the Risen One, in the Church of Christ. Rahner’s argument about how matter develops in the direction of spirit highlights the need today to embrace an ecological model of the one world. If the higher nature always contains the lower which had prepared the way for the actual event of self-transcendence, then the world must be affirmed as a fundamental unity in which everything is linked to everything else. The ecological model represents a shift away from substance thinking and external relations – a mechanistic model – towards event thinking where what is sought is the ‘explanation of behaviour at one level in terms of behaviour at other levels and to recognize that behaviour at one level is to be accounted for in terms of complex interacting … [which] … is an event, not a substance.’17 Event thinking views relations as internal to events, which means that things or substantial objects are not regarded as existing independently and then subsequently entering into relation with their environments; instead, the explanation of things is presented in terms of the patterns of interconnectedness among events.18 The full meaning of internal relatedness is highlighted in the case 17   C. Birch and J.B. Cobb, The Liberation of Life: From the Cell to the Community (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 86. 18   As we move up levels of organization in nature – electrons, atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, organs, etc. – the properties of each larger whole are determined not merely by the units of which it is composed, but also by the new relations between the units. This means that properties of matter relevant at, say, the atomic level, cannot predict the properties of matter at the cellular level. Evolution is not simply a rearrangement of the parts, but

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of the human being who, uniquely endowed with capacities for rational, moral and spiritual activity, which are emergent properties, takes account of the world and responds to it. The human being is not merely the product of its genetic endowment and its environment, for the human is always also a creative response to these conditions as it strives to transcend the actual given situation to meet its unrealized possibilities and potentialities. This implies that human nature cannot be thought of as a closed system, it does not refer to a definitively known quantity, but rather to an unfolding and emerging reality: it must be thought of in dynamic terms as the quest for a higher nature. In the Christian perspective, the risen Christ is the qualitatively ‘new emergent whole’19 in whose person humanity and the world have been raised to ontological perfection and to a dignity beyond compare. The reality of being incorporated into Christ, then, means that the human person is introduced into a new set of complex relations involving God, humankind and the cosmos as a whole, and becomes truly ‘alive’ to the ontological reality of their newly acquired higher nature. It is significant to note that Vatican II emphasized the eschatological character of the Church more than in earlier magisterial documents when it adopted the image of the pilgrim ‘People of God’ (Lumen Gentium 9–17) moving toward the ultimate fullness to come, as well as the notion of the Church as the ‘universal sacrament of salvation’ (Lumen Gentium 1, 48). The Church is the universal sacrament of salvation by virtue of the fact that it is the sacrament of Christ who has ‘in a certain way united himself with each person’ (Gaudium et Spes 22) inasmuch as he is ‘the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the centre of humankind, the joy of all hearts, and the fulfilment of all aspirations’ (Gaudium et Spes 45). By adopting these images, the Council clearly viewed the life of the Church within a cosmic perspective, for the vision is that of the world’s and the Church’s final transfiguration into the glorified life of the risen Lord. The Church as the sacrament of Christ does not exhaust the mystery of God; rather, it makes sacramentally present God’s grace in Christ, through the Spirit, and symbolically points toward the fullness of life to come as ‘sharers in the divine nature’ (Dei Verbum 2, citing 2 Pet 1:4). The eschatological character of many of the statements made by Vatican II reflects a recovery of the biblical emphasis on the radically open-ended nature of history as directed toward a divinely-appointed end, notwithstanding the negative realties of sin, evil, injustice, debilitating illness and suffering in the world.

involves change within the parts and in the organism as a whole. See, for instance, Charles Birch, On Purpose (Kensington: New South Wales University Press, 1990), pp. 44–6. 19   See Henry Novello, ‘Integral Salvation in the Risen Christ: the New Emergent Whole’, Pacifica, 17/1 (2004): pp. 34–54.

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Outline of the chapters Against the backdrop of the biblical story where God’s final salvation is understood as new life out of the abyss of death, Chapter 1 will concern itself with a christological discussion of how the opposites of being in the world have been transformed by the crucified and risen Christ. Central to this chapter will be the adoption of a literary approach to the Gospel story which calls attention to what a text means on its own terms. If the kerygma is regarded as the primary wellspring of Christology, if reflection on the mystery of Christ arises out of a living dialogue between the Risen One and the Christian community, in the Spirit, then such a personal response must be conveyed by rhetorical elements such as story. This story is not a history that seeks to establish empirical facts about the man Jesus, but rather a story that ‘witnesses’ to the actions of this unique man who has been glorified by God in his resurrection from the dead, and to the response of those who have committed their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. On the basis of the works of Hans W. Frei and Frans Jozef van Beeck, SJ, it will be argued that to fathom who Jesus is all we need is a ‘realistic narrative’ where persons are depicted as agents; the identity of Jesus develops out of the dynamic interplay of his intentions in enacting his Father’s will on the one hand, and the response of his increasingly hostile surroundings on the other. What will emerge is the view that Jesus’ very isolation brings about his individuality, for he is the one who willingly accepts the rejection of his opponents so that he becomes their Representative before God the Father. The assumption of humanity in the person of Jesus Christ will therefore be treated as a matter of sustained relationship to his rejectors, the wellspring of which is his personal unity with the Father in love, so that it is precisely in his radical love of enemies (Mt 5:44) that the fullness of humanity in his person is revealed. The tide of isolation and rejection that Jesus experiences culminates in his crucifixion, and Chapter 1 will offer a theological interpretation of Jesus’ cry on the cross which is intended to show that Jesus dies not only at the hands of a sinful world, but also at the hands of the Father who delivers him up to God-forsakenness – the Son is the ‘sin-bearer’ – for the sake of bringing sinners home to God. On this interpretation, the identity of the man Jesus is not given from the very beginning but is to be spoken of in consistently relational terms that convey the significance of his life in itself, which reaches its zenith in the formation of the ‘new man’ in whom the effectiveness of the Spirit is actuated in a new way in his glorious resurrection from the dead. Martin Buber’s thesis regarding the I-Thou relation will also be used to bolster the argument regarding Jesus’ relational identity, and to show the shortcomings of the classical Logos-Christology. The assumption-Christology elaborated in Chapter 1 will also serve to highlight the inadequacy of the notion of ‘surrendered attributes’ in relation to the mystery of God’s kenotic self-emptying in the event of Jesus Christ. The emphasis on the relational character of Jesus’ identity will lend its support to a divine ontology according to which no disjunction exists between what God eternally is and what God does in time. As the One who loves in freedom, God has revealed the divine

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essence in that God suffers and dies in the assumed flesh of the incarnate Word for the sake of the reconciliation of the world with God and the establishment of the ‘new creation,’ according to the eternal covenant of grace. As Paul says about the man Jesus, ‘For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily’ (Col 2:9). Given that what takes place in the event of Jesus Christ is the ‘common actualization’ of divine and human essence in his person, the first chapter will conclude that the Crucified One is our Representative before God the Father, the One in whom each human life-time is elevated to blessed union with the Father. The contention that the common actualization of divine and human essence in Jesus Christ comes to a climax on Calvary will also serve to underline the basic point that not only life but also death must now be seen as the location of relationship to the living God. While the findings in Chapter 1 will bring to light the personal and trinitarian aspect of the christological mystery, the discussion, as often tends to be the case in Christology, is restricted mainly to the persons of the Son and the Father. But what role does the Holy Spirit play in the christological mystery? In the tradition of Western theology, reference to the Spirit is made especially in regard to ecclesiology and the Christian life, but the role of the Spirit in Christology proper has not been given much attention. In Chapter 2 it will become apparent that an increasing number of theologians are beginning to recognize that the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit cannot be neglected in conveying the truth of the christological mystery, hence they are becoming advocates of a Spirit-Christology. The latter type of Christology will be presented in this study not as an alternative to the traditional Logos-Christology, though, but as a necessary complement to it. The validity of this position concerning the role of Spirit in the christological mystery becomes readily apparent when we take stock of key biblical and creedal statements such as the following: the promise of Yahweh in the Old Testament is to pour out his Spirit on all flesh (Joel 2:28); the witnesses to Jesus’ life and mission confess him as the person uniquely filled with the fullness of the Spirit (Acts 10:38); in the Gospel of Luke we read that Jesus is the Son of God in the Spirit (Lk 1:35); and the third article of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed confesses that the Spirit is the ‘Lord and Giver of Life’ who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Throughout the biblical story the Spirit features consistently as the life-giver, as indwelling the human spirit and elevating it towards God, thus it will be argued that the Spirit prepares evolving creation for the event of the Incarnation of the Word. The relationship between Jesus and God simply cannot be fathomed apart from the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit who is immanently present in creation, freely indwells human persons of all times and places, and comes to rest upon Jesus in eschatological fullness so that he inaugurates the messianic age of the kingdom of God. The divinity of Jesus, then, must be treated not only from the standpoint of his filial relation to the Father, which the argument in Chapter 1 highlights, but also from the perspective of his relation to the Spirit who is the principle of God’s self-communication to the world. Jesus is the Son of the Father in the Spirit, which is how F.X. Durrwell states the matter, is a succinct and effective way of expressing this fundamental point.

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The crux of Chapter 2 will be the argument that the Spirit, as the possibility of God, has the distinct and proper role of ‘drawing up’ all creatures into ecstatic communion and union with God through the representative action of Jesus Christ who is the Mediator between the Father and humanity. It will be contended, however, that it is precisely as the power of resurrection life (cf. Rom 8:11) that the Spirit will ultimately fulfil its proper role as bringer of ecstatic gift of divine communion to all. Central to the argument will be the need to appreciate that Jesus’ being raised from the dead should not be regarded merely as his vindication by God, for he was also ‘raised for our justification’ (Rom 4:25). His resurrection from the dead, then, has soteriological significance in addition to his atoning death on the cross. In light of this understanding, it will be argued that the resurrection involves a new stage in the actuation of the Spirit in the man Jesus – his humanity is fully divinized in his exaltation to the right hand of God – whereas Jesus’ death on the cross concerns the perfect union of Jesus’ humanity with the Father, for Jesus ‘learned’ perfect obedience to the Father through what he suffered. With respect to the admirable exchange of natures in the person of Jesus Christ, this means that the exchange is completed neither at the moment of the Incarnation, nor on the cross or his descent into hell, but in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. In respect of justification, moreover, which consists in the remission of our sins, the removal of guilt and the new life in Christ, this implies that the process should be considered not only as the work of Jesus on the cross but also as the work of the Spirit in whose power God raised Jesus from the dead. The admirable exchange of natures in Christ and the work of justification both take on a thoroughly trinitarian structure when the role of the Spirit in the christological mystery is acknowledged. This conclusion has important implications for a theological inquiry into the mystery of our own death as a dying into the risen Lord, and how God is working continually to bring to full flowering the new creation out of the existing creation (creatio ex creatione). The argument developed in the first two chapters of this study will pave the way for Chapter 3 where contemporary theological writings on death will be critically reviewed. The discussion will focus on Karl Rahner, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karl Barth, Eberhard Jüngel and Jürgen Moltmann, because their theological writings represent the richest sources for the development of a Christian theology of death. It will become clear in the third chapter that much contemporary theology does not adopt a wholly negative view of death as the end of this pilgrim life and as the wages of sin, but intends to counterbalance the traditional view by introducing a positive character to death which is now seen as having a changed value and as merely the ‘sign’ of God’s judgement on sin. The critical reviews of the various Christian perspectives on death will also serve to identify strengths and weaknesses in each on the basis of the arguments and main findings of the previous two chapters of this study. The strengths will be acknowledged as important and integral dimensions of a properly worked out theology of death, while the weaknesses identified will highlight the task of formulating a more comprehensive theology of death that acknowledges its truly trinitarian character and Christ’s

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resurrection in the Spirit as integral to the mystery of salvation understood as participation in the new creation that has dawned in the Risen One. The title of the final Chapter 4 is significant because it expresses the contribution of this study to the formulation of a theology of death. Death is defined as the privileged locus for being drawn up into the admirable exchange of natures in the person of Jesus Christ, an exchange that divinizes the human by elevating it to the glory of ecstatic union with God. Of central importance in the final chapter will be how to understand the terms ‘divine nature’ and ‘human nature’, which will serve as a basis for a critical discussion of the complex doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum – communication of the properties of each nature to the person of Christ. It will be argued that in order to avoid a dualistic understanding of the Chalcedonian definition, the unity of Christ’s person requires that the communication of properties take place between the natures themselves via the person who is irreducible to either his divine or human nature, and that the exchange of natures must be truly reciprocal for eschatological salvation to occur – the divine participates in the human in order that the human might participate in the divine as its final destiny. The understanding that this process is completed in the paschal mystery of Christ suggests that our death, as the event of dying into Christ, should be considered as the privileged locus for receiving eschatological salvation and being created anew in the power of the Spirit of God who ‘gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist’ (Rom 4:17). In light of the view that the admirable exchange of natures in the person of Christ has to do with the formation of creaturely being and thus involves the whole person, the third part of Chapter 4 will discuss the ‘integral’ character of salvation in Christ as involving physical, moral and eschatological dimensions which constitute a complex whole. These three interrelated dimensions of salvation, moreover, will be presented as corresponding to the three dimensions of personal identity; namely, person as agent (the length of one’s history), person as relation (the breadth of one’s relationships) and person as subject (the depth of one’s self-reflection). By embracing this complex model of the human person, and by drawing upon insights offered by the ecological model of nature, the intention will be to advance the proposition that our death as a dying into the Lord Jesus Christ constitutes a change of environment that establishes new relations between God, self, humanity and the cosmos as a whole. Human freedom becomes definitive in this complex system, it will be argued, as a ‘moment’ which is intrinsic to the new ontological reality that opens up to the dead who are drawn up into Christ’s paschal mystery, through the activity of the Spirit. To conclude this introduction, it must be stressed that this book is clearly not intended to be the last word on the paschal mystery and the mystery of our own death as already assumed by Christ’s saving death. Rather, the hope is that this study will give impetus not only to further theological reflection on how to intelligibly hold to the fundamental Christian tenet that Jesus, the crucified Messiah of Israel, is the Saviour of the world, but also to further inquiry into the nature, possibilities and limits of human freedom. On a more cautionary note, the reader may get

Introduction

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the impression from this book that ‘this world’ should not be accorded too much attention since it is preferable to direct our gaze wholly to the ‘world to come’ when God’s promises recounted in the biblical story will be made good. This is not the position adopted in this book. Instead, following the thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book The Cost of Discipleship, which will be taken up in the Conclusion to this study, the intention is to emphasize that in the call to follow Christ the indissoluble unity between faith and obedience must always be upheld; that is, obedience to Christ’s commandment is constitutive of faith, hence true discipleship is always costly discipleship since it is the way of the cross, the way of unremitting compassionate love towards the other regardless of their attitude towards the disciple of Christ. At the same time, however, this understanding points to the limits of the actualization of the kingdom of God within history: the fact that the Messiah was rejected and suffered a violent death indicates the concrete reality of the powers of sin and death in this world, so that we must not think that human society will evolve ever upward and progress toward a golden age of complete justice, full enlightenment, perfect peace and boundless joy for all. To follow Christ in faithful obedience and attachment to his person is to be fully committed to proclaiming the Gospel in the here and now, while living in a fundamental tension between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ of God’s reign in the world. What is argued for in this book is that all are elevated to final union with God through the transformative event of death understood as the privileged locus for being drawn up into the admirable exchange of natures in Christ and created anew in the Spirit, to the glory of the Father. This life ends in the helplessness of death, but death presents itself as a special situation for revealing the gracious activity of God who, as Creator, brings about new life out of the abyss of death. If by the end of this book the reader is left with a deeper sense of the final graciousness of reality, of the inalienable worth of this laborious and fragmented pilgrim life which God will make whole by the workings of grace,20 and begins to appreciate the need to adopt the fundamental attitude that what really matters in life is not so much what we expect of life but rather what life expects of us, as Viktor Frankl has insightfully highlighted in his celebrated book Man’s Search For Meaning, then the effort in writing this book will not have been in vain.21

  Moltmann stresses that every life remains indissolubly ‘before God’ and that entry into the finality of eternal life involves the totality of one’s personal history being reconciled, rectified, healed and completed by the grace of the all-merciful God. Moltmann, The Coming of God, pp. 70–71. 21   Viktor Frankl writes: ‘Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.’ Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search For Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy, tr. Ilse Lasch (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1964), p. 111. 20

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Chapter 1

The Conquest of Death by Jesus Christ: Real Time for Living In light of the biblical portrayal of human existence in terms of the dynamics of life and death, which is evident in Paul’s guiding principle of death in Adam and life in Christ (1 Cor 15:22), this first chapter sets out to investigate the manner in which Jesus Christ has conclusively conquered death, so that he is regarded by Christians as the Mediator between humanity and divinity and the ‘new creation’ in person. In respect of the task of elucidating the soteriological significance of Christ’s unique death, the cross will not be the sole focus of this chapter, for the view will be taken that a theological analysis of the life of Jesus, that leads to his violent death, is required. This entails an assumption-Christology which brings into sharp relief the significance of the fact that Jesus’ life story is characterized by total obedience to the Father’s will, for our sake. Such an analysis, it will be shown, serves to highlight weaknesses in the tradition of classical Christology; in particular, what will become apparent is the tendency of the tradition to focus on the individual person Jesus, the pre-existent Logos, without sufficiently elaborating his essential relatedness, both in his divinity and in his humanity, to the Father and to the rest of humankind, respectively. The assumptionist interpretation of the life of Jesus, in other words, will serve to underline the need to speak of the identity of Jesus Christ in consistently relational terms that convey the significance of his life in itself. The Christology of Frans Jozef van Beeck, who has developed a kerygmatic Christology guided by a narrative theology, will be followed closely in this chapter. It will be argued that given the narrative shape of the Gospel story, the mystery of who Jesus is emerges out of the dynamic interplay of his intentions and actions on the one hand, and the response of his surroundings on the other. Hans W. Frei refers to this process as ‘intention-action’ identity description. It is not sufficient, however, to know Jesus as preacher and teacher, healer and exorcist, for beyond this his disciples must know him as the One who obediently submits to crucifixion and whom God raises to glory: this is what Hans Frei refers to as ‘self-manifestation’ description. If the life of Jesus is recognized as having significance in itself, if his identity unfolds gradually in his sustained relationships to the Father on the one hand and to a hostile public who increasingly reject him to the point of putting him to death on the other, then such a perspective has ramifications for an analysis of the cross. The second part of this chapter will concern itself with an interpretation of Jesus’ cry of abandonment on the cross (Mk 15:34). The passion of Jesus will be portrayed as the climactic point of his life lived in personal unity with the Father

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in unfathomable love (Jesus’ consubstantiality with the Father), which at the same time illuminates Jesus’ identification with the concrete human condition (Jesus’ consubstantiality with humanity). These two poles of the passion narrative will lead to the adoption of a theological interpretation of the cry on the cross; that is, Jesus has fully assumed the human condition of estrangement from God of which the cross is the consummate sign, so that our humanity, by virtue of being conjoined to Jesus’ humanity, is now redeemed and comes home to God. The individuating account of Jesus Christ presented in the first two parts of this chapter will serve as the point of reference for the thematic reflection on the person of Jesus Christ to be found in part three. The intention will be to illustrate how a literary interpretation of the Gospels on the one hand, and an understanding of person as relation on the other, can work together to shed light on the Gospel story. A more conceptual language is required to clarify the relationship between Jesus and God, and Martin Buber’s thesis developed in his celebrated work I And Thou will be adopted in order to continue the inquiry into the christological question. In the conceptual framework of Buber’s I-You relationship, it will be shown that Jesus’ divinity is appropriately spoken of as the modus essendi of the man Jesus in his total openness and receptivity to the Father in unfathomable love, which reveals the divine nature as pure grace. This in turn implies that human freedom is to be thought of as essentially relational, that is, to be free is not a matter of self-determination, but of trusting wholly in God’s sovereign call to obedience which establishes proper and right relations in the created order. In the third part of this chapter the person of Jesus will thus be spoken of as the total and definitive actualization of our deepest potential as beings created in the divine image, which will lead to the conception of the man Jesus as the representative of our true relational identity before the living God. The section will conclude with a discussion of the divine self-emptying with the intention of showing the inadequacy of the notion of ‘surrendered attributes’ and how the affirmation of the fundamentally relational character of Jesus’ identity accords well with a Barthian or Rahnerian divine ontology which claims that no disjunction exists between God’s ‘being’ and God’s ‘act.’ Finally, the fourth part of this chapter will consider what the argument developed in the previous three sections tells us about the traditional notion of ‘representation.’ What does it mean to say that Christ is our Representative? It will be argued that while the notion of representation should be distinguished from that of ‘substitution’, nonetheless the two are to be seen as intimately related to one another inasmuch as the latter serves to highlight the exclusive and objective aspect of Christ’s atoning death endured ‘once and for all’ (2 Cor 5:14), while the former serves to draw attention to the inclusive and subjective element of Christ’s atoning death endured ‘on our behalf’ (2 Cor 5:15, 17). The world of substitution is therefore not to be regarded as a depersonalized world characterized by the loss of the dimension of time; rather, when set in relation to the inclusive aspect of Christ’s death, what emerges is a personalized world where Christ’s representation makes available to us ‘real time’ for living. To the fundamental question of personal

The Conquest of Death by Jesus Christ

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identity rooted in human existence, the final section of this chapter will give the answer, together with Dorothee Sölle: I am irreplaceable, yet representable. Realistic narrative and the development of Jesus’ individuality In order to pave the way for an analysis of Jesus’ cry of abandonment on the cross, we must first recognize the import of a theological analysis of the life of Jesus which culminates in his death on Calvary.1 In recent decades we have witnessed not only the introduction of an historical approach to the Bible, but also a literary approach that draws attention to what a text means on its own terms: content and form are inseparable.2 Christology is strengthened when it includes literary interpretation analogous to the ways Christians at worship listen to the Gospels as aesthetic wholes and respond to them in their proclamation of who Jesus is. Thus we find a thinker such as Frans Jozef van Beeck stressing that the Gospel story is not a history but a ‘witnessing story’ that attests to the actions of Jesus and of God through his person, and the response of those committed to following him.3 The thought of van Beeck draws on the work of David Kelsey who has argued that what we know about the Gospel story’s central protagonist is not known by ‘inference’ from the story; rather, ‘he is known quite directly in and with the story, and recedes from cognitive grasp the more he is abstracted from the story’, hence the Gospels are to be treated as ‘identity descriptions’ of the man Jesus.4 In the Gospel narratives persons are viewed as agents, they enact their intentions, so that 1   We shall follow closely Frans Jozef van Beeck’s treatment of the life of Jesus in his Christ Proclaimed: Christology As Rhetoric (New York, Toronto: Paulist Press, 1979), pp. 360–75. The author recognizes the literary character of the Gospels and its implications for Christology, and draws on the works of David Kelsey and Hans Frei. The Christology developed by van Beeck is a kerygmatic Christology, for Christology is seen as flowing out of the Church’s worship and witness to the risen Lord present in the Spirit. 2   An excellent example of the incorporation of historical study into theological work is Edward Schillebeeckx’s Jesus: An Experiment in Christology, tr. Hubert Hoskins (London: Collins, 1979). Part Two of this work, ‘The Gospel of Jesus Christ’, reflects an historical approach to the christological question. 3   Christ Proclaimed, p. 327. The kerygma is viewed by van Beeck as first and foremost the Christian ‘homologia’, that is, testimony in the form of ‘narrative recital’ of the great things God has done in our midst through Jesus. There are three characteristics of kerygma: it attests to a present and future person, not just to a past figure; it speaks about God as well as Jesus Christ; and it tells not only about Jesus’ actions but also about the responses of the witnesses who proclaim the great things God has done for us. 4   David H. Kelsey, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), p. 39. Terrence Tilley explains that a narrative theology is more fundamental than a propositional theology since ‘propositional theology is derivative from narratives as literary criticism is derivative from literature.’ Terrence W. Tilley, Story Theology (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1985), pp. 11–17, at p. 14. Propositional theology

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their identity arises out of their interaction with one another within the changing circumstances of their lives. In light of this realism that draws us into the world of the Gospels, Hans Frei sums up the literary approach by saying that what the Gospels tell us ‘is the fruit of the stories themselves.’5 While the Gospel narratives are not to be seen as historical accounts of the life of Jesus, nevertheless we must appreciate that they do have a ‘history-like’ quality which conveys the identity of the man Jesus.6 Therefore, when we examine the Gospel story we find that one of its fundamental characteristics is that it takes the shape of ‘realistic narrative.’ That is to say, the man Jesus is portrayed as leading a personal life which is conveyed by a story in which his intentions and actions, on the one hand, and the circumstances of his surroundings, on the other, are involved in a dynamic interplay which lead to a climactic point. In order to fathom who Jesus is we need not proceed in the same way a biographer or historian goes about his or her task, nor do we need to know about ‘the personality, inner motivation, or even the ethical quality of Jesus.’7 All we need is the Gospel story which presents the identity of the man Jesus by means of the constant interplay of intention and circumstance, which shows that he was fundamentally obedient to the Father who ‘sent’ him. It is the great merit of Hans Frei to have restored the role that realistic narrative plays in biblical hermeneutics. Let us listen to what Frei has to say about the Gospel story’s depiction of Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will: His obedience exists solely as a counterpart to his being sent and has God for its indispensable point of reference. Jesus’ very identity involves the will and purpose of the Father who sent him. He becomes who he is in the story by consenting to God’s intention and by enacting that intention in the midst of the circumstances that devolve around him as the fulfilment of God’s purpose. The characterizing intention of Jesus that becomes enacted – his obedience – is not seen ‘deep down’ in him, furnishing a kind of central clue to the quality of his personality. Rather, it is shown in the story with just enough strength to indicate

cannot carry the Gospel message, but it is nevertheless an indispensable guide in exploring ways of telling the stories of Christianity anew. 5   Hans W. Frei, The Identity of Jesus Christ (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), p. xiv. 6   Hans W. Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), p. 10. In this work Frei argues that since the rise of the historical-critical methods we have become aware of the fact that the Gospels are not biographies of the life of Jesus; we cannot read them as we would a history. This has resulted, though, in the tendency to go behind the Gospels in order to extract their meaning; we no longer consider them on their own terms. We must return to treating the Gospels according to their verbal sense, that is, we must recover the narrative character of the Gospels. 7   Van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, p. 361.

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that it characterized him by making the purpose of God who sent him the very aim of his being.8

The central point which Frei is making here is that the enacted intention of Jesus to obey the Father’s will meshes with external circumstances devolving around him, so that Jesus becomes who he is through the specific actions and circumstances surrounding his public life, especially his last days. The identity of Jesus in the Gospel story is not given simply in his inner intention, but in the enactment of his intentions which coincide with circumstances partly initiated by him, partly imposed upon him. The Gospel narrative as story should therefore be taken in its own right as testimony to Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father, which is of a piece with his intention to do what had to be done for our sake, that is, to reconcile us sinners to the Father so that we might enter into permanent union with the Father as our final end. The following paragraphs will endeavour to illustrate that when the Gospels are taken as realistic narrative, then the identity of Jesus is not given from the very beginning but develops as the drama of the Gospel story unfolds. When we examine the Synoptic Gospels we quickly realize that the identity of the man Jesus is never presented unequivocally. From the outset, of course, Jesus identifies with the kingdom of God (Mk 1:15), yet this pointing away from himself to the reign of the living God almost immediately starts up an interplay. In the very act of pointing to the kingdom of God being made concretely manifest in his personal ministry of authoritative teaching, forgiving of sins, exorcizing and healing, and associating with tax collectors and other undesirables, Jesus places himself at the heart of the people’s concerns: they are simply amazed and stupefied by the manner in which Jesus addresses them, hence they find themselves compelled to respond to him. As we engage with the Synoptic story we find that the question about Jesus’ identity is kept alive throughout; there is ‘a developing relationship between the individuality of Jesus and the response of his surroundings.’9 Jesus clearly adopts a deeply sympathetic stance toward the people of his day; he is acutely aware of the impoverished condition of humanity burdened by various evils, thus he identifies their concerns with precision and sets about healing their

  Frei, The Identity of Jesus, p. 107. Many works have appeared since the 1970’s on narrative theology, including: George Stroup, The Promise of Narrative Theology (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981); Michael Goldberg, Theology and Narrative (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1982); Terrence Tilley, Story Theology (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1985); Ronald F. Thiemann, Revelation and Theology (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986); Robert A. Krieg, Story-Shaped Christology: The Role of Narratives in Identifying Jesus Christ (New York, Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1988); and Hans W. Frei, Theology and Narrative: Selected Essays, ed. George Hunsinger and William C. Placher (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993). 9   Van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, p. 362. 8

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lives by the power of the Spirit resting upon him in eschatological fullness (Acts 10:38).10 The whole of Jesus’ ministry, and the wonder it evokes, inevitably gives rise to questions about his authority: ‘Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ (Mk 2:7; cf. Mt 9:2–8). Closely related to this theme of Jesus’ authority in liberating the human condition from the darkness that it finds itself in, is the inability or unwillingness of the characters in the Synoptic story to understand who Jesus is: Jesus’ family comes to the conclusion that ‘He is beside himself’ (Mk 3:21), the scribes and Pharisees claim that ‘He is possessed by Beelzebul’ (Mk 3:22; Mt 12:24; Lk 11:15), and even Jesus’ disciples are lacking in perception – ‘Are your hearts hardened?’ (Mk 8:17).11 The extent of the disciples’ lack of understanding is revealed definitively in the question which Jesus puts to them: ‘But who do you say that I am?’ (Mk 8:29; Mt 16:15). Peter answers correctly by saying that Jesus is the ‘Christ’, but whatever he understood by this title had little to do with what was about to happen to Jesus: by rebuking Jesus’ prediction of his suffering and death at the hands of the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, Peter shows himself to be on Satan’s side, not God’s. ‘It is not that Jesus merely “corrects” Peter’s confession. He turns it upside down. The Messiah doesn’t win the world by a display of divine power. He wins it in death.’12 The exchange between Jesus and Peter at Caesarea Philippi serves as the fulcrum for the Synoptic story and sets the stage for the telling of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem which culminates in his crucifixion and the confession of the Roman centurion that he is the ‘Son of God.’ As the reader is drawn into the Synoptic story by its realistic narrative, they soon realize that the very beneficiaries of Jesus’ compassionate ministry of healing become obstacles to the establishment of the kingdom of God. Those who are the recipients of God’s healing and saving love seek to possess the gifts of God’s kingdom on their own terms (cf. Mk 10:35–45); that is to say, ‘they want to own what can be theirs only gratuitously.’13 In losing sight of the utter gratuitousness of that which they have received in Jesus’ address to them, in failing to grasp their 10   Biblical texts which speak of Jesus’ awareness of people’s thoughts include: Mk 2:8; Mt 9:4, 12:25; Lk 6:8, 9:47; Jn 2:25. In Hebrews 4:15, we are told that Jesus is able to ‘sympathise with our weaknesses’ on the basis of his common humanity with us – he is one who ‘in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.’ 11   The motif of the disciples’ lack of understanding is particularly pronounced in Mark’s Gospel where it is linked to the motif of the ‘messianic secret.’ The intention of Mark is to show that the cross is the decisive event for understanding who Jesus is and what it means to call him the ‘Christ.’ The cross, then, determines what it means to be a follower of Christ, as is made clear when after Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, Mark has Jesus say, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (8:34). Cf. George Stroup, The Promise of Narrative Theology, pp. 154–64. 12   Tilley, Story Theology, pp. 136–40, at p. 139. 13   Van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, p. 364.

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identity as unfathomable gift, the beneficiaries of Jesus’ ministry in effect join forces with those who have failed to recognize his person from the very beginning. As the Gospel story unfolds, then, resistance to the teachings and blessings of Jesus, not only from the religious authorities and the people in general but also from his disciples, grows to the point of overshadowing any sense of gratitude and true conversion of heart. This means that the identity of Jesus becomes increasingly established with reference to the profound loneliness and isolation that he experiences in relation to his hostile surroundings, not only with reference to his identification with human concerns and with the kingdom of his Father. The way of obedience to the Father is for Jesus, the Son, a way of suffering that reaches a climax on the cross. The increasing isolation of Jesus in a sinful world must not be taken, though, as meaning that he is depersonalized by his hostile surroundings; instead, Jesus stands out as an individual in ever sharper relief as he endures repeated assaults by his own people and by Satanic forces opposed to the kingdom of God.14 This increasing isolation of Jesus becomes the wellspring of a new dynamic interplay in which Jesus and those whom he addresses are individualized in a new way. In failing to recognize Jesus, those around him make it plain that they prefer to live by the norms of self-established assurances rather than by the unmerited gifts of a selfless God who calls them to genuine freedom. But when those around Jesus reject him, he does not, it is important to underscore, seek to defend himself or walk away from them in a disconsolate state. Instead, Jesus freely decides to continue to stand in front of a people with hardened hearts, he chooses to remain in steadfast relationship to sinners, and in this manner his individuality is increasingly established as he becomes the one in whom ‘humanity’s inhumanity’ is revealed in all its ugliness.15 There simply is no basis in the Synoptic story for the proposition that Jesus’ individuality remains unchanged from beginning to end and that it is only his surroundings that change. While the Gospels furnish us with no direct evidence of a psychological development on the part of Jesus – with the notable exception of Luke 2:52 – nonetheless the process of Jesus’ individualization is indirectly conveyed by the narrative shape of the Gospel account of the present significance of Jesus as the Risen One – He who is rejected and put to death is

14   Cf. Frei, The Identity of Jesus, pp. 26–34. Frei explains that nowhere in the Gospel story does the figure of Jesus appear as purely symbolic. Jesus is not the ‘archetypal man’ who represents all humanity in its homelessness, he is not the ‘universal stranger;’ rather, the Gospels make it clear that Jesus ‘owns his own presence’ and yet he ‘turns and shares it with us.’ To the modern imagination, however, this is problematic since it would mean that Jesus is at a different level from our own true being, that he is precluded from sharing his own presence with us. 15   Van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, p. 367.

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vindicated by his being raised from the dead and exalted by the Father in whom he had kept faith to his very last breath.16 The understanding that Jesus’ individuality develops as the forces of rejection accumulate against him, a rejection which he freely and willingly suffers to the point of execution on Calvary, points to the redefinition of humanity in the person of Jesus. On the cross, the rejected Jesus concretely identifies with the fallen human condition, yet at the same time he is totally individualized as he surrenders himself unreservedly to the Father in a final prayer of forgiveness for humanity’s inhumanity (Lk 23:34).17 What the people reject is not some abstract idea of humanity taught by Jesus, but Jesus himself who embodies the ideal of a humanity that gratefully accepts its true identity as something given gratuitously by the living God. In respect of the assumption of humanity by the anointed one of God, van Beeck therefore has the following to say: Jesus does not confront his opponents with an idea of humanity that they have rejected. He presents them with himself as he willingly accepts their rejection. Thus the incorporation of humanity into the crucified Jesus is a matter of sustained relationships. The rejected one does not reject. The rejectors, in rejecting Jesus, reject the one who does not reject them; they also reject themselves, for Jesus has received the imprint of their inhumanity into his own person. Yet precisely because Jesus does not cease to relate to them, they cannot help but respond: their very rejection of Jesus becomes an implicit testimony to the defectiveness of their own humanity and to the fullness of his.18

The fullness of Jesus’ humanity, then, must not be thought of as being of a philosophical kind, based on a static concept of a generic nature. Rather, given the manner in which the Gospel story depicts Jesus as continuing to freely relate to those who reject him, the fullness of his humanity takes the form of love of   Frei argues convincingly that Jesus is identified in his resurrection. It is in the passion-resurrection narrative, rather than in the account of his sayings and teachings, that the person of Jesus is most clearly accessible. Frei explains that in the resurrection of Jesus the ‘intention-action’ description of personal identity becomes intermingled with the ‘self-manifestation’ description, for ‘Jesus is set forth in his resurrection as the manifestation of the action of God.’ Frei, The Identity of Jesus, pp. 117–25, 139–52. 17   The understanding that Jesus maintains an attitude of acceptance towards those who reject and condemn him to death, so that he identifies fully with the fallen human condition, also implies, as will be discussed later in the chapter, that on the cross he was judged by God – the Son ‘bears’ the judgement of God in our place, thereby revealing the primacy of God’s love ‘for us.’ Jesus not only suffers because of rejection by sinners and evildoers, he not only suffers with all those who suffer injustice and violence, but he also suffers vicariously for the redemption of humanity by bearing our sins in his enduring the descent into hell. 18   Van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, p. 367. 16

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enemies (Mt 5:44).19 This extraordinary quality of Jesus’ life teaches us that the right way to requite evil is not to resist it violently, otherwise evil will be heaped upon evil; rather, evil is disarmed by the unfathomable depths of a compassionate love that sustains relationships to enemies so as to requite evil with good. The fact that the fullness of Jesus’ humanity takes the form of love of enemies serves to highlight a fundamentally important point in relation to the universal significance of the assumption of humanity in his person: evil carries within itself the invitation to conversion. If this were not the case, then clearly God would not be able to conclusively redeem a fallen humanity by drawing good out of evil.20 No matter how pervasive evil as the ‘falling away from the unchangeable good’ might be, we are to understand that it always remains radically ordered to the realm of God’s redeeming grace, otherwise it would simply cease to be a dark and ugly reality that wreaks havoc in the world. Hans Küng is certainly right when he says that, ‘The world with its enigma, its evil and suffering, can be affirmed because of God. Not otherwise. The mystery of the Incomprehensible in his goodness embraces also the misery of our suffering.’21 In regard to the proposition concerning the redefinition of humanity in the person of Jesus, it is important to appreciate that the term ‘humanity’ refers not to a static or closed system that is a definitively known quantity, but to a dynamic and processive system that is fundamentally open to transcendent reality, that is, to the absolute ground and ultimate term of all that is, which we name ‘God’ or ‘Holy Mystery.’ The doctrine of humanity’s creation in the divine image, together with the consistent biblical picture of humanity’s failure to live up to the highest possibilities involved in the divine-human relationship, suggests that the ‘true’ nature of humanity is not yet an historical reality and thus should be considered in an eschatological sense – not as an original state forfeited by Adam’s sin. The argument advanced by Alan Spence in his essay on John Owen’s understanding of Christ’s humanity and ours, is designed to underscore this eschatological orientation of true humanity:   Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his reflections on this radical commandment of Jesus, speaks of the ‘extraordinary’ quality of the Christian life as a life committed to the person of Christ whose compassionate love requites evil with good. To love one’s enemies is to live the way of the cross. 20   This fundamental point recalls Augustine’s understanding of the cause of evil as ‘the falling away from the unchangeable good of a being made good but changeable’ (Enchiridion 8.23). While all creatures derive their being from God, they are not supremely good, since that would mean that they could not be subject to corruption. On the other hand, if creatures were entirely without good, then this would mean that there is nothing in them that could become corrupt (Confessions 7.12). In short, Augustine is saying that everything which is corrupted is deprived of good, but not all good, for then it would cease altogether to be. This is tantamount to saying that there is an inviolable core of goodness in the human being, without which it would cease to be a creature created in the divine image. 21   Hans Küng, On Being a Christian, tr. Edward Quinn (London: Collins, 1977), p. 299. 19

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Death as Transformation The alternative is to consider the person of Jesus Christ as providing the paradigm of that which is truly human. Such an idea has far-reaching implications for a Christian understanding of man. If in Christ’s person there has indeed been an historical substantiation of true humanity we have in his life among us both a plumbline by which to form an estimate of our present human condition and also the prototype of our destiny in God’s redemptive purposes. Instead of interpreting our present being or condition in its relation to that of an ideal state in our prehistory, it is conceived in terms of its relation to the person of Christ and our new being in him, as we are created afresh in his likeness.22

The upshot of all this is that human nature is to be thought of as an emerging reality conformed to the person of Christ, which is a new being or transformed life beyond every definition and every boundary. All definitions of humanity, irrespective of how well intentioned they might be, tend to give rise to discrimination, rejection and even death. It is precisely for this reason that Jesus does not define humanity, but rather takes upon himself the inhumanity of humanity and redeems it conclusively by setting it in relation to the Father in his very own person. In this fashion Jesus becomes the unique and unsurpassable Mediator between humanity and the Father, for in his person we humans are drawn up into his total abandonment to the Father in his bearing the sin of the world and come to realize our original identity as intended by God from all eternity. This individuating account of Jesus serves not only to well and truly uphold the genuine and true humanity of Jesus – against the traditional tendency in Christology to pay only lip service to his humanity – it also makes plain the need to appreciate that the assumption of human nature in the person of Jesus Christ takes place in a gradual and progressive fashion. The Incarnation was not an act fully consummated at the moment of Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit; rather, the crucifixion of Jesus and his descent into hell, together with his being raised from the dead as the Father’s final word about Jesus, are to be taken as the consummation and fulfilment of the Incarnation. This fundamental point about the dynamic nature of the Incarnation will be elaborated further in the following sections of this chapter. The foregoing discussion, to conclude, has sought to bring to light the need to appreciate that as realistic narrative the Gospel story portrays Jesus’ identity not as something fully established from the very beginning of his life, but as something to be treated in dynamic terms as a process of individualization that unfolds in the coincidence of his intentional action with the train of external circumstances which come to a head in his passion. The focal point of the Gospel story is not so much the ministry of Jesus as the person of Jesus who announces God’s present reign with such unprecedented authority that it causes both wonderment and rejection 22   Alan Spence, ‘Christ’s Humanity and Ours: John Owen’, in Persons, Divine and Human, ed. Christoph Schwöbel and Colin E. Gunton (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991), pp. 74–97, at p. 74. Emphasis added.

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of his person. Jesus never ceases to keep himself in sustained relationships to his rejectors even when they condemn him to death, and this ineffable love towards sinners is one with his perfect obedience to the Father’s will that he drink from ‘the cup.’ The content or meaning of Jesus’ obedience to the Father is the pattern of merciful, redemptive activity that reaches its zenith in the pouring out of his blood for the good of a heartless and cruel humanity estranged from its final destiny in God. As the culmination of the process of shaping Jesus’ identity, his crucifixion warrants a separate treatment. Jesus’ cry on Calvary and the wisdom tradition of the passio justi Jesus’ cry of abandonment (Mk 15:34; Mt 27:46; cf. Ps 22:1) has been given a number of interpretations down the ages.23 If we follow the lines of a philological analysis in which the verb ‘to abandon’ is taken to mean a leaving in a situation of suffering, a being delivered up to one’s adversaries, then Jesus’ sense of abandonment is reduced to the simple non-intervention of God – as in Tertullian, for instance. During the scholastic period, the problem was how to reconcile the beatific vision of Jesus Christ with the anguish experienced in the suffering of the cross. Thomas Aquinas, for example, offered a solution on the basis of the two natures: the incarnate Word suffers in his body and in the ‘inferior’ part of his soul but the ‘superior’ part of his soul – which has to do with the redemption of humanity – cannot suffer from the non-intervention of God. The Rhineland mystics of the fourteenth century, however, introduced something new into the scholastic formula by viewing the abandonment not only in terms of a non-intervention by God, but as an act of God who draws away from Jesus in his hour of need. The intimate bond that united the Son to the Father during his public life and ministry ‘seems’ to be broken so that it is a question of a ‘feeling’ on the level of the psyche. In short, the Rhineland mystics applied to Jesus’ cry their own mystical experience of the ‘dark night’ of the soul. The problem with this psychological analysis is that it represents a projection of the mystic’s experience of the dark night onto the biblical text, thus it cannot be considered to be a proper and thorough biblical exegesis of the meaning of Jesus’ abandonment. Nonetheless, the mystical interpretation does have value insofar as it prevents us from ‘reducing the sense of the abandonment of Christ to its philological content of a simple non-intervention of God’,24 and shifts the focus to the problem of how to reconcile the indissoluble unity of Jesus with the Father and the feeling of abandonment that this same Father inflicts upon him – rather than the scholastic problem of how to reconcile the beatific vision enjoyed by the Word with the suffering experienced in his passion. 23   A particularly comprehensive work that will often be referred to in this analysis of Jesus’ cry on the cross is that of Gérard Rossé, The Cry of Jesus on the Cross: A Biblical and Theological Study, tr. Stephen W. Arndt (New York, Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1987). 24   Rossé, The Cry of Jesus, p. 82.

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When we come to the Reformers, they continue the mystical interpretation of Jesus’ abandonment as an act of God but they cross a threshold that the Rhineland mystics refrained from crossing. By invoking scriptural texts that talk about how Jesus Christ was ‘made sin’ (2 Cor 5:21) and became ‘a curse for us’ (Gal 3:13), the Reformers proposed a juridical view of redemption according to which Jesus on the cross underwent the punishment that God in his wrath inflicts upon the sinner: Jesus experienced hell on the cross, he suffered the torments and pains of the damned (poena damni) in the place of sinners, although God was never angry with his Son who was without sin – hence the assertion that the Son ‘bears’ the weight of God’s wrath against sinners. From the standpoint of this concept of penal substitution, the abandonment on the cross is not reduced to a mere feeling, it does not have to do with a darkening of the psyche in relation to God; rather, it is now a question of ‘real’ abandonment since what is envisaged is an entering into a ‘terrible abyss’ (Calvin). But the question that must be asked at this point is, To what extent is it legitimate to interpret Jesus’ cry in juridical terms as his undergoing the punishment of hell in our place? From the exegetical interpretation of Mark 15:34 that follows, which builds on the theological analysis of the life of Jesus discussed in the previous section, a response will be given to this basic question. Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane An appropriate starting point and key text for entering into the mystery of the passion of Jesus is the narration of the episode in the garden of Gethsemane (Mk 14:35–6). What this text makes clear from the outset is that by fully accepting the will of his Father that he give himself over to death at the hands of his enemies, Jesus manifests himself as the one who is united with the Father in unfathomable love. Notwithstanding Jesus’ request that ‘the cup’ be removed from him, Gethsemane depicts Jesus’ will as being in conformity (not in conflict) with the Father’s will which he had obeyed throughout his life and mission as the Son.25 What happens in the garden is most important because it is ‘the key to all that is   The unity of wills between the Son and the Father is reinforced by biblical texts such as John 4:34 and 6:38. Moltmann, by contrast, argues that Gethsemane indicates a conflict of wills inasmuch as the Father imposes his will upon the acquiescing Son, thereby introducing a division within the triune life of God. Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God, tr. Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), pp. 80–83. Moltmann also speaks of a conformity of wills between the Son and the Father, but, as David Lauber notes, it is questionable whether this is consistent with his contention that in the Son’s passion the relationship actually breaks off. David Lauber, Barth on the Descent into Hell: God, Atonement and the Christian Life (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), pp. 119–20. Paul Fiddes is also critical of Moltmann for placing too much stress upon ‘God against God’ so that the Son appears as one who suffers with us while the Father appears as the one who inflicts the suffering. Paul Fiddes, The Creative Suffering of God (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), pp. 196–7. 25

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about to happen, a warning to read all that follows in this light.’26 The ‘my God’ invoked by Jesus on the cross is not simply the God of the Old Testament but the God whom Jesus addresses as ‘Abba’, the God with whom he is conscious of having a unique filial relationship. The cry must therefore be interpreted in a distinctly theological manner as the ‘I’ of the Son, that is, as something that happens between Jesus and his Father, and between the Father and Jesus, for the sake of a godless world.27 The scene in the garden and the ‘my God’ invoked on the cross indicate that what is needed to delve into the mystery of Jesus’ unique death is a trinitarian theology of the cross. While Jesus’ obedience to the Father characterizes his entire life and mission, Gethsemane marks a crucial transition point for the enactment of Jesus’ obedience to the Father. The transition in the story is from a certain liberty of action and scope of movement that Jesus had enjoyed as a figure of authority and power, to a situation of powerlessness and helplessness which Jesus enters into freely when he gives himself over to the religious and political authorities.28 We are given here a rare glimpse into Jesus’ inner life when, tempted to plead with the Father that ‘this cup’ be removed from him, he confirms instead his obedience: ‘Yet not what I will, but what thou wilt’ (Mk 14:36). The emphasis in the story falls on Jesus’ determination to be obedient, yet we should not lose sight of the agony and anguish of Jesus caused by the realization that he was about to taste the bitterness of the cup, that is, the cup of God’s wrath against sin. It is worth our while at this point to listen to Barth’s instructive description of Gethsemane:   Rossé, The Cry of Jesus, p. 63.   Moltmann is right to stress that there is not only a religious (blasphemer) and

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political (rebel) aspect to Jesus’ death, but also a theological dimension. Problems arise, however, when he contends that the cross of the Son ‘divides’ God from God and the resurrection of the crucified ‘unites’ God with God. Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, tr. R.A. Wilson and John Bowden (London: SCM Press, 1974), p. 152. 28   See Frei, The Identity of Jesus, pp. 102–15. Frei argues that in the final events of Jesus’ life, what happens to the close interaction between Jesus and God is that Jesus’ action is superseded by God’s action. At the climactic point of the divine action, namely, the resurrection, God alone is active, and it is Jesus alone who is manifested. Barth also regards Gethsemane as marking a transition from Jesus in his activity to his being acted upon: ‘It is now shown where the victory which Jesus won in the temptation in the wilderness leads [cf. Lk 4:13], that the end will involve the death of the victor.’ Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/I, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, tr. G.W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1956), p. 264. Balthasar is also of the view that the coming of Jesus’ ‘hour’ represents a ‘deep incision’ or rupture between the active life of Jesus and his ‘being given up’ by Jews and Gentiles, by his disciples, and finally by the Father too. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. IV, The Action, tr. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), p. 237. For both Barth and Balthasar, Jesus is not a mere passive victim, though, because the transition that Gethsemane marks is determined by the perfect obedience of the Son.

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It was not a matter of His suffering and dying in itself and as such, but of the dreadful thing that He saw coming upon Him in and with His suffering and dying. He saw it clearly and correctly. It was the coming of the night ‘in which no man can work’ (Jn 9:4), in which the good will of God will be indistinguishably one with the evil will of men and the world and Satan. It was a matter of the triumph of God being concealed under that of His adversary, of that which is not, of that which supremely is not. It was a matter of God Himself obviously making a tryst with death and about to keep it. It was a matter of the divine judgment being taken out of the hands of Jesus and placed in those of His supremely unrighteous judges and executed by them upon Him … Jesus saw this cup. He tasted its bitterness. He had not made any mistake. He had not been needlessly afraid. There was every reason to ask that it might pass from Him.29

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus becomes acutely aware of the coincidence or siding of God’s good will with the evil will of humankind – the Father delivers up the Son to a sinful and violent world – so that from this moment onward Jesus is consumed by the darkness of being forsaken by God and delivered into the hands of his enemies. It is evident that Jesus dies at the hands of sinners and evildoers, though at the same time Barth wishes to emphasize that the Messiah also dies at the hands of God, which is integral to his understanding of Jesus’ death as a substitutionary death endured for the reconciliation of the world with the living God. Yet while Barth uses the language of satisfaction to explicate the atoning significance of the death of Jesus Christ, it must be borne in mind that what is satisfied is not God’s wrath but God’s holy love; it is the latter which is the ‘cause’ of the passion of the Son of God, who is also the Son of Man.30 It is pertinent here to also appeal to the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews who confirms that the focus of the episode in Gethsemane is Jesus’ determination to be obedient to the Father in enduring ‘the cup’ out of love for the Father and for us. In speaking about Jesus’ prayers and supplications to God when facing his impending death, the writer asserts that Jesus actually ‘learned obedience’ (Heb 5:8) at this point of his public ministry. For all his sovereignty, then, the man Jesus is depicted as truly tested in his fidelity to the Father. It is precisely this tested faith that identifies Jesus as Son of God, and he crowns a tradition which turns out to be Israel’s great tradition of tested faith in an invisible God (cf. Heb 11:1–3) whose promises still remain to be fulfilled (cf. Heb 11:4–39). This tradition will be treated below in the discussion of the Jewish wisdom traditions and the motif of the passio justi.

  Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/1, p. 271.   The final section of this chapter will take up Barth’s use of the language of

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punishment and his understanding of the Pauline utterance that Christ was ‘made sin’ for our sake.

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The episode in the garden of Gethsemane, then, is to be regarded as ‘the inner point at which Jesus’ intention begins to mark his identity.’31 But intention is nothing in itself without enactment, hence the transition from power to powerlessness on the inner plane is constituted by enactment on the outer plane, which is nothing short of the whole passion-cross-resurrection sequence. In the description of the man Jesus we will do well to keep coming back to the truth of the words uttered by the chief priests and the scribes: ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself’ (Mk 15:31). These words suggest that if Jesus had not given up the power to save himself (Mt 26:53–4), he could not have saved others, in which case we are to see in the transition from power to helplessness the actual realization of Jesus’ saving power. Jesus had spoken at the Last Supper of his blood of the covenant ‘which is poured out for many’ (Mk 14:24), and now the shedding of his blood on the cross appears as the content or purpose of his obedience to the Father enacted in the garden. We are not given another glimpse of the inner life of Jesus in the events climaxing the Gospel story except for the sudden cry of Jesus on the cross: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Mk 14:34; Mt 27:46). The wisdom motif of the suffering just one Against the backdrop of the foregoing discussion, an endeavour will be made to interpret Jesus’ cry of God-forsakenness by relating it to the Old Testament motif of the passio justi. The primitive Christian community had to deal not simply with the problem of preaching a Messiah who had experienced death, but with the much bigger problem posed by the cross which was a form of death reserved for hardened criminals, rebellious slaves and rebels against Roman imperial rule. The main reason for the widespread use of crucifixion in antiquity was its allegedly supreme efficacy as a deterrent; it was carried out publicly with the intent of maximizing cruelty towards the victim and maximizing his humiliation. ‘A crucified Messiah, son of God or God, must have seemed a contradiction in terms to anyone, Jew, Greek, Roman or barbarian, asked to believe such a claim, and it will certainly have been thought offensive and foolish.’32 No wonder Paul writes that to preach a crucified Messiah is simply ‘a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles’ (1 Cor 1:23). The earliest Christians could not, therefore, present their Gospel message to the Jewish world without first attempting to resolve this scandal: How is such a death in accordance with God’s plan expressed in Scripture? To address this problem, the motif of the passio justi was made use of; that is, the motif of the just one who suffers despite fidelity to God’s will and who feels abandoned by   Frei, The Identity of Jesus, p. 110.   Martin Hengel, Crucifixion, tr. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977),

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p. 10. Hengel asserts that crucifixion is a specific expression of the sadistic cruelty and inhumanity dormant within us all, and which in our time finds expression in the call for the death penalty and for harsher treatment of criminals.

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God to adversity. According to this tradition, which is given abundant expression in the supplicatory psalms or psalms of lamentation, it is precisely in the absence or ‘hiddenness’33 of God that the suffering just one proclaims trust in God, for ultimately the just person can turn only to God for vindication in a situation of distress and affliction.34 The lament is composed according to a characteristic form, although some variation in the details is to be found. The supplicant (a) begins with an invocation to God recalling the mighty deeds of the past; (b) presents the complaint in relation to the present situation; (c) confesses trust in God who cannot be unfaithful to the covenant; (d) conveys the supplication for help or forgiveness; and (e) concludes with a vow of praise of God. It is of particular importance to note that the composition of the lament is such that the lament never stands by itself; instead, like the second movement of a symphony, the initial petition conveyed out of distress moves into the final movement of joyful praise of God who alone can vindicate the just one in the face of evil. This means that when we seek to interpret Jesus’ cry on the cross, which is a recitation of the opening words of Psalm 22, we must bear in mind that this psalm of lament ends in a vow of renewed praise of God: ‘All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations’ (vv. 27–8). Having said this, however, caution must be applied here not to gloss over Jesus’ genuine lament or cry of dereliction by turning it solely into a cry of trust in God and certainty about being vindicated by God who alone is Judge. When the cry is interpreted in light of the previous section where the development of Jesus’ individuality in the Gospel story was discussed, it becomes clear that his cry is to be seen as the culminating point of his increasing isolation and loneliness: he is abandoned by the Jewish people at large, by the Jewish religious authorities, by his very own disciples, and now he experiences abandonment even on the part of God. We should, then, fully appreciate the immediate sense of abandonment conveyed by the opening words of Psalm 22 on Jesus’ lips and not downplay its reality by turning the cry into an expression of utter trust in God and praise of God. On the other hand, we must not lose sight of the fact that since Jesus’ cry belongs to the tradition of the passio justi it is also inadequate to hold that it is a cry of a 33   It is common to read about the ‘absence’ of God in human suffering, but Paul Fiddes makes a valid point when he says that suffering should not be used as a symbol for God’s absence because ‘God is in suffering’, thus suffering is ‘a mode of God’s presence.’ It is preferable to speak of the ‘hiddenness’ of God in human suffering. Fiddes, The Creative Suffering of God, pp. 191–2. 34   One third of the Psalter consists of laments, both collective and individual, in which the supplicant cries to God ‘out of the depths’ (Ps. 130:1). For the characteristic form of the lament, see Bernhard W. Anderson, Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today, 3rd edn (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox, 2000), pp. 60–62; Claus Westermann, The Praise of God in the Psalms, tr. Keith R. Crim (Richmond: John Knox, 1965), pp. 52–81.

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desperate man.35 We are required to hold in tension, then, both the reality of Jesus’ God-forsakenness and the enactment of Jesus’ perfect obedience to the Father as a radical test of his trust in God.36 The motif of the passio justi characteristic of the psalms of lamentation underwent a significant development, however, which is readily apparent in the Book of Wisdom (2:10–20) where the just are persecuted not despite the fact that they are upright and righteous, but precisely because they bear faithful witness to the living Lord. While the sufferings are still seen as putting the faith of the just to the test so that they may be proved to be worthy of God (cf. Wisd 3:5), nonetheless the primary emphasis falls on depicting the suffering endured as proof of their justice: the persecution of the upright who adhere to the Torah of God becomes the sign of divine election. The passage in the Book of Wisdom (2:10–20) which purports to be the scornful talk of the impious, and which recalls the suffering servant of Yahweh in Isaiah 53, bears quoting in full given the impressive points of resemblance to Jesus’ passion: As for the upright man who is poor, let us oppress him; let us not spare the widow, nor respect old age, white-haired with many years. Let our might be the yardstick of right, since weakness argues its own futility. Let us lay traps for the upright man, since he annoys us and opposes our way of life, reproaches us for our sins against the Law, and accuses us of sins against our upbringing. He claims to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. We see him as a reproof to our way of thinking, the very sight of him weighs our spirits down; for his kind of life is not like other people’s, and his ways are quite different. In his opinion we are counterfeit; he avoids our ways as he would filth;

  Cf. Rossé, The Cry of Jesus, pp. 101–5.   Moltmann holds that in the context of Jesus’ life of proclaiming in a unique way

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the closeness of the Father’s kingdom, his cry should not be interpreted as the ultimate test of a religious man in suffering, but as his being delivered up to death as one rejected by God, as one who suffers the torment of hell. Moltmann, The Crucified God, p. 148. While Moltmann is correct to emphasize that Jesus’ death must be distinguished from other crosses in the history of human suffering, nonetheless Gethsemane indicates it is legitimate to speak of Jesus as tested in his mission as the Son who endures ‘the cup’ for our sake. As Moltmann himself points out, the important thing is to interpret Psalm 22 in the sense of Jesus’ situation, not vice versa.

34

Death as Transformation he proclaims the final end of the upright as blessed and boasts of having God for his father. Let us see if what he says is true, and test him to see what sort of end he will have. For if the upright man is God’s son, God will help him and rescue him from the clutches of his enemies. Let us test him with cruelty and with torture, and thus explore this gentleness of his and put his patience to the test. Let us condemn him to a shameful death since God will rescue him – or so he claims.37

In this portrait of the dynamics of violence, the just ones are subjected to undeserved suffering at the hands of evildoers purely on the basis of the upright lives they lead. This more developed form of the motif of the suffering of the just brings to light the fact that human sin cannot be fathomed by thinking of it as mere weakness in the face of temptation; there is also an element of wilfulness in human sin that is often provoked by the mere encounter with virtuous people. The deep-seated character of the reality of sin is manifested in the tendency of humans to treat genuine virtue and goodness as implausible, so that we seek to lay bare the sinfulness of even the just ones by putting them to the test and provoking them to reveal the violence which is in them, too. The mystery of sin is nowhere more apparent than in the fact that our penchant for violence can be elicited by the encounter with virtue. The deuterocanonical text quoted above clearly represents a principal source of the Gospel narratives of the passion of Jesus, for Jesus is cast in the role of the one who is unjustly put to a shameful death for having irritated and disturbed the powers that be by his authoritative proclamation of the unconditional love of the Father for his impoverished people. Apparently abandoned by God, Jesus’ faith in God is put to a decisive test by his scornful rejectors. The renouncement on Jesus’ part of any kind of self-justification before his enemies (Mk 15:29–30) and the acceptance of his unjust suffering unto death without expecting any saving act on the part of God as demanded by those who mock and taunt him (Mk 15:31–2), is thoroughly consistent with the motif of the just one depicted in the Book of Wisdom. This absence of any self-justifying appeal to God serves to highlight Jesus’ sole trust in God who falls silent during his hour of distress and need: the God whom Jesus addresses as Father does not allow himself to be invoked as Jesus’ personal saviour, for this would mean that God is on the side of Jesus ‘over against’ those who reject and mock him.38 Jesus therefore freely accepts a 37   The translation is from the New Jerusalem Bible (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1985). 38   This point is consistent, note, with the view of Hans W. Frei expressed earlier that we are to see in the transition from power to helplessness the realization of Jesus’ saving

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shameful and torturous death at the hands of sinners rather than compromise his utter fidelity to God – at whose hands he also suffers and dies inasmuch as God’s good will is indistinguishably one with the evil will of fallen humanity – and in this way his passion becomes the proof both of his divine election and the integrity of his justice. But while the suffering Jesus as the ‘sin-bearer’ who bears faithful witness to God awaits no decisive act of God in this life, God’s response does come in the abyss of the grave of Jesus – the Father responds by raising Jesus from the dead in the power of the Spirit. The unique openness and receptivity to the Father that Jesus displays during his public ministry to Israel reaches a climactic point in his tested and perfected obedience on the cross, so that what is realized in the passion of Jesus the Son is the perfect union of his humanity with God the Father. Such perfect union with God gives rise to the formation of the ‘new man’ perfectly consecrated in his being ‘lifted up’ (Jn 12:32) from the dead and glorified; that is, such perfect union attains to resurrection life as a creative act of the living God. This understanding of resurrection as a creative act that glorifies the crucified Jesus also contains the important theme of the Father’s vindication of the historical Jesus. By the eschatological act of raising Jesus from the dead, God, and God alone, has vindicated Jesus and revealed him as ‘the Holy and Just One’ (Acts 3:14). This implies that the well attested human history of the man Jesus is now to be seen as God’s special handiwork. What is more, since the metaphor of resurrection was used to sum up the Jewish hope that final justice for Israel, as well as for the world, was to be expected from God alone on the Last Day, then the profession of faith in Jesus risen from the dead meant that the first Christians identified the Just One as the anticipated agent of God’s final judgement (cf. Acts 17:31): Jesus had been revealed as the standard by which God would execute judgement. There is an important difference, though, between the New Testament profession of Jesus risen and the late Jewish idea of a general resurrection; namely, the latter is a neutral apocalyptic concept which is postulated as the condition for ensuring that each and every person will appear before God’s judgement throne, whereas the former has in view the eschatological saving action of God in raising Jesus from the dead, not a condition for the final reckoning.39

power (cf. Mk 15:31). The point expressed here is the understanding of Frans Jozef van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, p. 419. 39   In Jesus’ time no uniform ideas existed about life after death. For example, in the Book of Wisdom (1–6) the righteous do not actually die but are ‘taken up to God’ (resurrection is not mentioned) while the wicked die; a similar theme is present in Enoch 62–3; Daniel 12:1–3 expresses the concept of resurrection, not as a salvific event though; the Book of Jubilees 23:27–31 talks of a ‘rising’ of the souls of the righteous, but no mention is made of resurrection; physical resurrection is mentioned in 2 Maccabees 7; and 4 Ezra 7:32 speaks of the release of the dead from Sheol so that all may be judged. See the survey presented by Schillebeeckx in his Jesus, pp. 518–23.

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In light of the foregoing discussion it is possible to discern two poles emerging from Jesus’ cry on Calvary, both of which can readily be brought into relation with the critical discussion of the process of Jesus’ individualization discussed earlier in this chapter. Firstly, while the reader is left with a clear sense of Jesus’ very real experience of the darkness of rejection, loneliness and suffering on the cross, this psychological or affective aspect of his passion is not the focus of Mark the evangelist. Instead, the emphasis falls, as the episode in the garden of Gethsemane shows, on the theological dimension of the Son’s perfect obedience to the Father as a decisive manifestation of personal unity with the Father in unfathomable love. This proposition is supported by the first part of this chapter where it was maintained that as the forces of hostility and rejection against Jesus gather momentum, the individuality of Jesus becomes increasingly established as the revealer of humanity’s inhumanity, which is accompanied at the same time by a deepening experience of his filial unity with the Father. The cross, then, is to be viewed as the climactic point of the gradual process of Jesus’ individualization which takes place with reference to his sustained relationships to his hostile surroundings on the one hand, and to his identification with the kingdom of the Father on the other. This brings us to a second pole that arises out of the foregoing analysis of Jesus’ cry of God-abandonment. On the lips of Jesus himself the opening words of Psalm 22 are intended as a theological interpretation of his death; namely, Jesus the Son, who is delivered up by the Father to the evil will of humankind, has completely assumed in his person the human condition of estrangement or separation from God of which the cross is the consummate sign.40 What this second pole brings to light, in other words, is Jesus’ identification with the concrete human condition. In the crowning act of perfect obedience to the Father’s will that he drink from the cup, the rejected Jesus has identified himself fully with the human condition of estrangement from God in order that a sinful world might be ‘reconciled’ to God (cf. Rom 5:10) and elevated to blessed union with God as its final end.41 40   This is the thesis of Rossé, The Cry of Jesus, pp. 45, 108. Such an interpretation of Jesus’ death lends its support to contemporary rethinking of satisfaction theories of atonement, according to which the Son was not stricken by God’s thirst for retributive justice but rather by the violence of a humanity that refuses to accept the kingdom of God. Cf. Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin (eds), Stricken by God? Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2007); S. Mark Heim, Saved From Sacrifice: A Theology of the Cross (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2006); John Sanders (ed.), Atonement and Violence: A Theological Conversation (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006). 41   Gerald O’Collins rightly points out that Christ’s identification with the human condition means that he too was ‘judged’ by God, but not in the sense of propitiating and appeasing an angry God as suggested by penal substitution theory. Gerald O’Collins, Jesus Our Redeemer: A Christian Approach to Salvation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 159. O’Collins, moreover, is not prepared to drop the language of sacrifice as demanded by René Girard, claiming instead that such language should be retained because

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This second pole, which, it is important to appreciate, is contained within the first pole, implies that Jesus the Son dies not only at the hands of sinners but also at the hands of God inasmuch as he is the ‘sin-bearer’ who endures the torment of hell as God-forsakenness, as will be discussed further below. From the standpoint of the above two poles which form an indissoluble unity, Jesus’ abandonment on the cross presents itself as the revelation of the fullness of divine love between the persons of the Son and the Father, which is being played out on the human historical plane where the forces of sin and death seem to have the upper hand and overshadow God’s good purpose for the world. What the scandalous cross of the Son announces is the solidarity of the living God with the wretchedness and brokenness of the fallen human condition, as well as with all the suffering innocent who are tortured and put to death by human cruelty and violence. Jesus, the Just One, who is perfectly united with the Father in unfathomable love, dies not a gentle death like Socrates and his cup of hemlock or a passing on old and full of years, but a torturous and utterly humiliating death on a cross. There is no question that the word of the cross ‘caused offence, but in this very offence it revealed itself as the centre of the gospel.’42 But as this centre of the Gospel is proclaimed and reflected upon in strictly trinitarian and relational terms, the mechanical and crude notion that the Father positively willed the execution of his Son to appease his wrath against sinners must be steadfastly rejected.43 Instead, it must be appreciated that the Father, out of his love for the world (cf. Jn 3:16), surrendered his Son to a heartless world and willingly ‘gave him up for us all’ (Rom 8:32), so that the world might be reconciled to God and come to enjoy the free gift of eternal life (Rom 6:23) in accordance with the eternal covenant of grace (Jn 1:1–4, 14–18).

it conveys the costly self-giving of Christ for the sake of our salvation. Once we admit, though, that Christ dies not only at the hands of a sinful humanity but also at the hands of God – he endures the judgement of God against sin – then this leaves room for formulating an acceptable concept of ‘substitution’, as the final part of this chapter will discuss in support of Barth. 42   Hengel, Crucifixion, p. 89. 43   What does the theory of penal substitution tell us about the nature of God the Father? If the origin of Jesus’ bloody death is the Father’s need to satisfy his vindictive justice rather than the cruelty of a humanity estranged from God, then how can such a vengeful Father be worthy of praise and adoration? Nietzsche claimed that such a notion was the most grotesque idea that the human race has ever thought of. This grotesque idea, however, is not one shared by either Barth or von Balthasar, despite the fact that both hold to the view that the Son also suffers at the hands of a wrathful God. This will become apparent later in this study. For a comprehensive treatment of Barth and von Balthasar, see Lauber, Barth on the Descent into Hell, pp. 1–75.

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Did Jesus experience hell on the cross? If the essence of hell is taken to be estrangement or separation from God, then the above theological interpretation of Jesus’ cry does require us to acknowledge that Jesus as the sin-bearer endured hell on the cross.44 Unlike the traditional framework of the doctrine of the two natures which views Jesus’ passion in static terms, when treated within the framework of the Trinity the cross of the Son is viewed in terms of the dynamic relationship between divine persons who constitute themselves in their relationship to one another. On this trinitarian view, one is required to say that the Son, through his loving obedience to the Father, really suffers in his being forsaken by the Father, and the Father, through his love for the Son and for the world, endures the grief of delivering up the Son for the sake of the world’s salvation. The cry of abandonment gives concrete expression to the ineffable life of intimate unity and love between Jesus and his Father; it discloses the trinitarian life of God as the mystery of perfect charity and gift of self. It is precisely the Son’s fidelity and unfathomable love for the Father that is the exegesis of his descent into hell as God-forsakenness, as Gérard Rossé explains: It is the situation of human sin that – theologically speaking – best mirrors the abandonment of Jesus suffered as the loss of God. The human condition is not in fact characterized only by limits – and consequent negativity, suffering, and existential anxiety – owing to man’s creaturehood, but also by that other mystery which sin is, the evil by which man destroys himself and fails in his vocation as man, in his individual and social dimension: the situation par excellence of separation from God. Jesus has descended into this existential failure also and reaches man in the prison of his sin … It is fidelity to the Father and not rebellion that carries Christ far from God, far also from the felt experience and the support of love, even if precisely this love is the exegesis of the event: the extreme abandonment manifests the extreme communion of the Son with the Father.45

It seems that one is required to see in Jesus’ cry of abandonment the extreme manifestation of the qualities of love and communion between the divine persons of the Trinity. For on the hill of Golgotha the Son has performed the same act of abandonment to the Father that he eternally performs within the trinitarian life of eternal love. But, of course, he lives out his perfect response and obedience to the Father on the human plane with its conditions of anguish, torment and the burden of sin. The writings of Hans Urs von Balthasar in particular provide us with valuable material for a proper understanding of the separation between Father and Son as ‘a mode of union’ from which arises the profound insight that, ‘Only in the 44   The understanding of hell presented here is developed further in the final section of this chapter where the concept of substitution and Barth’s use of the language of punishment (poena damni) will be discussed. 45   Rossé, The Cry of Jesus, p. 116. Emphasis added.

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sacrifice that lies in separation can love unfold its whole depth.’46 The following extract shows how von Balthasar situates the mystery of the cross in the eternal generation of the Son by the Father: There must be reciprocal personal forsakenness on the part of Father and Son, for only then can the highest possible summit of revelation be realized and, hence, perfect faith (this leap into the open dimension). This absolute paradox is necessary to make it credible that the Father does not leave the Son for a moment, even in the final abandonment. The Son is at the same time united more and more to the Father in this separation, until he is nothing more on the Cross than the revelation of the will of the Father … He knows that, in that abandonment, in which the Father too will be abandoned, he will be in absolute unity with him, the highest union possible in love … the eternal generation of the Son from the Father embraces particularly the day of the Son’s night on the Cross, just as it embraces every day that has been or is yet to come.47

This trinitarian interpretation of the Son’s night on the cross is able to shed new light on God’s ‘silence’ or hiddenness in respect of the Just One’s suffering and dying. In the very act of abandoning his Son on the cross, the Father also abandons himself in his silence which indicates the Father’s identification of himself with the Crucified One. This implies that the non-intervention of the Father is to be interpreted in a positive light, for the Father reveals himself on the cross not despite, but precisely in his silence. Jesus’ experience of God-forsakenness, then, should not be taken to mean that God withdraws completely from him; rather, God remains the ‘interiority’ of this event, although it does mean that Jesus endures a diminished divine presence, a loss of the intensification of divine presence that he had enjoyed earlier during his authoritative preaching to Israel.48 It is worth listening to how J. Moingt positively states the Father’s silence on Calvary:   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. V, The Last Act, tr. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), pp. 256–65, at p. 264. 47   Ibid., p. 263. For von Balthasar, though, as will become evident in Chapter 3 of this study, the Son’s experience of God-forsakenness extends beyond Good Friday into Holy Saturday – the descent into hell is the Son’s ‘going to the dead’, for the being dead of the Son is the furthest point of separation from the Father, which is at the same time the point of complete and utter solidarity with the human condition ‘from within.’ 48   This interpretation reinforces the view expressed earlier in note 33 about the incompatibility of suffering and God’s absence – God is not absent because God is in suffering, thus it is better to talk of the ‘hiddenness’ of God. Terence Fretheim in his study of suffering in the Old Testament explains that the writings of the Old Testament speak of differing intensifications of the divine presence, and that God’s ‘absence’ is regarded not as the withdrawal of God’s presence altogether but as a loss of intensification of the divine presence. Terence E. Fretheim, The Suffering God: An Old Testament Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), p. 65. 46

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When interrogated in the light of Easter, the scandalous silence of God on Calvary becomes revelation. God manifests himself by disappearing in the death of Christ. He manifests himself as the interiority of this event of death … as the exchange of relationships and of gifts that constitute them, the one and the other, in their being of Father and Son. The Father reveals himself on the cross not despite his silence and his non-intervention but positively, by contrast, in this silence and through the very fact of abandoning his Son. He intervenes insofar as he abstains from intervening, and this abstention is a decisive and definitive act …49

With regard to the Pauline assertion that Jesus Christ was ‘made sin’ (2 Cor 5:21), therefore, this should not be interpreted extrinsically and mechanistically as meaning that the Crucified One has satisfied God’s thirst for punishment or vengeance upon the sinner, as held by the traditional Reformed theory of penal substitution. Instead, the arguments presented thus far indicate that it is best interpreted intrinsically and relationally as the decisive penetration of Jesus Christ, and therefore of God through the humanity of the Son, into the miserable situation of estrangement from God that humanity finds itself in, in order that creaturely being may be ‘raised up’ (Jn 6:39) to blessed union with God as its final destiny. To confess Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane and on the hill of Golgotha as the Son of the Father, a Father who reveals himself in the delivering up of his Son for our sake, is to proclaim God as not insensitive to human sin, anguish, pain, suffering and death; quite the contrary, since the Son is in solidarity with the concrete human condition and the Father identifies with the Crucified One, the sphere of suffering and estranged humanity now appears as the very locus for being addressed by God and ‘beholding’ God. What we have here is the revelation of the thought provoking mystery of the ‘lamb slain before the foundation of the world’ (Rev 13:8) – all human history is taken up into the mystery of Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God, in whom all things hold together and are created anew. It is time to sum up the arguments developed to this point. From the perspective of the picture painted by a literary interpretation of the Synoptic story and an exegetical-historical inquiry into Jesus’ cry of abandonment based thereupon, it is not sufficient to see the cross of the Holy and Just One as a religious symbol that expresses the readiness of humankind for suffering and sacrifice, or as an ethical model that calls for active discipleship, although it does include all this as well, to be sure. As the radical kenosis and self-communication of God’s being, the passion of Jesus Christ reveals first and foremost what God is really like: God himself, in the person of the incarnate Son, freely accepts death on a cross and descends into the hell of God-forsakenness so as to vanquish the forces of death operative in the world and ‘make all things new’ (Rev 21:5). The cross, then, should be treated primarily in terms of an ontological model which sets forth the ultimate truth (cf. 1 Tim 2:4) in respect of the graced horizon of human existence; that is, how our fragmented, sinful, mortal and incomplete lives will attain to glorious wholeness   Cited by Rossé, The Cry of Jesus, p. 133. Emphasis added.

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and integrity of being by partaking of the divine identity of Jesus Christ who is the ‘way’ (Jn 14:6) to the Father. The ineffable mystery of the cross presents itself as God’s definitive response to the reality of sin and evil in the world, to the scandal of human suffering and the unjust death of the innocent, of human anguish and anxiety, of all those ‘why’ questions that have no ready answer. What transpired on the hill of Golgotha is to be seen as God’s ‘yes’ to a humanity groaning for its final salvation, which does not, however, remove the suffering or explain it away or justify it, but rather inserts it into the trinitarian mystery of God in order that humanity may ‘behold’ God and be transformed into the fullness and completeness of new life, that is, eternal life. Jesus the Son, sent by the Father into the ‘far country’, has taken upon himself the misery that he finds in the concrete historical realm, so that in the Son’s assumed humanity God is able to encounter us humans just as we are in our present situation of corruptibility, incompleteness and perishability, and raise us up to the glory of participating in the very life of the Blessed Trinity. It is important to highlight this fundamental point about how God encounters and accepts the human in its present condition, notwithstanding the fact that sin is abhorrent to God. The biblical notions of conversion of heart and forgiveness of sins are portrayed as concomitant aspects of the Gospel message, rather than as cause and effect or condition and promise (cf. Lk 24:47; Rom 5:8).50 From the standpoint of Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom of God, there is simply no basis for the view that forgiveness is only for those who were sinners but have now become righteous through repentance and fulfilment of the requirements of the law. The teaching that the sinner must take the initiative and do penance in order to receive grace has been turned upside down by the person of Jesus, for he brings the glad tidings that the sinner is freely accepted by God even before any act of repentance: first comes the grace of unmerited forgiveness, then the conversion of heart to love God and to love one’s neighbour. What holds in the dawning of the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus is the ‘law of grace’ which engenders a higher righteousness since to be granted unconditional pardon by God involves the granting of forgiveness to others, as the prayer of the Our Father makes expressly clear. There is no limit to forgiveness, and, moreover, all sins are forgiven, with the notable exception of the sin against the Holy Spirit, that is, against the reality 50   The contrasting messages of John the Baptist and Jesus illustrate this point. John announces a baptism of repentance to prepare for the imminent judgment of God; he looks to the future which is God’s wrath, in keeping with the prophecy of Amos 5:18–20. Jesus preaches the good news that God’s rule is at hand, which makes him a prophet of salvation, not a prophet of woe. By announcing the proximity of God’s unconditional will to salvation, Jesus presents God as mindful of humanity. The coming of the kingdom is God’s doing and there are no conditions that must be fulfilled on our part in order that it might enter the world. See Schillebeeckx, Jesus, pp. 126–39; John Fuellenbach, The Kingdom of God: The Message of Jesus Today (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1995), pp. 141–4; Hans Küng, On Being a Christian, tr. Edward Quinn (London: Collins, 1976), pp. 273–7.

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of God himself, when the sinner rejects the grace of forgiveness on offer (cf. Mt 12:31). The foregoing account of the process of Jesus’ individualization and the assumption of humanity in his person, which culminates in his crucifixion, descent into hell and his being raised from the dead, can serve as the point of reference for a systematic inquiry into the person of Jesus Christ. Of particular note is how the account protects the assertion of the full and true humanity of the Son – he identifies with the concrete human condition so as to redeem it from within – so that one does not get the impression that his divine nature so overwhelms his human nature that the latter becomes a mere cipher and non-entity. On the understanding that Jesus’ identification with the human condition is inextricably tied to his personal unity with the Father in unfathomable love, this implies that the humanity of Jesus is to be viewed as mediating and attesting to the divine. The following section will contribute further toward the protecting of the full humanity of the Son by showing how a literary approach to the Gospels on the one hand, and a conceptual understanding of person as relation on the other, can work effectively together to illuminate the Gospels, expose the shortcomings in classical Logos-Christology and inform an appropriate understanding of the ‘kenosis’ of God in the event of the Incarnation. The modus of being-related and the concept of kenosis As Jesus’ life and passion were examined in the preceding two sections, it became apparent from the narrative shape of the Gospel story that his identity is forged by his relation to the Father, on the one hand, and to those around him who end up rejecting him, on the other. The analysis of Jesus’ identity in relational terms strikes a chord with the present day sensibility in regard to personal relationships as integral to the mature development of the self.51 The Jewish thinker Martin Buber is especially relevant to the present chapter, because Buber offers a modern conceptual framework for expressing the Jewish motif of the passio justi and for pursuing the inquiry into the christological question. The principal aim of Buber’s work, as taught by the Hasidic tradition, is to make the secular sacred, and the basic notion used by Buber to achieve his aim is that God is encountered when I encounter You.52 What follows is a review of Buber’s fundamental thesis, which

51   Developmental psychology and humanistic philosophy have highlighted the relatedness of personal existence. Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers and Martin Buber, have all shown that we become mature persons through our encounters with other persons. Cf. van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, pp. 99–101, 171–2, 406–8. 52   See Martin Buber’s essay, ‘The Way of Man According to the Teachings of Hasidism’, in Religion From Tolstoy to Camus, ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), pp. 425–41.

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will lay the foundation for proceeding to an investigation of the manner in which the Logos is best understood in Christology. The notion of person as modus of being-related At the heart of Buber’s thesis lies the contention that there is no ‘I’ as such, but only the ‘I’ of the two basic words which the human can speak; namely, the ‘I’ of the basic word ‘I-It’ (the world as experience) and the ‘I’ of the basic word ‘I-You’ (the world of relation).53 The realm of ‘It’ is characterized by activities of controlling and predicting the future since they have something for their object, but there is no something where ‘You’ is spoken: Whoever says ‘You’ stands in relation and knows to have no control over the other and the future. The concern of Buber is to highlight the fact that because experience is always experience of something, then the realm of It remains on the surface, although some knowledge of things is acquired by experiencing them, to be sure. And this understanding does not change by adding ‘inner’ experiences to the ‘external’ ones, since it is still a matter of storing up information about something that allows itself to be experienced, but contributes nothing to the actual experience. The ideal of understanding in the realm of It is therefore taken to be objective knowledge, that is, knowledge which puts a recognizable construction on reality, so that the I lives by definition. This way of living inevitably gives rise to the promotion of exclusion. In contrast, the I which lives on the basis of ready encounter with and presence to the other over which no control can be exercised is the original I, that is, the I natively correlated to the You.54 The latter I displays a responsive and participatory style of interpreting reality, which is not a matter of mastery of something but of kinship and affinity for the other. Such a participatory style serves to promote not division and exclusion, but to strengthen unity with all that is encountered in the world. It is important to appreciate that Buber does not so much seek to disparage the I of the basic word I-It, as he does to elevate the importance of the I of the basic word I-You.55 The celebration of the latter hinges on the understanding that objects lack presence since they belong to the past and thus do not confront us, 53   Martin Buber, I And Thou, tr. Walter Kaufmann (New York: T & T Clark, 1970), pp. 53–6. Buber distinguishes between ‘experience’ (Erfahrung) and ‘relation’ (Beziehung). The former has to do with involvement with oneself, thus it implies that the other is approached as a thing, while the latter involves encounter with the other. 54   Ibid., pp. 73–5, 152. It should be pointed out that for Buber there are three spheres in which the world of relation arises: life with nature, life with other humans and life with spiritual beings. The ‘You’, then, is encountered not only in other people but also in things around us. In the second place, Buber maintains that in every You that confronts and meets us, the eternal You is present, which cannot be controlled by us – the future is not predictable, but a calling to a greater presence of being. 55   I And Thou, p. 85. Buber explains that the I cannot live without the realm of It because only It can be put in order, whereas the You is not subject to coordination.

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while ‘presence’ comes into being only insofar as the You encounters the I and confers ‘something more’ upon its being; the I receives what it did not have before. For Buber, the spiritual act par excellence is not the intellectual act of knowledge but the addressing of the other which culminates in the pronoun ‘You’ so that ‘between’ is a mode of being which is the ultimate support of meaning (in terms of sociality).56 The absolute is grasped or recognized not in the universal, which implies the privilege of knowledge, but in the ‘movement’ that meets the You, in the ‘Meeting’ or the ‘Relation’ between individuals.57 The I-You encounter, then, is not located in the subject; rather, it takes place in being.58 It is worth quoting what Buber has to say about the You that directly encounters the I: The You encounters me by grace – it cannot be found by seeking. But that I speak the basic word to it is a deed of my whole being, is my essential deed. The You encounters me. But I enter into a direct relationship to it. Thus the relationship is election and electing, passive and active at once: An action of the whole being must approach passivity, for it does away with all partial actions and thus with any sense of action, which always depends on limited exertions. The basic word I-You can be spoken only with one’s whole being. The concentration and fusion into a whole being can never be accomplished by me, can never be accomplished without me. I require a You to become; becoming I, I say You. All actual life is encounter.59

The essence of the human spirit according to Buber is this being able to say You, this ‘dialogue’ where the I and You confront each other freely in a reciprocity that involves no causality, for those who know of the presence of the You have the capacity for decision: here one finds ‘the freedom of his being and of being’ and the inexpressible ‘confirmation of meaning’ which cannot be defined but can only be done by us.60 In the encounter with God who is the Eternal You that meets the I in every human You, one must not think that revelation, as ‘presence’, is given so that one may attend to God – which would turn God into an object – but in order that one may ‘prove its meaning in action in the world.’61 Buber stresses 56   For a good discussion of Buber’s thought on the ‘between’ as a mode of being, see the essay by Emmanuel Levinas, ‘Martin Buber, Gabriel Marcel and Philosophy’, in Outside the Subject, tr. Michael B. Smith (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), pp. 20–39. 57   Ibid., 24. With regard to the medieval dispute about universals, Buber therefore favours nominalism. 58   See the essay by Emmanuel Levinas, ‘Martin Buber and the Theory of Knowledge’, in Proper Names, tr. Michael B. Smith (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996), pp. 17–35, at pp. 23–4. 59   I And Thou, p. 62. 60   Ibid., pp. 100, 158–9. 61   Ibid., p. 164.

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that revelation does not flow into the world as though the human recipient were a funnel; instead, revelation ‘confers itself’ upon the human being so that the latter is to be seen as an ‘organ’, not instrument, of revelation. It is a case of ‘a mixture of the divine and the human’, which allows Buber to admit the appearance of new forms of God in the course of human history.62 Notwithstanding this admission, one should still view the mystery of God as remaining wholly intact: it has made itself known to us as ‘salvation’, yet human beings have no knowledge of it, for God does not define himself before humankind. In a statement which is wholly in keeping with the biblical story of the revelation of the divine Name given to Moses, Buber asserts: ‘The word of revelation is: I am there as whoever I am there. That which reveals is that which reveals. That which has being is there, nothing more. The eternal source of strength flows, the eternal touch is waiting, the eternal voice sounds, nothing more.’63 What is of particular significance for the present inquiry into the christological question is the understanding that the ‘I’ of the basic word ‘I-You’ lives in the modus of being-related which ‘determines the inner quality of what it means to be a person.’64 This fundamental thesis of Buber challenges the view that beingrelated is rooted in some inner core of the person. If being-related is a modus of being, then my personal identity is forged in the ‘attitude’ of encounter with the other and I come to recognize my identity not as a property, but essentially as gift, as a matter of gracious encounter with the other. It is out of this awareness of my identity as essentially gift that I will readily proceed to give myself to others, even when they are not receptive to me, hence the dimension of inclusiveness in the modus of being-related. When I cannot reach the other with my gifts, I can still present myself, excluded as I am, to the other, and in this way I become the representative of the other’s relational identity. To express the matter more formally, ‘the presence of the other as such is an offer of the experience of transcendence in every encounter.’65 What emerges from this experience of transcendence, which opens up an ethical dimension of meaning, is the understanding that representation is based on being-related as such, quite apart from any demonstrable effects upon the other. To remain faithful to an encounter in which the other refuses to respond

  Ibid., p. 166.   Ibid., p. 160. 64   Van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, p. 408. The author goes on to discuss four dimensions 62 63

of Buber’s thesis regarding the modus of being-related: inclusiveness, transcendenceexperience, representation, and receptivity. 65   Ibid., p. 412. This recalls Bonhoeffer’s concept of ethical transcendence which sought to overcome transcendence in the epistemological sense (idealism): by acknowledging the other person, I enter into an I-thou relationship which places me before an ethical decision; the thou alone provides a real boundary through which deadly isolation is lifted and genuine community or sociality is established. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Communion of Saints (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), pp. 36–7.

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means that I freely undertake to suffer vicariously as the representative of the other’s true relational identity. This willingness to accept vicarious suffering brings to light a final feature of the modus of being-related, namely, its inherently sympathetic nature. This particular dimension of Buber’s thesis is apparent from the fact that my knowledge is acquired through my familiarity and affinity with the reality that I encounter, and it will also manifest itself in the style of action: namely, to be sympathetic must not be confused with passive acceptance since it requires that I confront the other – not as a manipulator, though – with a view to getting the best out of the other. In other words, the sympathetic nature of encounter is a matter of receptivity which avoids the common tendency to dominate over the other, thereby depriving the other of their true relational identity. The fundamental thesis of Buber that the I-You encounter takes place in being, to conclude, bears a family resemblance to an ontology of personhood which, amongst contemporary Christian thinkers, is vigorously defended by John Zizioulas on the basis of biblical thought and the teachings of the Cappadocian Fathers. The biblical view portrays being as caused by someone, namely, the ‘I am who I am’, and this principle of personal causation of being compels one to think of particularity as causative, not derivative, in ontology.66 This principle is bolstered by the trinitarian thought of the Cappadocian Fathers who argued that God’s being is caused not by the divine substance but by the person of the Father; that is, a particular being whose identity, moreover, is established only in relation to the other persons in the Holy Trinity. In such a perspective, personhood is not a quality added, as it were, to being; rather, one is required to understand that ‘relating is not consequent upon being but is being itself’,67 so that personhood has a metaphysical claim built into it, that is to say, the claim of absolute being. Critique of classical Logos-Christology In light of the helpful conceptual tools provided by Buber’s work, the discussion can now return to the analyses presented in the previous two sections of this chapter with the intention of offering a critique of traditional Logos-Christology. The principal problem with the latter is that Jesus is not portrayed as a human person – his humanity subsists in the person of the Logos – hence the life of Jesus is not rendered humanly credible and the confession of the Lordship of Jesus tends to lose its real significance for concrete human existence. One of the most constructive attempts in Catholic theology to address this basic problem has been made by Piet Schoonenberg. He argues that it is essential to view Jesus as a fully human person, for only the thoughts and actions of a truly human subject can be 66   John Zizioulas, ‘On Being a Person. Towards an Ontology of Personhood,’ in Persons, Divine And Human, ed. Christoph Schwöbel and Colin E. Gunton (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991), pp. 33–46, at p. 36. 67   Ibid., p. 46.

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called fully human – a pre-existing divine person subsisting in an ‘anhypostatic’ human nature does not lead a credible human life.68 The value of applying Buber’s conceptual framework to the Gospel story is that the life of Jesus is rendered humanly credible without, however, denying the special and unique character of his person. The Gospel story portrays a process of development in the identity of Jesus who never ceases to live on the basis of an attitude of ready encounter with and presence to those around him; he continues to live in terms of the I-You relationship so that he becomes the vicarious representative of his rejectors’ true, relational identity. In this way the crucified Jesus embodies a new definition of humanity which has been irrevocably united (ontologically) to the Father in his very own person, and thus conclusively redeemed. At the centre of this process of redemption of a fallen humanity lies Jesus’ faithful witness to his being-related to the Father in unfathomable love. This witnessing to his encounter with the eternal You indicates that the meaning of the Father’s will is not so much defined by Jesus as it is concretely done by him as the Son. Just how useful Buber’s fundamental thesis is with respect to an inquiry into the christological question is indicated by Buber himself when he says the following about the person of Jesus: And to anticipate and choose an image from the realm of unconditional relation: how powerful, even overpowering, is Jesus’ I-saying, and how legitimate to the point of being a matter of course! For it is the I of the unconditional relation in which man calls his You ‘Father’ in such a way that he himself becomes nothing but a son. Whenever he says I, he can only mean the I of the holy basic word that has become unconditional for him … In vain you seek to reduce this I to something that derives its power from itself, nor can you limit this You to anything that dwells in us. Both would once again deactualize the actual, the present relation. I and You remain; everyone can speak the You and then becomes I; everyone can say Father and then becomes son; actuality abides.69

While it is true that Buber could not do otherwise than portray Jesus as a human person, given that he is not an adherent of the Christian faith, nonetheless it is still most pertinent that he recognizes the extent to which the man Jesus actualized   Piet Schoonenberg, The Christ (New York: Herder & Herder, 1971). In order to establish the man Jesus as a fully human person, Schoonenberg proposes that the Logos be thought of as ‘enhypostatic’, that is, the Logos is ‘in’ the human person Jesus of Nazareth, as distinct from the traditional formula that Jesus’ humanity is assumed by the hypostasis of the Logos. There are problems with his thesis, though. By talking of the ‘presence’ of the Logos in the man Jesus (presence-Christology) as an alternative to the traditional language of the presence of God through the Logos incarnate in Jesus, it seems that the Logos is reduced to a quality of the human person Jesus. Cf. van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, pp. 385–94. 69   I And Thou, pp. 116–17. 68

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personhood on the basis of the strength of the I of the basic word I-You. And, furthermore, Buber asserts that it is precisely because of the strength of Jesus’ I in which he calls his You ‘Father’ that Jesus is able to speak to others, even when detachment from his person sets in. On the basis of Buber’s portrait, if one wants to say that Jesus is distinct from the rest of humankind in some way, then such a distinction must be described in terms of the fullness of his human selfhood which was wholly receptive to the Eternal You whom he addressed as ‘Father.’ Frans Jozef van Beeck, who adopts Buber’s thesis that the inner quality of what it means to be a person is determined by the modus of being-related, argues along such lines. The following extract makes plain his understanding of the person of Jesus in terms of Buber’s thesis: It consists in the total receptivity of this human person to the Father, without the slightest trace of that distrust of God that is involved in self-maintenance, self-justification, and self-affirmation. That means: the ‘I’ of Jesus is that ‘I’, that moral, responsive identity, which is constituted by God’s address to him and by the perfection of the response to God, to such an extent that there is, in Jesus, no defensive recourse to personal identity. Jesus really lets God be God, and thus he is true God from true God.70

The reference to Jesus as a ‘human’ person who is totally receptive to the Father is designed to highlight the need to view the man Jesus as subject, just like the rest of humankind, to the conditions and limitations of human existence: he is a real man with a human will that has to make continual choices in face of life’s temptations, as indicated by his constant need to retreat from public life and pray in solitude to his Father – against Eutyches and the Monophysites who tended to lose the human nature of Jesus in his divine nature.71 When it is acknowledged that Jesus’ humanity is not directly determined by the eternal Logos, that the choices Jesus makes are genuinely human choices in his being-related to God the Father, then it becomes plain that the divinity of Jesus should not be conceived as an inner core of his person, for this would make all of his knowledge and actions appear as the unfolding of a pre-determined divine programme, and thus, humanly speaking, irrelevant. The pitfall of Docetism is perhaps the most entrenched of all heresies, thus the Christian churches must seek to more effectively proclaim the true humanity of Jesus in order to avoid the reduction of the Gospel message to a pure myth.   Van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, pp. 421–2.   The temptation stories in the Synoptic Gospels depict a truly human Jesus who is

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tempted by the Devil, but because he is empowered with the Holy Spirit he is able to resist these temptations. In Luke the reader is told that the passion of Jesus is the final temptation that the Devil will use to win Jesus over (Lk 4:13). With regard to the sinlessness of Jesus, then, one should appreciate that it is not a case of Jesus not being able to sin (non posse peccare) but rather of Jesus being able not to sin (posse non peccare).

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The Reformed theologian Donald M. Baillie, writing against Docetism around the middle of the twentieth century, expresses a view similar to that of van Beeck when he says that, ‘Jesus Christ is the One in whom human selfhood fully came to its own and lived its fullest life, as human life ought to be lived, because His human selfhood was wholly yielded to God, so that His whole life was the life of God. That was the one life which was wholly divine and wholly human.’72 To Baillie’s mind, to affirm the life of Jesus as limited by the conditions of human existence is in no way to deny the mystery of his person as pertaining to the eternal being of God as the Son. That Jesus was limited by the conditions of human life does not undermine the claim relating to his divinity – the issue is how the mystery of the hypostatic union is conceived. The constructive way forward, to my mind, lies in treating the mystery of the person of Jesus as rooted in his modus of being-related to the Father in unfathomable love. A Christology developed along such lines does justice to the Gospel story where we see a clearly trinitarian pattern to the christological mystery – the Father redeems the world through the Son in the Spirit – and it is thoroughly consistent with the well established view that God’s activity in the world springs from the ineffable life of the immanent Trinity – the ad extra relations of God reflect or correspond to the ad intra relations of God. Having said this, however, there is an apparent weakness in van Beeck’s Christology; namely, the neglect of the person of the Spirit in the christological mystery. In a truly trinitarian perspective, no one divine person can be discussed without reference to the other two divine persons, all of whom are in perichoretic relationship with one another. A proper discussion of the Spirit will have to wait until the following Chapter 2 of this study, although it is worth our while at this point to note what Hans Urs von Balthasar has to say about this issue so as highlight what is neglected in van Beeck’s Christology: Jesus has the Spirit in him [he is conceived by the power of the Spirit] and over him [the Spirit descends upon Jesus at his baptism], and now that he is expressly the one-who-is-sent, it is through this internal – not external – communication that he is in relationship with the Father in heaven. The fact that Jesus has the Spirit in him ‘without measure’ and yet declares that the Spirit is above him expresses his humiliation … in this state … he becomes ‘obedient unto death’ (Phil 2:8). But the Spirit of God above him, whom he obeys (for the Father’s will is expressed in the Spirit) and in whom he discerns the here-and-now form of his

72   Donald M. Baillie, God Was In Christ (London: Faber & Faber, 1948), p. 145. Baillie draws attention to the more enduring contributions of liberal Protestantism to the understanding of the person of Jesus Christ, which serve to reject Docetism. These lay in the area of acknowledging the fact that Jesus was limited by the conditions of human life in this world of ours. Baillie discusses the human limits of our Lord’s knowledge, the human character of our Lord’s miracles, and the human character of our Lord’s moral and religious life.

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This citation makes plain that Jesus’ attitude of total openness and complete receptivity to the Father, which allows him to perform the will of the Father for the good of the world, cannot be thought of apart from Jesus’ personal relation to the Spirit. It is the Spirit who shows Jesus the Father’s will which is his mission as the Son. The personal relation of Jesus to the Spirit is also apparent in that Jesus promises his disciples that he will send the Spirit from the Father when he has departed from them in order to return to the Father (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:4, 8). The relation between the ‘I’ of the Son and the ‘Thou’ whom he calls Father always points to their ‘We’ (the Spirit) who is the principle of God’s self-communication to the created world. In addition to finding support in the Gospels and in the doctrine of the Trinity, van Beeck’s Christology does not break with the original intention of the doctrine of the hypostatic union which was to express the unity of the person of Christ in his consubstantiality with the Father as to divinity and his consubstantiality with us as to humanity.74 The traditional doctrine that Jesus the Son is ‘one in being with the Father’ reflects the understanding of Jesus’ unity with the Father as ‘being the same thing with’ the Father. On the basis of the argument elaborated thus far, it can be said that the inner quality of Jesus’ unity with the Father is his total, complete and unconditional self-surrender to the Father, in the Spirit. The identity of Jesus is essentially a responsive identity in his being-related to the Father and the perfection of his response to the Father means that he really lets God be God. Given that it is God’s very nature to freely communicate the divine being as presence, then Jesus’ basic attitude of total surrender to the Father, far from claiming the uniqueness of his person to the exclusion of others, actually opens his person to ready encounter with and presence to others. The divine nature, then, should never be attributed to the man Jesus in such a way that he is separated from humanity, which is what the affirmation of Jesus’ consubstantiality with humankind was originally intended to uphold. The latter conveys the understanding that Jesus is ‘the same thing with us’, although little access to the inner quality of his true humanity is given in this understanding. In order to avoid the scenario of isolating the man Jesus from us sinners because he is the only one united with the divine nature as the eternal Son of God, it is helpful to conceive of the inner quality of Jesus’ humanity in terms of his being totally open to ready encounter with others, to the exclusion of none. 73   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. 3, The Dramatis Personae: The Person in Christ, tr. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), 520–21. 74   In the more traditional Christologies, even those of the school of Antioch which are particularly concerned to safeguard the humanity of Jesus, the union is between Jesus’ humanity and the Logos. But what is being proposed here is that the Logos should be thought of as Jesus’ being-related to the Father.

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The upshot of all this is that the confession of Jesus’ consubstantiality with the Father in divinity and the confession of his consubstantiality with us in humanity should not be extricated from one another, but held very closely together. Both of these confessions are intended to relate the man Jesus to humanity. The thesis of Buber certainly serves to make this clear, for the word of revelation is always ‘a mixture of the divine and the human’, it always involves an encounter between the human I and the eternal You. This means that revelation is not a case of God passing through the human as an instrument, but of God conferring the divine presence upon the human who freely receives this presence as ‘strength’, since the human has ‘something more’ in its being when it encounters the Eternal You. Since the confirmation of meaning received in the encounter with the Eternal You can be put to the proof in concrete action only, then in respect of the christological question this points to the second consubstantiality – Jesus’ identification with the human condition – as entering into the definition of the first consubstantiality – Jesus’ total receptivity and complete surrender to the Father’s will in unfathomable love.75 By thinking of the matter in this way we will be able to avoid interpreting the double homoousion as the attribution of two separate, inert natures to Jesus, which inevitably leads to the alienation of Jesus from humanity and the failure to assign any theological significance to the life of Jesus.76 On the basis of the argument formulated above, the Logos is best thought of in relational terms as the mode of being of the man Jesus in his total openness and receptivity to the will of the Father, which reveals the divine nature as pure grace; that is, as the unconditional giving of the divine being in merciful love which creates all things new. When Jesus’ identity is treated in consistently relational terms that acknowledge the person of Jesus as irreducible to his concrete individual nature,77   This point was already apparent in the previous section of this chapter where two poles were identified in the interpretation of Jesus’ cry on the cross; namely, Jesus’ personal unity with the Father in love (his consubstantiality with the Father) and Jesus’ identification with the concrete human condition (his consubstantiality with us). By conceiving of the second consubstantiality as contained within the first, this means that Jesus acts as God when he acts as man, and as man when he acts as God. Chapter 4 of the present book will discuss this fundamental issue further. 76   In patristic theology a static concept of nature tended to be used. Human nature was defined by its capacity for suffering and change and its subjection to corruption, decay and death (due to sin), while it was held that God does not change (immutability) and could not suffer (impassibility). By making Jesus’ humanity ‘anhypostatic’, an instrumental interpretation of his humanity followed, where salvation was viewed as the production of effects by a divine person. 77   Cf. Vladimir Lossky, In the Image and Likeness of God, ed. J.H. Erickson and T.E. Bird (Crestwood, New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974), ch. 6. Lossky develops a theological notion of the human person on the basis of trinitarian theology: personal identity supposes a relation to the other, one person exists ‘toward’ the other; there is ‘no partition’ of nature among the persons but rather each includes in himself the whole divine nature. What is in view here is the irreducibility of the person to the nature. 75

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then justice is done to the narrative shape of the christological question: the identity of Jesus emerges out of the developing pattern of his sustained relationships to his Father on the one hand, and to sinful humans who increasingly reject him to the point of crucifying him, on the other, all of which culminates in God raising Jesus from the dead, in the Spirit, so as to vindicate him as the ‘Holy and Just One’ (Acts 3:14) and exalt him as ‘Lord’ (Acts 2:36). When Buber’s thesis on the person as relation is brought to a literary rendering of the Gospel story, to conclude, a number of things happen. Firstly, it sheds light on the inextricable bond existing between Jesus and his Father. Jesus does not possess a divine inner core that enables him to do the extraordinary things recorded in the Gospel story; rather, he must be thought of as a human person, but his modus of being a person is one of absolute relatedness to the Father who is compassionate love. Jesus sees everything in light of the eternal You whom he calls Father; he does not renounce the world but totally accepts the present in his concrete mission of seeking to place everything upon its proper, absolute ground. This leads to the second point, namely, the notion of person as relation also sheds light on the relationship between Jesus and the rest of humanity. The person who lives in terms of the I-You knows identity not as a property, but as a gift received in encounter with others. In the case of Jesus, however, his total receptivity to the Father makes him a gift to himself and allows him to present himself totally to others as unconditional gift of an identity with which they had been only dimly familiar. Jesus’ attitude of ready encounter with all persons, to the exclusion of none, is the basis for the attribution of the fullness of humanity to his person. Thirdly, the previous two points collectively point to the existence of mutuality between God and humanity, which makes this life of ours heavy with meaning, meaning which can be put to the proof in action only. At the heart of personal existence in the world is the call to bear faithful witness to the word of revelation as saving presence. The person of Jesus, as the unique Mediator between God and humanity, is the total actualization of our native and deepest potential to exist as sons and daughters of God in free and ready encounter with all. Rahner expresses this mutuality between God and humanity well when he writes that ‘although the hypostatic union is a unique event in its own essence, and viewed in itself it is the highest conceivable event, it is nonetheless an intrinsic moment within the whole process by which grace is bestowed upon all spiritual creatures.’78 The ultimate Lossky then applies this trinitarian understanding to humans created in the divine image, with the result that he distinguishes between the human hypostasis and the human taken as an individual substance or nature. He concludes that the term ‘person’ signifies the irreducibility of the human to its nature – the individual nature is ‘enhypostasized.’ Van Beeck uses Lossky’s work to suggest that what the theological tradition has referred to as the ‘enhypostatic’ human nature of Jesus can be regarded as the ‘human person of Jesus Christ in its concrete individual nature.’ Van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, p. 422. 78   Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, tr. William V. Dych (New York: Crossroad, 1978), p. 201.

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goal of the process of self-transcendence at the heart of our world is God’s selfcommunication to the non-divine other, so that grace in the world and the mystery of the hypostatic union must be understood together. Finally, given the trinitarian framework in which the christological mystery unfolds, the question of the so-called ‘dialogue of wills’ should be seen as taking place not between the divine Logos and the human Jesus, but between the human will of Jesus and the will of the Father who is the Unoriginated Origin of all that is. This should not be interpreted, however, as meaning that psychology establishes the person of Jesus Christ as one; rather, in keeping with conciliar Christology, the affirmation of the union of the two natures as ‘hypostatic’ means that ontology is what establishes the person of Jesus Christ as one. The total openness and complete receptivity of the person of Jesus to the Father has to do with the mystery of his person as pertaining to the eternal being of the triune God, yet this ontological foundation of his person should not be presented in a manner that precludes the life of Jesus as genuinely historical and as lived in the Holy Spirit. God’s self-emptying as the fullness of the divine being The type of Christology elucidated above highlights the need to reflect on human nature not in static terms but in the dynamic sense of openness to transcendent reality, and thus receptivity to the living God. Human nature, in other words, should not be treated as a closed and fully known system; rather, as an exocentric system that seeks identity in that which is beyond itself, it defies definition since it is ‘an unfolding and emerging reality.’79 If we understand the man Jesus, the incarnate Word, as the total actualization of the human being’s deepest potential as created in God’s image and likeness, then in his person God himself becomes the witness to our true, relational identity.80 With respect to discussing the divine nature,

79   Van Beeck, Christ Proclaimed, p. 449. This point recalls Irenaeus of Lyons who held that we humans, as creatures, were not made perfect from the beginning but receive ‘advancement and increase towards God’ who continually confers benefits upon us ‘infants’ in order that we might be able to receive him and behold his glory (Against Heresies, Book IV, 11.2, 38.3). We humans, in other words, are in dynamic process toward God. 80   This personalist approach to soteriology is strongly reflected, for example, in the theology of St. Bonaventure. Zachary Hayes, commenting on Bonaventure’s soteriology, says that ‘Christ is the purest actualization of a potential that lies at the heart of the created order.’ Zachary Hayes, The Hidden Center: Spirituality and Speculative Christology in St. Bonaventure (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), p. 87. See also Elizabeth A. Dreyer, ‘A Condescending God: Bonaventure’s Theology of the Cross’, in The Cross in Christian Tradition: From Paul to Bonaventure (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), pp. 192–210. The theology of Karl Barth also displays a personalist approach to soteriology when he talks of the ‘common actualization’ of divine and human essence in the person of Jesus Christ. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, tr. G.W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1958), pp. 113–15.

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which, like the human nature, should not be treated as a ‘knowable essence’,81 the crucifixion of Jesus compels us to speak in terms of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8; 1 Pet 1:19–20). Hans Urs von Balthasar, for example, acknowledges this biblical perspective when he writes that, ‘The Cross of Christ is inscribed in the creation of the world since its basis was laid.’82 To von Balthasar’s mind, since God foresaw the abuse of freedom accorded to creaturely beings, God in eternity had determined to send the Son into the world to redeem humanity, so that a fundamental kenosis is given with creation as such. When considering the consubstantiality of Christ the Son with the Father as to divinity, we will have to speak in terms of kenosis, of the self-emptying of the divine persons in the two processions – generation of the Son and spiration of the Spirit – which is an eternal movement in the life of the tripersonal God. Once the mystery of the Incarnation is reflected upon in terms of kenosis, then the omnipotence of the Son can have nothing to do with divine impassibility or sheer force, for the characteristics of the self-emptying Son are those of sympathetic identification with the human condition, compassion and meekness. The mystery of the Incarnation must be treated not in terms of two inert natures, but in terms of the one historical man, Jesus of Nazareth, who is wholly God. The being of Jesus Christ can never be thought of as being for himself, but only in relation to the Father and to a sinful humanity into whose hands he freely gave himself on the cross, so that the saving power of Jesus is realized precisely in his powerlessness vis-à-vis the powers that be. The words uttered by the chief priests and the scribes as Jesus hung on the cross express this helplessness most poignantly: ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself’ (Mk 15:31). An understanding of divine self-emptying which is arrived at by considering the Synoptic story as an identifying account of the risen Jesus, will necessarily be one that acknowledges Jesus’ divinity in terms of his utter unity with the Father in unfathomable love, which is enacted in his perfect obedience to the Father’s will that he vicariously endure ‘the cup’ for the sake of the reconciliation of the world to God. Unlike the kenotic theory developed in the first half of the twentieth century, namely, the theory of God’s self-restriction or ‘surrendered attributes’ in the event of the Incarnation of the Son, the findings of this chapter lend their support to the   Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 26.   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale, tr. Aidon Nichols (Michigan, Grand

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Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1993), p. 35, citing Sergius Bulgakov. In modern Russian Orthodox theology, there has developed the idea that the divine kenosis is not confined to the event of the Incarnation which culminates in the passion of Christ, but is something eternal in the life of the triune God, in which case the divine kenosis is involved with the very act of creation and the whole divine economy of salvation. The main representatives of this movement are Vladimir Soloviev, M.M. Tareev, Sergius Bulgakov and Vladimir Lossky. Hans Urs von Balthasar is also representative of this movement, for in the development of his theology of Holy Saturday he uses the guiding idea that Christ’s ‘descent into hell’ is the final point reached by the divine kenosis, that is, the inner-trinitarian event of eternal love.

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seminal thought of Karl Barth.83 The novelty of Barth’s approach lies in that he reflected on the fullness of God made manifest in the very life of the incarnate Son; the self-emptying of God in the event of the Incarnation is regarded as an expression, rather than retraction, of the fullness of the deity.84 In order to appreciate this, Barth insists that we begin with a conception of God based not on an abstract ontology, an externally determined metaphysic of pure, static essence, but on the grounds of revelation; that is to say, the actuality of God’s dynamic, triune being as self-disclosed in the ‘event’ that is Jesus Christ.85 It is the person portrayed in the Gospels that Barth is interested in, which leads him to incorporate a literary interpretation of the Gospels into his theology. What is required to formulate a doctrine of God’s being is a methodology of hearing, or, as Bonhoeffer put it, Christology must begin in silence. The point of departure for theology is the question that Jesus addresses to us: Who do you say that I am? By listening to the Gospel story of Jesus, to the word of the scandal of the cross, which is God’s own way of defining what true humanity and true divinity really are, we allow our preconceptions of what the divine and human possibilities are to be challenged and subverted.   For a survey of the various theologies of kenosis – prompted by the christological hymn in Philippians 2 – from the time of the Reformation to our own day, see Alan E. Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2001), pp. 163–75. In early Lutheran theology, such as in the work of Martin Chemnitz, while Christ’s humiliation was expounded in terms of kenosis, the subject of this self-emptying was attributed to the human nature of Christ – there is no divine humiliation. Reformed theology, by contrast, did attribute humiliation to the divine nature, however there was considerable hesitation in that it was claimed that this is not a genuine renunciation, but a concealment of divinity. A rebirth of Lutheran kenoticism in the nineteenth century did affirm ‘self-emptying’ as God’s own act, however in the Incarnation God was seen as renouncing deity, so that God’s ‘with us’ evaporates altogether. In Britain in the early twentieth century, P. T. Forsyth and H. R. Mackintosh asserted the need for ‘divine self-emptying’ to do justice to the Gospel story. The subject of kenosis is God, but God does not give up being God: God restricts himself in the Incarnation. In all these theories, we see varying degrees of the old immutability, for only in the renunciation of divinity is it possible for God to be subject to suffering and death. It was left to Barth to refute the theory of surrendered attributes. 84   For a comprehensive treatment of Barth’s reflections, see Eberhard Jüngel, God’s Being Is in Becoming: The Trinitarian Being of God in the Theology of Karl Barth, tr. John Webster (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 2001). 85   Barth asserts that the meaning of true deity can be learned only from what took place in Christ, that to dare to speak of God’s identity with this man ‘who was born like all of us in time, who lived and thought and spoke, who could be tempted and suffer and die and who was in fact tempted, and suffered and died’, is something bold and astonishing. Christian theology must not allow itself to be centred on an ‘abstract God’ and an ‘abstract human being.’ Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/I, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, tr. G.W. Bromiley (Edinburg: T & T Clark, 1956), pp. 183, 186. 83

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For Barth, when we hear the word of God’s self-revelation in the person of Jesus Christ, we cannot affirm any disjunction or discrepancy between God’s ‘being’ and God’s ‘act.’ What God does is not separate from what God is; rather, God’s identity is constituted by God’s action in history.86 This movement of God’s being from above to below, which is portrayed in terms of God’s ‘one primal decision’ with regard to the election of grace in Jesus Christ, the Elect One, cannot be thought of apart from the ‘human movement from below to above.’87 The encounter between God and humanity, which has its origin in the movement of God’s being, is therefore first and foremost the encounter between the electing God and elected humanity, which is an event in Jesus Christ. ‘We cannot conceive ourselves and the world without first conceiving this man with God as the witness of the gracious purpose with which God willed and created ourselves and the world and in which we may exist in it and with it.’88 The primal decision of God to go into the ‘far country’ – the pre-temporal slaying of the Lamb of God as the foundation of the world – with the view of bringing sinners home to God, is not something forced upon or foreign to God, but God’s free decision; and since this free decision to venture into the far country for our sake is an act of boundless love, then God’s primal decision allows us to perceive the being of God as ‘the One who loves in freedom.’89 God’s freedom is therefore not freedom from, but freedom toward or for humankind; it is a freedom of intimate involvement with time and history, so that eternity and immutability encompass, rather than preclude, temporality and change and mortality. The divine gift of freedom to humankind is ‘total, unequivocal, and irrevocable’90 and wholly ensconces our freedom, so that even when this freedom is abused it remains the gift of freedom wherein lies the essence of humanity in its relatedness to God. For Barth, what God desires is to be our partner; God wants us to accept the divine love for sinners in accordance with the covenant of grace established from all eternity in the person of Jesus Christ who ‘takes the first place as the original’,91 not Adam, since it is in the Elect One that God has decreed our determination to election and thus eternal blessedness. It therefore becomes   See Church Dogmatics, vol. II/I, The Doctrine of God, tr. T.H.L. Parker, W.B. Johnson, H. Knight and J.L.M. Haire (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1957), pp. 257–72. Note how Karl Rahner followed Karl Barth on this fundamental point. Rahner talks of God who goes out of himself in his fullness, subjecting himself to history, so that God expresses himself when he empties himself, otherwise his humanity would amount to a masquerade. See Rahner’s Foundations of Christian Faith, pp. 136–7. In a Barthian or Rahnerian framework, God’s merciful love towards sinners is never regarded as the result of the cross of Christ, but as its cause and source. 87   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 32. 88   Ibid., p. 33. 89   Church Dogmatics, vol. II/I, pp. 272–321. 90   Karl Barth, The Humanity of God (London & Glasgow: Collins, 1961), p. 73. 91   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/I, pp. 512–13. 86

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apparent that divine immutability consists in the fact that God continues to be what God always is from all eternity, while being subjected to change and opposition in time and history. In this manner Barth radically rethinks immutability and divine ontology by substituting dynamic time-affirming categories for the tradition’s metaphysical inertia, while seeking to remain faithful to the Chalcedonian formula of ‘one person in two natures.’92 One of Barth’s pre-eminent pupils, Eberhard Jüngel, has summed up Barth’s ontology as God’s being is in becoming, where the term ‘becoming’ is to be taken in its fundamental ontology as a trinitarian category.93 This is not a matter of identifying God’s being with God’s becoming; it is not a matter of the ‘God who becomes’ as we find in process theology where there is talk of an increase in God’s being. Rather, we are to understand that becoming indicates the manner in which God’s being exists: ‘The ontological location of God’s being in becoming is an attempt to think theologically in what way God is the living one.’94 To Barth’s mind, the first thing that we must say about God is that the divine being is life, and the essence of God as life is revealed in that ‘the God whose being is in becoming can die as a human being.’95 Thus God is not merely our partner in eternity but also freely wills to exist as a fellow human being in history so as to reveal the fullness of deity by bearing the sin of the world (cf. 2 Cor 5:21) for our sake; the man Jesus freely accepts death on a cross so that we may be reconciled to God. Thomas F. Torrance expresses this divine ontology with particular clarity in the following words:

  Barth’s understanding of the Chalcedonian definition will be elaborated further in the final Chapter 4 of this study, in the context of a critical discussion of the complex doctrine of communicatio idiomatum. 93   Barth does not talk explicitly of the notion of God’s being is in becoming. What Jüngel offers is an interpretation of Barth’s divine ontology. Jüngel, God’s Being Is in Becoming, p. xxvi. 94   Ibid., p. xxv. Process theology is the other major contemporary attempt to rethink divine ontology in terms of movement, event and becoming rather than nature, substance and static being. See, for example: Colin Gunton, Becoming and Being: The Doctrine of God in Charles Hartshorne and Karl Barth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978); and Michael Welker, ‘Barth’s Theology and Process Theology’, Theology Today, 43/3 (1986): pp. 383–97. Welker draws attention to basic intentions shared by Barth and Whitehead: firstly, a critical reaction against classical theism and the metaphysics which underpins it; secondly, an interest in a new realism which breaks free of the ‘mentalism’ which was imposed on Christian thinking since the time of Kant. The fundamental differences between the two thinkers revolve around the fact that Barth criticizes classical theism on the basis of christological and trinitarian presuppositions, whereas Whitehead does so in the name of a cosmological principle which he calls ‘God.’ 95   The quote is from Jüngel, God’s Being Is in Becoming, p. xxv. For Barth’s definition of God’s being as life, see Church Dogmatics, vol. II/I, p. 263. 92

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The fact that in the Incarnation God became man without ceasing to be God, tells us that his nature is characterized by both repose and movement, and that his eternal Being is also a divine Becoming. This does not mean that God ever becomes other than he eternally is or that he passes over from becoming into being something else, but rather that he continues unceasingly to be what he always is and ever will be in the living movement of his eternal Being. His Becoming is not a becoming on the way toward being or toward a fullness of being, but is the eternal fullness and the overflowing of his eternal unlimited Being. Becoming expresses the dynamic nature of his Being.96

God’s kenotic self-emptying in the event of the Incarnation, then, should be seen as an expression of the dynamic nature of God’s overflowing being which freely communicates itself to the non-divine other in time and history, so that we humans might attain to blessed fellowship with God as our final end. Within the framework of this Barthian divine ontology, it is important to note that no dualistic thinking is allowed to divide the human nature from the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ. Barth states quite emphatically that the divinity is mediated by the humanity of Jesus Christ, although it should be noted that this position is that of the later Barth, not the earlier Barth who held that Jesus Christ reveals God by his own divine nature.97 For the later Barth, it is the humanity of Jesus Christ to which is given ‘all power in heaven and in earth’ (Mt 28:18), although his humanity does not ‘possess’ but rather ‘mediates and attests the divine power and authority.’98 To recognize the divine in the human is to acknowledge that there can be no evading the child in the crib at Bethlehem, the growing in wisdom and stature, the being tempted in the wilderness, the constant need for Jesus to pray to the Father, the episode in the garden of Gethsemane and the genuine suffering in helplessness on the cross of Golgotha. Let us listen to what Barth has to say about the human nature of Jesus as the medium of revelation:

  T.F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being Three Persons (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), p. 242. 97   John McIntyre alerts us to the fact that Barth changed his model of revelation. The early Barth, like Emil Brunner, viewed revelation as occurring through the medium of God Himself – ‘God reveals Himself through Himself’ – while the later Barth adopted the view that the human nature per se is the medium of revelation and it mediates the divine nature to us. John McIntyre, The Shape of Christology (London: SCM Press, 1966), pp. 157–61. This later revelation model would entail an almost entire rewriting of christological theory. 98   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 98. If the human essence ‘possessed’ the properties of the divine essence the result would be that Jesus’ humanity is ‘divinized’ and thus would no longer be human nature. Possession, in other words, connotes a real transference of properties from the divine to the human essence, whereas Barth wants to convey the sense of the human as ‘participating’ in the divine essence. This will be taken up in the final chapter of the present work. 96

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In Jesus Christ, the Son of Man who is also and primarily the Son of God, our human essence is given a glory and exalted to a dignity and clothed with a majesty which the Son who assumed it and existed in it has in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost … When the Word became flesh, when it willed to become and be also Jesus of Nazareth, when it became identical with this man, it associated its own divine essence with human. The humiliation in which it takes human essence is therefore the exaltation of human essence … it is the act of the humiliation of the Son of God as such which is the exaltation of the Son of Man, and in Him of human essence. As the Son of God He goes into the far country. As the Son of Man He returns home. And what He brings with Him … is the human essence assumed by Him.99

By emphasizing the exaltation of the human nature assumed by the Son of God, Barth is saying that it is the very identity of the man Jesus who is the act of humiliation of the Son of God; it is the very identity of the man Jesus who mediates the fullness of God’s covenant of grace.100 In this manner Barth is able to maintain that there exists no disjunction between God’s being and God’s act. If we understand that what God does in history flows out of what God essentially is, namely, the One who loves in freedom, then such a divine ontology implies in respect of the Chalcedonian formula of one person in two natures that we must attribute humiliation not to human nature but to the deity, and exaltation not to divinity but to human nature assumed by the person of the Son of God, who is also the Son of Man. The older Christology, in its doctrine of the two ‘states’, taught that Jesus Christ was first humiliated and not yet exalted, and then he was exalted in his resurrection and no longer humiliated, but Barth criticizes this older view for tearing apart ‘the unity of descending and ascending’ in the event of Jesus Christ – the humbling and exalting are regarded as present ‘at the same time.’101 The twofold movement of the humiliation of the Son of God and the exaltation of the Son of Man is conveyed by the notion of the ‘mutual participation’ of one nature or essence in the other. In an important clarification of his thought, Barth   Ibid., p. 100.   Barth’s emphasis on the humanity of God is also reflected in contemporary

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Catholic theology. Schillebeeckx, for instance, speaks of the humanity of Christ as the ‘primordial sacrament’ of encounter with God. Edward Schillebeeckx, Christ the Sacrament of Encounter with God (London: Sheed & Ward, 1963), pp. 13–54. And Rahner asserts that the created human nature of Christ is ‘the indispensable and permanent gateway through which everything created must pass if it is to find the perfection of its eternal validity before God.’ Karl Rahner, ‘The Eternal Significance of the Humanity of Jesus For Our Relationship With God’, Theological Investigations, vol. III, tr. Karl-H and Boniface Kruger (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1967), pp. 35–46, at p. 43. 101   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 110. Because Barth views Jesus from the standpoint of this twofold ‘movement’, he rejects the notion of a ‘state’ – he speaks of two related ‘moments’ that mutually interpret one another.

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explains that exaltation does not involve a ‘destruction or alteration’ of Jesus’ humanity but rather the elevation of humanity to a qualitatively ‘higher level.’102 The exaltation of the Son of Man indicates the movement of humanity from below to above, that is, from ‘man in his creaturely and fleshly essence, and therefore his being in opposition, to peace with God’,103 which is initiated by the movement from above to below in the humiliation of the Son of God. The human essence assumed by the Son of God in his humiliation is united with his divine essence, but this does not mean that the human essence became divine essence in the exaltation of the Son of Man; that is, it is not the ‘divinization’ (apotheosis) of Jesus’ human essence which remains human essence. The correct interpretation, according to Barth, is that God becomes human not in order that we sinners may ‘become God’, but that we may ‘come to God.’104 The exaltation of the Son of Man signifies not the divinization of his human essence, but simply the setting of it ‘in perfect fellowship with the divine essence.’105 While no destruction or alteration of human nature is involved in this redemptive process, such fellowship does nevertheless mean that human nature enjoys every perfection of the divine essence. Another feature of Barth’s understanding of the mutual participation of the two natures in the person of Jesus Christ is the asymmetrical character of this twofold movement. Barth maintains that the participation of his divine in his human essence is not the same as the participation of his human in his divine essence. There is genuine reciprocity in the twofold movement from above to below and from below to above, but what Barth wishes to emphasize is that the two natures have a different character: ‘The determination of His divine essence is to His human, and the determination of His human essence from His divine.’106 The basic point being made here, in other words, is that the divine nature is wholly that which ‘gives’ while the human nature is wholly that which ‘receives.’107 From   Ibid., pp. 28, 69. Again we see here how Barth intends to avoid any suggestion of the ‘divinization’ of Jesus’ humanity. The term is susceptible to misinterpretation, to be sure, nevertheless it is valid when used to convey ‘union’ with God or ‘participation’ in the divine life as the final end of the human. Rahner, for example, makes it clear that the divinization of the human does not mean that the human becomes God – God’s free self-communication to the human as its ontological fulfilment takes place ‘without man ceasing to be a finite existent different from God.’ Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, p. 119. 103   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 29. 104   Ibid., p. 106. 105   Ibid., p. 72. 106   Ibid., p. 70. 107   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 72. Emphasis added. This understanding, note, is also shared by Rahner who conceives of grace as God’s free self-communication to the world and the human as the ‘event’ of God’s self-bestowal in grace. The God-world relationship is characterized by this asymmetrical twofold movement of divine giving and human receiving. 102

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the standpoint of the event of Jesus Christ in whom God has taken the initiative in reconciling sinners and elevating them to fellowship with God, Barth does not conceive of the divine essence in terms of metaphysical abstractions unrelated to history, but in terms of concrete and life-affirming attributes such as love, freedom and mercy which make possible the event of divine giving and human receiving in the one person of Jesus Christ. The emphasis Barth places on concrete historical terms when reflecting upon the event of the Incarnation is significant because he seeks to give primary importance to the person of the Son of God, who is also Son of Man, rather than thinking in terms of divine and human essence. ‘The Son of God is the acting Subject who takes the initiative in this event, and not either His divine or His human essence.’108 Neither one of the two essences is destroyed or altered since each has its own determination. By thinking of the Incarnation in historical terms, by not making the mistake of ‘looking away from the Subject in whom God and man became and are one’,109 Barth is able to avoid abstractions that do not focus on the history of the atonement, on the event of divine giving and human receiving. The following text can be taken as a summary of Barth’s thought on the mutual participation of divine and human essence in the one person of Jesus Christ: The event of the impartation is the history of Bethlehem, the history of His way from Jordan to Gethsemane, the history of His cross and passion, the history of … His resurrection. It is as the Subject of this history that He is the heavenly Head of His earthly body … As He is, it takes place that the divine essence in all its distinctiveness is gifted to the human, and the human in all its distinctiveness receives the divine. As He is, there takes place the humiliation of the divine for the exaltation of the human essence, and the exaltation of the human by the humiliation of the divine. As He is, nothing is held back. In the height of God and in the depths of man, nothing is excluded from this movement from the height of God to our depths, and back again from our depths to the height of God. As He is, God attains His full glory in the exercise of His mercy, and man attains his in the coming of this mercy. And all this is because and as He, the Son of God, of one essence with the Father and the Holy Ghost, became and is also the Son of Man, of one essence with us and all men.110

The great strength of Barth’s insistence on historical thinking, which alone can do justice to the life of Jesus Christ as narrated in the Gospels, is that no dualistic modes of thought are allowed to drive a wedge between the divine and the human – the distinctiveness of each essence must be upheld, of course, but given the ‘common actualization’ of both essences in the person of Jesus Christ we must repudiate any suggestion of separation between them and affirm instead an intimate relationship   Ibid., p. 70.   Ibid., p. 80. 110   Ibid., p. 75. Emphasis added. 108 109

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of the one with the other. This relationship is one of genuine ‘action’ (operatio) where the divine expresses itself in the sphere of the human and the human gives witness to the divine in history.111 Barth leaves no room for anything static or abstract in the event of the Incarnation, and while he does use traditional concepts such as unio hypostatica, communio naturarum and communicatio idiomatum, they are all employed in a dynamic manner to describe the historical event of Jesus Christ in whose person God addresses us sinners and has determined us for blessed fellowship with himself. The thought of Barth, to sum up, has the great merit of demonstrating that the self-emptying of God in the event of the Incarnation of the Son does not involve a self-restriction on the part of God; instead, we are required to acknowledge that the fullness of deity dwells bodily in Jesus Christ (Col 2:9). This event which reaches its climax on the hill of Golgotha is extraordinary inasmuch as ‘the God whose being is in becoming can die as a human being’ for the good of the human’s exaltation to fellowship with God. What true humanity and true divinity are, then, can only be established on the basis of the humiliation of the Son of God and the exaltation of the Son of Man, which is a concrete historical event – thus abstract, metaphysical concepts of God should not be superimposed upon the Gospel story. The twofold movement from above to below and from below to above, which is a movement of genuine action, is not a matter of two different and successive actions, but of a single action because the ‘going out of God’ only aims at the ‘coming in of man.’112 In this unified action of God in Jesus Christ, we mortal sinners are ontologically ‘transferred’ (Col 1:13) from the reign of death to the kingdom of life in blessed fellowship with the living God. Barth’s thought on God’s self-emptying in the person of Jesus Christ is shared by both von Balthasar and Rahner.113 But it would be fair to say that von Balthasar has reinforced the idea of kenosis more than other thinkers inasmuch as he conceives of the eternal processions in God as kenotic events of love in which the divine persons give themselves completely to one another in perfect reciprocity.   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 116. Barth’s contention that the relationship between the divine and the human essence in Jesus Christ is one of genuine action recalls, note, the earlier discussion of Martin Buber who argues that the meaning of the revelation of the Eternal Thou encountered in the human sphere can only be confirmed by action in the world. The thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar should also be mentioned here, for he talks of the identity of Jesus as the Son in terms of his ‘mission’ from the Father. This will be discussed further in Chapter 4 of the present study. 112   Church Dogmatics, IV/II, p. 21. 113   Rahner and von Balthasar will be discussed at length in Chapter 3 of the present study. Suffice it to say at this point that Rahner sees the kenosis of the Son as reaching its zenith at his death when he consummates his freedom in total faith-abandon to God; Barth argues that the kenosis of Christ reaches its climactic point in his suffering hell on the cross; and von Balthasar presents the kenosis as reaching its consummation in his ‘going to the dead’ on Holy Saturday. 111

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The emptying of each of the divine persons toward the other constitutes, for von Balthasar, the inner-trinitarian event of eternal love and freedom. The event of the Incarnation of the Son is seen as the transposition of this eternal event of love onto the human historical plane, in which case, as in Barth, the person of Jesus Christ is affirmed as revealing the fullness of deity in his humanity. Throughout the argument developed in this chapter it has been consistently held that Jesus Christ does not define humanity in terms of a closed system, but rather freely takes upon himself humanity’s cruelty and sinfulness and redeems it decisively by setting it in right relation to the Father in his very own person. In this fashion the man Jesus emerges as the representative of true humanity before the Father, and, conversely, the representative of the merciful Father who loves each and every individual person at the expense of none. Jesus therefore is to be regarded as the Mediator between humanity and the Father. But what remains to be discussed in order to complete this chapter is a consideration of the all-important question: What does it mean to say that Jesus Christ died ‘for us’? The answer given to this question will highlight the need to make a distinction between the notions of ‘representation’ and ‘substitution.’ There are those who argue for the former on the basis that it effectively upholds real personhood by aligning itself with the notion of person as relation, while the latter is best avoided inasmuch as it tends to deny real personhood by portraying the individual subject as ‘replaced’ by another. The following section will argue, however, that both concepts should be held together in tension, for they give expression to integral dimensions of Jesus Christ’s atoning death on the cross. Christ the representative – participation in his divine identity Barth interprets the preposition ‘for’ in the fundamental Christian tenet that Christ died ‘for us’ (pro nobis) as meaning ‘instead of us’ or ‘in our place.’ For Barth, Christ’s death on Calvary is redemptive because the Elect One suffered the punishment of hell (poena damni) in our place; it is a death of substitution (Stellvertretung).114 Many interpret Barth’s notion of substitution, which is central to his doctrine of reconciliation, as meaning that what happened on the cross happened without us, thus they criticize Barth for effectively negating us as persons since Jesus Christ represents us without any cooperation on our part. Wolfhart Pannenberg, for example, who, like Barth, also talks of Jesus’ vicarious suffering of eternal damnation in our stead, criticizes Barth’s understanding of the expiatory effect of Christ’s death as an objectively closed event for leading to the negation of sinners as persons.115 The exclusive aspect of Christ’s representative 114   According to von Balthasar, by contrast, Christ suffered the punishment of hell not on the cross but in his ‘going to the dead’ on Holy Saturday. 115   Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man, tr. Lewis L. Wilkins and Duane A. Priebe (London: SCM Press, 1968), pp. 245–83; Systematic Theology, vol. 2, tr. Geoffrey

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action must not, Pannenberg insists, violate the inclusive element of our freedom as persons, for the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ is not yet complete. In a similar vein, Dorothee Sölle in her study of the concept of representation describes Barth’s interpretation of this concept as ‘objectivistic’ since he regards it as a fact which is independent of the assent of those represented, with the result that the relationship between Christ and humanity is not conceived in personal terms.116 She maintains that Barth so strongly stresses that our ‘place’ is occupied by Christ that the perspective of ‘time’ is altogether missing from his theology: Representation regards man from the standpoint of time. It gains time for the man who is for the moment incapacitated. Substitution, on the contrary, is a spatial concept. In space, one thing can be replaced by another thing; in time, it is possible for one person to be represented by another person. It is significant therefore that in Barth’s account of Christ’s representation the keyword is man’s ‘place’… But … the chief thing which Christ does for us … is to give us time, new and real time for living, time which his representation makes available for us.117

The principal thing made available to us by Christ’s representative action is ‘real time for living’, which is intimately tied to the question of personal identity: Who am I? How do I find my true self? To this fundamental question deeply rooted in human self-consciousness, Sölle’s study concludes with the persuasive answer: I am irreplaceable, yet representable. To represent someone means to appear ‘on behalf of’ and ‘in the name of’ the other person; it means to take responsibility for the other temporarily, not to permanently occupy that place so that the representative becomes a replacement of the one represented. True representation therefore has a temporal character which keeps alive the memory of the person represented, and it is conditional since decisions made by the representative can subsequently be changed by the one represented, all of which underscores the fact that representative action can only be incomplete.118 By contrast, substitution turns the person represented into a depersonalized ‘thing’ because such thinking is characterized by permanence, given that the replacement represents the other completely and unconditionally; that is, the replacement acts not in the name of the one replaced, but in their own name. Truly representative action, then, appears under the conditions of ‘personality’ and ‘temporality.’119 The awareness of my W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1994), pp. 397–437. 116   Dorothee Sölle, Christ the Representative: An Essay in Theology after the ‘Death of God’, tr. David Lewis (London: SCM Press, 1967), pp. 88–91. 117   Ibid., p. 91. 118   Ibid., pp. 19–23. 119   Ibid., pp. 51–6. Temporality includes the two inseparable aspects of ‘dependence’ on others as our representatives and ‘responsibility’ for others as their representatives: those who acknowledge dependence but do not accept responsibility fall into an immaturity which

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irreplaceability, which is intimately bound up with the question of my personal identity, presupposes my standing-in-relationship, in which case I cannot be thought of as a self-sufficient being involved in self-maintenance and self-justification. While much of the foregoing review is certainly valid and has much to commend itself, and key aspects of it will be picked up below in some concluding statements, nonetheless at this point the examples alluded to serve to illustrate a common criticism of Barth’s concept of substitution as overly objectivistic. His critics claim to find strong support in the New Testament where little evidence is to be found for the claim that Jesus Christ suffered ‘instead of us’; rather, the Greek prepositions translated by ‘for’ usually mean ‘for the sake of’ or ‘on behalf of.’120 In other words, the New Testament more often than not says that Jesus Christ is our representative before God the Father: the beloved Son shares our human predicament – though he is without sin – out of boundless compassion for us in order to enable us to enjoy true freedom in permanent union with God the Father. This is taken to be the meaning of the doctrine that the eternal Son or Logos has ‘assumed human nature’ in the man Jesus of Nazareth. Hence it follows, it is claimed, that a distinction should be made between the concepts of representation and substitution: the latter implies the exclusion of participation in God’s redemptive act in Jesus Christ, whereas the former invites participation (inclusion) for Jesus Christ unites humanity with himself in the very act of total and complete self-abandon that unites him uniquely and perfectly with God the Father. This common criticism of the concept of substitution is inadequate insofar as it overlooks the fact that for the death of the incarnate Son to be inclusive of all sinners, it must be exclusive and unique in its soteriological value. Barth’s talk of Christ’s vicarious death ‘in our place’ is designed to highlight the exclusive – Christ does something for us that is not within our power to accomplish – and therefore objective aspect of Christ’s death endured ‘once and for all’ (2 Cor 5:14), while talk of the cross of Christ endured ‘on our behalf’ is intended to bring out the inclusive and therefore subjective element in the work of atonement (2 Cor 5:15, 17). These two poles in Barth’s thought, the substitutionary and representative poles, must be kept in tension in order to do justice to the complexity of Barth’s is no longer temporary, and those who accept responsibility without recognizing dependence often run the risk of becoming tyrants who lose sight of the fact that representation is always temporary and provisional, and in this way personal. 120   Cf. Frans Jozef van Beeck, ‘Ten Questions on Christology and Soteriology’, Chicago Studies, 25 (1986): pp. 269–78, at pp. 276–7. The author explains that there are several Greek prepositions translated by ‘for’: hyper (‘Christ died for all’ = 2 Cor 5:14–15); peri (‘he is the expiation for our sins’ = 1 Jn 2:2); dia (‘for whom Christ died’ = 1 Cor 8:11); and anti (‘ransom in exchange for’ = Mk 10:45, Mt 20:28). The New Testament does not use the last of these in a soteriological sense except in the lone expression cited: anti means ‘instead of’, thus it implies substitution. The author goes on to say that substitution excludes participation whereas representation invites it.

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thought which does not preclude the notion of personal participation in Christ’s redemptive work.121 David Lauber, in a recent study on Barth’s doctrine of Christ’s descent into hell, cautions us against interpreting Barth’s talk of Christ having endured the second death in place of sinners as meaning that Christ’s atoning death took place completely apart from, or is external to, humanity: Jesus Christ does not suffer and die in our place, if this means that we are then free from suffering and dying. Rather, although Jesus Christ indeed takes our place in his death, we participate in his death – we ourselves die in Christ’s death. It is our participation in Christ’s death that is our reconciliation, and this reconciliation means that we are transformed … As a result of this participation, we do not hide unchanged behind Jesus Christ’s suffering and death; rather, it is in the particularity of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death that we are changed. Christ’s death accomplishes our transformation. His death does not simply cover our sins; it destroys our sins and our existence as sinful people.122

This citation alerts us to the fact that Barth’s use of the concept of substitution does not intend to negate us sinners as persons; rather, the passion of Christ effectively establishes sinners as new creatures who participate in his particular, unique person. The being ‘declared righteous’ by God due to the atoning death of Christ is a real declaration for Barth; that is to say, it does not involve a masquerade but is an actuality or a truly making righteous in fellowship or union with Christ. On this reading, then, Barth distances himself from common penal substitution theories of the atonement which, on the basis of Anselm’s satisfaction theory, maintain that we are spared from suffering punishment for sin thanks to Christ who suffered the punishment for sin in our place and by doing so offered satisfaction to the wrath of God.123 121   There are those who are critical not only of the concept of substitution, but also of the concept of representation. Karl Rahner, for example, prefers to remain focused on the concept of Christ’s ‘solidarity’ with us, and Gerald O’Collins asserts that both substitution and representation are unsatisfactory ‘extrinsic’ terms that lack a sense of personal participation. O’Collins, Jesus Our Redeemer, p. 179. 122   Lauber, Barth on the Descent into Hell, p. 20. Emphasis added. 123   In spite of Anselm’s exclusive interpretation of Christ’s death, two positive achievements of his theology of redemption should be recognized. Firstly, he discredited the ‘ransom theory’ of redemption by asserting that the payment was made by Christ to God, not to the devil. Secondly, Anselm does not consider Christ punished by the Father for our sin; rather, Christ pays the debt of justice or honour due God. Anselm considers the alternative either punishment or satisfaction and decides on the latter as most fitting for expressing God’s love ‘for us’ sinners, whereas the Reformers posited both punishment and satisfaction. Properly understood, Anselm’s theory of satisfaction does not contain legalistic and punitive elements. Cf. John McIntyre, St. Anselm And His Critics (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1954), pp. 56–116; R.W. Southern, St. Anselm And His Biographer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), pp. 97–121. Barth, as will be shown below, uses the

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Of particular importance for arriving at an adequate understanding of Barth’s concept of substitution is how he uses the language of punishment which he bases on the biblical picture of the relationship between God’s wrath and God’s love. It is most significant that Barth grounds his interpretation of the cross in his doctrine of God as the One who loves in freedom, so that Christ’s passion is seen as motivated by God’s love alone. The cross of Christ does not change God’s disposition toward sinners (cf. Rom 5:8) from wrath to love by appeasing the divine wrath, as some interpretations of Anselm’s theory of satisfaction have sought to maintain. The proper meaning of Barth’s statement that Christ suffers the punishment of hell in place of sinners can be established from the fact that Barth conducts his reflections from the standpoint of the figure of the suffering servant of God articulated in Isaiah 53, which belongs to the tradition of the passio justi discussed earlier in this chapter. By appealing to this biblical theme of the faithful servant of God who suffers vicariously on behalf of sinners, Barth intends to make clear that God’s wrath should not be regarded as sitting side by side with God’s love; that is, as existing in tension or competition with one another. Rather, God’s wrath is subsumed under or a function of God’s love; it is the ‘fire of God’s love.’124 So while Barth does speak of the death of Christ as offering satisfaction to God, what is satisfied is not God’s wrath but God’s holy love. The language of punishment makes expressly clear Barth’s emphasis on the suffering of Christ at the hands of God, although the term is used in a critical and qualified manner in order to distance himself from traditional penal substitution theories. On the basis of the figure of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53, Barth deems the language of punishment appropriate insofar as it serves to express the gravity of Christ’s passion endured as the ‘second death’ (Rev 20:6). Barth intends by such language, in other words, to underscore the conviction that the Son did not merely endure physical suffering and death, but endured the hell of eternal death for the sake of the reconciliation of the world to God.125 The meaning of punishment in Barth’s theology emerges from his understanding of the relationship between God’s love and God’s wrath – the wrath of God is subsumed under the love of God, it is the form that divine love takes in the face of scornful rejection by sinners. Care must also be taken with regard to the language of hell. Barth clearly does not intend to say that Christ experienced hell on the cross as payment for wilful rebellion against God, for Christ goes to his death in perfect obedience to the Father: the damned cannot say ‘my God’! That Christ was ‘made sin’ clearly does language of punishment in a particular way to express God’s wrath as the fire of God’s love, hence pictures of God as bloodthirsty and vengeful are wholly inappropriate. Barth also refuses to view the cross as the death of a pure, innocent human being who volunteers to take the place of all sinners – Christ ‘bears’ the sin of the world and in doing so endures the punishment that follows from sin. 124   See Lauber, Barth on the Descent into Hell, pp. 34–6. 125   Ibid., pp. 33–4.

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not mean that he became a sinner. What is intended by the language of suffering the second death on the cross is that Christ, as the Son, experiences himself as really forsaken by God, even though Christ continues to refer to the Father as ‘my God.’ In light of Christ’s unique filial relationship to God – revealed in his being raised from the dead – he experiences the Father’s abandonment in a unique and profound way that surpasses any sinner’s experience of wilful estrangement from God. The Son is the sin-bearer.126 In dying the death worthy of the godless, in being ‘made sin’ although he knew no sin, the Crucified One has reconciled a sinful world to God who is steadfast in his covenant commitment and promises. ‘A nuanced sense of substitution is certainly in order if we focus on Christ experiencing the horrors of Satan, sin and death in such a way that we are rescued from their bondage.’127 A properly formulated notion of substitution, such as the one elaborated above, serves to underscore the fact that Christ does for us what we could never accomplish for ourselves; he performs for our benefit what we are powerless to do ourselves, thereby revealing the One who loves us sinners in sovereign freedom from before the foundation of the world, and who calls us to eternal fellowship with him as his covenant partners. In light of the foregoing clarifications in respect of Barth’s understanding of the concept of substitution, some concluding remarks can be made that are intended to tie together the various sections of this chapter. To begin with, the fundamental thesis of Sölle – I am irreplaceable, yet representable – should not be regarded as opposed to Barth’s concept of substitution inasmuch as both these thinkers in their respective ways hold to the view that personal identity is forged in relation to the other. To recognize my personal identity as responsive and relational means that even when the other is not receptive to me, I can still choose to sustain an attitude of receptivity towards the non-receptive other and in this way become the sympathetic representative of the other’s true relational identity. Irrespective of whether the other person is receptive or non-receptive to me, we saw that Buber’s thesis leads to the view that representation is based on being-related as such.

  To say that Jesus is the sin-bearer means that it is not sufficient to hold that he suffers because of being rejected by sinners, or that he suffers in solidarity with all suffering people – we must also acknowledge that he suffers vicariously for the redemption of Israel and the world. These three dimensions of suffering are apparent in the Old Testament. See Fretheim, The Suffering God, pp. 107–66. It is especially important to note the view that God has chosen to bear the people’s sins rather than deal with them on strictly legal terms, and it is precisely this divine suffering ‘for’ the people that makes Israel’s life possible. Hans Urs von Balthasar adopts the same view as Barth with regard to the Son as the sin-bearer who suffers hell in a way that surpasses the sinner’s wilful rebellion against God. This will become apparent in Chapter 3 of the present book where von Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday will be critically discussed. 127   Brad Jersak, ‘Nonviolent Identification and the Victory of Christ’, in Stricken by God?, pp. 18–53, at p. 42. 126

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This is further supported by a theological interpretation of the life of Jesus according to which the assumption of humanity in his person should be viewed as a historical and progressive process involving sustained relationships; that is, the increasingly Rejected One, who is the Elect One, does not reject his rejectors but freely bears the imprint of their inhumanity to the point of execution on a cross, which is at the same time the consummate sign of being forsaken by God. The assumption of humanity by the eternal Son is not completed at the moment of Jesus’ conception or birth, but extends over the course of his life-time and public ministry to Israel which culminates in his accursed death on the cross and his being raised from the dead in the power of the Spirit. Kathryn Tanner sums up this perspective well in the following words: The Incarnation is not, then, to be identified with one moment of Jesus’ life, his birth, in contradistinction from his ministry, death, and resurrection … what is being assumed and the effects of that assumption vary over time. The humanity of Jesus is therefore not perfected from the first as an immediate consequence of the Incarnation, making Jesus’ struggles and sufferings something he merely decides to go along with … for the [economic] benefit of others who do struggle and suffer at the mercy of a kingdom of sin and death … Jesus does not heal death until the Word assumes death when Jesus dies; Jesus does not conquer sin until he assumes or bears the sin of others by suffering death at their hands, the ultimate human rejection of God’s beneficence offered in his person.128

By freely bearing the sin of the world on the cross of Calvary, the person of Christ has conclusively redeemed a wayward and rebellious humanity by drawing it up into his total and perfect self-surrender to the Father in unfathomable love. The person of Christ must not be thought of as self-sufficient, then, as would be the case if his divinity is thought of as an inner core of his person, but in terms of his modus of being-related to the Father and his being totally open to ready encounter with others to the exclusion of none. That not even one single individual is excluded from Jesus’ readiness for encounter with others amounts to saying that each and every human person has inviolable worth in the eyes of God and cannot be replaced by another. From the perspective of Christ our Representative, no matter how evil any one particular person might be, the fact that the fullness of Jesus’ humanity takes the form of love of enemies who put him to death indicates that evil carries within itself the invitation to real conversion because it is directed towards the Unchangeable Good, that is, towards the One who loves in freedom. An assumption-Christology firmly establishes the view that each one of us is irreplaceable, for no one person is excluded from the all-encompassing embrace of the Messiah who keeps himself in relationship to his rejectors so as to become the representative of their true identity 128   Kathryn Tanner, Jesus, Humanity and the Trinity: A Brief Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), p. 28.

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in relation to the Father. The essence of the Christian faith in this personalist perspective is participation in the divine identity of Jesus Christ, for in his person we humans are ‘drawn up’ (cf. Jn 12:32) into the worshipful encounter between the Son and his Father, an encounter in which we ‘behold’ God and become fully ‘alive’ to the glory of God, as Irenaeus of Lyons stated long ago. In respect of Christ’s representative action, since all those he represents before the Father are irreplaceable as individual persons, his representative action can only be incomplete and temporary: he invites us to participate in his divine identity as the bearer of humanity’s true relational identity before God, which amounts to living the way of the cross for the sake of the ‘ministry of reconciliation.’ To live in imitation of Christ who has conquered the powers of death (separation from God) by his atoning death on Calvary (union with God), is to live a life of real freedom and responsibility before God for the sake of a world groaning for its final salvation (cf. Rom 8:18–25). What the Spirit of the Risen One makes available to us is new and real time for living; that is, the gift of spiritual freedom to live in the present as sons and daughters of the Father in the Son (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6), in hopeful anticipation of the fullness of glory to come. On the basis of the findings of this chapter, to conclude, the fundamental tenet that Christ died ‘for us’ expresses the conviction that every single person is irreplaceable in the eyes of God, is represented by the person of Christ, and is destined to partake of the new creation which is already now in the making in the Spirit of the Risen One. But the full benefits of Christ’s paschal mystery are not visible in this pilgrim life, and it will be argued in the following chapters that our own death should be considered as the privileged locus for receiving the gift of ‘admirable exchange’ of natures in the person of Christ, which is tantamount to asserting that we mortal sinners receive the fullness of God’s salvation at death as a dying into the Lord Jesus Christ. The exchange principle, when understood in a progressive fashion as completed in Christ’s paschal mystery, has the considerable merit of being able to illuminate the mystery of death as a final (sacramental) situation that corresponds to the real nature of the divine as pure grace, and the real nature of the human as the event of God’s self-bestowal in grace. Since the theology of death proposed in the present work is illuminated from start to finish by the event of Jesus Christ as a trinitarian happening, there remains one further area of investigation that is integral to the development of the argument; namely, the role of the Spirit in the christological mystery, which is the subject matter of the following chapter.

Chapter 2

The Proper Role of the Holy Spirit: Ecstatic Gift of Divine Communion The argument developed hitherto has highlighted not only the need to treat the Christ-event as the work of the Trinity, but also the need to place the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son firmly within the framework of God’s original plan for the world, from which it follows that the created world must be considered as the work of the Trinity as well. The biblical statements concerning the ‘Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Rev 13:8) and the divine love which has been made manifest among us in that ‘God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him’ (1 Jn 4:9–10; cf. Jn 3:16), make it quite plain that both creation and Incarnation flow out of the one process of God’s eternal love for the world. This is to say that there is no room for thinking of the event of the Incarnation of the Son as the response by God to the fall of Adam, as if God was caught by surprise at the transgression of the first human couple and was thus compelled to formulate another divine plan to salvage the original one. In order for theological reflection to be cogent, coherent and credible, it must proceed within a trinitarian and supralapsarian framework which can be expressed as follows: God the Father, the Source of All or Fountain Fullness (fontalis plenitudo) of all things visible and invisible, foresaw the abuse of freedom accorded to creaturely being, yet the Father has predestined the final end of all created things in the person of the eternally begotten Son, the Logos and divine Wisdom who, for our sake, assumed a human nature in the person of Jesus of Nazareth by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Giver of life, who prepares the creation for the event of the Incarnation so that we might graciously receive adoption as sons and daughters of God in the incarnate Son, and thus be granted permanent union with God as our final destiny as beings created imago Dei, to the glory of God.1 1   Those who want to prevent the reduction of trinitarian language to FatherSon categories find it helpful to retrieve categories such as Wisdom and Word that are tied to creation theology and which feature in patristic theology and key biblical texts, including: Proverbs 8:22–31, Sirach 24:3–23, Wisdom 7:25–8, Hebrews 1:2–3, Colossians 1:15–20, John 1:1–5. See Denis Edwards, ‘The Ecological Significance of God-Language’, Theological Studies, 60 (1999): pp. 708–22. Edwards also surveys Origen, Athanasius, Maximus the Confessor and Bonaventure, all of which use Wisdom/Word language in their christologies, but he focuses on the work of Bonaventure who adopts a sacramental view of creation as God’s self-expression. The key image used by Bonaventure for the first person is that of fontalis plenitudo, the ‘Fountain Fullness’ of the divine fecundity.

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The assertion that it is the Spirit who prepares the process of evolving creation for the event of the Incarnation of the Son clearly reinforces the need to reflect further on the role of the Spirit in the christological mystery. In the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, which in its Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes amply affirmed the view that the Spirit is at work everywhere in the world,2 there has been a notable increase of interest among theologians with respect to so-called ‘Spirit-Christology.’3 The latter seeks to give due recognition to the pneumatological dimension of the mystery of Christ, which is perceived as having suffered neglect in the tradition of Western theology. The advantage offered by a Spirit-Christology lies not merely in its obvious continuity with the Breath-Spirit of God in the Jewish Bible, a continuity which enables it to effectively convey the universal significance and eschatological aspect of the Christ-event, but also in its ability to provide a more intelligible answer to the question about what it is that animates the man Jesus in his life and public ministry to Israel. In this chapter it will be argued that it is by virtue of the eschatological fullness of the indwelling Spirit that the man Jesus is professed to be the Son of God (cf. Lk 1:35) and is empowered to develop a pattern of sustained relationships to his Father on the one hand, and to his increasingly hostile surroundings on the other, all of which comes to a culminating point in his death, burial and being raised from the dead. It is important to stress from the outset that theologians for the most part tend to develop a Spirit-Christology as a necessary complement, not alternative, to the traditional Logos-Christology. The aim of theological reflection on the role of the Spirit in Christology proper is to better understand both who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for us from the perspective of the third article of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Under the influence of Athanasius and the Cappadocians, the First Council of Constantinople (381) proclaimed, ‘We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified.’ The Council Fathers did not use the term ‘consubstantial’ which had caused so much controversy at the Council of Nicea (325) when it was applied to the Logos;   Gaudium et spes #22 speaks about how the Spirit offers to all people of good will, Christian and non-Christian, the ‘possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery’; in #38 the document talks about the manifold gifts of the Spirit which prepare the way for the kingdom of heaven, that is, for salvation; in #41 we read that the Spirit continually arouses humankind to realize that the deepest longings of the heart can be satisfied only by God; and in #42 the Council affirms that all movements towards justice and unity in the world are to be attributed to the activity of the Spirit. 3   Catholic theologians seeking to enhance or complement the traditional LogosChristology with a Spirit-Christology include: Heribert Mühlen, Piet Schoonenberg, Philip Rosato, Joseph Wong, Yves Congar, Walter Kasper, David Coffey, Ralph Del Colle and Denis Edwards. Some notable Protestant thinkers in this area include: James D.G. Dunn, Geoffrey W. Lampe, D. Lyle Dabney, Michael Welker, Colin E. Gunton and Jürgen Moltmann. 2

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instead, they concerned themselves with the mission of the Spirit as the ‘Giver of life’ (cf. Jn 6:63).4 The gift of life which God offers to the world is not merely the life of the creature (biological life) but also involves the life of grace, that is, the sanctifying and deifying of the creature who has been called into being by God, and this mission receives its highest expression in the rite of baptism. In light of the Spirit’s task of deifying the human being, of conforming us to the incarnate Son who is the way to communion with the Father, it is considered worthy of the divine title ‘Lord’ (2 Cor 3:17) along with the Father and the Son. As was the case in the development of christological doctrine, soteriological and doxological motives came into play in the confession of faith enunciated by the First Council of Constantinople. For the matter at issue was that we humans have communion with the Father by our being conformed to Christ; that is, the praise we offer to the Father is through the mediation of Christ, in the Spirit. While reference to the Spirit, especially in regard to ecclesiology and the Christian life, is certainly not lacking in Western thought, what is new and distinctive in Spirit-Christology is that on the level of theological construction ‘it proposes that the relationship between Jesus and God and the role of Christ in redemption cannot be fully understood unless there is an explicitly pneumatological dimension.’5 If the relationship between Jesus and God cannot be fathomed apart from the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit who is immanently present in creation and freely indwells in human persons of all times and all places, then it will become apparent during the course of this chapter that the universality of the Christ-event is best proclaimed on the basis of the universal activity of the Spirit as the principle of God’s self-communication to the world: all are drawn up into the life and paschal mystery of Christ through the activity of the Spirit, so that being in the Spirit and being in Christ are closely related to one another. The recognition of the pneumatological dimension of the christological mystery also serves to reinforce the need to reflect on this mystery in trinitarian terms that give expression to the ineffable unity of the work of the Trinity in creation and redemption. From time to time we hear Christians simply referring to the Father as   Athanasius argued that since the purpose of the Incarnation is our divinization, the Spirit who makes Christ present within us must also be fully divine in the same sense as the Father and the Son. The Son joins us to the Father by the Spirit, so that what the Son is by nature we are by participation in him by the power of the Spirit. See John O’Donnell, The Mystery of the Triune God (London: Sheed & Ward, 1988), pp. 75–6. Basil of Caesarea’s work on the Spirit had a profound influence on the First Council of Constantinople. He associated the Spirit with the work of life-giving and the work of bringing to completion the perfection of the creature. The Spirit is thus the forerunner to the coming of Christ. See Dennis Edwards, The God of Evolution: A Trinitarian Theology (New York: Paulist Press, 1999), pp. 79–82; Breath of Life: A Theology of the Creator Spirit (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2004), pp. 41–2. 5   Ralph Del Colle, Christ and the Spirit: Spirit-Christology in Trinitarian Perspective (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 4. 4

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the ‘Creator’, the Son as the ‘Redeemer’, and the Spirit as the ‘Sanctifier.’ While it is certainly not incorrect to affirm creation as springing from the divine fecundity of the first person of the Trinity, nevertheless this has tended to be presented in such a way as to pose ‘the risk of seeming to suggest that there is no role in creation for the Word and the Spirit.’6 What must be borne in mind in order for this risk to be averted is that both the Greeks and the Latins have consistently affirmed down the centuries that an ineffable unity exists between the three divine persons, a unity which is rooted in their essence, their will and their activity.7 Since the Son is eternally begotten by the Father, and the Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father – through the Son – then the Son and the Spirit are both of the essence of the Father. There is no subordination in the communion of divine persons, but only a specific order signifying the mutual indwelling relationships of the three divine persons (perichoresis). What distinguishes them from one another is each person’s peculiarly personal attribute: namely, the fatherhood of the first person, the sonship of the second, and the procession of the third. In such a perspective, it follows that the Father cannot be thought of without simultaneously thinking of the Son and the Spirit: when one person acts, the other two persons also act, although each person acts in accordance with its own peculiar attribute.8 This clearly implies that the creation, as well as the Incarnation, is to be regarded as the work of the Trinity. Athanasius, for example, simply expresses this understanding by saying that ‘the Father created all things through the Word in the Holy Spirit’, while Basil of Caesarea elaborates on this fundamental theme when he writes that the Father is ‘the primordial cause of everything that has been made’, the Son is ‘the operative cause’, and the Spirit is ‘the perfecting cause.’9   Edwards, The God of Evolution, p. 78. The author attempts to elaborate the role of the Spirit in evolving creation, which is to say that the role of the Spirit is not regarded as limited to the divine economy of salvation. 7   A good article stressing the work of the Trinity in creation and redemption is that of Christos S. Voulgaris, ‘The Holy Trinity in Creation and Incarnation’, The Greek Theological Review, 42/3–4 (1997): pp. 245–58. While both the East and the West affirm that when the Trinity acts in creation it acts as one, nonetheless there are differences with regard to how this unity is understood. In the East it is the nature of the two processions from the Father that distinguishes the Son from the Spirit. The distinction of the persons is predicated on the origin of the persons and this personal diversity is the ‘primordial fact’ of God’s triune being. The monarchy of the Father guarantees the unity of this personal diversity in the divine essence. In the West, by contrast, the unity of operation between the persons is established by starting with the one divine essence as the principle of all the works of the Trinity in the divine economy of creation and redemption. 8   The Latin tradition, following Tertullian, Augustine and Peter Lombard, does not start with the revelation of the divine persons in sacred history; rather, it moves in a more metaphysical way with the affirmation of the one divine nature as the principle of all operation ad extra. This starting point is what allowed scholastic theology to propose the thesis that it would have been possible for any of the Three to undergo the Incarnation. 9   Quoted by Christos S. Voulgaris, ‘The Holy Trinity’, p. 250. 6

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By stating that the Father creates ‘through’ the Word and ‘in’ the Holy Spirit, so that all three divine persons are in their respective ways ‘causes’ of all that has been brought into being by God, what is put in sharp relief is the need to appreciate that there is but ‘the one process of God’s self-giving and self-expression’,10 as stated earlier. This one process of God’s self-communication to created reality highlights the unity of action that springs from the triune God. But while there is an important theological tradition which holds that the actions of the triune God are undivided and one, this has often been taken to mean that there is no distinct and proper role for each of the divine persons in respect of creation. The theologies of Athanasius and Basil do clearly allow for the attribution of specific roles to the three divine persons – according to Athanasius the first person is the ‘fountain’ or ‘beginning’ of creation, the Word is the one ‘through’ whom all things come into being, and the Spirit is the one ‘in’ whom all things are made – but in the Western tradition the distinct and proper roles of the divine persons in the one undivided action of the Trinity has suffered from neglect.11 On the basis of the very strong emphasis given by Augustine to the radical unity of the Trinity’s actions ad extra, a unity rooted in the one divine nature, there emerged in medieval Western theology the concept of ‘appropriation’ which did not allow for the assigning of specific and proper roles to the divine persons. The notion of appropriation simply means that what is said of one divine person is properly true of the Three. Hence in respect of the Incarnation of the eternal Word, medieval theology taught that any one of the Three could have become incarnate, in which case it is not possible to maintain that in the Incarnation something happens that is distinct and proper to the Word. Notwithstanding this negative consequence of appropriation for trinitarian thought, the concept does nevertheless serve a helpful function insofar as it cautions against assigning a work, such as creation, wholly to one divine person (the Father) to the exclusion of the other two.12 The work of creation belongs to the Three, although each person acts according to its own peculiarly personal attribute or specific role within the undivided unity of the Trinity’s action or operation. The assertion in the previous chapter of this study about the irreducibility of the divine persons to the divine nature already pointed to the validity and necessity of asserting distinct and proper roles for each of the Three in respect of the work of creation and salvation.13 Finally, since the roles played by the Word and the 10   Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, tr. William V. Dych (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1978), p. 197. 11   Cf. Edwards, Breath of Life, pp. 117–29. 12   This is the position held by Edwards, ibid., p. 123. 13   The proposition that we should recognize distinct and proper roles of the divine persons clearly does more justice to the economy of salvation. But it also raises the question whether we are required to think of the trinitarian persons not only as ‘relations’ but also as ‘subjects.’ Moltmann, for example, argues that ‘there are no persons without relations; but there are no relations without persons either.’ Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the

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Spirit cannot be confined to the work of salvation but must include questions about their roles in the work of creation as well, perforce we are required to think of the history of salvation in terms of the ongoing and continuing work of creation: eschatological salvation is to be thought of as the ontological perfection of the movement of creation as a whole. The first part of this chapter will briefly review the biblical picture of the activity of the Spirit in the world in order to show that the Spirit is associated with the work of creation as well as the work of salvation, and to highlight that the man Jesus is the Son of God in the Spirit (Lk 1:35). The second part will bring into the conversation Barth’s divine ontology as ‘God’s being is in becoming’ as well as Rahner’s notion of ‘active self-transcendence’ in order to argue for the validity of the proposition that the Spirit is the creative power of becoming in history who prepares the creation for the event of the Incarnation of the eternal Son. The third section, building upon the previous chapter where it was argued that the assumption of humanity in the person of Jesus must be viewed as extending over the course of time, will assert the related need to appreciate the successive comings of the Spirit in the life of Jesus which culminate in his being raised from the dead in the power of the Spirit. Part four will then consider the fundamental issue regarding proper roles for the persons of the Trinity: Can we discern a distinct and proper role of the Holy Spirit? It will be argued that the proper role of the Spirit is that of bringer of ecstatic gift of divine communion; however, the thrust of the whole argument will lead to the contention that ultimately it is as the power of resurrection life that the Spirit will draw all into permanent union with the Trinity as their final end. The final part five will offer some concluding remarks about the need to view the Incarnation as progressive and to embrace a theological understanding of the mystery of death as new birth in the womb of the Spirit of the Risen One. The biblical notions of Ruach and Pneuma The New Testament terms used by the Council Fathers at First Constantinople to describe the function of the Spirit in the work of creation have deep roots in the traditions of the Old Testament. At the very beginning of the biblical story, in the Book of Genesis, we read that in the beginning ‘the Spirit [or wind] of God was moving over the face of the waters’ (1:2), by which is meant that the Spirit brings forth living creatures out of the primordial waters of chaos or formlessness. Already here in the opening verses of the Bible, then, we see that a doctrine of Kingdom of God, tr. Margaret Kohl (London: SCM Press, 1981), p. 172. The divine persons are constituted through generatio and spiratio as subjects who are mutually related to one another from the outset and are inconceivable without these perichoretic relations of reciprocal interiority. For a discussion of this issue, see Miroslav Volf, After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998), pp. 204–20.

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creation should start with the Spirit of God. But what is especially interesting to note in these opening verses is that we read about the Spirit blowing over the waters prior to reading about God’s word commanding ‘Let there be light’ (1:3). The same pattern is to be found in the following chapter where the prominent image for God’s life-giving power is the ‘breath’ of God (2:7).14 After having formed Adam from the dust of the earth by breathing into his nostrils the ‘breath of life’, God then commands Adam to freely eat of every tree in the garden except the tree of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ (2:17). That the presence of the Spirit precedes, and is therefore the condition of possibility, of the speaking of God’s word is also evident in the Gospel story of the Annunciation where it is first said to Mary that ‘the Holy Spirit will come upon you’ (Lk 1:35; Mt 1:18) before the birth of the Son of God is proclaimed. The upshot of all this is that the Spirit is consistently portrayed in the biblical narratives as presupposed by the Word, or, to put the matter more succinctly, ‘the Word is spoken in the Spirit.’15 As the abiding and vivifying presence of God in the world, the Spirit is best reflected upon in terms of possibility; that is to say, in terms of the promise of ongoing creation.16 The depiction of the Spirit as the possibility of God finds strong support in the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, for God’s raising of the Crucified One in the Spirit challenges our presuppositions about what is possible and what is not possible in the ongoing drama of God’s relationship and involvement with time and history. 14   The ‘breath of life’ is also found in Genesis 6:17, 7:15; Job 34:14–15; Ezekiel 37:9; Psalms 33:6, 104:29. In all these texts it is clear that the breath or ‘spirit’ of God is what upholds all things in existence, it is the action or animating power of God. See Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, vol. 1, The Experience of the Spirit, tr. David Smith (New York: The Seabury Press, 1983), pp. 3–12. 15   D. Lyle Dabney, ‘The Nature of the Spirit: Creation as a Premonition of God’, in Starting With the Spirit, ed. Stephen Pickard and Gordon Preece (Hindmarsh, South Australia: Australian Theological Forum Inc., 2001), pp. 83–110, at p. 96. A later article by Dabney, with the same title, appears in The Work of the Spirit: Pneumatology and Pentecostalism, ed. Michael Welker (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2006), pp. 71–86, at p. 78. 16   D. Lyle Dabney, ‘The Nature of the Spirit’, p. 101. This assertion about how a theology of the third article of the Creed conceives of God’s act of creation is made in contradistinction to how the first and second articles conceive of the act of creation. The first views creation as an act of God’s goodness, as a participation in God’s being, and thus in quest for its highest good – the notion of capax Dei, of the human capacity ‘for’ God, typical of medieval scholasticism, emphasizes this view. The second stresses that creation has been corrupted by sin, thus not the yearning for but the ‘flight’ from God (non capax Dei) is highlighted in this understanding which is typical of Reformed theology. Dabney contends that we must recognize both elements of continuity (first article) and discontinuity (second article), we must speak of both grace and sin in the world, and that the third article is able to subsume both these elements in positing a theology of ‘transformation’ which gives priority to the possibility of creation. D. Lyle Dabney, ‘Starting with the Spirit: Why the Last Should Now be First’, in Starting with the Spirit, pp. 3–27, especially pp. 16–25.

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The resurrection of Christ in the power of the Spirit reveals, as Hans Urs von Balthasar explains, that the created world comes from God and goes to God, that time is from eternity and to eternity. If we participate in Christ’s time, then our time is being drawn up into the eternal life of the triune God in whose image we have been created (imago trinitatis). The following citation taken from von Balthasar’s work not only sets forth his understanding of the relationship between eternity and time, but also can be taken as support for the view that the Spirit is the possibility of God’s continuing involvement with creation: There is a deep analogy between time and eternity, so eternity can always be inside time, just as time can participate in eternity. God has not created us for time, but for his eternity. What is eternal is prior … In this light, our life and death seem an episode on the way to eternal life … We must not just use our time as a measuring rod: we must use it as an instrument of our obedience to the triune God … Time is no longer a closed system … Earth belongs to heaven. And mankind is created for heaven … time finds its real home there, in its origin. Our time will be taken back up into eternal time … through the mediation of Christ’s time.17

From the perspective of the incarnate Word who has been glorified by God through the Spirit, the Spirit should be spoken of as the possibility of God, as the presence of the ‘ever-greater’ who continually comes towards humankind with the intention of bringing the ‘real’ into being.18 The Incarnation of the Word as the presence of eternity in time means that the ‘temporal sphere does not unfold “outside” eternity but within it.’19 It also means that ‘that which is to come’ must not be envisaged as an extension of anthropological time, but according to the entering of our time into Christ’s time. Later in this chapter the risen Christ will be spoken of as the ‘new emergent whole’ in order to highlight the fundamental character of creation as dynamic, open-ended and in process of becoming, where ‘becoming’ refers not merely to the quantitatively more, but also to the qualitatively new that arises out of the drama of the God-world relationship. The view of creation as a dynamic process is already apparent in the first creation account (Gen 1:1–2:3) where what is depicted is an increasing complexity and diversity of life as the days unfold. In other words, a process of ongoing creation is in view where what emerges in any one particular day is dependent upon what came into being on the previous days. Once the light is created (day 1) and the waters separate (day 2) so that dry land appears (day 3), the manner of God’s creative activity takes on a different character inasmuch as the things 17   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. V, The Last Act, tr. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), pp. 101–2. 18   This recalls, note, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s description of the risen Christ, present in the Spirit, as the ‘Real One.’ 19   Balthasar, Theo-Drama, vol. V, p. 250.

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created on each day are taken into the process or acts of further creation. Thus we read that God commands on day three, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation …’ (1:11); on day five God says, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures …’ (1:20), and again, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind …’ (1:24f). This process of creation as an emerging reality, which culminates on day six with the creation of the human being in the image and likeness of God (1:26), indicates that we must go beyond the traditional notions of creatio ex nihilo and creatio continua to embrace the idea of God’s creative activity in time as a process of creatio ex creatione; that is to say, creation itself is taken up into acts of further creation.20 These acts of further creation all take place in the Spirit of God (1:2) as the presupposition for the speaking of God’s word of command (1:3–28), so that in these opening verses of the Bible we can truly see a picture of the Spirit of God as the possibility of God and the promise of creation – from the darkness of formlessness and void to the light of cosmic Sabbath when God will be all in all. The second creation account complements the first in highlighting the reality of human sin that has entered into the world (2:17–3:24), but this human condition of estrangement from God, from other humans and from the world, does not weaken the view of the Spirit as the possibility of God. Rather, it serves to indicate that the activity of the Spirit prepares the way for the redemptive event of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word, in whose person the powers of sin and death have been conquered and transformed into the ‘new creation’ (cf. 2 Cor 5:17). Starting our reflections with the Spirit of God must not, then, be interpreted as displacing Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh; on the contrary, we are to understand that it makes Jesus Christ central to the working out of God’s possibility in the process of ongoing creation. On the basis of the foregoing discussion, it appears that the Hebrew word ruach (spirit or breath), in contradistinction to nephesh (soul), is meant to expresses the understanding that we humans are dynamically engaged with a vital force or energy in the world, a force that animates the body and is the principle of action, but which does not fall within the sphere of our own power: it is recognized as being above and beyond us.21 While the word ruach cannot be simply defined since its meaning is to be taken out of the particular context in which it is used, nonetheless it can safely be said that it expresses the ‘Breath-Spirit’ of the living God; it is what causes humankind to act so that God’s plan in history may be fulfilled.22 Through the Breath-Spirit, God not only sustains and animates life at the level of what is called nature, but also acts in the affairs of human history, which in the biblical view is the main sphere of God’s self-communication. Hence   Cf. D. Lyle Dabney, ‘The Nature of the Spirit’, pp. 83–110, at pp. 103–4.   See Walter Kasper, Jesus the Christ, tr. V. Green (London: Burns & Oates, 1976),

20 21

pp. 254–5. 22   Congar explains that ruach can simply mean wind, or it can mean the breath of God which communicates life, or it can be used in different ways according to the effect that it produces as a principle – the spirit of intelligence, of wisdom, of jealously, or of God. Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, vol. I, p. 4.

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we read about how God liberated the people of the covenant from the land of Egypt, guided them through the wilderness of Sinai into the land of Canaan, and raised up for them exceptional leaders such as Moses, Joshua and David, as well as many prophetic figures such as Isaiah, Ezekiel and Joel, and wise sages such as Job, Qoheleth and Ben Sira. The proclaimed Messiah of Israel was expected to bring the functions of king, prophet and teacher all together in his own person as the bearer of the Breath-Spirit, and elevate them to a higher level so as to inaugurate a new age, the eschatological age of God’s reign when God will be ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28). The prophet Ezekiel tells of how in this new age God will cleanse the people and give them a new heart: ‘A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances’ (36:26–7). In the vision of Ezekiel, the Breath-Spirit of God as purifying the people’s hearts and finally making of them a holy people is restricted to Israel, but in the vision of the prophet Joel the gift of God is extended to all peoples: ‘And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my spirit’ (2:28–9). On the joyous day of Pentecost, Peter, addressing the crowd in Jerusalem, declares that Joel’s vision has in fact materialized (Acts 2:14–21); a new era has now dawned in the history of salvation, in the history of the world. When we peruse the New Testament data in relation to Jesus of Nazareth, it becomes readily apparent that the witnesses to his life and mission to Israel confess him as the person uniquely filled with the fullness of the Spirit (Acts 10:38). The life-giving Spirit of God who is immanently present and active in the order of nature and in the special history of Israel, comes to indwell in Jesus of Nazareth in eschatological fullness. What is important to appreciate in the biblical perspective is that the man Jesus does not come down from the heavens as an unexpected saviour, but is regarded as the coming to fullness of a long process of preparation in the history of creation which eventually gives rise to the special history of the covenant people. We must appreciate, in other words, that the Spirit of life prepares the creation for the event of the Incarnation, for the long-awaited coming of the Messiah of Israel. The New Testament writers make it unambiguously clear that Jesus’ mission to Israel is inextricably tied to the possession of the Spirit: his virginal conception means that he is a creation of the divine Spirit (Mt 1:18; Lk 1:35); in his baptism in the Jordan (Mk 1:10; Mt 3:16; Lk 3:22) he receives the Spirit of God and is immediately led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil (Mt 4:1); Jesus returns from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit (Lk 4:14ff) and begins his public ministry of healing, exorcising, teaching and granting the forgiveness of sins; on the cross Jesus commits his spirit to the Father (Lk 23:46) and offers himself in the Spirit to the Father as sacrificial victim (Heb 9:14); the buried Jesus is raised from the dead in the power of the

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Spirit (Rom 1:4, 8:11; 1 Pet 3:18) and becomes a life-giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45); the mission of Jesus continues in those over whom the risen Jesus ‘breathes’ (Jn 20:22) so as to confer upon them the gift of the Holy Spirit which he had promised to his disciples (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:8, 2:4, 33); and, finally, the goal of Jesus’ mission is the kingdom of God, that is, the kingdom of ‘justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 14:17). It is evident, then, that from the primordial moment of creation to the special history of Israel and Jesus the Messiah who is crucified but raised from the dead, to the event of Pentecost and the eschatological hope in the final and imminent realization of the kingdom of God, it is the language of Breath-Spirit that features prominently in the narrating of the whole spectre of events that give expression to the living God’s good purpose for the whole movement of creation and history. The upshot of all this is that the justifying and saving Spirit of Jesus Christ crucified and risen is of a piece with the life-giving Spirit of God which features in the creation narrative of Genesis 1–3.23 The biblical testimony to Jesus of Nazareth as the One uniquely filled with the Spirit of God not only furnishes us with a credible response to the question about what it is that animates the man Jesus, it also allows us to effectively address the basic conundrum of how to reconcile the affirmation of the universality of God’s saving will on the one hand, and the particularity of the unique event of the Incarnation of the Logos on the other. One of the distinct advantages of a Spirit-Christology, where the pneuma-sarx relationship is stressed (cf. Rom 8), is that since it is firmly biblical in character and emphatically links the man Jesus with the Spirit of God who is present in creation and in the history of Israel, then the person and history of Jesus the Messiah is placed within a universal setting without doing violence to his ontological singularity which is strongly affirmed by a Logos-Christology where the Logos-sarx relationship is stressed (cf. Jn 1:14). The mystery of Jesus’ identity as the One uniquely filled with the Spirit in his mission to Israel and ‘designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead’ (Rom 1:4), is a mystery set within the dynamic movement of creation as a whole, the goal of which is the establishment of the kingdom of ‘justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 14:17). The value of a Spirit-Christology, in other words, besides its obvious ability to underscore the authentic humanity of Jesus, lies in its ability to highlight the eschatological significance of the history of the man Jesus for the history of creation as a whole and the personal histories of all men and women of all times and all places.24 Any strongly individualistic form of Christian piety is therefore firmly   This basic point is well made by Jürgen Moltmann in his The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), p. 10. The experience of the Spirit in the community of the church leads us beyond the limits of the church to the Spirit in the ‘community of creation.’ 24   See Philip Rosato’s article entitled, ‘Spirit Christology: Ambiguity and Promise’, Theological Studies, 38/3 (1977): pp. 423–49. Rosato points out how such a Christology 23

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repudiated by such a Christology. What is more, in light of the understanding of the ruach as God’s vital power over the whole of creation and history, with which we humans are actively engaged, we can appropriately speak of the divine-human encounter in terms of the divine Spirit freely indwelling the human spirit (cf. Ps 104:29, 30; Rom 8:16).25 Talk of the human spirit is meant to convey the sense of the human as a self-transcending personal being capable of responding in faith, hope and love – these theological virtues are expressed in morality, culture and religion – to the presence of the Spirit of God. The true potentiality of human being is realized by the indwelling Spirit who animates, inspires, guides and evokes that response of faith and love which is the human side of the God-human encounter. The divine Spirit should not, though, be understood as resting in the human spirit; rather, we are to imagine the Spirit as driving the human spirit beyond itself so that it is ‘grasped by something ultimate and unconditional.’26 The identity of the person is essentially relational and is realized in finding the reality of that transcendent Other whom we name ‘God.’ Paul expresses this simply by saying, ‘It is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God’ (Rom 8:16). The term ecstasy is the classical term for expressing this being grasped by the indwelling of the Spirit which imparts inspirational energies to the self and establishes personal identity in relation to the transcendent Other. The notion of ecstasy is able to forcefully convey the truth that God’s encounter with humankind, and the integration of human personhood in the living Spirit, takes place not only on the level of the intellect but also involves the will, the emotions and the enigma of the human subconscious.27 Caution must be exercised, however, when approaching the divine-human encounter in terms of the divine Spirit freely indwelling the human spirit and applying it to the christological mystery, for it can readily lead to an undermining overcomes an individualistic type of piety by linking Jesus to the eschatological hope for a kingdom of justice and peace. 25   It is common today to find the divine-human encounter portrayed in terms of the divine Spirit indwelling the human spirit. See, for example, Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, three volumes in one, vol. III (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 111–38; Geoffrey Lampe, God As Spirit (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), pp. 34–60; and Jürgen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology (London: SCM Press, 1996), p. 73. The work of Karl Rahner should also be included here, although he states the matter in terms of the Spirit as the ‘self-communication of God’ who is the ontological fulfilment of the human being. Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, pp. 116–37, at p. 120. 26   Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. III, p. 112. See also Moltmann, The Coming of God, p. 73. 27   Lampe makes this same point in connection with his preference for using the model of ‘Spirit’ over against the models of ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Logos.’ He says that the concept of Logos tends towards an ‘over-intellectualized conception of the divine-human encounter’ which neglects the need to integrate the emotions in human personality. Lampe, God As Spirit, p. 116.

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of the true divinity of the man Jesus, as we find, for example, in the work of Geoffrey Lampe. In his God As Spirit, Lampe argues that the concept of ‘Spirit’ in Christology has an advantage over the concepts of ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Logos’ inasmuch as it lends itself far less readily to ‘hypostatisation’, given its vagueness and ambiguity in biblical and early patristic thought.28 He wants to dispense altogether with the distinction of hypostases in the Trinity and simply talk of the Spirit’s inspiration, indwelling and possession in Jesus. The response of Jesus to God, says Lampe, was not a different kind of human response ‘but it was total instead of partial. We call this, negatively, sinlessness … Positively, we may call it sonship, the deification of man, personal union between God and man.’29 But while much of this argument is well and good insofar as it highlights the authentic humanity of Jesus, the inherent problem with his desire to jettison the traditional trinitarian context for reflection on the christological mystery is that he is no longer able to establish why Jesus’ response to the call of God is so total and complete, and therefore unique in the history of God’s self-communication to the world. What needs to be recognized is that if the Spirit comes to rest upon and indwell the man Jesus in eschatological fullness, then this comes about because of the mystery of his person as the eternal, pre-existent Word through whom all things have come into being. Having said this, however, the argument presented in Chapter 1 of this study must be borne in mind, where it was argued that it is better to think of the incarnate Word not as a divine hypostasis but in terms of Jesus’ modus of being-related to the Father in loving obedience so that his perfect receptivity to the Father really lets God be God, thus Jesus is true God from true God. When the divinity of Jesus is conceived not as an inner core of his person but in relational terms that acknowledge the person of Jesus as irreducible to his concrete individual nature, then justice is done to the narrative shape of the christological question. In this perspective, we cannot dispense with the distinction of persons within the Trinity, as Lampe would want us to do, for what is being maintained is that the human person Jesus of Nazareth is the person of the eternal Word who has assumed flesh in order to redeem it from within and bring it home to God. We cannot, then, simply 28   Lampe, God As Spirit, p. 143. Lampe says that once the Spirit is hypostatized the idea of appropriations in trinitarian theology becomes difficult to reconcile with the unity of operation which monotheism requires. Such an argument runs counter, though, to the intention of medieval theologians who formulated the concept of appropriation to safeguard the radical unity and oneness of the actions of the Three. Hendrikus Berkhof, in his The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (London: Epworth Press, 1964), also refutes the traditional differentiation of Christ and Spirit into two distinct persons. And C.F.D. Moule, in his The Holy Spirit (London: Mowbrays, 1978), understands the Spirit not as a person in his own right but in a modalistic fashion as mode of action by Christ. For a discussion of Lampe, Berkhof and Moule, see Tom Smail, The Giving Gift: The Holy Spirit in Person (Lima, Ohio: Academic Renewal Press, 2002), pp. 37–42. 29   Lampe, God As Spirit, p. 24.

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abandon Logos-Christology, although the latter must be brought into relation with an adequately developed Spirit-Christology that does justice to the narrative shape of the christological mystery where the Spirit features prominently in the life, death and resurrection of the man Jesus. The New Testament, to sum up, witnesses to the Spirit at work in all stages of Jesus’ life and mission; it is evident that there were successive events in which the Spirit descended upon the man Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, especially in his baptism and resurrection from the dead. As we read the New Testament writings it becomes apparent that the man Jesus is the Son of God in the Spirit. The Gospel of Luke makes this clear from the very beginning, long before Jesus’ baptism, when it states that because Jesus is created by the power of the Spirit in a unique way, ‘therefore’ the child to be born will be called the ‘Son of God’ (Lk 1:35). The conception of Jesus by the Spirit and his divine Sonship are very closely connected according to this Lucan text. This basic point has not been fully appreciated in the theological tradition. Scholastic theology, for example, with its metaphysical and non-historical approach to the mystery of the hypostatic union, simply was not equipped to give adequate weight to the pneumatological aspect of the Incarnation. In the traditional view, Jesus’ humanity is divinized through the hypostatic union of the Logos with human nature – the divine nature of the Logos interpenetrates the human nature of Jesus – and thus Jesus’ humanity receives the plenitude of the gifts of the Spirit as a consequence of its sanctification by the Logos. Walter Kasper has challenged this traditional view and we can take the following citation as a summary-statement of the consideration of biblical texts presented in this section: This traditional view is not simply to be contested, but needs to be freed from its onesidedness. For, in the first place, the thesis of the divinisation of Jesus’ humanity is only correct if at the same time it is added that the greater the proximity to God, the greater the intrinsic reality of the human being. By wholly filling Jesus’ humanity, the Spirit endows it with the openness by which it can freely and wholly constitute a mould and receptacle for God’s self-communication. The sanctification of Jesus by the Spirit and his gifts is, therefore, in the second place, not merely an adventitious consequence of the sanctification by the Logos through the hypostatic union, but its presupposition. The Spirit is thus in person God’s love as freedom, and the creative principle which sanctifies the man Jesus in such a way as to enable him, by free obedience and dedication, to be the incarnate response to God’s self-communication.30

The reflections of Colin Gunton also point in a similar direction, as is evident when he asks, ‘If Jesus is able freely to do that which is his particular calling, is not the mediator of that calling best understood to be the Holy Spirit, who mediates to   Walter Kasper, Jesus the Christ, tr. V. Green (London: Burns & Oates, 1976),

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p. 251.

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him the Father’s will, while – graciously – respecting his authentic humanity?’31 The Spirit as the One who enables the man Jesus to be the true human being who responds perfectly to the Father’s will is consistent, note, with the earlier discussion of how ‘the Word is spoken in the Spirit’ and the Old Testament understanding of ruach (spirit) as a vital force beyond the possession of humans, yet animating the body and empowering humans to act in ways that will bring about the fulfilment of God’s plan for the historical process.32 Inspired by the writings of Edward Irving, Gunton is keen to emphasize that it is through the mediation of the Spirit that the Father shapes a body for his Son in the womb of the Virgin and raises the Son from the tomb, and that the relationship between the Son and the Father is maintained throughout the event of Jesus Christ. By acknowledging the role of the Spirit in the christological mystery – and not merely Jesus’ prior endowment as the eternal Word – we are able to effectively repudiate the all too common view that the incarnate Word is not ‘truly subject to the same conditions as ourselves, but made perfect in quite another way.’33 This was precisely the concern that was expressed in Chapter 1 of this study where it was argued that the classical Logos-Christology fails to adequately convey the genuine humanity of the incarnate Word, with the result that the life of the man Jesus is not rendered humanly credible; he does not strike us as genuinely human, hence his Lordship tends to lose its real significance for our all too human lives. But when we think along the lines of person as a modus of being-related, then we are compelled to acknowledge that the mystery of the person of Christ must be placed within a trinitarian framework. Irenaeus of Lyons, whose writings Gunton is heavily influenced by, stated the matter simply, but beautifully, when he pointed out that the Son and the Spirit are ‘the two hands of the Father’ in the work of creation.34

  Colin E. Gunton, ‘God, Grace and Freedom’, in God and Freedom: Essays in Historical and Systematic Theology, ed. Colin E. Gunton (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995), pp. 119–33, at p. 130. 32   In respect of the Spirit as the One enabling Jesus to be the true human being, see also Colin Gunton, ‘One Mediator … The Man Jesus Christ: Reconciliation, Mediation and Life in Community’, in Pro Ecclesia, 11/2 (2002): pp. 146–58, at p. 157; Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Essays Toward a Fully Trinitarian Theology (London: T & T Clark, 2003), pp. 144–63, especially pp. 153–7. 33   Gunton, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, p. 158. 34   In the period of the early church, mention should also be made of Ambrose of Milan who, in the context of his theology of the Creator Spirit (published in 381), argued for the Spirit’s role in ongoing creation principally on the basis of the Incarnation: if the Spirit is responsible for the Incarnation, through which all things are regenerated, then the creation must be seen as the work of the Spirit. Ambrose spoke of the Spirit as ‘the author of the Lord’s incarnation.’ Cf. Edwards, Breath of Life, pp. 42–3, 66, 81. 31

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The Spirit as possibility of God and creative power of becoming in history In this section an endeavour will be made to say more about the role of the Spirit in creation, not only because it features prominently in the biblical material, but because the theological reflections in this study take for granted the need to do Christology within an evolutionary view of the world.35 In this regard it will be helpful to have recourse to Rahner’s notion of ‘active self-transcendence’ which he uses to explain how matter develops dynamically in the direction of spirit.36 To Rahner’s mind, talk of the human being as made up of body and soul is a rather primitive (Platonic) way of viewing human nature, since we are really made out of ‘spirit and materia prima.’37 The problem with talking in terms of ‘body’ and ‘soul’ is that the term ‘spirit’ is not yet included in the overall picture, so that when it is added the whole tripartite structure is affirmed as the human being. Rahner repudiates this view on the grounds that the body is already spirit; it is the expression of the spirit itself reaching out into space-time, in which case the body is always ‘an entering into the truly Other.’38 The term ‘spirit’ should therefore be regarded as ‘an a priori datum of human knowledge’ from which we can determine what is really meant by ‘matter.’39 It is not possible to begin with matter and then proceed to discover spirit, for this would represent an attempt to deduce what is logically and ontologically prior from what is posterior in both these senses – the starting point must be the data of human self-consciousness.40 This line of thinking leads, conversely, to the view that the body is already spirit since it is always ‘an entering into the truly Other’, in which case the language of spirit is essentially the language of relationship. Rahner therefore regards the material as ‘frozen spirit’, as limited being, which, beyond such a limitation means ‘being-conscious-of-itself, knowledge,   Denis Edwards explores the role of the Spirit as life-giver, as the power of becoming in evolutionary history, as the interior presence to creatures and as the ecstatic bringer of divine communion. Edwards, The God of Evolution, pp. 83–100. 36   Karl Rahner, ‘The Unity of Spirit and Matter in the Christian Understanding of Faith’, Theological Investigations, vol. 6, tr. Karl-H. and Boniface Kruger (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1974), pp. 153–77; ‘The Body in the Order of Salvation’, Theological Investigations, vol. 17, tr. Margaret Kohl (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1981), pp. 71–89; Foundations of Christian Faith, pp. 183–7. 37   ‘The Body in the Order of Salvation’, p. 83. Rahner follows Thomistic philosophy here, which in turn follows Aristotelian philosophy, according to which materia prima is matter which has no form (pure potency). 38   Ibid., p. 85. 39   ‘The Unity of Spirit and Matter’, p. 163. 40   It is worth noting here a statement made by Eugene F. Rogers in the context of discussing the divine Spirit’s befriending of matter: ‘If the priest invokes the Spirit at the epiclesis, that can only be because the Spirit has invoked matter at the creation.’ Eugene F. Rogers, After the Spirit: A Constructive Pneumatology from Resources outside the Modern West (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 2005), p. 66. 35

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freedom, and transcendence towards God.’41 Now, if matter is viewed as frozen spirit, then this implies, conversely, a highly material explanation of the finite spirit, and Rahner employs the notion of ‘active self-transcendence’ to convey the view that matter develops dynamically in the direction of spirit.42 This process of self-transcendence, furthermore, involves not merely transcendence into something ‘more’, that is, the quantitatively more complex, but also transcendence into that which is substantially ‘new’ and thus qualitatively different. This latter dimension of self-transcendence amounts to a leap or jump to an essentially ‘higher’ nature, so that the active process of becoming is to be thought of as giving rise to an increase of being – greater ontological reality – to an already existing reality. Rahner puts the case for the active process of becoming something more in the following terms: If there is such a thing as becoming at all, and becoming is not just a fact of experience, but it is a fundamental axiom of theology itself, because otherwise freedom and responsibility and the fulfilment of man in and through his own responsible action makes no sense, then the true nature and the true structure of becoming cannot be understood merely as a becoming different in the sense that a reality becomes different, but not more. Becoming must be understood as a becoming more, as the coming to be of more reality … But this more must not be understood as simply added to what was there before. Rather it must on the one hand be the effect of what was there before, and on the other hand it must be an intrinsic increase in its own being … to be taken seriously it must be understood as real self-transcendence, as surpassing oneself, as emptiness actively achieving its own fullness.43

While the process of becoming is truly a self-transcendence, which is to say that it has its own autonomy, at the same time Rahner holds that this process is the power of absolute being that is interior or ‘intrinsic’ to the finite being in its becoming, without, however, becoming a constitutive element of the finite being itself.44 This active process of becoming something qualitatively new – which is apparent in Genesis 1:1–2:3 where the process of creatio continua is portrayed     43   44   41

‘The Unity of Spirit and Matter’, p. 168. Ibid., pp. 174–6. Foundations of Christian Faith, p. 184. The Rahnerian notion of active self-transcendence intends to stress that God’s immanence in the world is not merely a conserving power, but a power of becoming in collaboration with matter. Rahner bases this notion on the Thomistic doctrine of primary and secondary causality: God as ‘primary’ cause continually imparts existence at the level of being to all contingent and finite things (conservatio), but God’s continuous action as absolute being does not interfere with the actions of a particular creature as ‘secondary’ cause, doing whatever it is inclined to do naturally (concursus). God, however, is not present in all things as an essential part of them, but as maintaining them in their being. See 42

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as a process of creatio ex creatione – is most evident in the case of the human being and the historical event of the Incarnation of the eternal Logos in the man Jesus of Nazareth. The emergence of the human on the cosmic stage is seen as a watershed in evolutionary history, for in the human being matter has transcended itself into self-consciousness, freedom and responsibility before the living God, in which case the dynamic process of becoming is to be taken as a basic axiom of theology itself.45 When we turn to consider the person of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Logos, this unique event represents not only another high point but the final and irrevocable stage in the evolution of life, since in the person of Jesus Christ what takes place, according to the Rahnerian view, is the total and complete acceptance, and thus the radical immanence, of God’s self-communication to creation, which at the same time represents the definitive transcendence of creation towards God as its final end. It is possible, however, to develop Rahner’s thought a little further at this point by regarding the process of active self-transcendence at the heart of evolving creation as the work of the Holy Spirit.46 Since the Spirit as giver of life not only maintains all things in existence (static element) but is also the source of all movement in creation (dynamic aspect), then this permits us to think of the Spirit not merely as God’s presence in the world but also as the power of becoming in evolutionary history. The validity of this proposition is reflected not only in the biblical portrait presented earlier, but also in the writings of theologians such as Walter Kasper who expresses his understanding of the Spirit in creation in the following words: Since the Spirit is divine love in person, he is, first of all, the source of creation, for creation is the overflow of God’s love and a participation in God’s being. The Holy Spirit is the internal (in God) presupposition of this communicability of God outside of himself. Wherever something new arises, whenever life is awakened and reality reaches ecstatically beyond itself, in all seeking and striving, in every Summa Theologica I, ques. 105, art. 5; ques. 10, arts. 4, 8; ques. 45, art. 5; Summa Contra Gentiles III, chs. 66, 67, 70. 45   The view that the higher-level human characteristics such as self-consciousness, rationality, moral and spiritual activities, and personal relatedness are ‘emergent properties’ in evolutionary history is a strictly monistic view of human nature that is strongly opposed to dualistic models. The position espoused here is known as ‘nonreductive physicalism’ or ‘emergentist monism.’ See Nancey Murphy, ‘Nonreductive Physicalism: Philosophical Issues’, in Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature, ed. Warren S. Brown, Nancey Murphy and H. Newton Malony (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), pp. 127–48; Arthur Peacocke, ‘The Sound of Sheer Silence: How Does God Communicate With Humanity?’, in Neuroscience and the Person: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. Robert J. Russell, Nancey Murphy, Theo C. Meyering and Michael A. Arbib (Vatican City State: Vatican Observatory Publications, 1999), pp. 215–47. 46   This point is made by Denis Edwards in his The God of Evolution, p. 90.

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ferment and birth, and even more in the beauty of creation, something of the activity and being of God’s Spirit is manifested. The Second Vatican Council sees this universal activity of the Spirit not only in the religions of mankind but also in human culture and human progress. We may even say that because the Spirit is the inner condition for the possibility of creation, the latter is already always more than pure nature. Through the presence and action of the Holy Spirit creation already always has a supernatural finality and character.47

The assertion that the Spirit is the internal principle of the communication of God ‘outside himself’ and that creation as the ‘overflow of God’s love’ already implies our deification, which leads Kasper to speak of the Spirit as the ‘ecstasy’ of God, not only highlights how all things new that arise in history are due to the Spirit’s activity, but also serves to underscore the fact that what is given to us in the Spirit is nothing less than the divine self or being.48 The Spirit who proceeds eternally from the Father, through the Son, and who is therefore the ecstatic term of the communication of the intra-divine life of love and freedom, should be thought of as the opening of God outward to creation and history so that what is freely given to us in the Spirit is nothing less than a gratuitous sharing or participation in the inner-trinitarian life of God as the fulfilment of our being created imago trinitatis.49 This view of the Spirit as the inner presupposition of God’s communicability outside of the divine self serves to effectively safeguard against any abstract Neo-scholastic notion of ‘pure nature’ – repudiated by the nouvelle théologie – since in virtue of the immanent activity of the Spirit as the overflow of God’s love what we call ‘nature’ has a supernatural finality (deification). The understanding of the Spirit as the creative power of becoming in evolutionary history serves to bolster the assertion made earlier about how the Spirit prepares the creation for the event of the Incarnation of the eternal Logos. And, furthermore, the notion of the Spirit as the power of becoming in creation is in full conformity with the discussion in the previous chapter about Barth’s divine   Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ, tr. Matthew J. O’Connell (London: SCM Press, 1984), pp. 227–8. 48   Augustine’s thought on the Spirit as Gift (Donum), which will be discussed below, emphasized this point. Augustine claimed that he was indebted to Hilary of Poitiers for the theme of the Spirit as Gift. See Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, vol. III, The River of Life Flows in the East and in the West, tr. David Smith (New York: Seabury Press, 1983), pp. 146–7. 49   Kasper’s talk of the Spirit as the internal presupposition of the communicability of God ‘outside himself’ is reminiscent of the idea that was dear to many spiritual writers of the French school; namely, the Spirit as the end of the processions from the Father and the Son has no intra-divine fruitfulness of its own, hence it is made fruitful outside or beyond God in creation, in the Incarnation and in the sanctification of humankind. See Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, vol. II, Lord and Giver of Life, tr. David Smith (New York: Seabury Press, 1983), pp. 67, 72 (note 2). 47

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ontology as ‘God’s being is in becoming’, where the notion of divine becoming is taken as expressing the dynamic nature of the fullness of God’s being – as the One who loves in freedom – which overflows into time, so that we are to understand that the movement of creation is such that it is destined to permanent fellowship with the living God. When we recognize, finally, that the universal activity of the Spirit as the power of becoming reaches a climactic point in the event of the Incarnation of the eternal Logos, then we can appreciate what is intended by the Rahnerian assertion that all grace is grace freely given in view of the man Jesus Christ who is the definitive and unsurpassable self-communication of God in history. Word and Spirit are understood as reciprocally related in the one history of God’s self-communication to the world in grace. This relationship of mutual reciprocity between Spirit and Word which we find in Rahner’s theology is also strongly underscored by the biblical scholar F.X. Durrwell who paints a picture of the Spirit as the ‘divine womb’ from which Jesus is born Word of God in the world. The following text taken from Durrwell makes very plain how the Spirit is always presupposed by the Word, or, to reiterate a succinct expression used earlier, how the Word is spoken in the Spirit: It is true that the Spirit is the power that urges God to come out of himself, to create, to reveal himself, even to become incarnate: he is the ‘mouth’, but through the mouth it is the Word who is poured out into the world … The Spirit is divine revelation, the one who inspires the Scriptures, the agent of every manifestation of God, but he is not the One Revealed. To illustrate this difference we might compare the Spirit to the voice that carries the spoken word and makes it audible. When we say of a voice that it is crystal-clear or velvety, that it is deep or warm, we have spoken about it but we have not said it, we have not made it understood. The voice is personal, proper to the person speaking … We might say more simply that the Spirit is the page on which the Word is written: signs we can read are traced on the page, the page itself is not read. ‘The Spirit has spoken through the prophets’, he has spoken through Christ; he is not the word, he is the one through whom it is transmitted: ‘He will not be speaking as from himself … all he tells you will be taken from what is mine’ (cf. Jn 16:13f).50

As well as emphasizing the intimate relationship between the Word and the Spirit as the ‘mouth’ through which the Word is spoken, Durrwell clearly sees the Spirit as the internal (in God) presupposition for the possibility of creation, in the same manner that Kasper does. The import of such an understanding for the christological mystery is that it compels the theologian to acknowledge the role played by the Spirit not just in the actual event of the Incarnation of the Word, but throughout the entire life, ministry and paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. In respect of Jesus knowing intimately the will of the Father, for instance, such knowledge 50   F.X. Durrwell, Holy Spirit of God: An Essay in Biblical Theology, tr. Sister Benedict Davies, OSU (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1986), pp. 1–2.

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must not be thought of as deriving simply from the fact that he is the incarnate Word; rather, the will of the Father is communicated to Jesus by the Spirit. Once the role of the Spirit in the encounter between the incarnate Word and the Father is factored into the equation, then it becomes clear that the dialogue of wills takes place between the human will of the man Jesus Christ and the will of the Father with whom he is conscious of having a unique filial relationship. The foregoing discussion of the Rahnerian notion of active self-transcendence and the Spirit as the power of becoming in evolutionary history, has repercussions not only for our understanding of divine salvation, it also has a bearing upon the related doctrine of our being created imago Dei. When operating in an evolutionary framework, the native human capacity and affinity for God (capax Dei) is to be regarded as indissolubly tied to the emergent properties of enhanced intelligence, moral agency, personal relatedness and spiritual activity. In light of the fact that these higher-level properties have emerged from and are therefore supervenient upon, although not reducible to, the lower level physical and biological properties, then the implications of this ecological model of evolving nature for the doctrine of our being created in the divine image and likeness are at least threefold. Firstly, one of the consequences of the view that the higher nature always contains the lower which had prepared the way for the event of self-transcendence is that human nature cannot be conceived of as a closed system; it does not refer to a definitively known quantity but to an unfolding and emerging reality. This assertion supports the findings of the arguments presented in the previous chapter of this study. The human quest for a higher nature is ordered towards the reality of the risen Christ whose humanity has been glorified in the Spirit who has ‘an essentially eschatological mode of activity’51 as the possibility of the process of creation. In light of the model of evolving nature, together with the realistic narrative of the Christian revelation, the doctrine of our being created in God’s image implies that we humans are inviolably related to the life, death and resurrection of Christ who is the qualitatively ‘new emergent whole’52 in person, hence all are destined to partake of the glorified humanity of Christ through the creative life-giving power of the Spirit. Secondly, if the higher nature always contains the lower which had prepared the way for the actual event of self-transcendence, then this implies that the character of the divine image must not be restricted to any one part of the human being – such as the faculty of the mind – but belongs to the whole person as a psychophysical unity. When speaking of the perfecting of the divine image in the developing human self, none of the multiple levels of interrelated properties that make up that unique complex system which is the human person should be precluded. This proposition reinforces the need to recognize that salvation in the person of the risen Christ has a fundamentally ‘integral’ character – to participate   Gunton, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, p. 157.   See Henry Novello, ‘Integral Salvation in the Risen Christ: the New Emergent

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Whole’, Pacifica, 17/1 (February 2004): pp. 34–54.

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in the divine identity of the risen Christ is to be drawn up into a higher nature which represents the highest possibility for personal being in relation to God, other humans and the physical cosmos as a whole.53 The third and final point has to do with the fact that the peculiar emergent properties of the human person are embodied properties. Since the human is an inherently cosmic being, then we must appreciate that the body is not altogether discrete, it is not radically individuated; rather, the body is to be regarded as the common matrix in and through which individual persons are related to humanity and the material cosmos as a whole. It is in virtue of our ‘bodiliness’ that we humans are ‘exocentric’ beings who go out into the world of ‘otherness’ in order to establish the complex of relationships by which we grow into the world and we take the world into ourselves, thereby shaping ourselves as persons. The fact that we are inherently cosmic and contingent beings who are compelled to forge personal identity out of otherness alerts us to the need to appreciate that the true bearer of the divine image is not really the individual person, but rather humanity and the cosmos as a whole. This idea is not completely foreign to theological reflection on the Christian faith. In patristic theology the writings of Gregory of Nyssa stand out as most noteworthy in that he maintained that the perfection of the divine image is to be regarded as something attaining to the human race as a whole, not to the individual person.54 One of the implications of this line of thought is that it leads to a dynamic picture of the body of Christ, for the body of the Risen One will not be complete until the perfection of the divine image is established in humanity and the world as a whole, at the end of the temporal process. The doctrine of our being made in God’s image and the notion of the body of Christ both emerge, therefore, as profoundly communal and relational concepts that defy any individualistic or atomistic interpretations of final salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit as Spirit of the crucified and risen Christ As part of the preparation for the formulation of a theology of death in the final chapter of this study, what remains to be discussed here is the import of the cross of Christ for the development of a theology of the Spirit. If the Spirit, as the personal bond of ecstatic communion and love between the Father and the Son, is the internal principle of God’s communicability toward the non-divine other, then the Spirit must play an integral role in the paschal mystery of Christ. To put the matter   The integral character of salvation will be discussed at length in the final Chapter 4 of the present study. 54   For Gregory, the perfection which God intends for the human race is found in the total Christ: the victory of Christ’s resurrection amounts to the salvation of all human beings. See John R. Sachs, ‘Apocatastasis in Patristic Theology’, Theological Studies, 54 (1993): pp. 617–40, at p. 637. 53

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more poignantly, given that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the Spirit, then this points to the need to develop a pneumatology of the cross (pneumatologia crucis) in the interests of arriving at a fully developed trinitarian theology of the cross.55 It is, of course, the Easter faith in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead in the power of the Spirit (Rom 1:3–4; 1 Tim 3:16; 1 Pet 3:18) that informs the whole of the New Testament witness to the Spirit of God. Yet this perspective in no sense contradicts the claim that it was that self-same Spirit of God that brought about Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary and descended upon him at his baptism, thereby empowering him to proclaim with divine force, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’ (Mk 1:15). As bearer of the eschatological Spirit of God, Jesus speaks with great authority and performs many wonders, but one of the distinctive traits of the Gospel of Mark is the strong emphasis placed on Jesus’ passion predictions (8:31; 9:31; 10:33–4) and his increasing isolation and rejection, all of which suggests that suffering and sacrifice are also signs of the Spirit of God in the life and ministry of Jesus. It is only from the perspective of the cross, according to Mark, that Jesus can be identified as the Son of God (15:39); the Spirit that rests upon him in baptism leads him to the cross where he bears the sin of the world, for our sake. The passion of Jesus, then, where we are to see the drawing near of the kingdom of God, should not be interpreted solely as the work of the Son, but as the work of the Spirit as well.56 The Letter to the Hebrews expresses this fundamental point very clearly when it says that Jesus ‘offered himself without blemish to God’ on the cross ‘through the eternal Spirit’ (9:14). It is through the Spirit that the suffering Jesus offers himself up as a sacrifice, for the establishment of the kingdom of ‘righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 14:17). The cross as abnegation of the Spirit Having established that the New Testament gives witness to the work of the Spirit on both sides of the cross, the question that must now be considered is: What does Jesus’ cry on the cross mean for the Holy Spirit? Well, to begin with, since it is the Spirit who links Jesus, the Son, to the Father during Jesus’ earthly life, and it is through the Spirit that Jesus offers himself to the Father for the sake of making all things new, then the Spirit must be seen as continuing to preserve the unity of the abandoned Jesus (Mk 15:34) and the surrendering Father (Rom 8:32) 55   See D. Lyle Dabney, ‘Naming the Spirit: Towards a Pneumatology of the Cross’, in Starting with the Spirit, pp. 28–58. Dabney argues that the Spirit can best be named by returning to the historical point of departure for Protestant theology’s talk of God, the cross of Jesus Christ, and reclaiming that theologia crucis for a theology of the Spirit, a pneumatologia crucis. See also Dabney’s article, ‘Pneumatologia Crucis: Reclaiming Theologia Crucis for a Theology of the Spirit Today’, Scottish Journal of Theology, 53/4 (2000): pp. 511–24. 56   ‘Naming the Spirit’, p. 53.

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on the cross. ‘During the Passion the Spirit maintains the internal divine diastasis between Father and Son in its economic form, so that what seems to us to be the sign of separation of Father and Son is precisely the sign of greatest unification … Here we see that there is only one single truth: the truth of the Son in the Father and of the Father in the Son.’57 While Jesus’ experience of abandonment by the Father is indeed real, for he is the sin-bearer, nonetheless the silence of the Father on the cross should be viewed in a positive light – as we saw in the previous Chapter 1 – since it speaks of the Father’s identification with his beloved Son sent into the far country. The silence or non-intervention of the Father does not necessarily mean, then, that the Father is far removed from the suffering Son on the cross; rather, such silence speaks about the manner in which the totality of reality is being drawn up into the unfathomable unity of love between Jesus and his Father, and the Father and Jesus, for the sake of the new creation. When Jesus says at the Last Supper that his blood will be shed for the ‘forgiveness of sins’, when in the garden of Gethsemane he comes to the point of accepting the Father’s will that he drink from ‘the cup’, we are to understand that this is the manner in which Jesus, the Son, fully assumes into his person the human condition of estrangement from the Father in order to conclusively bring a fallen humanity home to God. The Father’s giving up of the Son should not be taken, then, as an allusion to a real ontological break or rupture between the Father and the Son, as Moltmann seems to suggest; rather, it is to be seen as corresponding to the inner-trinitarian event of eternal love and freedom which is now being played out on the human historical plane, for the sake of a world far from the living God. When we turn our attention to the Spirit, though, the event of the cross emerges as something other than for the Son or the Father. We have seen that for Jesus the Son the cross is the experience of God-forsakenness, while for the Father the cross is the act of forsaking his beloved Son to a sinful world, so that the cross represents ‘absence’ for both the Father and the Son.58 The Spirit, however, as the divine person who continues to uphold the radical unity of love between the forsaken Son and forsaking Father, suffers neither forsakenness nor the loss of surrendering; instead, what the Spirit experiences is a function of presence. As D. Lyle Dabney concludes in his discussion of this issue, ‘For the Spirit of the Cross is the presence of God with the Son in the absence of the Father.’59 The language of presence of God should not be taken to mean, however, that there is no self-emptying of the   Balthasar, Theo-Drama, vol. V, p. 262.   With respect to talk of God’s ‘absence’, it will be recalled that in Chapter 1 (note

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32) of this study it was pointed out that such talk can be misleading inasmuch as it suggests the withdrawal of God’s presence altogether. Given that the intention is to convey not the total withdrawal of God but the loss of intensification of the divine presence, it was suggested that it would be better to speak of the ‘hiddenness’ of God in the passion of Jesus Christ, as well as in all human suffering. 59   Dabney, ‘Naming the Spirit’, p. 56.

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Spirit on the cross. When it is borne in mind that Jesus is the one conceived by the Spirit, and the one upon whom the Spirit descended at his baptism thereby enabling him to proclaim with great authority the kingdom of God, the passion of Jesus – the transition from power to powerlessness – can only represent the ‘abnegation’ of the work of the Spirit in Jesus’ ministry to Israel. This abnegation of the Spirit does not mean that the Spirit abandons Jesus in his hour of need; instead, as the presence of God, the Spirit accompanies Jesus all the way into the horror of death so that death will be finally conquered and transformed into life; that is, the resurrection life. The cross therefore emerges as a truly trinitarian event that involves a triune condescension: ‘the sacrifice of the Father, the forsakenness of the Son, and the abnegation of the Spirit.’60 When it comes to the issue of naming the Spirit, the words of D. Lyle Dabney certainly capture the thrust of the argument presented in this chapter thus far: The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the self-sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ made manifest in the Trinitarian kenosis of God on the cross, the possibility of God even in the midst of every impossibility that God could be present and active, the divine possibility that the living God might be found even in the midst of chaos and death, indeed, precisely in the midst of chaos and death, the possibility that God might yet be for us and we might yet be for God, and thus the possibility that even those who suffer that deadly estrangement might beyond death be raised to new life, transformed life, a life in which the crushed and broken and incoherent bits and pieces of a life are taken up anew and made whole.61

The naming or identifying of the Spirit as the possibility of God is a credible proposition that is supported by the findings of the previous section of this chapter and is further supported by New Testament writings on the resurrection of the crucified Jesus. Given that cross and resurrection are two sides of one and the same theological coin, it is to the resurrection of Jesus that we must now turn to complete this discussion of the role of the Spirit in the christological mystery. Jesus raised from the dead in the power of the Spirit The New Testament makes it clear that because God raised Jesus from the dead, he is proclaimed ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’ (Acts 2:22–36). Only from the perspective of his victory over death is the true identity of the man Jesus finally revealed. The role played by the Spirit in the resurrection is especially highlighted in the Pauline writings. In his Letter to the Romans, for example, Paul says that Jesus Christ is ‘designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead’ (1:4). In the same letter Paul says, ‘If the Spirit of   Ibid., p. 57.   Ibid., p. 58.

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him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you’ (Rom 8:11). To Paul’s mind, then, the Spirit who raised Jesus to glory is the same Spirit who will raise our mortal bodies to glory. The critical question that arises at this point is whether it is satisfactory to treat Jesus’ resurrection merely in terms of God’s manifestation or vindication of the crucified Jesus as ‘the Holy and Righteous One’ (Acts 3:14) or whether we are required to go further in recognizing that the resurrection actually pertains to the mystery of salvation understood as a sharing in the life and glory of God? A further question that arises in this context has to do with the issue of justification: Is the sinner justified by the work of the Son alone or does the Spirit also have a role to play in the work of our justification? 62 The legitimacy of these questions is highlighted by a key biblical text in which Paul talks about how Jesus the Lord ‘was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification’ (Rom 4:25). Commenting on this text, James Dunn says that it serves ‘to underscore the soteriological significance of Jesus’ resurrection and prevent its being regarded solely in terms of Jesus’ vindication.’63 The notion of Jesus being raised for our justification poses a major problem, though, for the traditional forensic interpretation of Pauline theology, according to which the justification of sinners is exclusively the work of Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. There is the added but related problem here of coming to terms with the notion of the Spirit, the life-giver, as involved with our justification, since it is through the Spirit that Jesus is raised from the realm of the dead. But once we acknowledge that the cross and resurrection of Jesus are inextricably intertwined, that his death is a glorifying death, then it appears no longer sufficient to talk only of the justification of sinners by Jesus Christ on the cross; we must also explore the notion of justification by the Spirit in raising Jesus from the dead. The writings of the biblical scholar François-Xavier Durrwell on the Spirit lend strong support to the view that since Christ’s death is a glorifying death, then his resurrection in the power of the Spirit must be recognized as having soteriological significance. Durrwell expressly states that the work of divine salvation, of bringing into being what does not exist, is completed in the resurrection of Jesus where ‘God causes the fullness of divinity to live in his body (cf. Col 2:9).’64 It is important to note here how Durrwell, unlike Barth who sees the fullness of divinity as dwelling in the earthly Son of Man, regards the glorified Christ as the climactic point of the 62   These questions are tackled by D. Lyle Dabney in his article, ‘The Justification of the Spirit: Soteriological Reflections on the Resurrection’, in Starting with the Spirit, pp. 59–82. This article also appears with the title, ‘Justified by the Spirit: Soteriological Reflections on the Resurrection’, International Journal of Systematic Theology, 3/1 (2001): pp. 46–68. 63   James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1–8, WBC, vol. 38a (Dallas: Word Books, 1988), p. 225. Cited by Dabney, ‘The Justification of the Spirit’, pp. 60–61. 64   Durrwell, Holy Spirit of God, p. 33.

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Incarnation. The argument presented by Durrwell is developed within a trinitarian framework, as is Barth’s theology, but what is distinctive about Durrwell is the manner in which he conceives of the eternal processions within God. He explains that while the Father is the principle of the dynamic movement within the Trinity, we should not fail to appreciate that the Father eternally begets the Son in the Spirit. Thus when we say that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, this must not be taken to mean that the Spirit is not at the beginning of the divine activity: ‘He is at the beginning of the trinitarian movement of which the Father is the principle, he is also the final seal of divine perfection.’65 That the Spirit ‘proceeds’ from the Father (cf. Jn 15:26) implies that the Spirit has its source in the Father, but is not ‘begotten’ by the Father, as is the Son. Yet the Spirit’s relationship to the Son is nevertheless profoundly intimate, for the Spirit ‘proceeds in the begetting of the Son, he is the Spirit of the Father in his fatherhood.’66 Now given that the Spirit proceeds from the Father whose mystery consists in begetting the Son, but the Spirit himself is not the Son, Durrwell concludes that the Spirit must therefore be this begetting. The following paragraph captures the essence of his argument especially well: On the one hand the Father is therefore the beginning and the Son is the end to which nothing is added; but the Spirit is at the beginning, in the Father who begets; he is at the end in the One Begotten. While proceeding from them, he does not come after the Father or after the Son, for it is in him that they are Father and Son. He is in the fatherhood of the Father in whom he has his source, and in the sonship of the Son from whom he wells up. The mystery of the resurrection of Jesus is an illustration of this: the Spirit is himself the power of the resurrection which enables Christ to be the channel of the Spirit.67

With respect to the world, Durrwell holds that the Spirit was already active in the world before the event of the Incarnation of the Son, however the Spirit was not present as he is in the triune God. It is only with the happening of Jesus’ death, as a passover from this world to the Father which takes place through the ‘eternal Spirit’ (Heb 9:14), that the eternal begetting of the Son was fully ‘accomplished’ within creation.68 And since the Spirit is this begetting of the Son by the Father, then the death of Jesus, as a glorifying death, emerges as the fullness of the Spirit within creation. The resurrection of the crucified Son in the power of the Spirit, in other words, belongs to the very substance of salvation as the deification of creation as a whole. When we turn to Paul, he uses the contrasting notions of sarx and pneuma to emphasize that it is by the power of the Spirit that Jesus is resurrected:     67   68   65 66

Ibid., p. 56. Ibid., p. 140. Ibid., p. 146. Ibid., p. 141.

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‘the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom 1:3–4). Paul clearly sees the Spirit as the divine agent in the raising of Jesus from the dead, and, moreover, he makes it quite clear that the glorification of Christ is the promise of our redemption (cf. Rom 6:4–5, 8:11; 1 Cor 6:14, 15:45–50; 2 Cor 13:4), that is, of our being raised up and made new in the Spirit of the ‘glorifying power of the coming age.’69 To be made new in the Spirit is described by Paul in terms of the transformation of a ‘physical body’ into a ‘spiritual body’ (1 Cor 15:44). This promise of our redemption in the final resurrection from the dead should not be taken to mean, though, that the Spirit is not at work already now in all those who follow Christ. For Paul talks explicitly about the present indwelling of the Spirit in the followers of Christ: ‘If the Spirit of him who raised Christ from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you’ (Rom 8:11). It is the Spirit indwelling in our hearts that enables us to experience that ‘freedom’ of Christ (Gal 5:1) that leads us to exhort or cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ (Gal 4:6). Already now, then, the Spirit allows us to experience new life in Christ in anticipation of the day of eschatological salvation when we shall be drawn up into Christ’s glorified humanity and transformed bodily. In light of this activity of the Spirit in the glorification of the crucified Christ, we must beware not to think of the Spirit as simply having ‘an instrumental function in an act of forensic redemption, applying subjectively in us what Christ has accomplished objectively on the cross, but rather as central to the substance of salvation through Jesus Christ itself.’70 The restricted view of the Spirit derives from the medieval question of the means of grace, but the discussion presented here points to the need to recognize that the Spirit is central to the substance of eschatological salvation that flows through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With regard to the Christian story, then, we must talk not only about Jesus’ sacrifice and atoning death on the cross, but also about his glorification by the Spirit as the promise of our final salvation. This fundamental point finds further support in the Gospels where salvation in Christ is defined precisely in terms of pneumatology: ‘He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit’ (Mk 1:8; Mt 3:11; Lk 3:16; Jn 20:22). The evangelists sum up the entire life and ministry of Jesus as a mediation of the Spirit. Unlike John’s baptizing with water in the river Jordan in anticipation of the day of God’s judgement, the One who comes after John offers a baptism of fulfilment; he is the One who mediates the eschatological outpouring of the Spirit through whom all things are created anew.

  Dabney, ‘The Justification of the Spirit’, p. 63.   Ibid., p. 65; also pp. 71, 81.

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Significance of justification in the Spirit What is the import of the phrase ‘justification in the Spirit’ for our understanding of divine salvation?71 The first thing to point out here is that when we examine closely the work of the Spirit in the Gospels, it becomes apparent that there are moments of the Spirit when Jesus is not only proclaimed as the Son of God, but actually becomes the Son of God in a new way, especially in his being raised from the dead. On this point it is especially worth listening to the manner in which Yves Congar holds together the ontological and historical elements contained in the confession of Jesus as the Son of God: Jesus is Son on several accounts. He is Son by eternal generation: ‘begotten, not made’ … In a theology of the economy of salvation, however, we must take very seriously the texts in which Ps 2:7 – ‘You are my son, today I have begotten you’ – is applied to history. It is so applied, in the first place … to the annunciation by the angel: ‘he will be called the Son of God’ (Lk 1:35). Later, it is applied to the theophany at Jesus’ baptism (Mt 3:17; Mk 1:10; Lk 3:22) and to the resurrection and exaltation of Christ (Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5). These are all moments when Jesus became – and was not simply proclaimed as – the ‘Son of God’ in a new way, that is, not from the point of view of his hypostatic quality or his ontology as the incarnate Word, but from the point of view of the plan of God’s grace and the successive moments in the history of salvation. That point of view, then, is the one according to which Jesus was destined to be for us. He was to be the Messiah and Saviour as the Servant [humiliation], and Lord as raised to God’s ‘right hand’ [exaltation]. As Peter said on the day of Pentecost: ‘God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’ (Acts 2:36).72

This citation shows that while Congar is keen to accord the New Testament story its full realism by acknowledging the successive stages in Jesus’ saving mission, at the same time he is careful to avoid any suggestion that Jesus was adopted by God as his Son, which is the heresy of the Ebionites. Congar takes the traditional view that Jesus is ontologically the Son of God from the moment of his conception, but he then proceeds to introduce a genuinely historical element into the life of Jesus, so that the man Jesus becomes progressively in history what he is from eternity.73 The assumption of humanity in the person of the incarnate Son of God develops 71   The three points discussed here are found in Dabney’s article, ‘The Justification of the Spirit’, pp. 68–80. 72   Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, vol. III, p. 170. 73   An adequate Spirit-Christology, then, is one that is essentially open to the mystery of Jesus’ eternal pre-existence – as stressed by classical Logos-Christology – and therefore open to ontological and trinitarian statements. Walter Kasper is another prominent Catholic theologian who believes it is possible and desirable to combine Spirit-Christology and Logos-Christology. Kasper, Jesus the Christ, pp. 252–68.

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historically – Jesus in his mission as the Son follows the way of obedience to the Father – according to successive comings of the Spirit. Congar highlights two moments when the effectiveness of the Spirit resting upon and indwelling the man Jesus is actuated in a new way. The first is the moment of his baptism, when he is constituted, not merely proclaimed as, Messiah; and the second is his resurrection from the dead when he is made Lord and exalted to God’s right hand. In this perspective, Jesus’ resurrection is not limited to a divine act of vindication in virtue of which the man Jesus is proclaimed as the Son of God, but is also regarded as a defining moment of the Spirit when the man Jesus becomes the Son of God in a new way. It is precisely out of the depths of his humanity, glorified in the Spirit, that Jesus sends the Spirit of the new age upon his disciples who are then able to proclaim him as Christ and Lord.74 It must be added, of course, that Jesus as the Son sends the Spirit not alone but together with his Father whose will he had obeyed perfectly all the way to the hill of Golgotha. When Paul says that Jesus was ‘put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification’ (Rom 4:25), the case can be argued persuasively that he intends to affirm justification as the work both of the crucified Son and the glorifying Spirit who will make us imperishable and immortal (cf. 1 Cor 15:53). Insofar as justification has to do with our being put in right relationship to God and sanctified, this communion with God is to be seen as fully completed and actualized when we come to share in the glory of the Son’s resurrection from the dead. A second point that can be made in respect of the import of the notion of justification in the Spirit for our understanding of redemption is that the latter has to do with the entirety of human life and death. God’s redemptive activity has in view not just some part of the human being, but rather all that we are, the totality of our experiences, encounters, hopes, yearnings and relationships that go to make up the concrete story of our lives. As essentially relational beings, that is, beings who are in the making, ‘person’ does not refer to some autonomous core ‘thing’ that we ‘have’ or that ‘has’ experiences; rather, it refers to our ‘exocentric’ nature as beings who reach out towards the other in forging personal identity. Our concrete story is certainly not devoid of positive and good elements that inspire and encourage us in our search for greater meaning and more complete personal integration; however, our story is always burdened by the reality of faithlessness, sin, suffering and the awareness that death is the horizon of life. It is in the midst of this ambiguous, troubled and fragmented story that the story of the man Jesus, the Son of God in the Spirit, unfolds as a dramatic account of faithful obedience to the Father in the midst of our history of sin, and of glorious resurrection life in the midst of our death. It is the entirety of Jesus’ bodily existence that is raised to new life in his resurrection by the Spirit of God. The promise of the Gospel is that our mortal bodies will also be raised from the dead, thereby revealing the creative power of God who brings into existence things that do not exist. It is difficult for 74   Yves Congar makes this point in his The Word and the Spirit (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1986), p. 89.

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us to imagine what a gloriously transfigured bodily existence would be like, but the following text by D. Lyle Dabney provides us with some good material for reflection: What would it mean to have all our broken relationships with God and world and our fellow human beings rectified and made whole? What would it mean to have our stories be made anew as narratives of grace and faithfulness? What would it mean to have our labour delivered from vanity? How would that transform our existence entirely? That is the promise and the hope of the resurrection. For in Christ and through the Spirit, God has acted not simply to raise a characterless core of our being shorn of all the particularities of our concrete history, nor simply to resuscitate our corpse but rather to claim and transform our life, all our life of relation and experience and encounter. Just as we have born this ‘physical body’, the promise is that we shall yet become ‘a spiritual body’, a mode of existence in which this concrete life we live here and now will be recreated in grace and mercy there and then.75

A Spirit-Christology, which fits particularly well within the Old Testament framework of God’s promise to pour out his Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28), is a Christology which is soteriological and eschatological to the core. In the past, salvation was often limited to the mere forgiveness of actual sins, but our reflections have exposed the need for salvation to be treated as a comprehensive or complex term that has to do with bringing the dynamic process of creation as a whole to its ontological fullness and perfection in Christ, through the Spirit. This process involves the overcoming of the disjunction that exists between the reality of the present human condition and the consciousness of what we fragmented and sinful humans ‘ought to be’ as beings created in the image of God.76 The notion of salvation that emerges from a Spirit-Christology, in which the pneumasarx relationship is highlighted, has the benefit of being able to elaborate the truly universal scope and historical character of the life of the Son of God. The classical Logos-Christology, by contrast, where the Logos-sarx identity of Jesus Christ is accentuated, tends to neglect the pneumatological aspect of the christological mystery in favour of a purely ontological Christology which readily ends up being   Dabney, ‘The Justification of the Spirit’, p. 77.   In contemporary reinterpretation of the doctrine of original sin two trends have

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emerged: original sin interpreted as historical situation (situationists) and original sin interpreted as personal sin (personalists). Christian Duquoc highlights another approach, though, based on the ‘transformation of historical antecedence into eschatological dynamism.’ Christian Duquoc, ‘New Approaches to Original Sin’, Cross Currents, 28 (1978): pp. 189–200, at p. 195. Original sin is conceived in terms of a disjunction between what we presently are and what we are destined to become in Jesus Christ. See also Henry Novello, ‘Lack of Personal, Social, and Cosmic Integration: Original Sin from an Eschatological Perspective’, Pacifica, 22/2 (June 2009): pp. 171–97.

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too ‘abstract, individualistic, particularist, and a-historical.’77 The way forward is to bring a Spirit-Christology and classical Logos-Christology together in a complementary fashion, so as to ensure that both the historical and ontological dimensions of the mystery of Christ are given their due recognition. A third and final point that can be made in respect of the soteriological import of the resurrection of Jesus in the power of the Spirit is that God’s eschatological salvation has to do with the transformation of the material, the embodied and the social. Since it is the transformation of creation that is in view, then salvation in the person of Christ must not be reduced to the salvation of our souls (Platonist thought), nor must the means of salvation be reduced to innate human capacities (liberal theology). Eschatological salvation has to do with nothing less than the ‘new creation’ brought about by the raising of the dead in the power of the Spirit who, as the Giver of life, is the possibility of God. There is simply no power or potentiality in the dead to attain to life, which is why the dead in the Old Testament are referred to as the rephraim, the helpless, thus eschatological salvation entails new life out of a situation of death. ‘Death mocks our every capacity and claim and most strenuous efforts to achieve our own redemption.’78 The discussion in this section, it should be pointed out, has certain implications for the formulation of a theology of death. While there is no potentiality in the dead to attain to life, nonetheless when we descend into the abyss of the dead where all is empty and devoid of life, we do not die into nothingness: new life out of death is not a creatio ex nihilo. For in death we remain indissolubly before the living God in that same Spirit who is the power of becoming in history and the possibility of God, who preserved the unity of the abandoned Jesus and the surrendering Father on the cross of Calvary, and who is the divine power in the glorification of the Dead One. It follows on this view that our own death, as already assumed by the death of the Son, emerges as the privileged locus for receiving the gracious benefits of his redemptive death, through the Spirit, so that new life out of death is a creatio ex creatione. The basis of Christian hope in the face of death, then, is the revelation of God’s transcendence over death (God’s capax creaturae) in the persons of the incarnate Son and the vivifying Spirit. The human capacity for selftranscendence (capax Dei) ultimately comes to the point of acknowledging our utter and complete dependence on God for our existence, and recognizing the need to abandon ourselves fully, in faith, to the eternal Other who gives us an original identity (imago Dei) and destines us to ontological fulfilment as a sharing in the life and glory of the divine. In the final analysis, from the perspective of the paschal mystery of Christ, which is the focus of Paul’s writings, it seems plausible to propose that the Spirit not be restricted to the question of the means of salvation but that it be recognized as belonging to the very substance of salvation as the power of resurrection life, that is, as the divine power that creates ‘life from the dead’ (Rom 11:25) and as such   O’Donnell, The Mystery of the Triune God, p. 82.   Dabney, ‘The Justification of the Spirit’, p. 78.

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is the very possibility of God vis-à-vis humanity and the world. This concluding proposition raises the issue of whether a distinct and proper role can be assigned to the Spirit in the economy of salvation, and it is to this issue that the discussion will now turn. The Spirit as ecstatic gift of divine communion In light of the earlier excursus on the phenomenon of active self-transcendence and how matter develops in the direction of spirit, we can now return to the discussion of the human spirit that is driven beyond itself by the gratuitous indwelling of the divine Spirit. The question that arises at this point of the discussion is: Can we identify a distinct and proper role of the Spirit? In order to respond to this question it will be helpful to first recall the profound and influential thought of Augustine on the Spirit as gift and as love. Augustine employed the image of the donum Dei, that is, the Spirit as God’s gift, and what God gives freely is nothing less than the divine self. But the Spirit is also what has been given, the donatum, and it indicates that the very being of God is sheer giftedness, that is, God is donabile.79 The image of the Spirit as God’s gift goes hand in hand with the other important image used by Augustine, namely, that of love. In a famous analogy which was later picked up and developed by Richard of Saint-Victor in the twelfth century, Augustine described the Three in the Trinity as the lover, the beloved and the love itself: the Father is the lover who gives himself totally and wholly to the Son; the Son is the beloved, the perfect response to the Father’s giving of himself; and the Spirit is the bond of love between the Father and the Son.80 Notwithstanding this beautiful picture of the immanent life of the Trinity painted by Augustine, it must be borne in mind that the starting point of his reflections on the Trinity was the one divine essence, not the activity of the divine persons in the economy of creation, redemption and sanctification. Once the primary emphasis was placed on the one divine nature as guaranteeing the unity of the Godhead, then it logically followed that all operation ad extra was to be regarded as common to all three divine persons. This gave rise to the theory of appropriation according to which the possibility of assigning specific and proper roles to the divine persons was precluded.

79   The image of Spirit as gift of God has a firm basis in the Bible. In addition to the texts cited earlier from the prophetic writings (Ezek 36:25–7, Jer 31:31–4, Joel 2:28), there are many texts in the New Testament to which Augustine made reference. A favourite text is Romans 5:5 (cf. De Trin., XV, 18, 32) and others include John 4:10 and 7:38, Acts 8:20 and Hebrews 6:4. 80   See Augustine’s De Trinitate, VIII, 10, 14. This image is found in numerous places in the De Trinitate and in one particular place Augustine refers to the Spirit as the ineffable communion of the Father and the Son (De Trinitate, V, 11, 12).

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In the introduction to this chapter it was stated that the concept of appropriation does serve a helpful function insofar as it underscores the radical unity of the Trinity’s actions ad extra, but this unity of action was conceived in such a way that failed to recognize that each divine person acts according to its own specific personal attribute within the divine communion of the Trinity. Thus it has been quite customary in the theological tradition to assign no specific and proper role to the Word in the event of the Incarnation or to the Spirit in the event of Pentecost and the work of sanctification. Some contemporary theologians, however, are beginning to challenge the theory of appropriation, insisting that proper roles of the Word and the Spirit should be claimed, although not in a manner that excludes but includes a distinct and proper role for the other two divine persons in the events of the Incarnation and Pentecost.81 From the perspective of the Spirit-Christology developed in this present chapter, it is apparent that not only the Word but also the Spirit has a proper role in the Incarnation, for the man Jesus is the Son of God in the Spirit; and in the event of Pentecost not only the Spirit but also the Word has a proper role inasmuch as it is the Spirit of the crucified and risen Christ who has conquered the powers of death so as to bring about a new creation, to the glory of the Father. In both these events, the Incarnation of the Word and the outpouring of the Spirit of the new age upon all flesh, the divine person of the Father is also intimately and inextricably involved as Unoriginate Origin and Source of All – the Father sends the Son into the ‘far country’ and the Spirit ‘proceeds’ from the Father (through the Son). The validity of this proposition regarding the distinct and proper roles of the divine persons in the economy of salvation is brought home to us in the simple schema that we find in the work of Athanasius, which was mentioned at the beginning of this chapter: the Father creates all things ‘through’ the Word and ‘in’ the Spirit. Every operation that extends from God to the world, then, has its origin from the Father, proceeds through the Son and is perfected in the Spirit. The work of Richard of Saint-Victor is more conducive to acknowledging the distinct and proper roles of the divine persons than is Augustine’s work. Richard adopted Augustine’s analogy and developed it further in order to show that love closed in upon itself is not genuine love, for true love by its very essence goes outside of itself towards the other: Richard thus referred to the Spirit as the common beloved (condilectus) of the Father and the Son.82 The advantage of talking about genuine love as going outside of itself towards the other is that it is able to more   Karl Rahner, for example, has argued that the Incarnation is proper to the Word, and Heribert Mühlen and David Coffey have argued that the event of Pentecost and the work of sanctification are to be regarded as proper to the Spirit. Cf. Edwards, Breath of Life, pp. 117–29. 82   See Richard of Saint-Victor’s treatise De Trinitate 3, 11 and 19; 6, 6. In our day, Heribert Mühlen and Hans Urs von Balthasar have earnestly sought to develop the personalist ideas of Richard. It should also be mentioned that Augustine’s thought on the Spirit influenced not only the theology of Richard, but the reflections of various great Christian thinkers belonging to the Western Church: Anselm, Bonaventure and Aquinas 81

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effectively connect with the Eastern tradition’s doctrine of the Spirit as the overflow of God’s love, so that the Father and the Son are not limited, as it were, to their mutual love. For the Spirit impels the unfathomable God, whose essence is love and freedom, outwards into time and history. The pattern that emerges here is no longer circular, as it is in Augustine’s thought, but linear (Father > Son > Spirit). In this linear pattern it is through the Spirit that God acts in the created world with a view to drawing creaturely existence into the inner-trinitarian event of eternal love and intimate communion as its final end. It is apparent that the view of Walter Kasper presented earlier, to the effect that the Spirit is the ‘ecstasy’ of God which imparts a supernatural finality to creation, seeks to give due recognition to both the Latin tradition’s teaching of the Spirit as God’s innermost essence – a circular pattern – as well as to the Greek tradition’s doctrine of the Spirit as the overflow of the love manifest in the Son who is the revelation of the very being of the Father. Now, with regard to the question about whether we can assign a distinct and proper role to the Spirit, it seems that an affirmative response can be given on the basis of the material that has been presented hitherto. For if the human spirit which is grasped and driven beyond itself by the indwelling Spirit is what is called ecstasy, and, conversely, if the Spirit as the ecstasy of God is the overflow of God’s love directed towards the non-divine other, then this suggests that the work of bringing creaturely beings into ecstatic communion with the triune God can be thought of as a proper role of the person of the Spirit. ‘It can be thought of as proper because it is an overflow into creation of what distinguishes the Holy Spirit within the trinitarian dynamic.’83 While the Spirit is the ‘absolute Gift’84 of ecstatic communion (koinonia) only in profound unity with the Father and the Son, nonetheless we must appreciate that as the overflow of God’s love into creation and history it is the Spirit who ‘makes the divine communion open to what is not divine.’85 Once the Spirit is understood as the creative power of becoming in the world and as working to prepare for the event of the Incarnation of the eternal Word, then we can no longer neglect the need to assign a distinct and proper role to the Spirit in the divine economy. The actualization of the divine purpose for the process of time and history is properly the work of the Spirit as ecstatic gift of divine communion. The human being’s experience of self-transcendence, though, not only allows it to be ecstatically grasped by something ultimate beyond itself (capax Dei), at the same time it also brings to light the fundamental dimension of what ‘ought to be’ the case (non capax Dei). The basic experience of self-transcendence, in other words, is always accompanied by the awareness of human responsibility, guilt and despair. At the heart of human existence in this world of ours there appears the were all acquainted with the theme of the Spirit as the mutual love of the Father and the Son. Cf. Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, vol. I, pp. 85–90. 83   Edwards, The God of Evolution, p. 96. 84   Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, vol. III, p. 147. 85   Christian Duquoc, Dieu différent (Paris: Cerf, 1977), p. 122.

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fundamental paradox of the opposites of being: the divine Spirit, the giver of life and the creative power of becoming in evolving creation and thus the configuration of life as a whole, is present to the human spirit, driving it out of itself so as to draw it up into ecstatic fulfilment in that which is other than itself, yet at the same time the human existent is burdened by finitude and guilt, by the ambiguity and tragedy of mortal life, all of which jeopardizes the potentialities of being which are actualized in personal life alone. This implies that if we insist on proclaiming the man Jesus, in his modus of being-related to the Father, as the person uniquely filled with the plenitude of the divine Spirit, then the universal significance of his personal life history must involve two basic elements: his subjection to the negative conditions of human existence – the ugly event of the cross – and his glorious conquest of the powers of death in the world – the joyous event of his resurrection. These two basic elements were already clearly in focus in the picture painted in Chapter 1 of this book where we saw that precisely because, not in spite of, the forces of hostility and rejection against Jesus gather momentum as the Gospel narrative unfolds, Jesus continues to live steadfastly on the basis of an attitude of ready encounter with and presence to others; that is, he continues to live in terms of the I-Thou relation so that he effectively becomes the vicarious representative of fallen humanity’s true relational identity before God. In this way, it was proposed, Jesus on the cross actualizes the perfect union of his humanity with the Father which results in a new definition of humanity in his very person – human nature is an ‘emerging’ reality which is ultimately destined to participate in Jesus’ glorified humanity, through the Spirit who is bringer of the gift of ecstatic divine communion (deification). The fact that the Father’s response to the passion of Jesus comes precisely in death, not before, brings to light the special importance of Jesus’ death as the culminating point of his life lived totally in terms of the I-Thou relation. This in turn implies that the happening of our own death, as assumed by the redemptive death of Jesus Christ, must be considered as having profound soteriological import for the final actualization of our true, original identity as beings created in the image and likeness of God. An understanding of the proper role of the Spirit as bringer of the gift of divine communion certainly finds support in the concrete experience of the Spirit in Christian life and worship. In light of the imperfect nature of this divine communion in the pilgrim life, however, as well the earlier discussion of the soteriological import of Jesus’ resurrection in the Spirit, the conclusion to be drawn is that ultimately it is as the power of resurrection life that the Spirit will perform its distinct and proper role as bringer of the gift of ecstatic divine communion. The event of our resurrection from the dead, which is the ultimate Christian hope, should be thought of as a genuinely trinitarian event in which all three divine persons are involved, each according to his distinct and proper role: namely, the Word as the ‘Image’ for all creatures and the divine ‘Wisdom’ through whom all things have been made; the Spirit as the ‘Gift’ of ecstatic divine communion, in whom all things are sanctified and perfected; and the Father as the

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‘Unoriginate Origin’ or ‘Source of All’ from whom the Word is eternally generated and the Spirit is eternally proceeding.86 On the view that in the Son’s passing from death to the Father the eternal begetting of the Son by the Father in the Spirit has been accomplished within creation, we are compelled to reflect on the mystery of our own death, as assumed by the Son’s unique death, as the privileged locus for receiving eschatological salvation, that is, our being transformed into a ‘spiritual body’ (cf. 1 Cor 15:44) that is suited for sharing in the ineffable life and glory of the Trinity. Conclusion – a progressive Incarnation of the Word of God It is time to sum up this critical discussion of the pneumatological aspect of the christological mystery. What the argument has attempted to establish is that it was primarily into the framework of biblical pneumatology, that is to say, of God’s promise to pour out the Spirit of life over all flesh, that the man Jesus was inserted in the New Testament. By speaking of Jesus as the One upon whom the Spirit rests and indwells him with eschatological fullness, the New Testament authors were able to express the unique character of his person and the universal scope of his mission and to firmly connect his entire life and paschal mystery with creation as a whole. The Spirit, as the internal principle of God’s communicability outside of the intra-divine life, as God’s openness to time and the power of becoming in history, is now confessed as the Spirit of the crucified and risen Christ who is the new creation in person, so that being in the Spirit and being in Jesus Christ can now be identified. While the indwelling Spirit of the Risen One renews people’s hearts in the here and now and empowers them to fulfil the law of love by living the way of the cross for the sake of the world, nonetheless it has been proposed that it is as the power of resurrection life that the Spirit will ultimately fulfil its proper role of bringing all creatures into ecstatic union with the living God through the mediation of the crucified and risen Christ. All men and women are related to the person of Jesus Christ and through the Spirit are offered ‘the possibility of being made partners’ (Gaudium et spes 22) in the paschal mystery of Christ. What the discussion in this chapter has also highlighted is that the Spirit, as the ‘theological transcendental condition of the very possibility of a free self-communication of God in history’,87 is the appropriate category to mediate between the immanent life of God and God’s ongoing action in the divine economy. This means that in order to fathom the mystery of the man Jesus as the unique and unsurpassable self-communication of God in history, we must appreciate that Jesus is the Son of God in the Spirit. In the Gospel of Luke we find expressed 86   Bonaventure spoke of the Word as the ‘exemplar’ and ‘image’ for all creatures, and of the Father as the ‘Fountain Fullness’ (fontalis plenitudo) of life. Cf. Edwards, Breath of Life, p. 126. 87   Kasper, Jesus the Christ, p. 250.

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with a distinctive precision the understanding that because Jesus is conceived in the power of the Spirit, ‘therefore’ (dio) he is to be regarded as the Son of God (Lk 1:35). As the internal principle of God’s communicability in time, the Spirit sanctifies Jesus in such a way that enables him to be, in free obedience to the Father’s will, the perfect response to God’s self-communication in history, so that the man Jesus really lets God be God. And in light of the fact that Christians make their confession of who Jesus is from the vantage point of the presence of the Risen One in the power of the Spirit, then the uniqueness of the person of Jesus can be aptly expressed by speaking of the Spirit as the Spirit of Jesus Christ risen. All are invited to respond to God’s radical openness to time and history through the Spirit of the Risen One who is the Saviour and ultimate future of the world. In Chapter 1 of this study it was proposed that the inner quality of Jesus’ unity with the Father – his divine nature – is his total and unconditional self-surrender to the Father in love, so that what is traditionally referred to as the hypostasis of the Logos can be thought of in terms of Jesus’ irreducibility to his concrete individual nature. To this proposition can now be added that Jesus lives his life in total receptivity and surrender to the Father in virtue of his being filled with the Spirit who is the transcendental condition of the very possibility of God’s free self-communication in time. The total openness of the man Jesus in his modus of being-related to the Father, which is the presupposition for his historical life, is accounted for by the fact that the Spirit indwells Jesus with such fullness that in his person the Father’s boundless love for the world is definitively revealed in history as the absolute ground and future of all that is. When the role of the Spirit in the becoming human of the Son and the genuinely historical life of Jesus is acknowledged in the manner elaborated in this chapter, what becomes especially apparent is the need to recognize that the sanctification of Jesus’ humanity is not completed at the moment of his conception in Mary’s womb but occurs progressively, for the New Testament clearly testifies to successive moments of the Spirit in the Christ-event, chief amongst which are his baptism when he is constituted and not merely proclaimed Messiah, and his resurrection when he is made and not merely proclaimed Lord. From this notion of progressive Incarnation arise two very important points for a study of Christology. First, in addition to the traditional ontological emphasis that Jesus is the eternal Son or Word, we are required to recognize that there are pneumatological and historical dimensions to the mystery of the Incarnation, all of which must be held inextricably together to do full justice to the authentic life of Jesus Christ who proclaimed the kingdom of his Father’s compassionate love in word and deed, all the way to the cross. Second, on the view that the essence of salvation is a partaking of the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet 1:4), the resurrection of Jesus Christ enters into the very substance of salvation as the divinization of humanity in his person. The work of salvation should not be restricted to the work of the Son on the cross, because the Spirit also plays a distinct and proper role in the work of justification by raising the Son from the dead and glorifying his humanity.

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Finally, the inquiry into the role played by the Spirit in the christological mystery arrived at findings that have a significant bearing upon any systematic treatment of the mystery of death. The utter helplessness of death is invested with a distinctly positive character insofar as our death is to be thought of as already assumed by the Dead One who was raised by the Father in the power of the Spirit. Jesus’ resurrection reveals that death can only be overcome by God’s transcendence over death, that is, by the creative power of the Spirit as the possibility of God (creatio ex creatione). What is highlighted here is the need to treat the event of our own death as the final condition for receiving the plenitude of the Father’s selfless life, through the mediation of Jesus the crucified Son, in the Spirit who, as the power of resurrection life, is the bringer of the ecstatic gift of divine communion. As a dying into Jesus Christ who has assumed our death into his glorifying death, the final condition of death emerges as the privileged locus of new birth in the womb of the Spirit (cf. Jn 3:3–8). A theology of death developed along such lines clearly builds upon Paul’s emphasis on the pneuma-sarx relationship: But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you … If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you (Rom 8:9, 11).

The flesh is corruptible and perishable, but to be in the Spirit means that this mortal body will be raised to incorruptibility and imperishability. It is from the perspective of the centrality of the concept of Spirit in his theology that Paul is able to refer to the resurrected body as a ‘spiritual body’ (I Cor 15:42–50). A spiritual body, as Paul Tillich explains, ‘is a body which expresses the Spiritually transformed total personality of man … Resurrection says mainly that the Kingdom of God includes all dimensions of being. The whole personality participates in Eternal Life.’88 The task of the remaining chapters will be to bolster the claim that what takes place in the event of death as a dying into the Lord Jesus Christ is a new embodiment of the whole person by the creative power of the Spirit as the possibility of God. What is distinctive about the theology of death to be formulated is that it takes the patristic principle of the ‘admirable exchange’ of natures in the person of Christ as its guiding principle. The first two chapters of this study have been integral to paving the way for the development of the thesis, for they have sought to demonstrate the progressive nature of the Incarnation; that is, the admirable exchange of natures in the person of Christ as reaching its zenith in his resurrection where the fullness of divinity dwells bodily in him (cf. Col 2:9). On the view that our humanity is ontologically joined and defined by the Christ’s humanity which is the ‘humanity of God’, this suggests the need to reflect on the happening of our own death as the sacramental situation par excellence in which the transformative power of God’s grace is unveiled in the fullness of its life-giving possibilities.   Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. III, pp. 412–13.

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Chapter 3

The Positive Character of My Death as Assumed by Christ’s Death: Perspectives on Death in Contemporary Theology It has been said that, ‘Every idea about death is a version of life.’1 The true variables in relation to the subject of death are to be found in our versions of life, as the history of philosophy amply demonstrates. For the Christian, the discontinuity of death is viewed as overcome by the continuity of a living relationship with the risen Christ who is the ‘first born of the dead’ (1 Cor 15:20) and possesses the ‘keys of Death and Hades’ (Rev 1:18). The emphasis on life in the Christian perspective on death is reflected in the fact that Jesus himself had little to say about death. When we look to the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, we find that Jesus’ teaching is all about instructions for living; there is not one single instruction with respect to death. The concern of Jesus is clearly directed towards the plenitude of life and the human’s inalienable relationship to the kingdom of God which is being made concretely manifest and real in his very own person and public ministry to Israel. Of his own death, the Gospel story paints a dramatic picture of Jesus being radically tested in his filial relationship to the Father, as Chapter 1 of this study has argued at length. The obedience of the Son is perfected in his accepting ‘the cup’ as the culminating point of his mission of proclaiming the kingdom of his Father to Israel. Jesus, though, does not really offer any interpretation of his own death, other than to say that his blood is the ‘blood of the new covenant’ which is ‘poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Mt 26:28). Yet by saying these remarkable words, which should be linked to Jesus’ cry on the cross, Jesus is making the extraordinary claim that the new age of covenant fulfilment will be realized through his death suffered vicariously for the good of a world estranged from God. Because the Son’s death has conquered the powers of death in the world, the Christian perspective on death is a perspective on living this life as an exercise in imitating Jesus’ total self-abandon to the Father unto death, in hopeful expectation of the fullness of the new creation to come. The plenitude of life which is promised by the Risen One is already anticipated in the here and now through   Avery D. Weisman, ‘Appropriate and Appropriated Death’, in Death: Current Perspectives, ed. Edwin S. Shneidman (Palo Alto, California: Mayfield Publishing, 1976), p. 502. Cited by Ray S. Anderson, Theology, Death and Dying (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), p. 124. 1

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the sacramental life of the ecclesial community of faith where the Spirit of the risen Lord is present and active, transforming us continuously into sons and daughters of the Father in the Son (filii in Filio). While it is a fundamental tenet of Christian faith that forgiveness of sins and final salvation is through the person of Christ who has conclusively vanquished the powers of death by his unique death on the cross, the history of Christian thought has tended to view our own death in mainly negative terms as the end of personal history and as the wages of sin (cf. Rom 6:23), so that no soteriological significance is attributed to death itself – only what precedes death and what comes after death is deemed worthy of consideration in the matter of personal salvation. The purpose of this chapter is to examine contemporary theological writings in order to ascertain whether there have been any developments of thought that move beyond the traditional negative view of death to affirm a more positive view that can be used to bolster the lines of thought already identified and developed in the previous two chapters of the present study. The critical review or survey of theologies of death is not exhaustive, of course, given the limits of space, nonetheless the writers chosen are representative of the major lines of thought to be found in Catholic and Protestant theology today, and, furthermore, their writings provide a rich source of ideas for further reflection on the mystery of death and the fundamental Christian hope. The first part of this chapter will examine the writings of Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar, while the theologies of Karl Barth, Eberhard Jüngel and Jürgen Moltmann will be critically reviewed in the second section. In the third and final part, strengths found in each theologian examined will be brought together in an endeavour to identify what should be acknowledged as constitutive elements of a comprehensively worked out theology of death as a dying into the Lord Jesus Christ. Much of the task of critically assessing the strengths and weaknesses in the thought of these eminent theologians will be guided by the arguments and findings of the first two chapters of this study. Reflections on death in contemporary Catholic theology In the past, Catholic theology focused its attention not so much on death itself as on what happens after death, which was regarded as the person’s indifferent transition from the pilgrim state to the interim state, a transition without any anthropological significance and thus not worthy of theological inquiry. At best, the topic of death received consideration in moral and ascetical theology where the concern was to prepare the person for a holy death (artes moriendi). But today the situation has changed considerably. The rethinking of the nature of death was given much impetus and direction by Karl Rahner who contended that death is not merely something that is suffered passively from without but also a profoundly personal act inasmuch as it involves the active consummation of individual freedom from within. The notion of death as a personal act has gained considerable acceptance

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amongst Catholic theologians, hence Rahner’s theology of death will be critically examined below. It is certainly not the case, however, that in contemporary Catholic thought the portrayal of death as a purely passive happening is no longer defended at all, a notable example being Hans Urs von Balthasar and his theology of Holy Saturday. The latter serves as a useful counterbalance to the hypothesis of death as personal act which is gaining ascendancy in Catholic circles today. Rahner’s transcendental theology – dying as an active consummation from within At the core of Rahner’s theology of death is the conviction that death is an event which strikes the human being in its totality, given that the human being is a union of ‘nature’ (matter) and ‘person’ (spirit). The inadequacy of the traditional description – not definition – of death as the separation of body and soul is revealed by the fact that it remains absolutely silent about the specifically human element in death, namely, since something happens to the human as a whole in death, then this happening is of utmost importance to the soul as well: death is not merely suffered passively ‘from without’, but is also the active consummation of the self ‘from within.’ One of the most celebrated passages of Rahner’s writings on death which sets forth his basic understanding of death is the following: If death is the end for the whole man, that is, if through death the whole man arrives at the end of that temporal existence which is characteristic of human life and which finds its termination precisely in death, then this end must have its impact upon the whole man, the soul included. Not, obviously, in the sense that the soul ceases to exist, but in the sense … that in death the soul achieves the consummation of its own personal self-affirmation, not merely by passively suffering something which supervenes biologically, but through its own personal act. Death, therefore, as the end of man as a spiritual person, must be an active consummation from within brought about by the person himself, a maturing self-realization which embodies the result of what the person has made of himself during life … At the same time, death as the end of the biological life is simultaneously and in a way which affects the whole man, an irruption from without, a destruction … so that a man’s own death, from within, through the act of the person, is at the same time an event of the most radical spoliation of man, activity and passivity at once.2

The event of death is seen by Rahner as the most intense and final point of the ‘ontological dialectic’ of passivity and activity – existence is given to us yet we must take it up personally by exercising freedom – which runs throughout our present mode of existence in the world, because we are confronted by life’s 2   Karl Rahner, On the Theology of Death, tr. C.H. Henkey, 2nd edn (London: Burns & Oates, 1965), pp. 30–31.

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temporal end; that is, we are faced with the totality of our existence, with the disposing of ourselves in our entirety. For Rahner, freedom is the capacity for definitive self-determination before God, the Absolute Mystery. Given that human existence is an existence unto death, Rahner is keen to emphasize that death is present in each of our free acts in which we freely dispose of our selves. This means that dying is an event that is taking place throughout the whole of life, hence the fundamental option for God must not be viewed as an event coming at the end of life. The human existent is ‘enacting his death, as his consummation, through the deed of his life, and in this way death is present in his actions, that is, in each of his free acts, in which he freely disposes of his whole person.’3 We are to understand, then, that death as an active deed of the person cannot be located simply at the moment of death in the medical sense; rather, with death comes the finality of the fundamental option – as redemption or perdition – which permeates one’s history. This means that the state of irrevocable finality is not bestowed on the person by God’s judgement from without (forensically), as traditionally thought, but is brought about by the active consummation of personal freedom from within (immanently). It was on the basis of this view of death as an active consummation of the person from within that Rahner in his later writings inclined towards, or at least entertained, the idea of resurrection at the particular moment when one’s history of freedom is finally consummated, that is, at the moment of death.4 In respect of the classical theological description of death as the separation of body and soul, does the soul become ‘acosmic’ – totally out of the world – when it separates from the body? Rahner argues that the classical (Neoplatonic) description does imply this and he suggests that since the soul forms a real ontological unity with the body (Thomistic thought), ‘it clearly must also have some relationship to that whole of which the body is a part, that is, to the totality which constitutes the unity of the material universe.’5 Rather than the soul becoming acosmic, then, Rahner maintains that the soul actually enters into a ‘pancosmic’ relationship to the universe as a whole. The soul in its bodily pilgrim state already possesses this pancosmic relation to the universe, of course, but Rahner holds that at death the soul enters into a deeper or more intimate relationship to that ground of the unity of the universe.6 At death, in other words, the soul is transported to the heart of the

  Ibid., p. 44.   Cf. Karl Rahner, ‘The Intermediate State’, Theological Investigations, vol. XVII,

3 4

tr. Margaret Kohl (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1981), pp. 114–24; Foundations of Christain Faith, tr. William V. Dych (New York: Crossroad, 1978), pp. 264–85. 5   On the Theology of Death, p. 18. 6   This must not be taken as meaning, however, that at death the whole universe becomes the ‘body’ of the soul, which would amount to the omnipresence of the soul in the whole universe; nor does it imply a substantial informing of the cosmos by the soul – in the way the soul informs the body in the pilgrim state. Cf. Ibid., p. 21.

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universe – this is how Rahner interprets the traditional doctrine of the descent into the netherworld at death. When this understanding of the soul’s pancosmic relationship to the whole of the cosmos attained in death is applied to Christ, Rahner says that what happens through Christ’s ‘descent into hell’ is that his spiritual reality is inserted into the whole cosmos in its ground and now becomes a determining feature of the whole world: ‘he became actually, in his very humanity, what he had always been by his dignity, the heart of the universe, the innermost centre of creation.’7 The picture being painted here is certainly consistent with the creedal statement that all things are created through Christ, the Word of God, but Rahner is saying that since creation is through the Word, then the Incarnation of the Word must culminate with his descent into the very heart of the world. Moreover, as a consequence of Christ’s descent into the underworld, Rahner holds that the cosmos has become ‘different’ inasmuch as Christ’s humanity now becomes open to the whole world by being inserted into its very ground as a determination of a real ontological kind.8 Christ’s descent into the underworld serves to highlight the manner in which Christ’s death is essentially the same as ours, but what truly distinguishes his death, according to Rahner, is that death as the consequence of sin became in him a revelation of divine grace: death became life. The following passage captures beautifully Rahner’s understanding of how death as the emptiness of the human existent has become, in and through the person of Christ, the advent of God’s plenitude of life: The real miracle of Christ’s death resides precisely in this: death which in itself can only be experienced as the advent of emptiness, as the impasse of sin, as the darkness of eternal night … and which ‘in itself’ could be suffered, even by Christ himself, only as such a state of abandonment by God, now, through being embraced by the obedient ‘yes’ of the Son, and while losing nothing of the horror of the divine abandonment that belongs to it, is transformed into something completely different, into the advent of God in the midst of that empty loneliness, and the manifestation of a complete, obedient surrender of the whole man to the holy God at the very moment when man seems lost and far removed from him.9

While this citation highlights Rahner’s recognition of the significance of the Son’s obedient ‘yes’ to God unto death, at the same time Rahner is keen not to limit our understanding of redemption in Christ to the occasion of his death as a moral act of obedience to the Father’s will. The reason for this is that a purely moral view of Christ’s death – as in Anselm’s theory of satisfaction – fails to appreciate   Ibid., p. 66.   Ibid., pp. 63–5. 9   Ibid., p. 70. 7 8

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that redemption has to do with transforming death ‘in itself’ or death as such: redemption is accomplished by the fact that death as the manifestation of sin, as the darkness of God-forsakenness, was accepted by Christ in faith, hope and love, and transformed in the midst of emptiness and loneliness into the manifestation of the obedient surrender of the whole person to the incomprehensibility of God. In connection with this understanding of Christ’s death, Rahner consistently argues that it is preferable to avoid embracing the notion of ‘vicarious representation’ in relation to Christ’s redemptive work. The basic problem with this concept is that it is usually taken to mean that Christ suffered death ‘in our place’ or ‘on our behalf’, hence the cross all too easily tends to be seen as the cause, not consequence, of God’s salvific will towards the world. The following citation expresses Rahner’s main concern with the concept of vicarious representation in clear language: By contrast we must say: because God wills salvation, therefore Jesus died and rose again, and not; because the crucifixion occurred, therefore God wills our salvation. God is not transformed from a God of anger and justice into a God of mercy and love by the cross; rather God brings the event of the cross to pass since he is possessed from the beginning of gratuitous mercy and, despite the world’s sin, shares himself with the world, so overcoming its sin … the origin and cause of the crucifixion … is the mecy and love of God. This love can only include sin in the world because, as God’s yes to man, this love was meant to prove itself victorious over man’s no to God.10

Rahner rightly stresses, by appealing to biblical texts such as John 3:16, as well as to the theology of Duns Scotus, that the cross must be seen as the consequence of God’s self-giving to the world in grace. We must think in terms of God permitting or allowing sin in the world because God from the very beginning had willed Jesus Christ with his ‘solidarity’ both with sinners and with God.11 Rahner emphatically states a preference for speaking in terms of Christ’s solidarity with us in death on the grounds that such language makes plain the inclusive – not exclusive – sense of Christ’s redemptive death. Our relationship to Christ is therefore regarded by Rahner as ‘a dying with Jesus (in absolute hope) in a surrender to the incomprehensibility of the eternal God.’12 This notion of death as a ‘dying with Christ’ is certainly a step in the right direction, even though it does not find any clear expression in the Catholic Church’s 10   Karl Rahner, ‘The One Christ and the Universality of Salvation’, Theological Investigations, vol. XVI, tr. David Morland O.S.B. (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1979), pp. 199–224, at pp. 207–8. 11   See Rahner’s essay, ‘The Christian Understanding of Redemption’, Theological Investigations, vol. XXI, tr. Hugh M. Riley (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1988), pp. 239–54, at p. 249. 12   Karl Rahner, ‘Christology Today’, Theological Investigations, vol. XXI, tr. Hugh M. Riley (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1988), pp. 220–27, at p. 227.

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official teaching or in textbook theology. The New Testament, however, does give expression to the idea of a ‘dying in the Lord’ (Rev 14:13), a dying which is not really death because it is a dying that gives rise to life (cf. Jn 11:26; 2 Tim 2:11; Rom 6:8). These scriptural attestations refer to actual dying, in which case not only the imitating of Christ during the course of earthly life – dying to sin – but also actual dying is to be regarded as a dying in Christ. This leads Rahner to make the important assertion that ‘death itself in the person endowed with grace is to be regarded as a salvific event, while of course this death must also be seen as an act of freedom recapitulating that person’s life.’13 Freedom is often viewed nowadays as the ability to make ever new individual choices, but in Rahner’s thought divine redemption takes place in the realization of human freedom, which is to say that freedom is understood in the sense of a unique self-realization, over a period of time, that tends towards ultimate validity. Since the cross of Christ is regarded as the definitive and historically tangible manifestation of God’s boundless grace in the midst of the utter loneliness and emptiness of death, then to die with Christ is to undergo that same dialectical experience of passivity (cf. Mk 15:34) and activity (cf. Lk 23:46) which reaches a climactic point at death, so that death itself becomes ‘the highest act of believing, hoping, loving …’14 What Rahner attempts to elucidate is a theology of death as a dying with Christ in light of the nature of grace. By underscoring what the real nature of grace is, he intends to show ‘that dying and death constitute a situation corresponding to its nature and excellent for the free realization of grace.’15 It will be recalled that Rahner views grace as God’s self-communication to the world and the human being as the ‘event’ of God’s self-bestowal in grace, so that the free acceptance of the offer of God’s immediacy to the human subject implies a self-surrendering to God as the subject’s ecstatic fulfilment.16 However, the history of the world is characterized by the ambivalence of human and divine freedom, and as long as this ambivalence remains then we cannot be certain of the positive outcome of the one historical process. This leads Rahner to postulate an understanding of Christ’s death, a death which resolves this ambivalence in respect of the irreversible positive outcome of the one historical process, in terms of a ‘sacramental causality’ – as distinct from Anselm’s moral theory of redemption or the physical model of redemption of the Greek Fathers – for the salvation of all men and women of all places and times. With regard to the positive outcome of human and divine freedom, Rahner says:

  Karl Rahner, ‘Christian Dying’, Theological Investigations, vol. XVIII, tr. Edward Quinn (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1983), pp. 226–56, at p. 252. Emphasis added. 14   On the Theology of Death, p. 71. 15   Rahner, ‘Christian Dying’, p. 253. 16   Cf. Rahner, ‘The Christian Understanding of Redemption’, p. 244. God does not bring about the perfection of the human subject, rather God himself is the perfection of the finite subject. This is Rahner’s notion of ‘quasi-formal causality.’ 13

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This would be possible if God were to communicate himself to man in such a unique manner that this man would become the definitive and irreversible self-gift of God to the world. He would also freely accept the divine self-gift in such a manner that this too would be irreversible, i.e. through his death as the definitive culmination of his free actions in history. If salvation history is irreversibly directed in this sense to salvation, and not to damnation, through a concrete event, then this historically tangible occurrence must be a sign of the salvation of the whole world in the sense of a ‘real symbol’, and so possesses a type of causality where salvation is concerned. To this we wish to apply a well known theological concept and call it ‘sacramental.’17

The death of Christ is seen by Rahner as the signum efficax, that is, the efficacious sign of God’s universal redeeming love which has become historically tangible in an irreversible way. It is important to appreciate here that ‘sign’ and ‘cause’ condition one another reciprocally; this is a type of causality that is proper to the sign and is not something added to the sign. Hence the cross of Christ is a ‘real symbol’ of God’s definitive love for the world – the cross does not merely point to God’s love but actually makes present and real God’s redeeming love for the world – which also implies in Christ’s obedience to the Father unto death the definitive human acceptance of this offer of God’s love on the part of the world. In light of the foregoing review of Rahner’s work, there are a number of critical questions that arise out of his theology of death which is grounded in his transcendental philosophy of freedom as the capacity for definitive selfdetermination.18 To begin with, Can a theology of the death of Christ be based primarily on a transcendental analysis of death as a personal act?19 Must not a theology of Christ’s death be grounded in a careful analysis of the biblical account of this historical, unique event in which Christ ‘bears’ the sin of the world? Rahner, it is true, is expressly aware that historical events cannot be deduced from transcendental analysis and insists that the two moments of his method, that is,   Rahner, ‘The One Christ and the Universality of Salvation’, p. 214.   A comprehensive treatment of Rahner’s significant contributions to eschatology, as

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well as critical questions that emerge out of particular themes in Rahner’s eschatology, is offered by Peter C. Phan, Eternity in Time: A Study of Karl Rahner’s Eschatology (London: Associated University Press, 1988), especially pp. 201–10. 19   Rahner’s thought is not only guided by a transcendental philosophy of freedom but is also heavily indebted to existentialism and personalism where themes such as freedom, decision and responsibility, as well as more tragic themes such as guilt, despair and death, feature prominently in constituting personal being and shaping the future of the subject. While such a style of philosophizing is appropriate to the contemporary context because of its emphasis on the human subject in its dynamic quest for authentic personal being, when it comes to a Christian inquiry into death, however, the mystery of the cross of Christ must be brought to bear upon the existentialist account of human existence in the world, and not vice versa.

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transcendental and historical considerations, mutually condition one another. Yet it would be fair to say that the historical experience tends to be relegated to the background in his transcendental theology. This is especially apparent in that for Rahner the redemptive work of Christ consists in his free acceptance of death as such in its hiddenness and emptiness, rather than unjustifiable death on the cross in loving obedience to the Father’s will, for the sake of a world estranged from God. Although Rahner does refer to Christ’s death as death suffered on a cross, the reader is nonetheless left with the impression that it would have made little or no difference to Christ’s redemptive work had he experienced a natural death due to illness or old age. Any cursory reading of the biblical writings will reveal, though, that Christ’s death cannot be treated either as a natural death or as a death no different from our own: the cross is depicted as rejection by Christ’s own people (Mt 10:34–9), a being forsaken by God (Mk 15:34), a scandal (Mt 26:31; Gal 5:11), a being cursed by God (Gal 3:13), a being made sin for our sake (2 Cor 5:21; Rom 8:32) and the Son’s loss of dignity (Heb 12:2; 13:13). All this Christ suffered for our sake, that is, in order that the powers of death in the world might be transformed by the greater power of divine grace into a new creation, as revealed in his being raised from the dead by the Father in the power of the Spirit. There is no question that the biblical account portrays Christ’s death as a unique event – his death has an exclusive dimension – which is different from our own death, that God’s eschatological salvation consists in ‘a wholly unique bearing of the total sin of the world by the Father’s wholly unique Son ….’20 Yet Rahner seems to ignore these pertinent and central biblical texts – with the exception of Mk 15:34 – in the interests of promoting the Christ-event as the highest case of a transcendental anthropology, so that it appears that what is truly the ‘last thing’ is the final consummation of personal freedom before God. The death of Christ in Rahner’s theology is supposed to give us assurance that the ambiguous historical process of the world will have a positive outcome, but it is difficult to see how this can be the case when salvation is made conditional upon the human subject’s ‘yes’ to God in this life. What is missing from the Rahnerian picture is any sense of the exclusiveness of Christ’s death on the cross – God’s ‘yes’ to a sinful world – without which a positive outcome for the historical process cannot be confidently hoped for. The inclusivity that Rahner wishes to underline through his concept of Christ’s solidarity with us can ultimately be upheld only if the exclusive aspect of Christ’s substitutionary and representative death is first recognized. The key biblical texts cited above are integral to penal substitution theories of the atonement, as was discussed in Chapter 1 of this study, yet it is important to recall how Barth, for instance, has criticized penal substitution theories for failing to portray the cross of Christ as the outworking of God’s love from all eternity. Like Rahner, Barth insists that the cross is the consequence, not the cause, of 20   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale: The Mystery of Easter, tr. Aidan Nichols (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1993), pp. 137–8.

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God’s love for the world – God, as the One who loves in freedom, sends the Son into the far country in order to accomplish the reconciliation of the world with God. Unlike Rahner, however, Barth does not talk of Christ’s passion in terms of his suffering death ‘as such’, but rather in terms of his enduring the ‘second death’ on the cross for the sake of a world far from God. It is by freely dying the death worthy of the godless that Christ has reconciled a sinful world to God. The concept of representation, which is central to Barth’s doctrine of reconciliation, therefore expresses in a powerful manner God’s unlimited and boundless love for the world, a love which is the cause of salvation history. What is more, the inclusivity of the paschal mystery is established precisely on the basis of the exclusive dimension of Christ’s death on the cross as having unique atoning value and universal salvific significance. Christ is truly in solidarity with sinners, as Rahner is keen to emphasize, but this solidarity should not be taken to mean that Christ’s death is no different from our own death. Instead, we are required to recognize that it is precisely by virtue of the exclusive character of the Son’s death on Calvary that we are able to affirm with confidence the saving event of Jesus Christ as inclusive of all sinners. The recognition of the exclusive aspect of the cross also serves to underscore, in a more powerful way than in Rahner’s theology, the possibility of considering the event of our own death as a truly salvific event, as the privileged moment for receiving the fullness of the eschatological benefits of Christ’s death suffered and endured out of boundless love both for the Father, and for us sinners. To be fair to Rahner, he does acknowledge that Christ’s death was not absolutely like ours in every respect when he says that Christ was without sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15), that he performed his redemptive act in virtue of a grace necessarily his due to his being a divine person, and that the truly unique mark of his death is that death, as the manifestation of sin, became in him a revelation of grace. But all these aspects of Christ’s death that make it different from our own death are not really seen as having any profoundly salvific significance with respect to the event of our own death as a dying with Christ, other than implying that Christ’s death, as total self-abandon in faith, hope and love to the incomprehensiblity of the eternal God, is to be imitated in the quest for the final and definitive validity of one’s personal history and freedom before God, a freedom directed towards a partaking in the divine life. Even Rahner’s later shift towards the notion of resurrection at death emerges as a logical outcome of his philosophy of freedom, for if there is no temporality beyond death, if something of eternal significance is realized in death, then resurrection understood as the final and definitive validity of one’s entire personal existence before God must take place at death. In this Rahnerian perspective of resurrection at death, death as a personal act is salvific insofar as the consummation of personal freedom – surrendering to God in faith, hope and love – results in a sharing in Christ’s glorious resurrection from the dead as the final end of the human person. The foregoing comments in regard to Rahner’s tendency to undermine the significance of the fact that Christ was executed on the cross of Calvary are not

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intended to discredit altogether the proposition that the redemptive work of Christ consists in his accepting death as such in its emptiness and darkness. The latter proposition has merit in that it highlights death as something that happens to the person as a whole, not part of the person. In other words, death is not a simple walk of the soul over to the next life; rather, as an event which strikes the person in their totality, death is something which can be overcome only by the plenitude of God’s ineffable grace. Rahner is therefore correct to insist that talk of a ‘dying in the Lord’ is not to be restricted to the imitating of Christ during our pilgrim life, but should include in its purview an actual dying with Christ in whom the emptiness of death became the revelation of the plenitude of divine life. The upshot of all this is that death itself is regarded as a salvific event, as a situation corresponding to the real nature of grace, and thus conducive to the free realization of grace. Up to this point Rahner’s argument is a sound one, but where difficulties begin to emerge is in the linking of death itself as a salvific event with death as a personal act which makes final and definitive one’s fundamental option for God. The basic problem here lies in making death itself a salvific event only for those who undergo death as the ‘highest’ act of believing, hoping and loving, which effectively means that the saving benefits of Christ are conditional upon the person’s final and definitive act of freedom which recapitulates the person’s whole life. But if death as a dying with Christ constitutes a situation corresponding to the nature of grace (God’s self-gift) and its free realization (self-abandon to God), as Rahner maintains, would it not be more plausible to think of death in terms of unmediated ‘encounter’21 with Christ who is the unique and definitive revelation of the Father’s infinite love for the world, especially when Rahner is keen to stress that Christ is in complete solidarity with us in the situation of death? The main problem in the Rahnerian analysis, in other words, is that everything in the order of salvation seems to be decided upon by the person on this side of death, which effectively means that the dying person has to make a decision of eternal significance in respect of their destiny without receiving the full eschatological benefits of the death of Christ by means of revelatory and transformative encounter with Christ at death. When the Rahnerian view of the human person as the ‘event’ of God’s selfgift in grace is set in relation to the notion of death as unmediated encounter with Christ, such an encounter can be envisaged as the privileged moment for the realization of eschatological grace, that is, the final establishment of personal freedom through the mediation or representative action of Christ who has conquered death by his unique death. The truly last thing is not the consummation of the person’s fundamental option for or against God in the lead up to death, but

  Ladislaus Boros, for example, while he accepts Rahner’s view of death as personal act, parts company with him by claiming that the final decision about one’s eternal destiny takes place in death as ‘encounter with God.’ Ladislaus Boros, The Moment of Truth: Mysterium Mortis (London: Burns & Oates, 1965), pp. ix, 84. 21

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rather ‘the Father’s unconditional love in giving to our world what is most intimate to himself, his Son and Spirit.’22 Yet, as a final point, it is important to note that Rahner himself, in the context of his reflections on a theology of freedom, states that the finality of human freedom ‘belongs to the judgement of God alone.’23 The point that Rahner seems to be making here is that while the exercise of freedom in the pilgrim life is constitutive of the human subject’s fundamental option, nevertheless the subject cannot know with absolute certainty their actual state of justification. The finality of human freedom, therefore, is not ultimately determined by the individual subject, but rather by God’s final act of judgement. The divine freedom of forgiving love revealed in the Christ-event, not human freedom, appears to have the last word. This is supported by Rahner’s understanding of freedom as the ‘capacity for the eternal’,24 that is, freedom becomes definitive only by sharing in the eternity of God. We should not think of freedom as a neutral capacity, for only in the human ‘yes’ to God does freedom become definitive. This understanding of freedom finds support in von Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday where human freedom is portrayed as existing within the freedom of Christ who has endured the ‘second death’ in his going to the dead, for the sake of a fallen world. Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday – death has a changed value It is undoubtedly Hans Urs von Balthasar who more than any other Catholic theologian has stressed the passivity of death in his development of a theology of Holy Saturday: death is ‘a situation which signifies in the first place the abandonment of all spontaneous activity.’25 For von Balthasar, the event of the Incarnation is ordered to the passion of Christ, but his principal interest in Christology is centred on the mystery of Christ’s ‘descent into hell.’ Since death, which has entered the world through sin (Rom 5:12), tears apart our being as envisaged by God, the overcoming of the rupture of death lies at the heart of God’s redemption of fallen humanity. The redemption wrought by Christ therefore arrives at its completion not in the event of the Incarnation as such, nor on the cross of Calvary, but in

22   Tony Kelly, Touching on the Infinite: Explorations in Christian Hope (Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1991), p. 21. Kelly rightly citicizes traditional theology for making the individual’s personal choice the last thing instead of the radicality of the Father’s unconditional love made manifest in Jesus Christ, the eschaton. This is not to say that God saves us without our consent, but it does serve to underline the appropriate starting point for reflection on eschatological matters. 23   Karl Rahner, ‘Theology of Freedom’, Theological Investigations, vol. VI, tr. KarlH and Boniface Kruger (New York: Seabury, 1974), pp. 178–96, at p. 191. 24   Ibid., p. 186. 25   Balthasar, Mysterium Paschale, p. 148.

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the abyss or hiatus of death.26 Let us listen to how von Balthasar describes this ordering of the Incarnation to the mystery of Holy Saturday: Looking at this from the divine perspective, if God wished to ‘experience’ (zein peira, cf. Hebrews 2:18; 4:15) the human condition ‘from within’, so as to re-direct it from inside it, and thus save it, he would have to place the decisive stress on that point where sinful, mortal man finds himself ‘at his wit’s end.’ And this must be where man has lost himself in death without, for all that, finding God. This is the place where he has fallen into an abyss of grief, indigence, darkness, into the ‘pit’ from which he cannot escape by his own powers. God has perforce to place the emphasis on this experience of being ‘at one’s wit’s end’ … this is what we actually find in the identity that holds good between the Crucified and the Risen One … he will no longer be a God who judges his creatures from above and from outside. Thanks to his intimate experience of the world, as the Incarnate One who knows experientially every dimension of the world’s being down to the abyss of Hell, God now becomes the measure of man.27

It is clear from this quotation why von Balthasar holds that the descent is the final point of the kenosis of the Son, why he argues that the ‘active’ passion of Good Friday must be seen as completed by the ‘passive’ passion of Holy Saturday. The latter serves to highlight the Son’s solidarity with the dead, his finding himself in a situation of utter powerlessness, of complete abandonment by the Father, which is the core of damnation (poena damni) or the ‘second death’ – the integral experience of death – endured by him for our sake. This mystery of Holy Saturday reveals the condition upon which God accepted the foreknown abuse of human freedom, namely, the divine plan to take to Godself our self-damnation in hell. By proposing this distinction between Good Friday and Holy Saturday, von Balthasar departs from Calvin and Reformed theology according to which Christ suffered the gravity of the poena damni on the cross as the sin-bearer.28   Balthasar’s contention that Christ’s work of redemption is completed in his ‘going to the dead’ (humiliation) does not, it should be noted, mean that Holy Saturday is the end point of the Incarnation; rather, the Dead One’s ‘going to the Father’ (exaltation), which is an action of the Father through the agency of the Spirit, is the point at which the Incarnation is finally completed. 27   Mysterium Paschale, pp. 13–14. 28   Balthasar’s basic point that the emphasis with respect to Christ’s identification with the concrete human condition must be placed on that point at which sinners find themselves at their wit’s ends, namely, the abyss of death as utter helplessness and powerlessness, is a legitimate one. In Chapter 1 of this work, it will be recalled, Gethsemane was highlighted as marking a crucial transition point in Jesus’ ministry from power to powerlessness – it makes sense to hold that this powerlessness is consummated in the actual being dead of the Son, which has special soteriological significance in respect of the sinner’s salvation, that is, ‘going to the Father.’ 26

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Balthasar stresses that in light of the uniqueness of his person, the Son in his descent into hell experienced God-forsakenness like no other creature ever could. Although he was without sin, although he suffered unto death in perfect obedience to the Father (cf. Heb 5:8), he nonetheless experienced the hell of the Father’s absence ‘in a way impossible for any other person.’29 In von Balthasar’s earliest theological work, Heart of the World, published in 1945, we already find this central focus on the uniqueness and substitutionary character of Christ’s suffering and death, which will inform his entire theological work. At the end of Heart of the World, von Balthasar has the risen Christ recount to the doubting Thomas the significance of his death: ‘My Cross is salvation, my Death is victory, my Darkness is light … the fall into the void … into the bottomless abyss … the un-becoming: that colossal death which only I have died. Through my death this has been spared you, and no one will ever experience what it really means to die: This was my victory.’30 This death which we sinners have been spared already marks the beginning of Christ’s triumph over sin and death, a triumph which shines forth in his resurrection from ‘the bottomless abyss’ and exaltation to the right hand of the Father. Once it is appreciated that we have been ‘bought with a price’ (1 Cor 6:20), that Christ does something for us that is impossible for us to carry out ourselves, then it is simply not sufficient to view Christ’s death as an eloquent symbol (cf. Rahner) indicating God’s merciful love for us, but not effecting the removal of sin and the conquest of death. Rahner, it will be recalled, repudiates the notion of substitution or vicarious representation, opting instead for the notion of solidarity as most suitable for conveying the sense of Christ’s death as the unsurpassed example of complete and total self-surrender to the incomprehensible God, a self-surrender in which the emptiness and loneliness of death was filled by the plenitude of divine life. The elaboration of the uniqueness of Christ’s death in terms of his enduring the second death for us sinners implies that hell, strictly speaking, should be treated as a christological concept, given that only the Son has radically plummeted the depths of that abyss. As a christological concept, hell truly belongs to the good news of Christ, for ‘hell is a part of the universe accepted by Christ; with that, it becomes a mystery of salvation. Christ takes everything upon himself – and with that, everthing becomes different.’31 What conclusively redeems sinners so that they might partake of the ineffable life of the Trinity is the being dead of the Son

  John R. Sachs, ‘Current Eschatology: Universal Salvation and the Problem of Hell’, Theological Studies, 52 (1991): pp. 227–54, at p. 244. 30   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Heart of the World, tr. Erasmo S. Leiva (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1979), p. 175. 31   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dare We Hope ‘That All Men be Saved’? tr. David Kipp and Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 112. Balthasar is citing a passage from L. Lochet’s well-known book, Hell is Part of the Good News. 29

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who represents us before the Father in his complete solidarity with the human condition ‘from within.’ This descent into hell of the Son is a thoroughly trinitarian event for von Balthasar. Hell belongs to the Father in that the Father foresaw the abuse of human freedom in time and history, but planned to send the Son into the world so that the Son could be ‘made sin’ (2 Cor 5:21) and descend into hell for the sake of sinners, thereby casting out hell from the creation. The very possibility of this redemptive event, moreover, is grounded in the inner-trinitarian ‘event’ of self-emptying love whereby the Father eternally surrenders the divine being in the begetting of the Son. This primal kenosis – ‘Urkenosis’ – of the Father, von Balthasar maintains, amounts to a primordial ‘separation’ of God from God which allows the ‘space’ for created reality and the exercise of human freedom. This eternal event of self-emptying love in the inner life of the Trinity contains within itself all the modalities of love, including suffering, abandonment, death on a cross and descent into hell.32 In the picture painted by von Balthasar, then, the separation from the Father that the Son experiences in his passion should not be interpreted as remoteness or alienation from the Father, for the Holy Spirit, who embodies the unity of Father and Son, is ‘the witness who can always testify to their unity even in separation.’33 The passion of the Son might seem, at first glance, to be a sign of separation of Father and Son, but it actually only makes sense as the sign of profound unification of Father and Son, as the interpretation of Jesus’ cry of abandonment in Chapter 1 of this study has argued. In this trinitarian framework, everything that takes place in the God-world drama springs from the inexhaustible character of God’s sovereign love which creates all things new, so that God may be ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28). The Trinity, to von Balthasar’s mind, is the ‘true eschaton.’34 As in the writings of Barth, God’s wrath against sin, which Christ bears on Calvary, is regarded by von Balthasar as a function of God’s love. In the garden of Gethsemane, the ‘cup’ which Christ requests be removed from him is the cup of God’s wrath which is mentioned throughout the Old Testament where it is linked

32   Balthasar therefore believes it is valid to speak about divine passibility and mutability, although he warns that human properties such as suffering and death should not be attributed univocally to God, but in a qualified, analogical sense. The internal divine ‘diastasis’ between Father and Son means that the economic form of separation between Father and Son – the cross and grave of Jesus Christ – is contained within the primal kenosis ad intra of the Father. Talk of the separation of God from God in the passion of Jesus Christ does not, then, amount to a contradiction, disruption or division within God’s own inner life; quite the contrary, the separation is precisely the sign of the indissoluble unity of God. 33   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. V, The Last Act, tr. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), p. 261. 34   Ibid., p. 56.

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to the notion of God’s ‘jealousy’ of the covenant people.35 The covenant that God makes with Israel shows that God is not apathetic but truly involved in the drama of history, that God expresses love and delight toward the God-fearing and righteous on the one hand, and anger or wrath toward the godless and unrighteous on the other. God’s anger, however, must not be thought of as ‘an irrational emotion’ – as in the case of humans where it must be held in check – since God is ‘not ruled by anger but directs it according to his good pleasure.’36 This is an important point in that it highlights the biblical understanding of God’s wrath as always controlled by the primacy of God’s love. In his discussion of the New Testament material (cf. Heb 10:31; Jas 4:12; Mt 10:28; Lk 12:5), von Balthasar has the following to say which can be taken as a summary statement regarding the unity of divine love and divine wrath: The love in God’s heart is laid bare in all its radicality, showing its absolute opposition to anything that would injure it. And it is precisely the trinitarian form of this revelation of love in Jesus Christ that allows us to discern the necessary unity of love and anger. Jesus’ anger, which breaks through in so many places, flares up wherever there is resistance to his mission and the tasks arising from it, for such resistance offends the Father’s love manifest within him, the triune Holy Spirit. His anger is not a purely human anger; it is an anger that is part of his ministry, and so it is a revelation of the divine attitude.37

It is evident from this quotation that we are required to acknowledge the fact that even in Jesus’ public ministry to Israel, he had been the revealer of the pathos of God, that is, of the Father’s love and his indignation at those who scorned and rejected this love. The analysis offered in Chapter 1 of this study regarding the process of Jesus’ individuation in the Spirit, a process which unfolds precisely in the context of increasing rejection and hostility toward his message and person, serves to highlight this picture of Jesus as the revealer of the pathos of God. Yet Jesus, as the one who goes to his death in perfect obedience to the Father, was ‘made sin’ for our sake because he alone as the Son of the Father is capable of bearing the entirety of the world’s sin, so as to bring the fullness of redemption to creation. The wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness was embodied in this unique event of the passion of the Son, the wellspring of which is God’s ineffable love for the world. Once we appreciate the true significance of the statement that the Son freely ‘bears’ the weight of God’s anger against sin, then

35   For a discussion of the cup of wrath, see Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. IV, The Action, tr. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press,1994), pp. 338–51. 36   Ibid., p. 339. 37   Theo-Drama, vol. IV, p. 341.

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we will not make the mistake of thinking that God was angry with Christ, for how could God be angry with his beloved Son?38 When we consider the abandonment of all spontaneous activity which is brought to an end with death, von Balthasar prefers not to talk of Christ’s ‘descending’ to the realm of the dead but of a ‘going’ to the dead, since the latter serves to make clear the passivity of death and the situation of utter powerlessness in which Christ finds himself in death. The following passage sets forth von Balthasar’s justification for this particular choice of language: Yet does not the word descendit give clear expression to an activity, the more so if it be taken as the context-giving concept for certain other activities of Jesus in the realm of the dead, regarded as given immediately with it? Should we not be content, rather, to speak of a ‘being with the dead’? The title of this chapter, which deliberately avoids the word ‘descent’ speaks of a ‘going to the dead’, an expression justified, in our opinion, by 1 Peter 3,19: ‘he went, poreutheis, and preached to the spirits in prison’ – preached, that is, the ‘good news’ as 1 Peter 4:6 adds by way of a self-evident clarification. At the end of the passage, this ‘going’ is placed in unmistakable parallelism with the Resurrection, which is the departure point of the ‘going to heaven’, poreutheis eis ouranon (1 Peter 3, 22). It should not be overlooked that both Resurrection and Ascension are first described as a passive event: the active agent is God (the Father).39

While at first glance talk of Jesus ‘preaching’ the good news in his going to the dead will strike readers as an activity, von Balthasar explains that this would indeed be the case if redemption is seen as already completed on the cross, for Jesus’ solidarity with the dead would then emerge as the prior condition for preaching the final redemption in his person. What we are required to appreciate, instead, is that when Jesus’ going to the dead is seen as completing the work of redemption, then his preaching to the dead cannot be considered as distinct from his being with the dead. In order to underscore this passivity, von Balthasar reminds us that the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus are ‘first described as a passive event’ inasmuch as the active agent is not Jesus the Son, but God the Father, through the Spirit. Once again, then, we find ourselves having to reflect on the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ in strictly trinitarian terms: it is something which happens between the Son and the Father, and the Father and the Son, in the Spirit, for the final glorification of humanity and the world (cf. Rom 1:4; 8:11). The two movements of God’s supreme abasement or self-emptying in the person of Christ and the exaltation of the crucified and buried Son (cf. Phil 2:6-11) ‘express the

38   John Calvin, it is worth noting, was keen to avoid any misunderstanding in respect of Christ’s bearing the weight of God’s anger on the cross – he expressly states that God was not angry with his beloved Son. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.16, 11. 39   Mysterium Paschale, p. 150.

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self-same divine love’ and thus form ‘one single reality.’40 This double movement in the economy of salvation is especially developed in the Johannine scheme of the Son who comes from the Father and ‘descends’ into the world, and then returns or ‘ascends’ to the Father (Jn 16:28).41 This Johannine scheme is given a prominent position in von Balthasar’s theological writings, and it indicates that the Son’s being raised from the dead and returning to the glory of the Father is regarded as the fulfilment of the event of the Incarnation.42 The theology of Holy Saturday developed by von Balthasar gives rise to an understanding of salvation in terms of being spared the integral experience of death as the poena damni – deprivation of the vision of God.43 Barth, we saw earlier in this study, also conceives of salvation in these terms, but he holds that Christ endured the second death on the cross whereas von Balthasar places the stress on the point where we sinful and mortal humans are at our wit’s end, namely, the abyss of death from which we are simply powerless to escape.44 By virtue of the incarnate Son who has undergone this ultimate experience of a fallen world, the abyss of death is now illuminated by the Redeemer who showed himself ‘as the only one who, going beyond the general experience of death, was able to measure the depths of that abyss.’45 This understanding of Jesus’ integral experience of death leads von Balthasar to regard any theology of death that limits Jesus’ solidarity with sinners to the act of decision – such as we find in the theology of Rahner – as simply indequate and incomplete. In order for the death of Jesus to be inclusive of all it must be acknowledged as exclusive and unique in its expiatory and atoning value. This substitutionary ‘being with the dead’ allows us to understand how Sheol – the Old Testament Hades – can pass theologically into the New Testament Hell: ‘Hell in the New Testament sense is a function of the Christ-event.’46 Since Christ as the   Ibid., p. 208.   In the twofold movement envisaged by Barth, by contrast, the exaltation of the Son

40 41

of Man is realized in his perfect obedience to the Father in enduring the ‘second death’ on the cross. The resurrection of the Crucified One merely reveals the significance of the cross as an atoning death that accomplishes the reconciliation of the world with God. 42   Mysterium Paschale, p. 214. 43   In Jewish apocalyptic, the term death is used in an integral sense since it includes the interrelated aspects of physical death, spiritual death (sin) and eschatological death (eternal perdition). Physical death is the mark of moral death and prefigures the eschatological or second death which will befall the wicked at the final judgement. 44   It should be noted that the Reformed tradition does acknowledge Christ’s Godabandonment both before and after his death, but the poena damni is regarded as suffered by Christ on the cross. Cf. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, II.16, 10–12. 45   Mysterium Paschale, p. 168. 46   Ibid., p. 172. Balthasar here strongly echoes the thought of Barth who says that in the crucified Christ ‘the realm of the dead loses the last traces of creaturely naturalness which still cling to it in the Old Testament perspective. Here it becomes hell.’ Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. III/II, The Doctrine of Creation, ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1960), p. 603.

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Son of the Father is the only one who has truly measured the depths of the abyss of death, then before Christ there is no hell but only Hades.47 From the Son’s experience of the second death, however, we must not conclude that hell has been emptied and that there is no longer any fear of damnation, which would lead to a doctrine of apocatastasis. Rather, von Balthasar argues that in the Son’s ‘going to the Father’ he leaves behind him Hades – humanity is no longer cut off from access to God – but he ‘takes “Hell” with him as the expression of his power to dispose, as judge, the everlasting salvation or the everlasting loss of man.’48 The Son’s experience of integral death means that God’s merciful love is offered unconditionally to all, even hardened sinners, but human freedom still plays a role and finds itself having to respond to God’s sovereign freedom exercised in the redemptive death of the Son. By insisting on a distinction between Christ’s ‘active’ and ‘passive’ passion, for which support is found in thinkers such as Nicholas of Cusa who advanced the notion of Christ’s ‘vision of death’,49 von Balthasar intends to establish the special soteriological significance of Christ’s going to the dead which he then proceeds to expound in inclusive, personal terms. If Christ is in complete solidarity with those who reject all solidarity, then we are prompted to consider that God, in weakness (Heb 4:15), has ways of persuading even the most hardened sinners to convert and realize their ultimate goal of true freedom in the Son. The theme of weakness appears in the context of von Balthasar’s discussion of Christ’s experience of sin ‘as such’ which goes hand in hand with Christ’s enduring the second death, as the following text makes clear: Nicholas of Cusa spoke with great exactitude in the passage cited above of a vision of the (second) death, a visio mortis. This contemplative and objective (passive) moment is what distinguishes Holy Saturday from the subjective and active experience of suffering in the Passion. Christ belongs now with the refa’im, with those ‘deprived of strength.’ He cannot conduct an active struggle against the ‘powers of Hell.’ No more can he ‘triumph’ subjectively over them, which would pre-suppose new life and strength. And yet this extremity of ‘weakness’ certainly can and must be one with the object of his vision: the second death which, itself, is one with sheer sin as such, no longer sin as attaching to a particular human being … but abstracted from that individuation, contemplated in its bare reality as such (for sin is a reality!).50

  Balthasar rejects the medieval speculation about the four areas in the underworld; that is, pre-hell or limbo of the Patriarchs, purgatory, hell of unbaptized infants and the hell of the damned. Before Christ there is simply Hades or Sheol and the only division we can make is between an upper and lower part in Hades – Christ descended to the lower part. See Mysterium Paschale, pp. 176–7. 48   Ibid., p. 177. 49   Ibid., p. 170. 50   Ibid., pp. 172–3. 47

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The object of Christ’s vision of death is the essence of hell as ‘sheer sin as such.’ Since an objective (passive) situation is in view here, then talk of Christ’s ‘preaching’ to the ‘spirits in prison’ (1 Pet 3:19) must be understood not subjectively, but objectively. As the ‘Dead One’, the Son reaches the culminating point of his self-emptying, yet the contemplation of the object of the visio mortis amounts to a contemplation of the triumph of his descent into hell – because it is a vision of sin separated from humanity – although this triumph is not the anticipation of his glorious resurrection from the dead by the Father. By speaking of Christ’s vision of death, moreover, von Balthasar intends to articulate his understanding that Christ is not actually damned in his descent into hell: We cannot say that Jesus, instead of the sinner, is ‘punished’ by God. Nor can we say that he feels ‘damned’ by God and placed in ‘hell.’ For we associate the state of ‘hell’ with a hatred of God. It would be meaningless to ascribe to the Crucified the slightest resentment toward God. But it is quite possible to speak of the Son of God suffering what the sinner deserved, i.e., separation from God, perhaps even complete and final separation.51

We must therefore proceed with caution when seeking to interpret von Balthasar’s talk of Christ’s experience of the second death and his vision of sheer sin as such. On the one hand, he wants to avoid an identification of the Dead One with the actual No of sin itself; yet, on the other hand, he wants to stress that in bearing the weight of God’s wrath against sin, Christ is not removed from the darkness of sin – he is truly in solidarity with the dead as the Redeemer who brings the glad tidings of pure salvation, of a divine love that knows no limits to its self-giving. For von Balthasar, the reality of the Son’s relationship to the Father remains unbroken in his descent into hell; no real ontological rupture or division between Father and Son is envisaged on the objective plane, although this unbroken relationship gives no comfort to the Dead One who is taken to the depths of hell.52 On the subjective plane, therefore, we must speak of the Son’s genuine experience of God-forsakenness in order for his vicarious death to be truly and profoundly salvific for all sinners. There are many positive and insightful points that emerge from von Balthasar’s christological reflection on death which are worthy of our attention and which can be used to complement and build upon the transcendental theology of Rahner. 51   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Does Jesus Know Us? Do We Know Him?, tr. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1983), p. 36. Cited by David Lauber, Barth on the Descent into Hell, p. 71. 52   Balthasar’s position, then, is to be distinguished from that of Moltmann who speaks of a conflict of wills between Father and Son and a rupture or division within the inner life of God. The primordial ‘separation’ of God from God in the Father’s eternal begetting of the Son is not understood by von Balthasar as a division within the inner life of the Trinity – there is only one single truth of the Son in the Father and of the Father in the Son.

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Most notable is the contention that Christ’s going to the dead has its own special soteriological significance. The manner in which von Balthasar elaborates this contention not only compels us to reflect at greater length on how our own death, as a situation of utter powerlessness, is now illuminated by the hope of our being drawn into the redemptive work of the Son’s descent into hell, it also forces us to seriously rethink whether it is legitimate to hold that the freedom of hardened sinners who reject God is truly definitive and hence irreversible. The contention that Christ’s redemptive work is realized in powerlessness was encountered in Chapter 1 of this study where it was argued that it is precisely in accepting a state of powerlessness in relation to his impending execution that the Son’s saving power is realized (cf. Mk 15:31). The theology of von Balthasar, however, serves to underscore the need for theological reflection not to limit itself to the happenings of Good Friday, but to include in its purview the mystery of Holy Saturday where the Son’s experience of powerlessness reaches its climactic point. The picture of the Son’s complete solidarity with the human condition ‘from within’ is a dramatic portrayal of God’s grace as accompanying the human being to the most extreme situation of sin, so as to open up to sinners a pathway to union with God as their final destiny and end. This perspective certainly prompts us to reflect on the event of our own death in salvific terms as a dying into the Dead One who has already assumed our death in his enduring the second death, for our sake. The abyss of death therefore emerges, on this view, as the privileged ‘place’ for the manifestation of God’s saving power as ‘life out of death.’53 This theme of new life welling up out of the abyss of death points to the definitive conquest of the opposites of being in the person of the Son whose abasement (going to the dead) and exaltation (going to the Father) form one single reality. But granted the validity of the need to treat the Son’s going to the dead and going to the Father as one single reality, this begs the question, Does this not imply that death as a dying into the death of the Son involves a sharing in his going to the Father? That is to say, does not such a death imply resurrection in death? A second major point of merit is that von Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday serves to highlight the inadequacies of ‘solidarity Christology’ (cf. Rahner) and the need to embrace ‘substitution Christology’ (cf. Barth). When it is acknowledged that there is a genuinely unique and exclusive aspect to the Son’s going to the dead, then what happens in the Son’s ‘exchange of places’ (commercium) with us sinners is that we are ontologically transferred (cf. Col 1:13) and expropriated (1 Cor 6:19; 2 Cor 5:15; Rom 14:7).54 The inherent problem with solidarity Christology is that the wondrous exchange of places ‘no longer operates at the ontological plane but

53   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Life Out of Death, tr. Davis Perkins (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985), p. 39. Balthasar appeals to Paul who says that God is the One ‘who gives life to the dead’ (Rom 4:17). 54   Balthasar, Theo-Drama, vol. IV, p. 242.

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only at the social and psychological level.’55 The notion of solidarity is a valid one, to be sure, for it seeks to highlight the work of Christ as inclusive of all, but this inclusivity should be seen as arising out of the substitutionary character of Christ’s work which effectively conveys the truth that the Son does something for us sinners that we are simply not capable of accomplishing ourselves.56 When it is appreciated, moreover, that we sinners are ontologically transferred by the wondrous exchange of places, then the notion of ‘mere’ substitution on the physical or legal plane will simply not suffice, either.57 A truly unique happening has taken place in the Rejected One who represents all sinners before God – through his having endured the second death pro nobis the rejected ones have become chosen ones. This unique death, which takes the place of all sinful deaths, gives the death of all sinners ‘a changed value’,58 it gives a ‘totally new value to their dying.’59 The ontological transference of sinners in the commercium, which is central to von Balthasar’s theological reflections, points to the death of all sinners as acquiring an objective relation to the unique death of the Son. To die turned away from God is now to be thought of as a dying ‘unto’ God, which is to say that the soteriological significance of our death as a dying into the Dead One is not dependent upon our condition at death, as Rahner would have us believe, although, to be fair to Rahner, he does seem to leave open the possibility that the last word belongs to the final judgement of God at the end of time. The substitution Christology proposed by von Balthasar is certainly effective in bringing out the exclusive aspect of the work of Christ. The ontological transference of sinners by the wondrous exchange of places means that we have an objective relation to the redemptive work of the Son. Like Barth, however, von Balthasar does not ignore the need for sinners to appropriate this ontological transference on the subjective level. This subjective element is apparent, for example, when von Balthasar says that we must not conclude that hell has been emptied by Christ’s descent into hell, or when he asks whether human freedom has ‘the capacity to conclusively resist God’s perfect “yes” and to lock itself up in self-sufficient solitude?’60 The latter question serves not only, though, to highlight the subjective element of the sinner’s appropriation of their objective relation to Christ’s redemptive death, it also raises the basic issue of the nature and limits of human freedom, where we find a third major point of significance in von Balthasar’s writings. Since for von Balthasar human freedom exists within the mystery of Christ’s freedom, especially his complete identification with sinners in his descent into     57   58   59   60   55

Ibid., p. 273. Ibid., p. 297. Theo-Drama, vol. V, p. 272. Ibid., p. 327. Ibid., p. 341. Hans Urs von Balthasar, ‘The Descent Into Hell’, Chicago Studies, 23/2 (1984): pp. 223–36, at p. 235. 56

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hell, this implies that human freedom should not be regarded as a neutral capacity for doing this or that and deciding about one’s finality: instead, it would seem that human freedom is most radically the capacity for God in whose image the human has been created.61 The thought of von Balthasar in respect of this issue recalls the position of Rahner who, by positing the human person as the ‘event’ of God’s absolute self-communication in forgiving love, clearly understands human freedom as essentially ‘the capacity for the eternal.’62 For both Balthasar and Rahner, then, the human ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to God are not regarded as on the same level. For freedom to become truly definitive the human subject must say ‘yes’ to God, and as long as God is rejected freedom fails to attain that finality for which it is destined and toward which it is directed (imago trinitatis). The theology of Holy Saturday developed by von Balthasar poses a stronger challenge, though, to the traditional doctrine of the irreversibility of hell than does Rahner’s transcendental theology of death with its emphasis on death as a personal act in which freedom is finally consummated vis-à-vis God.63 Yet despite the soteriological significance of Christ’s descent into hell, von Balthasar concludes that we simply cannot predict which will go longer, that is, God’s ‘yes’ or the hardened sinner’s ‘no.’64 This is because divine freedom is viewed not as overpowering human freedom but as operating by persuasion, hence it cannot be sure of attaining its goal of the final conversion of all sinners. There can be little doubt, however, that von Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday is a rich resource for the development of a theory of universal salvation, even if he himself expressly states that his intention is not to espouse or formulate such a theory. What we have, instead, is an attempt to draw out the consequences of the mystery of Holy Saturday in a meditation rather than in a theory. This meditation is based upon the notion of Christ the Son’s wondrous exchange of places with us sinners, from which arises the real hope that God’s love may be capable of moving the hearts of even hardened sinners to final conversion. The basis of this real hope that all humans will be saved (cf. 1 Tim 2:4) is von Balthasar’s conception of the relationship between time and eternity, according to which human freedom can become definitive and final only by sharing in God’s   For a discussion of the question of human freedom, see John R. Sachs, ‘Current Eschatology’, pp. 246–52. 62   Rahner, ‘Theology of Freedom’, Theological Investigations, vol. VI, p. 186. 63   Earlier we noted that Rahner does not attribute to the human subject the last word in respect of death as a personal act, for he expressly states that the total decision by which the human subject decides definitively about the whole of their life is a total decision that ‘belongs to the judgment of God alone.’ Rahner, ‘Theology of Freedom’, p. 191. From the perspective of God’s final judgement, then, the question of the eternity of hell can be legitimately questioned. In order for the gospel of Christ to be truly good news, we should not think that what we have made of our pilgrim lives will be so for eternity. Cf. Sachs, ‘Current Eschatology’, pp. 249–52. 64   Balthasar, ‘The Descent Into Hell’, p. 234. 61

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own eternity, that is, by participating in Christ’s time: ‘God has not created us for time, but for his eternity. What is eternal is prior … time finds its real home there, in its origin. Our time will be taken back up into eternal time … through the mediation of Christ’s time.’65 The event of the Incarnation of the eternal Son reveals that there is real communication between time and eternity, that the temporal sphere lies not ‘outside’ eternity but rather unfolds within it, so that time bears the ‘mark of its divine origin and exhibits an analogy to it.’66 Christ’s time acquires its significance from the fact that his time lies completely in the hands of the Father, that is, his life is lived in total self-surrender to the Father to the point of death on a cross and his descent into hell, hence his time is God’s time. By sharing or entering into Christ’s time, we sinners come to share in eternal life, for in his sinless death of self-surrender to the Father he has received our sinful death into eternal life: ‘In the world, death is a limitation, a conclusion, and end. In God, death is always the beginning of new life.’67 The soteriological import of the wondrous exchange of places, to conclude, should be understood as the birth of new life out of the abyss of death through the mediation of Christ’s time. Notwithstanding the richness of von Balthasar’s meditation on Holy Saturday, what is difficult to come to terms with is the lack of systematic development in his thought, a lack which can leave the reader wondering about many things relating to eschatological matters. For example, if we take the central assertion that the sinful death of all sinners is taken up into the Son’s sinless death of self-surrender to the Father, so that our death as a dying unto God is now the beginning of new life, of our being drawn up definitively into eternal life, how are we to imagine this happening? Is there an encounter with Christ in our dying into God? If the dead are drawn up into eternity by sharing in Christ’s time, does this mean that those who receive the saving benefits of his redemptive work already share in his resurrection life? Does the theology of Holy Saturday, in other words, lead to a theory of resurrection in death, given that von Balthasar expressly states that in the paschal mystery of the Son we are dealing with a single reality? A fourth and final point of merit in von Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday is his employment of the traditional notion of the wondrous ‘exchange’ (commercium) which serves to forcefully convey the sense that something truly unique and significant has taken place for us sinners in the person of the Son, something which we are not capable of attaining ourselves; namely, everlasting union with God or the glory of eternal life. The exchange principle is employed in a manner typical of the Reformed tradition where it is based upon the biblical text of 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.’ When this text is taken as the key text for the development of the exchange principle, the emphasis falls upon the exchange   Theo-Drama, vol. V, pp. 101–2.   Ibid., p. 126. 67   Ibid., p. 251. Emphasis added. 65

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of ‘places’ – the sinless One takes the place of, or substitutes for, the sinner, and endures or bears God’s wrath against sin, in order that the sinner may be justified before God and transferred from the ‘dominion of darkness’ to the ‘kingdom of his beloved Son’ (Col 1:13). What von Balthasar has in view here is not a mere substitution that declares the sinner justified before God, as already stated above, but a genuine ontological transference of the sinner to the beginning of new life in the Son. Talk of the Son’s exchange of places with us sinners does, however, run the risk of suggesting mere substitution, and an effective way of avoiding this would be to adopt the language of exchange of ‘natures’ in the person of the Son to convey the essence of redemption as participation in the divine nature. The latter makes plain the ontological character of the Son’s work in his going to the dead in a way that the notion of exchange of places does not. With respect to the way the Church Fathers employed the exchange principle as their guiding principle in theology, von Balthasar points out that they did not tend to follow through as radically as the New Testament requires – they held that Christ took upon himself the consequences of sin, not that he was made sin for our sake.68 The language of exchange of ‘places’ is clearly intended to underscore the latter Pauline view, however talk of the exchange of ‘natures’ can also convey this emphasis when it is acknowledged that what humanity is and what divinity is emerges out of the mystery of the Son’s descent into hell on Holy Saturday, for the stress in respect of redemption must be placed on that point where sinful humans are at their wit’s end, that is, in the abyss of death as God-forsaknenness. The descent into hell as the climax of the Son’s kenosis reveals the true nature of divinity as pure self-bestowal in grace and the true nature of humanity as the recipient of this unbounded grace of new life out of death. The soteriological import of the Son being ‘made sin’ for our sake, as presented by von Balthasar, to conclude, certainly serves to prompt us into further reflection on our own death, as a dying into the Dead One, as profoundly salvific, as the privileged locus for receiving the eschatological benefits of the Son’s conquest of death ‘from within’ the concrete human condition. Reflections on death in contemporary Protestant theology If the tendency in much contemporary Catholic theology is to view death either as active consummation of the personal self or as a dying unto God whose redemptive power is revealed in the Dead One who is in solidarity with the human condition, when one turns to examine Protestant thought on death one notices a marked absence of any tendency to entertain a theory of death as personal act, the notion of death as encounter with Christ, or a theology of the interim state. In Protestant theology, by contrast, the biblical doctrine of the resurrection of the dead at the end of time tends to govern the direction in which a theology of death is developed.   Balthasar, Theo-Drama, vol. IV, pp. 244–54.

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There is, therefore, generally speaking, no portrayal of a particular judgement at death since there is but one judgement, namely, the final or universal judgement at the end of history when Christ will come in glory to judge the living and the dead and bring all things to their divinely appointed end, to the glory of the Father. But while this biblical perspective guides Protestant thinking on death, there is by no means a uniformity of opinion with respect to the various theologies of death to be found amongst Protestant theologians. The following review will be restricted to three eminent theologians who have reflected at varying lengths on death; namely, Karl Barth, Eberhard Jüngel and Jürgen Moltmann. The review of Barth will be shorter than the other two because Barth has already been discussed in Chapter 1 of the present study, and also because Jüngel has interpreted the thought of Barth extensively, especially Barth’s doctrine of God as ‘God’s being is in becoming’, so that in the review of Jüngel we will be dealing with a development of Barth’s thought. Also during the course of the discussion we will have occasion to refer to other Protestant thinkers besides Barth, Jüngel and Moltmann, so that most, if not all, the major lines of thought characteristic of Protestant reflection on the mystery of death will be drawn into the conversation. The intention in this section is to determine whether there are insights into death peculiar to Protestant thinking that can be fruitfully brought into relation to contemporary Catholic theological reflections critically discussed above, as well as the findings of the previous chapters of the present study. Barth’s christological focus – death as the ‘sign’ of God’s judgement on sin In response to Schleiermacher who held that the human situation of sin is known in our self-consciousness and serves a divine purpose – sin is portrayed positively as our ‘not yet’ to God – Barth counteracted by arguing that apart from God’s revelation in Christ we cannot truly know our situation of sin, which, moreover, is a negative reality not willed by God; sin is simply God’s enemy, hence it can have no positive role in the outworking of God’s will for the world. Barth concedes that ‘man may understand and recognise that he is limited, deficient and imperfect’, but this does not mean that ‘he is aware of his being as the man of sin, at odds with God and his neighbour and himself.’69 Knowledge of sin, and therefore the standard by which we can measure ourselves, is possible only from the standpoint of Christ’s atoning death on Calvary where we see the triumph of God’s merciful love over sin, a love which has definitively reconciled the world to God. The glory of God is revealed in the exercise of divine mercy in the passion of Christ, and sinners attain their glory in the coming of God’s mercy.70

69   Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/I, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, tr. G.W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T & T Clark,1956), p. 360. 70   Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, tr. G.W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1958), p. 75.

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This christological understanding of sin and guilt is closely tied to Barth’s understanding of creation as the ‘external basis of the covenant’71 and the covenant as ‘the internal basis of creation.’72 The inner basis of the covenant is the sovereign love of God who has eternally willed the covenant of grace in the person of Jesus Christ, the Elect One in whom creation is predestined to blessedness. For Barth, the election of the human being takes place with a very definite purpose: ‘The purpose for which he is chosen is to be the kind of man for whom Jesus Christ is.’73 What God desires, in other words, is that we simply accept the divine love for us in accordance with the covenant of grace established from all eternity. The most fundamental thing that can be affirmed of divinity, then, is that God is ‘the one who loves in freedom.’ God’s primal decision to go into the ‘far country’ means that God’s freedom is not a freedom from, but freedom for involvement and engagement with time and history. This leads Barth to rethink the notion of divine immutability from the vantage point of God’s passion in the person of Jesus Christ. That God is immutable means that God continues to be what God always is from eternity – the one who loves in freedom – while being subjected to change, opposition and rejection on the human, historical plane. The realm of temporality and mutability must not be regarded as opposed to God; on the contrary, it is the realm encompassed by God, the sphere in which the fullness of divinity is revealed (cf. Col 2:9), so that no disjunction must be seen as existing between God’s being and God’s act. Jüngel has interpreted and summed up Barth’s doctrine of God as ‘God’s being is in becoming’, which is intended to convey the understanding that divine action in the world is directed toward God becoming ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28) according to the eternal covenent of grace in the Elect One. In light of the atoning death of Christ, Barth claims that the only possibility which is basically open is God’s election of the sinner – God’s rejection of the sinner is basically excluded as a possibility.74 This assertion rests on the understanding that Christ has borne ‘the necessary divine rejection, the suffering of eternal damnation which is God’s answer to human sin.’75 The latter is taken as the interpretation of the Pauline text that Christ was ‘made sin’ (2 Cor 5:21) for the sake of sinners. But given the identity of the man Jesus as the Elect One, Barth is also keen to have us appreciate, as does von Balthasar, that, ‘No man but Jesus has ever known the true breadth and depth, the true essence and darkness,

  Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. III/I, The Doctrine of Creation, tr. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1958), p. 97. 72   Ibid., pp. 228ff. 73   Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. II/II, The Doctrine of God, tr. G.W. Bromiley, J.C. Campbell, Ian Wilson, J. Strathearn McNab, H. Knight and R.A. Stewart (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1957), p. 410. 74   Ibid., p. 416. 75   Ibid., p. 421. 71

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of human misery … there can be no question of repetitions of Golgotha.’76 As the Son of God, who is also the Son of Man, Jesus did not merely suffer the sense of God-forsakenness which in the Old Testament is depicted as a descent into the shadowy underworld of Sheol. Instead, what happens in the passion of Jesus is that ‘the realm of the dead loses the last traces of creaturely naturalness which still cling to it in the Old Testament perspective. Here it becomes hell.’77 It is precisely this exclusive value of Jesus’ passion, where the ‘exaltation’ of the Son of Man reaches its zenith, that makes it possible for his atoning death to be inclusive of all and to affirm the basic Christian hope in a final homecoming of all sinners.78 The person in misery, then, always exists in relation to God’s grace in Jesus Christ in whose person all misery has been overcome, hence Barth insists that the negative reality of sin can have no future. The ontological determination of the human being has been sealed in Jesus Christ in whom God has decreed the sinner’s determination to election and blessedness, even though we remain sinners ontically. The sinner’s obligation to God, according to Barth, does not involve any exorbitant demand: ‘God does not ask of man that he should be something different, but simply that he should be what he is, the man who is loved by Him, that he should freely confess himself the one to whom God has already freely addressed Himself.’79 The person who simply is what they should be, namely, loved and forgiven by God, is the person who realizes true freedom and comes to enjoy the blessedness of fellowship with God. The foregoing review of Barth is focused on his understanding of how the world has been reconciled to God in and through Christ’s accursed death endured as the ‘second death’ for our sake, in accordance with the eternal covenant of   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 487.   Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. III/II, p. 603. Emphasis added. 78   Barth does not see the twofold movement of descending and ascending, humiliation 76

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and exaltation, in the traditional sense of two successive ‘states’ – the state of humiliation from birth to burial, which is succeeded by the state of exaltation in his resurrection from the dead. Instead, he speaks of humiliation and exaltation as two ‘moments’ which operate together – the act of God humbling himself is ‘at the same time’ that of man exalted in the reception of God’s grace. Barth, Church Dogmatics, IV/II, p. 110. The exaltation reveals the movement of the human from below to above, that is, from our fleshly essence and thus our being in opposition to God, to the peace and blessedness of fellowship with God. Since in the Son of God ‘our human essence is conjoined with the divine essence’, all sinners are elevated to a qualitatively ‘higher level.’ Barth, ibid., pp. 28, 69. 79   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/I, p. 488. It should be noted that Barth criticized the Augustinian-Reformed view of human nature as totally corrupted by sin, as well as the Catholic and Neo-Protestant view for under estimating the influence of sin on human nature. More to the point, though, Barth attacked the idea of an altered human nature as unbiblical: ‘There never was a golden age … The first man was immediately the first sinner.’ Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/I, p. 508. This is not to say, however, that the sinner has lost the good nature which was created by God; the sinner always remains within the sphere of the covenant of grace established by God from all eternity.

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grace. There is, however, another pole to Barth’s reflections on death which must be kept in tension with his view of death as judgement; namely, ‘natural’ death. The classical doctrine that physical death is the result of sin came under attack from modern Protestant theology – eighteenth century onwards – which contended that physical death is a natural occurrence related to the finitude of creaturely existence.80 It was argued that it is only from the perspective of the subjective experience of the sinner, that is to say, from the perspective of faith, that death becomes an expression of God’s judgement on sin.81 The leading theologians of the twentieth century, including Barth, have followed in the train of modern Protestant theology.82 Barth writes that ‘it belongs to human nature, and is determined and ordered by God’s good creation and to that extent right and good, that man’s being in time should be finite and man himself mortal.’83 Human mortality is here seen as intimately connected to finitude.84 At the same time, though, death is held to be ‘the sign of God’s judgment on us.’85 The latter assertion is clearly informed by Barth’s view of Christ as having suffered the second death in our place, which is death in the full blown sense of negation of human existence (non-being). Since the end of temporal life is known only as it is overshadowed by Christ’s atoning death which releases sinners from the sentence of that second death, Barth proposes that our temporal end is simply the ‘sign’ of divine judgement. The language of sign is most significant in that it conveys Barth’s understanding that death does not correspond 80   The view of the Socinians and Arminians was taken up again by modern Protestantism, following Paul who talks of an earthly body which must die in order that it be raised a spiritual body (1 Cor 15:35–8). 81   Schleiermacher maintained that it is the awakening of God-consciousness which creates in us the sense of sin; only subjectively can evil suffered be affirmed as punishment for sin. Friedrich Schleiermacher, The Christian Faith (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1928), p. 319. A. Ritschl argued that evils regarded as punishments incurred by sinners is conditioned by ‘the specifically religious consciousness of guilt … by the judgment that the act in question has contradicted the divine law.’ Ritschl, The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1900), p. 355. 82   P. Althaus, E. Brunner, K. Barth and E. Jüngel all hold that only believers can affirm death as a divine judgement on sinners, only the faithful are aware of the wrathful God. See P. Althaus, Die letzen Dinge Entwurd einer christlichen Eschatologie (Bertelsmann Gutersloh, 1926), pp. 81ff; E. Brunner, Man in Revolt, tr. Olive Wyon (London: Lutterworth Press, 1939), p. 474; K. Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. III/II, pp. 602f, 608, 627; E. Jüngel, Death: The Riddle and the Mystery, tr. Iain and Ute Nicol (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), pp. 74ff. 83   Church Dogmatics, vol. III/II, p. 632. 84   The argument that finitude means mortality is questionable, though, from the standpoint of the Christian hope of the resurrection life. In the risen life our finitude is not tranformed into infinitude; finitude remains finitude, but is elevated to eternal life by partaking of the glory of God. 85   Church Dogmatics, vol. III/II, pp. 596, 629.

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to the human’s God-given determination to peace and blessedness. As the end of this temporal life, death is simply not part of the world willed and created by God, hence Barth says that death ‘stands under God’s No’ and is ‘still under God’s power and at His disposal.’86 This view of death is strikingly similar to the one elaborated by von Balthasar, notwithstanding the fact that Barth’s reflections are guided by the events of Good Friday, not the mystery of Holy Saturday. Although Barth never got to write his volume on eschatology, the import of his thought for a theology of death is nevertheless considerable. Of first importance is the divinely imposed limit of rejection – those who isolate themselves from God – set by God in the person of the Crucified One who takes from the rejected the possibility of their own independent being, since Jesus Christ bestows upon the rejected his very own being as willed by God in the eternal covenant of grace. The ontological determination of the sinner in the concrete event of Jesus Christ means that while the rejected can still assert themselves, we cannot reckon with the possibility of any final validity of this opposition to God’s grace – as merciful love – revealed on Calvary. Yet despite his insistence on the overwhelming power of grace which has set a limit to human wickedness, so that God’s election is the possibility which is basically open, it is interesting that Barth nonetheless refused to preach an apocatastasis, preferring instead to speak of an ‘unlimited’ or ‘open’ number of the elect who hear God’s gracious Yes in Christ – which is a clear repudiation of Calvin’s doctrine of double predestination. This indicates that the being declared or made righteous by God is not seen as automatically overriding human freedom; rather, the sinner must willingly hear God’s Yes and accept their ontological determination in the Son of God who is the Son of Man. In Barth’s soteriology, the substitutionary (in our place) character of Christ’s atoning death, which highlights the objective dimension of salvation in his person, is held in tension with the representational (on our behalf) or subjective dimension of salvation. This perspective is basically sound and it underscores the need to affirm an exclusive dimension to the Christ-event as the basis for the Christian assertion that his death is inclusive of all (against Rahner). It is precisely in virtue of this unique and exclusive character of the death of the Son of God that the hardened sinner is deprived of any independent existence, and the firm hope arises that God’s merciful love will ultimately win out against all opposition (in support of von Balthasar).87   Ibid., p. 608.   It is interesting that Barth, for all the stress he places on the real participation of

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the Son of God in fleshly essence so that we must say that the Godhead is affected by its union with humanity, nonetheless tends to see God as not suffering in himself but in what is other than himself. Alan Lewis comments that while Barth sees the humiliation of the Son of God as disclosing God’s true nature, ‘he was less willing to allow the godforsakenness … of Good Friday to obtrude mortality, separtion and disruption into God’s own triune life.’ Alan Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2001), p. 214. Barth refuses to take seriously anything that

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A second significant point is that while the reconciliation of the sinner with God is expressed by Barth in the juridical language of Christ having suffered the punishment of hell in our place, nonetheless this reconciliation is conceived in ontological terms as the tranformation of the sinner who is the object of God’s eternal covenant of grace in the Elect One.88 The sinner is not merely reconciled to God in a moral or juridical sense, as if Christ’s death merely covers over our sins, as taught by the common penal substitution theories of atonement; rather, the sinner is ontologically defined by being the recipient of God’s merciful love in Christ, a love that enables the human to be what it essentially is in accordance with the eternal covenant of grace. Barth, in other words, views the sinner as participating in the death of Christ. This fundamental point can be used constructively in the formulation of a contemporary theology of death, as the following questions serve to illustrate: What happens at death when it is conceived as a participating in the atoning death of Christ who has transformed death into fellowship with God? Should not our death be thought of as the privileged locus for unconditional, irreversible, involvement with the Crucified One in whom our human essence is conjoined with the divine essence? Given that in the concrete event of Christ what has taken place is the ‘common actualization’ of human and divine essence, then should not our death as a participating in Christ’s death be thought in positive terms as the locus for the determination of human essence by the electing grace of God? On a more negative note, one of the apparent weaknesses in Barth’s reflections on the Christ-event is that the resurrection is not treated as the fulfilment of the event of the Incarnation – the focus is on Good Friday as the once for all atoning event which has reconciled a fallen world with God, and Easter Sunday is the revelatory event that allows us to grasp the meaning of the cross of the Elect One. For Barth, the exaltation of the Son of Man takes place in his perfect obedience to the Father unto death, where we see the fullness of divinity dwelling bodily in him. Unlike von Balthasar who sees the Incarnation as attaining its fulfilment in the Son’s ‘going to the Father’ on Easter Sunday, Barth is keen to ensure that the Incarnation be seen as reaching its zenith in the Son’s atoning death. For all his strengths, Barth’s focus is too limited to the redemption wrought by the passion of Christ and not sufficiently attuned to what redemption in Christ ultimately entails; that is, if the final destiny of the sinner is permanent and ecstatic communion with the One who loves in freedom, then such ontological perfection entails a transformed contradicts God’s own reality as life, grace and love. In respect of Barth’s view of God’s suffering in Jesus Christ, Moltmann also sees a problem in that Barth, like Rahner, makes a distinction between ‘the God who proceeds from himself in his primal decision and the God who is previously in himself, beyond contact with evil.’ Moltmann, The Crucified God, p. 203. Balthasar, by contrast, because he takes Holy Saturday as the wellspring of his theological reflections, speaks of the ‘death of God.’ 88   See Chapter 1, part 4, of the present study for a discussion of how Barth understands the language of hell and how the sinner participates in the death of Christ.

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mode of personal being revealed in the resurrection of the Son of Man. It is in the glorified body of Christ that we see the fullness of divinity dwelling bodily in him, and thus what we mortal sinners are to become by the electing grace of God. When the Son of Man is acknowledged as being exalted by God in his resurrection from the dead, then the latter enters into the very substance of salvation. Jüngel’s ontological emphasis – the sinner defined by the humanity of God The Lutheran theologian Eberhard Jüngel, interpreter of Karl Barth and Tübingen colleague of Jürgen Moltmann, is the theologian of the grave of Jesus Christ, for he maintains that the ‘death of God’ is the story to be told by the community of faith.89 Jüngel, like Barth, is a representative of dialectical, neo-orthodox theology, for his theology is a theology of the Word, or, as he prefers to call it, an ‘evangelical theology.’90 It is evangelical because it is centred on God’s address to a suffering humanity, rather than humanity’s search for God. It is not we humans who come to God, but God comes to us; Christian reflection can only be a theologia crucifixi since God is One who speaks and addresses a suffering humanity through the crucified Christ. By retrieving Heidegger’s radical historicism, moreover, Jüngel presents the Word of God as addressed to that inescapable rupture between being and time which pertains to human existence in the world. The anxiety awakened in us by the struggle between being and non-being cannot be alleviated by ourselves; only God who comes to us in Christ and identifies with the human struggle can relieve us of this ontological anxiety, so that God must be thought of as being in union with all that is perishable and temporal.91 The story of the cross of Christ requires us to reject the immutable and all-powerful metaphysical deity who is defined as the opposite of human existence, and to affirm instead God’s union with perishability and temporality, so that it must be said that ‘God defines himself when he identifies himself with the dead Jesus.’92 Greek philosophical thought was only capable of attributing negative characteristics to the temporal world in which everything changes and is destined to pass away – the decay into nothingness – but Jüngel frees temporal existence from ‘an exclusively negative ontological qualification’93 by asserting that the 89   By speaking of the death of God, Jüngel goes further than Barth who admits the suffering of God in the passion of Christ or Moltmann who concedes that there is death in God. See Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection, pp. 197–257. 90   See the introductory section of Eberhard Jüngel’s God As the Mystery of the World: On the Foundation of the Theology of the Crucified One in the Dispute between Theism and Athesim, tr. Darrell L. Guder (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1983), pp. 3–42. 91   Ibid., pp. 184–225. 92   Ibid., pp. 363–4. 93   Ibid., p. 210.

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process of change and of becoming something new points to a positive element of possibility.94 Every transitory reality is a struggle between being and non-being, but God in Christ has identified the divine self with this struggle between life and death, for the sake of life. ‘Talk about the death of God implies then, in its true theological meaning, that God is the one who involves himself in nothingness.’95 This statement makes plain that the positive element of possibility, of the capacity of becoming, is not an inherent power in perishable existence, but a God-given possibility since temporal being participates in God’s own becoming. Faith therefore confesses that God is to be thought of as the being for others.96 The following quotation clearly sets forth Jüngel’s central theme of the identification of God with the crucified Jesus, from which emerges the historical narrative of the humanity of God and the death of God: In distinction from the meaning which atheistic usage assigned to the dark statement of God’s death, its christological origin demands that the unity of God with perishable man be understood as the identification of the living God with the crucified Jesus of Nazareth and the event of that identification as the revelation of the life of the crucified God. The original and indispensable meaning of talk about the death of God is not the identification of man with God, which necessarily must lead to the replacement of God with man … but the identification of God with the one man Jesus for the sake of all men. Its original sense, now to be regained, is not to express man’s striving for divinity, but rather the humanity of God … this discourse directs us toward the task of thinking God himself as the union of death and life for the sake of life. Since the ‘union of death and life for the sake of life’ is a way of defining the essence of love, we shall have to think God as love together with the christologically understood humanity of God.97

Before Jüngel, Barth had formulated the concept of the humanity of God, but Jüngel has qualified Barth’s concept considerably. Instead of stressing the infinite qualitative difference between ourselves and our Creator – as does Barth in his critical response to the analogy of being which he saw as postulating continuities between God’s being and human being – Jüngel wants to lessen this dissimilarity by proposing an ‘analogy of advent’ which compels us to assert that God is nearer to us than distant from us, more like us than unlike us, while still remaining   This positive element of possibility, note, could and should be linked to the notion of the Holy Spirit as the possibility of God, which was treated in Chapter 2 of the present book. 95   God As the Mystery, p. 218. 96   This point is in continuity with the thought of Barth who states that the determination of the divine is to the human and the determination of the human is from the divine. 97   God As the Mystery, p. 299. See also Jüngel’s Death: The Riddle and the Mystery, tr. Iain and Ute Nicol (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), p. 108. 94

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God.98 The ‘event’ of the Incarnation of the Word in the man Jesus of Nazareth is seen as the unsurpassable instance of a still greater similarity between God and humankind, yet, at the same time, it reveals the ‘concrete difference’ between ourselves and God. On the basis of God’s identification with the crucified and buried Jesus, for the sake of life, the above citation illustrates that there is but one word which adequately defines God’s own reality; namely, love, which is not something about God, but God’s very definition.99 Jüngel suggests that in the genuine experience of love there emerges a new understanding of what is meant by selfhood, by being and having, and by life and death. While love is certainly self-related, it is still more self-less, for what one has in love, above all, is what one has freely given to the beloved. In genuine love, one gives one’s life (self-surrender) for the sake of the other, and, in the extreme case, one dies for the life of the other. Jüngel therefore discovers in the very essence of love a dialectic of being and non-being. In receiving new being from the beloved, one lives ‘from’ that person, yet in the risk of love one comes close to death inasmuch as one might not be loved – the potential of non-being. In love, then, what takes place is an event of unity between life and death, for the sake of life. When we come to the word of the cross, this dialectic of love is the very truth about God: the essence of God is to exist through the giving of God’s own life, a life of divine vitality that takes death upon itself for the sake of life, which leads Jüngel to make the assertion that, ‘God’s being is in coming. As the one who is coming, God turns being toward salvation. Thus he is the mystery of the world of man.’100 The identification of God with the crucified Jesus defines not only the being of God, however, but also the nature of death. In the Old Testament, life is seen as consisting in its relationship to God, but when one moves to the New Testament one finds that both life and death are affirmed as loci of relationship to God.101 In virtue of the cross of Jesus, death is changed, for it is no longer alien to God’s own being: at the place where all relations end, God has interposed the divine being in the midst of God-forsakenness in order to create new relations in the midst of the relationlessness of death, for the sake of all human beings. This key point is expressed by Jüngel in the following words that capture the vitality of God in bearing the suffering death of Jesus, which represents the turning point of the world: The death of Jesus opens up a new relationship to God because it discloses the being of God in its divine vitality, on the basis of the death of Jesus. The deity of the living God – the divinity of his life and thus the vitality of God – is compatible in a very precise sense with the death of this human life. God’s life

  God As the Mystery, pp. 285, 288.   Ibid., pp. 314–96. 100   Ibid., p. 314. 101   Death, pp. 83–4. 98 99

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is compatible with the death of Jesus in that it bears it. And by taking death on himself, he conquers it. As the victor over death, God discloses himself as God. In that the living God in his deity bears the death of Jesus, in that he burdens the eternity of his being with the crucifixion of Jesus, he demonstrates his divine being as a living unity of life and death.102

The emphasis that Jüngel places on the ‘vitality’ of the ‘living’ God who ‘bears’ the death of Jesus, thereby disclosing himself as God, is significant in that, like Barth, this is directed against the view of the old kenoticists who held that the self-emptying of God in becoming human involved a surrender or retraction of the divine attributes.103 The kenotic event of the Incarnation of the Word, which culminates in Jesus’ death and burial, is the revelation of the very being of God in all its majestic fullness. God remains God in the event of Jesus Christ, and God submits to nothingness but is not annihilated, so that the Crucified One reveals the ‘possibility’ of temporal existence in relation to the living God. In respect of the opening up of a new relationship to God through the death of Jesus who was made sin for us, Jüngel is careful not to create any impression of death in terms of the preservation of the human subject, stressing instead that personal identity is formed by God who is our beyond.104 In light of the fact that death sets the limit of human existence, given that death points to our contingency upon that which is outside us, then the meaning of death lies not within us but beyond us in God. To accept death as the final limit set to the creature by God is to be properly human: ‘the absolute abandonment of self in death is equally the ultimate confirmation of ourselves in God.’105 The creation of a new relationship to God does not arise out of the being of the human, but out of the abyss of death, which is to say that the human receives from God a future which it cannot make itself. ‘In the death of Jesus Christ, God shows himself to be the one who calls into existence things that do not exist (Rom 4:17), as the God who is the Creator because he is the Reconciler.’106 As we shall see below, the statement that God is the Creator because he is the Reconciler is intended to express the understanding that the justification of the sinner has to do more with the formation of being than the mere reconciliation of the sinner to God. The emphasis that Jüngel places on passivity, on that future which the human being cannot make itself, is so pronounced that it precludes any sense in which   God As the Mystery, pp. 343–4.   Like Barth and von Balthasar, Jüngel employs the category of substitution to

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express the soteriological significance of God identifying with the crucified Jesus. The death of Jesus is not only the consequence of the godlessness of the world, at the same time it is Jesus’ bearing of that godlessness. Cf. Jüngel, ibid., p. 367. 104   Death, p. 122. 105   John B. Webster, Eberhard Jüngel: An Introduction to his Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 88. See also Jüngel, Death, p. 136. 106   God As the Mystery, p. 368.

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death could constitute a mutual relationship between God and the human being. To engage in talk of human ‘action’ in respect of a theology of death is to fail to appreciate the significance of the passives ‘made righteous’ and ‘declared righteous’ which express the being of the justified sinner as ‘an ontological passive.’107 If in the gift of justification through the death of Jesus we are the passive recipients of God’s reconciling love which freely comes to us, then we are defined ab extra (from outside) and must renounce all attempts to establish ourselves before God. The emphasis put on the definition of the sinner by ‘what lies beyond’ shows that the accent of Jüngel’s soteriology is ontological rather than moral: the human being is ‘defined rather than forgiven and restored in justification.’108 The justification of the sinner accomplishes not so much the forgiving of the sinner as the definition of the sinner, hence salvation is seen by Jüngel in terms of the attainment of being. It is the formation of the human being rather than the reconciliation of the sinner that constitutes the human situation in the theology of Jüngel. This is not to say that the reality of sin and its relationship to death is not taken seriously, although it is not portrayed positively as active rebellion against God but negatively as the absence of relationship.109 God has responded to the situation of sin as relationlessness by identifying with Jesus on the cross; in the Crucified One, God has taken up death into the divine being thereby establishing relations in the relationlessness of death. The upshot of this for Jüngel is that the humanity of Christ is ontologically definitive for all humans. Even if the ontic actuality of human works does not provide much empirical evidence of the fruits of justification, nonetheless the ‘truth of personhood’ is ontologically defined in the event of justification in the cross of Christ. The reality of sin, while it has ontological status in Jüngel’s anthropology, is not seen as entering into the definition of the human being, for ultimately we cannot not be what God has determined us to be in the person of Christ. We can deny the determination of our being in Christ, to be sure, but we cannot abolish it – the same point is made by Barth and von Balthasar – since the truth of human existence is located at a deeper level than that of human, which is to say, moral, acts. What is especially refreshing in Jüngel’s thought is his explicit assertion that in light of the identification of God with the crucified Jesus, death, not only life, is now the locus of relationship to God, for God creates new relations in the relationlessness of death.110 As love, the self-revealing God is the One who 107   Eberhard Jüngel, Paulus und Jesus. Eine Untersuchung zur Präzisierung der Frage nach dem Ursprung der Christologie (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1962), p. 49. Cited by Webster, Eberhard Jüngel, p. 98. 108   Webster, Eberhard Jüngel, p. 102. 109   Jüngel, Death, p. 78. 110   The kerygma of the Resurrected One is the basis for Jüngel’s assertion that God creates new relations in the relationslessness of death. While death is not really an event because it marks the end of the happening we call life, nonetheless Jesus’ resurrection indicates that something happened in his death – ‘God himself was the event which

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decides between being and non-being, who overcomes the opposites of being in creation by taking up death into the divine being, thereby offering to the world that future of life which it cannot make itself. In light of the revelation of the crucified God, what emerges is the positive aspect of the transitory as possibility, as the capacity for the coming to be of what does not exist. Jüngel’s contention that death is changed by Christ’s unique death certainly reinforces and adds weight to von Balthasar’s theology of Holy Saturday discussed earlier, and his emphasis on the ontological formation of the sinner who is defined rather than merely forgiven in justification clearly reflects and builds upon Barth’s theology of reconciliation. What is perhaps even more marked than in Barth’s theology is the extent to which Jüngel stresses the objective nature of redemption in Christ – the being of the justified sinner is an ‘ontological passive.’ The identification of God with the crucified and buried Christ not only underscores the radically asymmetrical nature of the God-human encounter, it also highlights the fact that all sinners are ontologically defined by the humanity of Christ, which is God’s very own history with humanity. What personal faith experiences is the reception of ‘new being’ as the qualitatively new, out of which arises the acknowledgement that our first ontological status is not the reality of sin, but our being created to stand in relationship to God, our beyond, in whom lies the original identity of the human. Jüngel’s insistence on the inalienable determination of human being in the person of Christ has the merit of making unequivocally clear what is truly the ‘last thing’ in eschatology; namely, the unfathomable grace of God revealed in the crucified Christ, not human, which is to say, moral, activity. As in Barth, so too in Jüngel, the reality of sin cannot enter into the definition of the human being who has been ontologically defined by the humanity of Christ. Granted that there is much in Jüngel’s theology that is commendable and thought provoking, one area of difficulty, however, is his depiction of death as the annihilation of the whole person and hence the rejection of any possible continuance of the human subject beyond death.111 While the latter notion may be seen as undermining his emphasis on the asymmetrical nature of the God-human encounter, as weakening the proposition that my identity is given to me by God who is my beyond, subjective selfhood beyond death need not, though, pose a threat to Jüngel’s intended emphasis provided it is made clear that this possibility exists purely as a gratuitous act of the Reconciler and Creator who calls into existence things that do not exist. On the understanding that God identifies with the crucified Christ so as to overcome the struggle between being and non-being for the sake of life, given that God himself was the event which happened in the death of Christ so that God is now to be seen as creating new relations in the relationlessness of death, it would seem plausible to suggest that my death as assumed by Christ’s death emerges as a salvific event in which death is transformed into new life. As a happened … The resurrection of Jesus from the dead means that God has identified himself with this dead man.’ Jüngel, God As the Mystery, p. 363. 111   Jüngel, Death, p. 115.

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participating in the death of Christ, my death does not amount to the annihilation of my person but appears as the privileged locus for the definitive actualization of my original identity through the substitutionary and representative action of Christ who, through the agency of the Holy Spirit who is the possibility of God, brings me home to God who is my beyond. Death represents the final limit and helplessness of creaturely being, to be sure, yet precisely as such does it emerge as the privileged locus for the formation of my being by the reconciling and creative power of the living God. We have seen that Jüngel, interpreting Barth, asserts that ‘God’s being is in coming.’ By this statement is meant that God freely addresses us in the person of Christ and opens up to us a future that we would otherwise not be capable of attaining, a future in which God will be all in all. The value of talking in terms of God’s being is in coming is that it compels us to reflect on this world as being created for the sake of God’s history with human beings. The theology of Jüngel has the merit of upholding every personal history, each human life-time, as genuinely historical and therefore irreplaceable because it is to be understood as ‘a moment in God’s history with all men.’112 Each human life-time is destined to wholeness of being because it is ontologically defined by the humanity of God. This affirmation of the uniqueness and irreplaceability of each human life-time serves to underscore the fundamental point that the concept of substitution, which Jüngel embraces, does not negate the human as a person; quite the contrary, the identification of God with the crucified Christ who is ‘for us’, which is the event of divine love, means that each and every human person participates in this saving event through which eternal blessedness is finally attained.113 The meaning of divine salvation, then, is that God takes the whole of our lives as we have lived them and graciously bestows on us a share in the very life of God who has overcome the struggle between being and non-being in favour of life. What is rightly stressed by Jüngel is that salvation ‘can only mean that it is the life man has lived that is saved, not the man is saved out of this life.’114 When God comes to us mortal sinners in the person of Christ, the purpose of this undertaking is to save our concretely lived lives by transforming them into that wholeness for which God has predestined humanity in the person of the Son. God’s identification with the Crucified One, when properly understood in all its radicality and universal scope, implies that all will participate in resurrection life as the completed whole for which they are inalienably destined as beings created imago trinitatis. As a final point worth highlighting, Jüngel’s basic point regarding God’s identification with the crucified Christ, which leads him to affirm the death of God, serves as a serious challenge to the tendency in much Christian reflection on the faith to attribute the suffering and death of Christ solely to his human 112   Jüngel, Death, p. 118. The irreplaceability of each human life-time, it will be recalled, was a theme embraced in Chapter 1, part 4, of the present work. 113   Cf. God As the Mystery, pp. 365–8. 114   Death, p. 120.

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nature. In underscoring the need for Christian faith to speak of the death of God in order to convey the radicality of the Gospel proclamation, Jüngel remains true to Luther’s understanding of the doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum (exchange of properties) in the person of Christ, which will be discussed in the final Chapter 4 of the present work. When the humanity of Christ is recognized as the humanity of God, the legitimacy of the traditional teaching that the Son’s experience of suffering and death cannot be communicated to divinity since such properties belong strictly to human nature, not divine nature, becomes highly questionable.115 The phrase ‘humanity of God’, furthermore, is particularly useful in that it captures in a succinct fashion the truth of the Chalcedonian formula regarding Christ’s double consubstantiality, without, however, falling into the pitfall of dualist thinking. Put simply, the phrase suggests that his humanity mediates and attests to his divinity, or, alternatively, he is God in a human way and human in a divine way, hence he is the Mediator between humanity and God, the One in whom we find the union of death and life for the sake of life. In conclusion, Jüngel’s theological reflections present us with a rich source of valuable insights into the mystery of death as the locus of new relations to God who calls into existence things that do not exist (Rom 4:17). The one question which looms large in his work, however, is: To what extent is it convincing to hold that while the personal subject is annihilated at death, nonetheless because my life-time is a moment in God’s history and God is my beyond, then my past history enters into the presence of God but I myself as a personal subject do not? The theology of Jüngel is typical of a new wave of Protestant thinking in relation to death and eternal life which can aptly be described as ‘recapitulation theories’,116 at the centre of which is the idea that human immortality is the eternal presence of my personal history within the divine memory. This idea has been developed in various ways by theologians such as Paul Tillich, Wolfhart Pannenberg and Charles Hartshorne.117 The reflections of Jürgen Moltmann are not representative 115   Jüngel and von Balthasar, it should be pointed out, while they both speak of the ‘death of God’, do not conceive of divine passibility and mutability in exactly the same way. Jüngel, following Luther, tends to attribute the human properties of suffering and death univocally to God, while von Balthasar, on the basis of the primordial separation of God from God in the Father’s eternal begetting of the Son, attributes passibility and mutability to God in a qualified, analogical sense, not univocally. 116   John Hick, Death and Eternal Life (London: Collins, 1976), p. 215. This idea has never been taken up in Catholic thought, though. 117   Paul Tillich talks of eternity as ‘the end of history in the sense of the inner aim or telos of history,’ so that the past and future modes of time are to be seen as meeting in the present – both modes are contained within the eternal ‘now.’ Eternity, as the inner aim of history, permanently elevates the finite into itself, hence Tillich proposes that ‘the temporal, in a continuous process, becomes eternal memory.’ Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. III (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), pp. 394–5, 399. Pannenberg conceives of eternity not so much as the inner aim of the historical process but as the unity of all temporal events in a single divine moment. The life in time is a life of brokenness ‘torn apart by the

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of this new wave of thinking, however, and it is to his theology that we will now turn to conclude this review of contemporary theologies of death. Moltmann’s theocentric analysis – every human life remains before God Moltmann is a Reformed theologian who has reflected at some length on the mystery of death. He maintains that a mature person would acknowledge that death is ‘not only an event in life, it is the event – and that all our attitudes to life are attitudes to the death of this life of ours.’118 Moltmann appeals to the Psalmist to illustrate this basic attitude: ‘Lord, teach us to remember that we must die, so that we may become wise’ (Ps 90:12). But if the remembrance of death makes us wise for living, where is this wisdom to be found? How do we find the courage to live a life on which death has set its mark? Within the Christian tradition we find two images of hope in the face of death: the first is the image of the immortal soul where the focus is upon the self-transcendence of the human being; and the second is the image of the resurrection of the dead which is based upon the assurance of God’s transcendence over death – death is the ‘last enemy’ (1 Cor 15:26) which will be ‘swallowed up in victory’ (1 Cor 15:54) when Christ comes in his glory.119 To Moltmann’s mind, to hope in the resurrection of the dead is to trust in the God who calls into being things that are not, and makes the dead alive, thus it is only in light of such a hope that we can fully accept this mortal life of ours and abandon ourselves to the whole of life lived in love. The resurrection hope must not be reduced to a ‘life after death’, to a ‘deferred life’ that leaves life on earth in a ‘state of suspension’; rather, the resurrection hope is what makes it possible for us to commit ourselves fully to this pilgrim life which leads inexorably to death – hope in the resurrection means that, ‘I shall live wholly here, and die wholly, and rise wholly there.’120 As in Jüngel’s theology, Moltmann also is at pains to stress separateness of past, present, and future.’ The resurrected life is the totality of our present life as God sees it from the eternal present. Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, vol. III, tr. G.W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1997), p. 561. Finally, Charles Hartshorne, building on Alfred North Whitehead’s concept of ‘objective immortality’, takes human immortality to mean that after death our lives will be perpetually remembered by God and nothing can be added or subtracted from the end of one’s life. Charles Hartshorne, The Logic of Perfection (Lasalle, Illinois: Open Court, 1962), pp. 252–3. 118   Jürgen Moltmann, The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology, tr. Margaret Kohl (London: SCM Press, 1996), pp. 49–119, at 50. 119   Moltmann surveys three ideas with regard to the immortality of the soul that need not occupy us here: the soul as divine substance (Platonic doctrine); the soul as transcendental subject (Johann G. Fichte); and the soul as the kernel of existence (Ernst Bloch). Suffice it to say that Moltmann views the immortality of the soul as an ‘opinion’ whereas the resurrection of the dead is a ‘hope’ based on the revelation of the resurrection of Christ. Ibid., pp. 58–65. 120   The Coming of God, p. 67.

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that to be raised to eternal life means that this mortal lived life, this person wholly, will put on immortality (1 Cor 15:54). This must not be taken to mean, however, and here Moltmann’s thought seems to be more carfully worked out than Jüngel’s position, that this whole life from birth to death will be stored up in heaven and immortalized with all its negative experiences, numerous failings, basic faults and debilitating illnesses. The following quotation clearly sets forth Moltmann’s basic understanding of the finality of eternal life: So something happens to this whole mortal life. Will this life be ‘immortalized’, as obituary notices sometimes say? If that meant that this life from birth to death is recorded as if on a video, and stored up in the heaven of eternity, that would be anything but a joyful prospect: immortalized with all the terrible experiences, faults, failings and sicknesses? How would we imagine the immortalizing of a severely disabled human life, or the immortalizing of a child who died young? The expressions which come closest to ‘raising’ or ‘resurrection’ in the New Testament are transformation (1 Cor 15:52) and transfiguration (Phil 3:21). Then ‘raising’ means that a person finds healing, reconciliation and completion … Eternal life is the final healing of this life into the completed wholeness for which it is destined.121

In order to enter into the finality of eternal life what is required is that the whole of my personal history be reconciled, rectified, healed and completed by the grace of the all-merciful God. While the traditional doctrine of purgatory is refuted by Moltmann, he does, however, envisage an ‘intermediate time’ between Christ’s resurrection and the general resurrection of the dead, which he refers to as time in the ‘fellowship of Christ’ (cf. Phil 1:23).122 This intermediate time with Christ is the time of compassionate love, of accepting and transforming love that leads to eternal life – ‘that is a true element in the doctrine of purgatory.’123 The picture painted by Moltmann here is therefore different to the typical Protestant view according to which the dead as ‘sleeping’ are called out of time and are awakened out of sleep at the resurrection on the last day when they will be ‘clothed’ (cf. 2 Cor 5:4) with Christ’s glory.124     123   124   121

Ibid., pp. 70–71. Ibid., pp. 104–5. Ibid., p. 106. Helmut Thielicke, for instance, says that there is no sense in which those who are dead can be said to be involved with time. H. Thielicke, Living With Death (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1983), pp. 173–8. And T.F. Torrance asserts that from the perspective of the new creation, ‘there can be no gap between the death of the believer and the parousia of Christ.’ T.F. Torrance, Space, Time and Resurrection (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1976), p. 102. Because the dead are removed from any sense of time but remain in relationship to Christ, no gap exists between falling into a state of sleep and being awakened at the resurrection on the last day. 122

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In order to get a handle on what Moltmann intends by the dead having time in the fellowship of Christ, it is helpful to point out that Moltmann expressly states that he does not endorse any of the following positions: the description of death as the separation of the soul from the body (the traditional view); the theory of resurrection at death (K. Rahner, J. Pohier, G. Greshake, G. Lohfink); the imagining of the state of the dead as a deep sleep (M. Luther); the view of death as the annihilation of the whole human being (E. Jüngel); and the contention that human identity comes to an end in death (N. Elias). As far as Moltmann is concerned, the dead are not annihilated and personal identity does not come to an end, because every life remains indissolubly ‘before God.’125 In order to appreciate what is meant by this constitutive category in his thought, we must turn to his understanding of the biblical doctrine of imago Dei – to be created in God’s image has to do, first of all, with God’s relationship to the human, and only then, secondly, with the human’s relationship to God. This asymmetrical nature of the God-human relationship – which is also highly developed in the works of Barth, Jüngel, von Balthasar and Rahner – is most important because it guarantees that God’s relationship to creaturely existents cannot be destroyed either by the reality of sin or the reality of death, which is to say that the human’s designation as imago Dei is ‘indissoluble, inalienable, and immortal.’126 In the biblical writings this inalienable relationship between God and human beings is generally expressed by the term ‘spirit.’ A distinction is made, however, between the human spirit and the Spirit of God (cf. Ps 104:29–30; Rom 8:16), where the latter signifies God’s relationship to us while the former signifies our relationship to God. To put the matter more formally, ‘The human spirit is the immanence of God’s Spirit, and God’s Spirit is the transcendence of the human spirit.’127 What is called the spirit of the human is the whole configuration or ‘Gestalt’ of a person’s life. On this view of the Spirit who brings God into relationship with the whole person, and the same Spirit who brings the whole person into relationship with God, we can begin to appreciate what Moltmann means when he says that in the Spirit we live indissolubly ‘before God’, which is a constitutive category in his reflection on death: The Spirit brings God into relationship to the whole person, body and soul, past and future, and at the meeting point of the person’s social and natural relationships. The Spirit brings the whole person into relationship with God, in the entire fabric of that person’s life. In the Spirit we live ‘before God’, just as ‘the light of God’s countenance’ is turned towards us in the presence of his Spirit. In us, the Spirit of life shapes the mutual interdependence of body and soul, past and future, and the social relationships in the history of our lives. If ‘our spirit’ means the total configuration of our lives and our biographies, it also

  The Coming of God, p. 76.   Ibid., p. 72. 127   Ibid., p. 73. 125 126

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means our lives as a whole, which are qualitatively more than the sum of our members.128

With the advent of death, then, the whole configuration of a person’s lived life remains wholly what it is before God. Of particular importance here is how Moltmann insists that the whole of one’s lived life is ‘qualitatively more’ than the quantifiable sum of the parts, so that while the sum of the parts disintegrates in death, nevertheless the total configuration of the person’s lived life remains before God, in the Spirit. This emphasis on the whole of lived life as remaining before God, and as destined for complete integration into the life of God, shows the ontological character of Moltmann’s theology, something which he shares with Jüngel, Barth, von Balthasar and Rahner, all of which adopt ontological language to communicate the complex and ineffable aspect of the qualitatively more pertaining to the human being elevated to communion with the Blessed Trinity. What happens to the human, then, in death? Moltmann agrees with Jüngel that the continuance of the human subject beyond death is not something that we humans can claim over against death, and that the essence of death, if considered in the abstract and ‘in itself’ may be called ‘lack of relationship.’129 This cannot, however, be carried over into the ‘real’ death of the human, given that there exists a two-way relationship between God’s Spirit and the human spirit. In light of the indissoluble character of this reciprocal divine-human relationship, Moltmann arrives at the conclusion that death should be seen as ‘a transformation of the person’s spirit, that is to say his or her Gestalt and life history; and this means the whole person. Through death, the human person is transformed from restricted life to immortal life, and from restricted existence to non-restricted existence. Death de-restricts the human being’s spirit in both time and space.’130 In this perspective of death as the transformation of the person’s spirit, the dead are not separated from God, nor are they sleeping, and they are not yet risen either; rather, they are seen as having time and space in the fellowship of Christ.131 In virtue of their fellowship with Christ, the dead are on the way towards the glory of the risen life at the end of time when this mortal life and this transient creation will enter into the eternal kingdom of God. The notion of time in the fellowship of Christ – time is here understood relationally, not chronologically, which recalls von Balthasar’s portrayal of our being drawn up into eternity by sharing in Christ’s time – is crucial to Moltmann’s reflection on death, for there can be no entering into eternal life without this mortal, fragmented, spoiled and incomplete life of ours first being put right and made whole by a process of healing anchored in the

    130   131   128 129

Ibid., p. 75. Ibid., p. 76. Ibid., pp. 76–7. Ibid., pp. 104–10.

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ineffable grace of God’s merciful love.132 The time in Christ is therefore ‘the time of love, the accepting, the transforming, the rectifying love that leads to eternal life.’133 The dead are not lost, then, but neither are they finally saved, which leads Moltmann to posit the question about ‘an ongoing history after death with our lives as we have lived them.’134 Such a history beyond death does not mean leading this life all over again or catching up with the tasks left unfulfilled in this life, but rather ‘being given the chance to become the persons God meant us to be.’135 The postulate of an ongoing history of healing and transformation after death can be seen as emerging from Moltmann’s theology of the crucified God. For if Christ has suffered the hell of God-forsakenness in a unique manner as the Son of the Father, if all human history no matter how much ‘it may be determined by guilt and death, is taken up into this “history of God”, i.e. into the Trinity’,136 and integrated into the future of that history, then there can be no question of God’s giving up anyone or anything in the world. The crucified Christ can judge, but he cannot condemn, for he has entered into our human condition in order that all that annihilates be taken up conclusively into God and God may become all in all.137 132   Moltmann is right to point out the complex nature of the human being and how there is much to put right and make whole by the power of God’s healing love, however it does not follow that a long process of healing is required beyond death before entry into eternal life can take place. The healings of Jesus are useful for illuminating this issue – all negative realities in those healed by Jesus are overcome in an instant and the suffering ones become joyous ones who are restored to wholeness of being by God’s merciful love mediated through Jesus. This suggests that rather than thinking of healing beyond death in terms of ‘process’ or ‘duration’, it is legitimate to entertain the idea of an ‘intensity’ of purgatorial purification in the encounter with the all holy God at death – the intensity varies according to the condition of the person at death. On this point, see Karl Rahner, ‘Purgatory’, Theological Investigations, vol. XIX (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1983), pp. 181–93; Hans Küng, Eternal Life: Death As a Medical, Philosophical and Theological Problem (New York: Doubleday, 1984), pp. 174–7. 133   The Coming of God, p. 106. 134   Ibid., p. 116. 135   Ibid., p. 117. 136   Moltmann, The Crucified God, p. 246. The view that all human history is taken up into the ‘history of God’ shows that Moltmann subscribes to ‘panentheism’ – all things occur in God. 137   With regard to the question of how God can suffer death so that death is taken up into the history of God, Moltmann makes a distinction between ‘death’ and ‘dying’ that leads him to affirm death in God as opposed to the death of God. Both Jesus and the Father suffer, but not in the same way: Jesus suffers the ‘dying’ in God-forsakenness but not death itself since suffering presupposes life, while the Father who abandons Jesus and delivers him up suffers the ‘death’ of the Son. Moltmann, The Crucified God, pp. 207, 243. There is a problem with this position, however, for if Jesus is God then God must be in the dying of the Son as much as God is in the experience of death by the Father. As Paul Fiddes points out, Moltmann cannot say ‘that God happens as the event of giving-up and being-

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The last word is not a word of separation and death, but a word of communion and life with God: ‘Behold, I make all things new’ (Rev 21:5).138 The theology of the cross therefore emerges in Moltmann’s writings as the true Christian foundation for the hope that all will come home to God: The Christian doctrine about the restoration of all things denies neither damnation nor hell. On the contrary: it assumes that in his suffering and dying Christ suffered the true and total hell of God-forsakenness for the reconciliation of the world, and experienced for us the true and total damnation of sin. It is precisely here that the divine reason for the reconciliation of the universe is to be found. It is not the optimistic dream of a purified humanity, it is Christ’s descent into hell that is the ground for the confidence that nothing will be lost but that everything will be brought back again and gathered into the eternal kingdom of God. The true Christian foundation for the hope of universal salvation is the theology of the cross, and the realistic consequence of the theology of the cross can only be the restoration of all things.139

On the basis of his theology of the cross, Moltmann envisages eternal life as ‘the final healing of this life into the completed wholeness for which it is destined.’140 This ongoing history of the human person after death serves to highlight the continuing identity of the person (against Jüngel) and how nothing of a person’s life is lost to God, neither the pains and sufferings of this life, nor its moments of joy and love. It is precisely the person’s real, lived history, the ambiguous and fragmented life lived in body and soul, that is the object of God’s boundless love that reconciles, saves and transfigures the human person in preparation for entry into the glory of Christ’s resurrection life in the new heaven and the new earth. With regard to the resurrection of the crucified Christ, Moltmann sees this event in terms of transformation – the bodily form of Christ was transformed by God into the form of glory (cf. Phil 3:21). From the perspective of the resurrection as the metamorphosis of the human’s lowly body to a glorious body, Moltmann rightly maintains that it is not enough just to talk about God’s ‘identification’ with the crucified Jesus and to posit the significance of Easter Sunday only as the revelation of ‘the meaning of the cross’ (cf. Jüngel and Barth).This implies that the resurrection of Christ must be recognized as pertaining to the very substance of salvation as participation in the life and glory of the Blessed Trinity. The theme of transformation, to conclude, features prominently in Moltmann’s reflections on given-up, and then propose that only the giving-up is the experience of God.’ Paul Fiddes, The Creative Suffering of God, p. 197. 138   Jürgen Moltmann, ‘The Logic of Hell’, in God Will Be All in All: The Eschatology of Jürgen Moltmann, ed. Richard Bauckham (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1999), pp. 43–7, at p. 47. 139   Moltmann, The Coming of God, p. 251. 140   Ibid., p. 71.

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the mystery of death; death is conceived as the transformation of the person’s spirit in the time of fellowship with Christ, while the hope of resurrection at the end of time is seen as the transformation of the person to the form of bodily glory. There are a number of valuable and positive points that can be readily affirmed in Moltmann’s theology. To begin with, he is to be applauded for setting the discussion of personal eschatology firmly within the framework of a universal and cosmic eschatology, which results in a dynamic picture of eschatological matters. The process of becoming the persons God intends us to be is envisaged as continuing beyond death towards the general resurrection at the end of time when the new heaven and new earth will be finally established. By having recourse to the biblical concept of Spirit, Moltmann is on firm ground when he wishes to emphasize that relationship in the Spirit is always a whole relationship that is lived before God, hence nothing of a person’s lived life can be lost to the living God – neither the psychophysical unity of the human being nor the historical-cultural situation of the person. The viewpoint expressed here, and this leads to a second important point, is very much theocentric, not anthropocentric; that is to say, the continuing existence of the person beyond death is not something we humans can claim over against death; rather, it can be affirmed only from the vantage point of the indissoluble two-way relationship existing between the Spirit of God and the human spirit, from which is deduced the immortality of the person’s lived life. The analysis offered by Moltmann is notably distinct from other analyses that have been examined in this chapter in that what is highlighted is the role played by the Spirit in this life as well as in death. The reflections of Moltmann can therefore be brought into constructive dialogue with the findings of Chapter 2 of this study where the Spirit was presented as the possibility of God, as the ecstatic gift of divine communion and as the power of resurrection life. Moltmann’s theocentric, pneumatological and christological way of thinking about the mystery of death, the notion of immortality, and the finality of eternal life, also has the considerable merit of bringing to light the weakness of the traditional logic of hell: Are we lords not only over our earthly existence, but also free to decide on our eternal destiny as well? If human freedom is regarded as reigning supreme both in this pilgrim life and in relation to our eternal destiny, and here we come to a third notable point, then Moltmann is surely right to ask whether we really have any need for God at all in such a logic. How can the gospel of Christ be ‘good news’ if human beings are free to decide on their eternal destiny and creation is not assured of arriving at its divinely intended end? The reflections of Moltmann, then, can be taken as further support for the view expounded by Rahner, von Balthasar, Barth and Jüngel, to the effect that human freedom is essentially the capacity for God and cannot, strictly speaking, become definitive unless it enters into union with God’s eternity. Moltmann himself refers to the writings of von Balthasar to make the point that Christ’s descent into hell means that he ‘disturbs the absolute solitariness for which the sinner strives’, in order that the lost sinner might be brought home

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to God.141 Unlike von Balthasar who views Christ’s solidarity with the dead as the persuasive power of God’s reconciling love, however, Moltmann avoids the language of persuasion and prefers to speak in terms of God’s definitive victory on the cross which gives us the assurance of the final restoration of all things, including Satan and the fallen angels. God’s grace in Christ, in other words, is conceived as being efficacious, rather than persuasive. As a further observation, it is worth noting how similar Moltmann’s reflection on death is to that of process theology – all finite beings remain ‘eternally present before God’ and it is on the basis of this notion that Moltmann proceeds to argue that God’s history with human beings can continue even after death. He points out that the immortality of the dialogical relationship between God and the human person is called ‘objective immortality’ by American process theology.142 This should not, however, and here a fourth significant point emerges in Moltmann’s theology, be thought of as an ‘objective registration’ of all that has been done and experienced in one’s life history, for such an idea could hardly be consoling or hopeful.143 On the basis of Alfred North Whitehead’s moving statement that God is the ‘great companion, the fellow sufferer who understands’, Moltmann argues for the need to introduce the personal dimension of God’s healing and rectifying remembrance of the person’s ‘book of life’ – this is Charles Hartshorne’s famous phrase. In other words, Moltmann is most concerned to uphold no loss of personal identity after death – ‘subjective immortality’ – as a way of resolving the problem of how God overcomes the many evils or negative realities that plague this mortal life of ours, so as to prepare the whole of our personal histories for the finality of eternal life or resurrection life. Notwithstanding Moltmann’s insistence on the need to affirm subjective immortality, it must be asked whether in the final analysis his reflections on death are intelligible inasmuch as he conceives of the enduring of personal identity neither in terms of resurrection at death or in terms of the separation of the substantial soul from the body, nor according to the idea of its preservation in the divine memory. Is it credible to hold that the person dies wholly as a psychosomatic unity, on the one hand, yet this does not amount to annihilation, on the other, since the whole person remains before God in the Spirit and enters into a process of transformation in the time of fellowship with Christ? This is the Achilles’ heel in Moltmann’s theology of death. In light of the contemporary understanding of the intimate relationship that obtains between personhood and ‘bodiliness’,144 and the prominent role that Moltmann assigns to the Spirit, it would seem more intelligible to postulate that     143   144   141

Ibid., p. 253. Ibid., p. 73. Ibid., p. 74. Chapter 2, part 2, of the present study has argued the case for the human person as an embodied existence. It is by virtue of bodiliness that the human is an exocentric being who goes out into the world of ‘otherness’ in order to establish the complex of relationships by which it grows into the world and it takes the world into itself, thereby shaping itself as 142

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the person at death is created anew in the womb of the Spirit and is transformed from a mortal physical body to an immortal spiritual body. The empirical fact that the physical body is not raised at death but remains buried in the ground does not necessarily discredit this proposition, because we must appreciate that it is the person who is raised up by God in the power of the Spirit of the Risen One.145 In some ways, Moltmann’s position reflects the views of both Oscar Cullmann and Helmut Thielicke regarding the New Testament idea of ‘being with Christ’ (Phil 1:23) beyond death.146 According to these theologians, what is with Christ is neither a particular part of the person (the immortal soul) nor the risen self (resurrection at death), but ‘I’ insofar as I am in personal fellowship with Christ. The emphasis here falls not on an intermediate ‘state’ between death and resurrection, but the indissoluble ‘relation’ that exists between the believer and Christ who has triumphed over death. Those who experience difficulty with this position point out that if continuity exists between the identity of the ‘I’ before and after death, then something of the ‘I’ must be the vehicle of this continuity, even if, following Moltmann, one wants to insist that it is by virtue of the Spirit that personal identity is not lost but remains indissolubly before God. To hold that the form in which I am to have fellowship with Christ beyond death is not a valid object of questioning is simply to make the issue unintelligible and overly abstract.147 A final question that could and should be put to Moltmann is, Is it necessary to hold that we can enter into eternal life only at the general resurrection of the dead? Moltmann is insistent that entry into eternity be seen as coinciding with the a person. The person, then, cannot be conceived apart from its bodiliness. The resurrection of Christ confirms this understanding of human personhood. 145   An increasing number of theologians today, especially Catholic ones, are subscribing to the view that the resurrection be regarded not as the raising up of our physical bodies into eternal life, but as the raising up of the whole person into the glory of the divine life. Bernard Prusak has reviewed Catholic perspectives on bodily resurrection, including those of Karl Rahner, Joseph Ratzinger, Gerald O’Collins, Gisbert Greshake and Hans Küng, and comes to the conclusion that there is a growing consensus regarding the need to view the resurrection not as the raising up of our earthly bodies but the raising up of the whole person into eternal life. Prusak proposes that ‘a particular resurrection in death’ be distinguished from ‘the general resurrection of all the dead’, which allows the notion of the intermediate state to be retained. Bernard P. Prusak, ‘Bodily Resurrection in Catholic Perspectives’, Theological Studies, 61 (2000): pp. 64–105, at p. 102. There are also Protestant theologians who hold that personal identity beyond death must involve a new, embodied form of existence, such as: Russell Aldwinckle, Death in the Secular City (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1974); J.M. Shaw, Life After Death (Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1945). 146   Oscar Cullmann, Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? (London: The Epworth Press, 1958), pp. 48–57; Helmut Thielicke, Death and Life (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), pp. 213–17. 147   Cf. Edmund Fortman, Everlasting Life: Towards a Theology of the Future Life (New York: Alba House, 1986), p. 121.

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end of time when God will become all in all, but what happens if death is thought of as the entry of my time into the time of Christ in whose person the end of time is proleptically realized? In other words, if in the person of Christ time and eternity have come together in an indissoluble unity so that each human life-time is assumed into Christ’s time, then does this not suggest that the ‘time of fellowship with Christ’ is already an entry into the eternity of the Risen One, in which case the notion of resurrection at death should be adopted or at least considered?148 This does not necessarily mean that at death personal identity will be fully completed – as indicated by the idea of the general resurrection of the dead when cosmic time will enter into Christ’s time – however the question does serve to disclose an apparent difficulty with the notion of having time and space in the fellowship of Christ in the lead up to entering into the finality of eternal life. Bringing together the strengths of the various theologies of death At the beginning of this chapter it was stated that one of the main purposes of the critical reviews to be undertaken is to determine whether there are any perspectives on death in contemporary theology that serve to counterbalance the traditional negative view of death as the end of this pilgrim life and as the wages of sin. It has become apparent from the analyses conducted that a common feature of all the theological writings examined is that the mystery of death is portrayed as having a decidedly positive character in virtue of the fact that our death has been assumed by the redemptive death of the Lord Jesus Christ who has transformed death into new life. We have seen that this fundamental point is expressed in a particular way by each of the theologians reviewed: Rahner speaks about the emptiness of death as having been transformed into the plenitude of eternal life; von Balthasar asserts that the Son’s ‘going to the dead’ means that death has a changed value because we are ontologically transferred from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of the Son; Barth is keen to stress that death is merely the ‘sign’ of God’s judgement on sin, and that we have been predestined to the blessedness of fellowship with God who is the One who loves in freedom; Jüngel stresses that in light of God’s identification with the crucified Jesus, death is no longer foreign to God’s own being, so that God now creates new relations in the midst of the relationlessness of death; and Moltmann regards death as the transformation of a person’s spirit, as having time and space in the fellowship of Christ, which is a profoundly healing 148   Tibor Horvath, it is worth noting, portrays the Incarnation as the eschatological union of time and eternity. In Christ, time became the revelation of eternity and eternity is revealed as the origin and end of time, that is, as the meaning of time. At death my time enters into Christ’s time, which means that my future is not determined by my past actions but by the past history of Christ who bestows God’s eternity upon me – this amounts to a theory of resurrection at death. Tibor Horvath, Eternity and Eternal Life: Speculative Theology and Science in Discourse (Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University, 1993), pp. 65–80.

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process that is necessary for entry into the completed wholeness of resurrection life. What has also become apparent in this chapter is that all the theologians discussed share the view that the humanity of Christ is ontologically definitive for the whole of humankind, and that therefore the first ontological reality into which the human being is born is not the reality of sin, but rather our being predestined, according to God’s eternal designs, to enjoy the blessedness of fellowship or ecstatic union with God as our final end. The upshot of this consensus view is that eternal life now tends to be thought of as the gift of new life out of the abyss of death, that is, as the coming to be of the qualitatively new, of the bringing into being that which does not yet exist. The notion of creatio ex creatione – God’s further acts of creation from the previously existing reality – seems most appropriate for capturing this positive character of our death as a dying into the crucified Christ with whom God has identified himself, for the sake of the victory of life over non-being. A discernible difference between Catholic and Protestant thought on death, however, is that the former tends to place the emphasis on the role of human freedom in accepting God’s salvation in Christ – the stress tends to be placed on subjective redemption – while the latter invariably highlights the primacy of God’s sovereign freedom in the Christ-event so that sinners are made or declared righteous by the super abundance of grace and therefore destined to blessed fellowship with God as their final end – the emphasis falls on objective redemption. These two different emphases should not, of course, be seen as opposed to one another, for clearly one cannot be thought apart from the other. Salvation in Christ is unconditionally offered by God as an objective reality, yet salvation is addressed to the human subject as the recipient of God’s gift of merciful love which makes all things new. The fundamental issue that needs to be addressed here is the manner in which the relationship between objective and subjective redemption is conceived. The following concluding statements of the critical reviews conducted above are to be taken as indicators of the present study’s position in respect of this fundamental issue. At the same time, the statements serve to identify what are considered to be integral or constitutive elements of an adequately formulated theology of death informed by the concrete event of Jesus Christ. 1. The writings of Barth, Jüngel and Moltmann, as well as von Balthasar, all expound the soteriological import of Christ’s passion in terms of the model of substitution (in our place), which leads them to affirm the exclusive and objective character of his atoning death – the Crucified One does something for us that we are incapable of doing ourselves, thus he is our Saviour in whom all things are made new.149 The emphasis in this 149   The element of substitution corresponds to the second pole of the interpretation of Jesus’ cry on the cross which was treated in Chapter 1 of this book, namely, Jesus’s identification with the concrete human condition – on the cross Jesus has assumed the

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model is placed not on human freedom and activity – against Rahner and much contemporary Catholic thought – as deciding the outcome of one’s eternal validity before God, but God’s sovereign freedom in Christ as the last word which efficaciously secures the ontological formation of a sinful, fragmented and incomplete humanity destined from eternity to partake of the glory of God. 2. While the model of substitution serves to highlight God’s sovereign freedom in sending the eternal Son into the far country for our sake, the works of Barth, Jüngel, Moltmann and von Balthasar also endorse the notion of the Son’s representation (on our behalf) of sinners before the Father, for the life of faith is regarded as a real participation in the Son’s atoning death, a participation that brings the joy and peace of fellowship or communion with God.150 The notion of participation makes plain the inclusive and subjective dimension of the Son’s atoning death, and how human freedom attains to its true goal of love of God by the unbounded grace of God’s merciful love bestowed upon sinners. 3. In respect of the fundamental issue of the limits and nature of human freedom, a consistent theme running through all the works examined is that human freedom is essentially the capacity for God and thus can only become definitive by saying yes to God’s grace in Christ who is the measure of the human. The certainty with which God’s grace will convert the hearts of even hardened sinners varies, though, amongst the works considered. Rahner asserts that in death, conceived as a personal act, human freedom becomes definitive, yet at the same time he seems to leave the final say to God’s final judgement when all things will be fully consummated; von Balthasar speaks of the ‘persuasive’ power of God’s grace made manifest in the weakness of Christ who descends into hell and is in solidarity with those who reject all solidarity; while Moltmann, as well as Barth and Jüngel, prefer to use more confident language to underline the ‘efficacious’ nature of the grace of Christ in whom humanity is ontologically defined and destined to blessedness. 4. All the theologians reviewed are keen to paint a picture of a dynamic God, that is, a God of event and becoming, a tripersonal God of ineffable love human condition of estrangement from God of which the cross is the consummate sign. This element indicates that Jesus dies at the hands of God, not only at the hands of a sinful world. 150   The element of representation corresponds to the first pole of the interpretation of Jesus’ cry on the cross offered in Chapter 1 above, namely, Jesus’ perfect unity with the Father in unfathomable love – Jesus dies at the hands of a sinful world, yet by loving his enemies all the way to the cross, he becomes their representative before the Father and the bearer of their true identity as created imago Dei. The second pole, it was argued, is contained within this first pole, that is, Jesus’ love for us sinners arises out of his love for the Father with whom he is conscious of having a unique filial relationship.

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who is made known to us in the sphere of temporality and history, which is the place of suffering, injustice, sin and death. In light of the concrete ‘event’ of Jesus Christ, the traditional doctrine of divine immutability and impassibility must be rethought so as to accommodate the authentic humanity and real history of the Son, which is God’s very own history. The theologians reviewed differ, however, with respect to the degree or extent to which the doctrine of divine immutablity and impassibility needs to be reformulated. Rahner and Barth, for example, have no qualms about affirming the suffering of God in the passion of Christ, although it seems that God does not suffer in himself but only in what is other than himself. Moltmann goes further because of his adoption of ‘panentheism’ and asserts the need to affirm death in God as the only way to put death to death (cf. Heb 2:14). And it is clear that von Balthasar and Jüngel push even further for they deem it necessary to talk of the death of God who identifies with the crucified and dead Christ for the sake of the formation of being out of the abyss of non-being. Even here, though, the positions are not exactly the same, for von Balthasar attributes suffering and death to God not univocally, but in a qualified, analogical sense, whereas Jüngel adopts a more radical view when he says that God is more like us than unlike us, while still remaining God in the ‘concrete difference’ between humanity and divinity. 5. Jüngel’s assertion that God creates new relations in the midst of death, which can readily be set in relation to von Balthasar’s notion of the Son’s utter solidarity with the dead in his going to the dead on Holy Saturday, has special significance for a theology of death conceived as a dying into the Dead One in whom the opposites of being in the world have been overcome. The union of death and life in the person of the Son compels us to think of ‘new life’ as life out of the abyss of death – God is the One who ‘gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist’ (Rom 4:17). The situation of our own death, as a dying into the Dead One, should therefore be acknowledged as the privileged locus for the bestowing of God’s eschatological salvation and thus being created anew in the womb of the life-giving Spirit who is the possibility of God. On this view, death emerges as the sacramental situation par excellence. 6. Every human life-time, as Moltmann stresses, remains indissolubly before God in the Spirit, thus nothing of a person’s life is lost to God, although a process of reconciliation, healing and transformation is required for corrupted human life to be elevated to the completed wholeness for which God has determined it according to the eternal covenant of grace. This emphasis in Moltmann’s work meshes particularly well with the idea of creatio ex creatione – God creates out of the pre-existing reality – and the series of arguments presented in Chapter 2 of the present study. God, in Christ, takes the whole of our lives as we have lived them and makes all things new in the power of the Spirit who is the possibility of God in the

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divine economy, which is directed toward the bestowing of the ecstatic gift of divine communion as the ultimate end of humanity and the world. 7. All the theologians reviewed acknowledge the fact that the reality of eschatological salvation in the person of Christ is a complex reality made up of interrelated dimensions that are integral to the formation of human being. We have seen that death is not simply a natural happening but is also the sign of divine judgement on sin – although Rahner differs from the others in that he does not conceive of Christ as having suffered the second death for our sake – so that it takes on an integral character as having physical, moral and eschatological dimensions. In respect of final salvation conceived as the conquest of integral death, it therefore follows that we need to speak of salvation in Christ as having an integral character because made up of interrelated physical, moral and eschatological dimensions in the formation of human being to blessed communion and union with the tripersonal God. The intention of the following final chapter of this study is to elaborate further on how integral salvation in Christ, and thus the relationship between objective and subjective salvation, is to be conceived in the situation of our death as a dying into the Lord who has transformed death into life eternal. As a final concluding statement, it is apparent that all the theologians reviewed in this chapter adopt a dynamic view of the Incarnation as gradually unfolding in the concrete context of Jesus’ life and ministry, so that the truly historical dimension of the Incarnation is acknowledged and complements the ontological aspect of Jesus as the incarnate Word of God. Differences emerge, though, with respect to what is highlighted and the point at which the Incarnation is regarded as reaching its climax and completion. Rahner, given his transcendental theology of freedom, places the emphasis on the active consummation of Jesus’ freedom in his ‘yes’ to the Father’s will that he undergo death (as such).151 Barth and Jüngel regard the Incarnation as coming to completion on the cross where the Son vicariously suffers the second death in our place. Moltmann and von Balthasar also hold that the Son suffers the hell of God-forsakenness pro nobis, but they see the resurrection of the Dead One as the fulfilment of the Incarnation. What the human is to become is revealed by the Son’s going to the Father when his lowly body was transformed into a glorious body. The resurrection of Christ as the fulfilment of the Incarnation was argued for in the first two chapters of the present study where the works of F.W. Durrwell 151   Rahner, though, in a different context, does seem to indirectly acknowledge that the Incarnation reaches its zenith in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead when he says that the latter is what opens up the ‘new spatiality’ of heaven understood as the full flowering of the process of ‘divinization.’ See his essay, ‘The Interpretation of the Dogma of the Assumption’, Theological Investigations, vol. I (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1961), pp. 215–27, at p. 222.

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and Yves Congar were cited as key sources of this position. The understanding that Jesus becomes the Son of God in a new way in his resurrection from the dead (cf. Acts 2:36), that it is in the risen Son that the whole fullness of divinity dwells bodily (cf. Col 2:9) so that the ‘admirable exchange’ of natures in his person is completed in his passing from the abyss of death to the glory of the Father, has implications for the development of a theology of death. The task of the following chapter will be to illustrate the import of such thinking for the formulation of a theology of death, building upon the positive elements identified from the analyses conducted in this chapter.

Chapter 4

Death as Sharing in the Admirable Exchange of Natures in the Person of Jesus Christ One of the most fundamental propositions to emerge from this study is that since the humanity of Christ is ontologically definitive for humanity and the world as a whole, the primary ontological reality into which the human is born is not sin and death, but being created to behold the glory of God, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. During the patristic period the notion of admirable exchange of natures in the person of Jesus Christ was commonly employed to convey the essence of the Christian faith as a gratuitous partaking of the divine nature (cf. 2 Pet 1:4).1 This guiding principle of the ‘divinization’ (theosis) of human nature in the person of Christ, though, is looked upon with suspicion by some Christians, especially those belonging to the Reformed tradition who maintain that talk of divinization suggests that human nature actually becomes divine nature, that the two radically distinct orders of the Creator and the creature are mixed and become confused. In the person of Jesus Christ, God became human, but the human did not become God! This fundamental point is perfectly valid and must be defended, of course, and those who employ the key principle of divinization in their theological reflections on the Christian faith are committed to upholding the radically distinct – but not separate – orders of divinity and humanity. In order to avoid unnecessary confusion and muddying of the waters, it is helpful to regard the divinization theme as another way of expressing the doctrine of our being created imago Dei. The image of God attains to perfect likeness to God 1   Examples from the writings of the Fathers that express this wondrous exchange are as follows: ‘He gave his soul for our soul, his flesh for our flesh, pouring out the Spirit of the Father in order to achieve union and communion between God and man’ (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. V, I, I); ‘All men were condemned to death; but he, the Innocent One, surrendered his body to death for all; thus all men, being dead through him … should be freed from sin and the curse and be raised from the dead’ (Athanasius, C. Arian I, 69); ‘The Word became flesh so that, through the incarnate Word, flesh should become one with God the Word’ (Hilary, De Trin. I, 11); ‘Thus he who, according to the Apostle’s word, knew no sin became sin for us, freeing us from the curse by taking our curse upon himself … taking the enmity on himself and killing it in his own person … so reuniting humanity with God’ (Gregory of Nyssa, C. Eunom. III, 10); and Gregory of Nazianzen says that Christ ‘bears me, in my entirety, with all my misery, within himself. So he eliminates in himself the evil, as fire melts and consumes wax’ (Or. 30:6). For a more extensive list, see Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama: Theological Dramatic Theory, vol. III, The Dramatis Personae: The Person in Christ (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1992), pp. 237–45.

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by our humanity being ‘assumed’ by the person of Christ, the archetypal Image of God, so that the purpose and meaning of the Incarnation has been traditionally portrayed as ‘the transcendent, inner elevation of the image.’2 What the language of participation in the divine nature is meant to express is the perfection of human nature by virtue of its being elevated to ‘union’ with God – once this is appreciated then some common ground is established with the Reformed emphasis on the elevation of sinful humanity to the peace and blessedness of ‘fellowship’ with God.3 Barth, for instance, acknowledges an ‘exchange’ in respect of the Christ-event on the basis of the biblical text 2 Corinthians 5:21, but this is portrayed in terms of the ‘reconciliation’ of sinners to God that has taken place in the single action of the ‘going out of God’ – humiliation of the Son of God – which aims at the ‘coming in of man’ – exaltation of the Son of Man.4 With regard to the biblical text 2 Peter 1:4 cited earlier, Barth interprets this text as meaning that human nature has been exalted to ‘fellowship’ with the divine nature.5 Any mention of ‘partaking’ of the divine nature is avoided because such language expresses the participation of the human in the divine nature, whereas Barth wants to stress the opposite, that is, the participation of the divine in the human nature – humiliation of the Son of God – for the sake of the exaltation of sinful humanity to fellowship with God. We shall return to this issue later in the context of the discussion of Barth’s understanding of the ‘mutual participation’ of the two natures in the person of Jesus Christ. A classical expression of the exchange principle in the patristic period is to be found in the writings of Irenaeus of Lyons who expressed it in the following way: ‘The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.’6 Jesus Christ, as the Word, is divine by nature, and he freely assumes a human body and rational soul so that God’s salvation might be bestowed upon the whole of human nature by its partaking of the divine nature, by grace. This recapitulation of all things in Jesus Christ, moreover, is portrayed by Irenaeus in strictly trinitarian terms: ‘One God formed all things in the world, by means of the Word and the   Balthasar, Theo-Drama, vol. III, p. 223.   John Zizioulas explains that the term ‘theosis’ must not be understood as the

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human nature ceasing to be what it really is and becoming a divine nature. The difference between the two natures is upheld, but ‘theosis’ stresses that the difference is not division, for the human becomes truly human only in relation to God, only if the human is united with the divine. ‘Theosis’ attains its true meaning from the perspective of ‘personhood.’ J.D. Zizioulas, ‘Human Capacity and Incapacity: A Theological Exploration of Personhood’, Scottish Journal of Theology, 28/5 (1975): pp. 401–47, at p. 440. 4   Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, tr. G.W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1958), p. 21. 5   Ibid., p. 103. 6   Against Heresies, Book V, Preface. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1987).

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Holy Spirit.’7 The Word and the Holy Spirit are seen by Irenaeus as the ‘two hands’ of God that are working together to bring to fruition the divine intention for humanity and the world. The notion of exchange of natures in Jesus Christ was consistently taught by the Fathers because it was seen as a principal idea that is able to effectively convey the essence of the mystery of the Incarnation, at the heart of which lies the twofold movement of the divine exitus or condescension into the non-divine other – from above to below – and the reditus or elevation of humanity and the world to ecstatic union with God – from below to above. The expression admirabile commercium (admirable exchange) first appeared in the fifth century to convey the wondrous character of the event of the Incarnation of the eternal Son, pro nobis.8 A key question, however, that goes to the core of how one understands the admirable exchange is: At what stage of the Incarnation is the admirable exchange completed? Much of traditional Christology tended to view the Incarnation as a divine act consummated at the moment of Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb. A major problem with this teaching is that it simply fails to do full justice to the authentic humanity of Christ and his truly historical life.9 Modern thinkers tend to recognize, on the other hand, that the uniqueness and identity of a person is established by the particular character and unity of a whole life-history that is made up of the length of one’s life (person as agent), the breadth of one’s relationships (person as relation) and the depth of one’s self-consciousness (person as subject). The acknowledgement of the person as a complex reality gives rise to reflection on the Incarnation as a process continuing through Jesus’ life and mission which culminates in his paschal mystery. In modern theology, I.A. Dorner, who opposed the Kenotic theories of the nineteenth century, should be singled out as one who sought to do full justice to the humanity of Christ by proposing a theory of a gradual   Ibid., Book IV, ch. XX.   Balthasar notes that the expression admirabile commercium comes from an antiphon

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of the Roman liturgy of Christmas of the fifth century. It sums up the consistent teaching of the Fathers, but ‘seems to be more directly influenced by the Council of Ephesus.’ Theo-Drama, vol. III, p. 237, n. 24. 9   Non-historical theology is characteristic even of Thomas Aquinas who held that Christ possessed everything from the time of his conception. What the Gospel story reports as significant events in Jesus’ life, such as his baptism where the Spirit descended upon him as Christ the Saviour, Aquinas interpreted as simply a manifestation for others of a reality that is already there in its fullness. See Yves Congar, I Believe in the Holy Spirit, vol. III, The River of Life Flows in the East and in the West (New York: Seabury, 1983), p. 166. This tendency in Scholastic theology to negate the truly historical dimension of Jesus’ life and mission is also discernible in the Catechism of the Catholic Church when it teaches, in relation to the conception of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit from the very beginning of his life, ‘though the manifestation of this fact takes place only progressively: to the shepherds, to the magi, to John the Baptist, to the disciples.’ Catechism of the Catholic Church (Sydney: St Pauls Publications, 2nd edn, 2000), #486. Emphasis added.

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or progressive Incarnation. Dorner attempted to conceive of the Incarnation as ever-growing in that ‘God as the Logos continually grasps and appropriates each new aspect that emerges from true human development, just as conversely the growing real receptivity of the humanity consciously and voluntarily unites with ever new aspects of the Logos.’10 In this perspective, the Incarnation is completed in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.11 The systematic development of the argument presented in the present study certainly supports the view that the mystery of the Incarnation should be treated as a genuinely historical process in time and space which does full justice to the humanity of Jesus (cf. Chapter 1), so that it is simply not plausible or credible to conceive of the Incarnation as complete at the moment of Jesus’ conception. At the same time, however, this study has sought not only to bring the traditional ontological emphasis of the Incarnation into relation with the truly historical character of this event, it has also argued strongly for the need to recognize the pneumatological dimension of the christological mystery (cf. Chapter 2), with the result that the Trinity becomes the framework for christological reflection. Given that everything has its origin from the Father, proceeds through the Son, and is perfected in the Spirit, significant consequences follow for the manner in which the divinity of Jesus and the perfection of his humanity are conceived, and whether specific or proper roles can be assigned to each of the divine persons within the unified actions of the Trinity ad extra. In light of the centrality accorded to the principle of admirable exchange of natures in the person of Christ in the present work, the first section of this chapter will treat the basic issue of how the terms ‘divine nature’ and ‘human nature’ are to be understood in the mystery of the hypostatic union, and will highlight the need to acknowledge that the ‘person’ of Christ is irreducible to either his divine or human ‘nature.’ The second part will then critically discuss the complex doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum with the intention of affirming the validity of Pope 10   I.A. Dorner, Christian Doctrine, vol. II/I, p. 328. Cited by Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man (London: SCM Press, 1968), p. 304. Hans Urs von Balthasar is also keen to emphasize the different stages of our Lord’s life – childhood, youth and adulthood – as the stages by which the Word entered fully into time; this process of the Word’s self-emptying in time reaches its zenith in the Word’s going to the dead where he is reduced to silence yet remains the expressive word of the Father’s love poured out to the end, for our sake. 11   Pannenberg cites a number of patristic theologians who challenged the incarnational doctrine about the consummation of the Incarnation at the moment of Jesus’ conception, by arguing that it is only from the vantage point of the resurrection of Jesus that the full union between the two natures in his person can be affirmed and recognized. These include: Athanasius, Hilary, Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, Severus of Antioch and even Theodore of Mopsuestia. Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man, p. 305. Amongst the contemporary theologians examined in this study, Hans Urs von Balthasar in particular views the resurrection of Jesus as the fulfilment of the Incarnation – the twofold movement of descending and ascending is completed in the Son’s going to the Father.

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Leo’s Tome (449) to Flavian of Constantinople, which was highly influential at the General Council of Chalcedon (451). A basic difficulty with the Chalcedonian definition of faith will also be highlighted, however, which will involve critical engagement with the Lutheran doctrine of the communication of properties. The third section will then seek to expound the integral character of salvation according to the complex picture of the person as agent, as relation, and as subject. These three concepts of person will be treated as three integral dimensions of personal identity; that is, the continuity of the person will be portrayed as having to do with the length of one’s history (person as agent), the breadth of one’s relationships (person as relation) and the depth of one’s self-reflection (person as subject).12 Personal continuity will not therefore be regarded as a single line, but as a convergence of lines that reflects the complex reality of personal being in this world of ours. It will be proposed, furthermore, that the three integral aspects of personal identity can intelligibly be set in relation to the integral character of salvation in the person of Christ; namely, the person as agent corresponds to the physical aspect of salvation (regeneration), the person as relation highlights the moral aspect (justification) and the person as subject points to the eschatological aspect (sanctification) of salvation in the Risen One. In the fourth and final section of this chapter, the discussion will underscore the need to avoid thinking of the threefold character of salvation in the Risen One in a sequential manner where one dimension logically follows the other; rather, all three are to be regarded as integral to the complex ‘event’ of death as a dying into the Lord Jesus Christ and being drawn up into the admirable exchange of natures in his person, and thus divinized. The ecological model of evolutionary biology, the complex notion of Hegelian ‘moments’ and contemporary hermeneutical theory will all be employed in an endeavour to shed light upon the manner in which the salvific and transformative character of death, as well as the relation of human freedom to divine freedom, should be thought. The mystery of the hypostatic union: the fullness of divinity dwells bodily in the man Jesus The term ‘nature’ in the affirmation of Jesus’ double consubstantiality with the Father and with humanity should be understood in the manner expounded in the first chapter of this study. It is a mistake to interpret the double homoousion as the attribution of two separate and inert natures to the man Jesus, for this suggests two persons (Nestorianism) rather than one person in two natures. It also effectively results in the man Jesus being separated from the rest of humanity, because when Jesus performs divine acts he does so according to his divine nature, not his human 12   See the discussion of personal identity by Robert A. Krieg, Story-Shaped Christology (New York, Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1988), pp. 9–14.

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nature, whereas we should say that since he is one person, when he performs divine acts he does so as one who is truly and fully human. The ‘I’ of Jesus, it has been argued, is a responsive identity which is constituted by the Father’s address to him, communicated in the Spirit, and by the perfection of his response to the ‘You’ whom he calls Father, so that the man Jesus really lets God be God. The divinity of Jesus therefore emerges as a modus of being-related to the Father in unfathomable love, which actually opens his person to ready encounter with others, to the exclusion of none. It is precisely in his being totally open to ready encounter with others that the inner quality of Jesus’ true humanity becomes apparent, so that the proclamation of his uniqueness does not alienate us from his person but effectively relates the man Jesus to us. Once we appreciate that Jesus’ identity is essentially a responsive identity in relation to the Father, and that the second consubstantiality (Jesus’ identification with the human condition) enters into the definition of the first consubstantiality (Jesus’ total surrender to the Father in unfathomable love) then the double consubstantiality can no longer be viewed as two separate, inert natures attributed to the person of Jesus Christ. In this relational perspective, human nature is not a closed system, it is not conceived in static terms but in dynamic terms as openness to the transcendent Other towards whom the human is radically orientated. The more the transcendent God draws near to us and becomes immanent in our lives, the more human we actually become and the more we open ourselves to ready encounter with others. As receptivity to God who is both the source and the term of active self-transcendence, human nature is not a definitively known quantity but an unfolding or emerging reality that refers to something beyond itself. Karl Rahner expresses this basic point especially well in the following way: Man is therefore mystery in his essence, his nature. He is not in himself the infinite fullness of the mystery which concerns him, for that fullness is inexhaustible, and the primordial form of all that is mystery to us. But he is mystery in his real being and its ultimate reason, in his nature, which is the humble, conscious state of being referred to the fullness, the form of the mystery which we ourselves are. When we have said everything about ourselves that can be described and defined, we have still said nothing about ourselves, unless we have included or implied the fact that we are beings who are referred to the incomprehensible God … the transcendence which we are and which we accomplish brings our existence and God’s existence together: and both as mystery.13

That the human is essentially a being who is ‘referred to the incomprehensible God’ implies that the human is indefinable. Barth says something very similar to Rahner when he warns that by the term human nature is not meant a knowable 13   Karl Rahner, ‘On the Theology of the Incarnation’, Theological Investigations, vol. IV, tr. Kevin Smyth (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1966), pp. 105–20, at p. 108. Emphasis added.

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essence of the human according to ‘a general anthropology.’14 The natural sciences do provide us with valuable information about humankind, thus to some extent the human is definable, but ultimately what the human being is can be stated only by referring to what really concerns it; namely, God as the mystery of the world and the ontological fulfilment of creaturely existence. If the human is essentially the ‘event’ of God’s self-communication in grace,15 then what it means to say that the eternally begotten Son assumes a human nature in the man Jesus becomes intelligible. By virtue of the person of the Son assuming the indefinable nature of the human as his very own reality, human nature has arrived at the very point toward which it is has been predestined by God – this omega point has to do with a qualitatively higher nature inasmuch as it represents the ‘divinization’ of human nature, that is, the elevation of the human to ecstatic ‘union’ with God. To Rahner’s mind, the truly distinctive and unique thing about the event of the Incarnation is that it is ‘the highest instance of the actualization of the essence of human reality.’16 It is important to note how Rahner has in view human essence, so that, once again, it is clear that talk of the ‘divinization’ of the essence of human reality is intended to express its elevation to a qualitatively higher level in communion with the divine, and thus its ontological perfection. This is parallel to the view expressed by Barth when he talks of the exaltation of the Son of Man as the history of the placing of guilty humanity on a qualitatively ‘higher level’ of peace and fellowship with God.17 For both Rahner and Barth, the event of Jesus Christ is the highest and perfect actualization of the essence of humanity in its inviolable relationship to the living God. The strength of Rahner’s position is that he is able to establish Christ’s true humanity on the basis of his free and total self-surrender to the incomprehensible mystery of God, and, at the same time, he is able to affirm the true divinity of Christ in virtue of his total receptivity to God which allows God to be God, so that the person of Christ is God’s unsurpassable self-communication in history. In other words, the true humanity of Christ mediates or reveals the nature of God himself – Barth and Jüngel say the same thing when they speak of Christ’s humanity as the humanity of God – so that the two natures must not be treated as two separate, inert natures, but as intimately intertwined and perfectly in union with one another in the concrete person of Christ, the Son of God. The two natures are radically

  Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 26.   Karl Rahner, Foundations of Christian Faith, tr. W.V. Dych (New York: Crossroad,

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1978), pp. 116–37. 16   Ibid., p. 218. 17   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 28. Barth has in view not only the perfect actualization of human essence in the person of Jesus Christ, but also the new actualization of the divine essence, which leads him to speak of the ‘common actualization’ of divine and human essence in the event of Jesus Christ. Rahner also affirms the actualization of both natures in the person of Jesus Christ, though, as the following paragraph makes clear.

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distinct, to be sure, but not separate, and they are both indefinable and dynamic in character, not definable and static. A further positive feature of Rahner’s understanding of the Incarnation of the Son, which recalls the position of Barth discussed in Chapter 1 of the present work, is that the self-emptying of God in the event of the Incarnation is not considered in terms of surrendered divine attributes or the retraction of God, but rather as an expression of the fullness of the being of God who is freely committed to ‘coming to be’ in the non-divine other. On this view of the Incarnation, there can be no discrepancy or disjunction between God’s being and God’s act, and Barth’s description of God as the One who loves in freedom would be welcomed by Rahner as appropriate and apt.18 The divine nature is not regarded by either Rahner or Barth in static impersonal terms along the lines of classical Greek philosophy, but in dynamic personal terms as revealed in the divine economy – the divine nature is simply grace, that is, pure unmerited giving of the divine being, as life and love and freedom, to the non-divine other. That Barth allows his understanding of the divine nature to be wholly informed by the historical event of Jesus Christ is clear from the following citation: What is, then, the divine essence? It is the free love, the omnipotent mercy, the holy patience of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit … What does it mean that ‘God was in Christ’ (2 Cor 5:19)? It obviously means that all that God is … is characterized by the fact that He is everything divine, not for Himself only, but also, in His Son, for the sake of man and for him. Col 2:9 tells us: ‘In him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily.’ Therefore the sovereignty of God dwells in His creaturely dependence as the Son of Man, the eternity of God in His temporal uniqueness, the omnipresence of God in His spatial limitation, the omnipotence of God in His weakness, the glory of God in His passibility and mortality, the holiness and righteousness of God in His adamic bondage and fleshliness – in short, the unity and totality of the divine which is His own original essence in His humanity.19

For Barth, God is the One who loves in freedom from all eternity, and the citation, which is taken from Barth’s discussion of the communicatio gratiarum, makes clear that there can be no retraction of certain properties of God in the event of Jesus Christ – that all the fullness of the deity dwells bodily in Jesus Christ means that the totality of the divine confronts the human in the one Jesus Christ, and in this way human nature is perfected, that is, exalted to blessed fellowship or union with God. It simply makes little or no sense to separate off some divine properties   While one may have legitimate reservations about fully accepting Rahner’s axiom that the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, and vice versa, the axiom nonetheless does serve to underline the fundamental point that no discrepancy exists between God’s being and God’s act. 19   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 86. 18

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from others, for it must be borne in mind that the properties belong to the one divine essence that confronts human essence in the person of Jesus Christ. In a manner similar to Rahner’s thought, Barth conceives the essence of the human as being addressed by the electing grace of God who is the source and term of fleshly existence. In respect of the event of the Word become flesh, of the Son of God existing as the Son of Man, the above understanding enables us to see Jesus Christ as our Brother – his essence is the same as our Adamic flesh for he is genuinely human. Yet, since it is only as the Son of God that he exists as human, this (ontological) fact distinguishes him qualitatively (in kind) as well as quantitatively (in degree) from us.20 In light of his origin and the grace addressed to his human essence, Jesus Christ was able to live his humanity in genuine human freedom; that is to say, he lived in freedom from sin so that what comes to human essence in his person is the exaltation to fellowship with the Father. Yet this sinlessness of Jesus Christ must not be understood in a manner that separates him from the rest of humankind, inasmuch as he does not appear to share in our fleshly weakness and to be burdened with our daily temptations, tribulations and sufferings.21 On the contrary, the life of Jesus Christ, which is characterized by perfect obedience to the Father, necessarily implies a life of suffering. ‘He suffered from the repeated assaults of Satan, from the hatred and unbelief of His own people, and from the persecution of His enemies. Since He trod the wine-press alone, His holiness must have been oppressive, and His sense of responsibility, crushing.’22 The communication of grace addressed to the human essence of Jesus Christ, which enables him to be the Sinless One, involves not an alteration of his humanity, but rather the perfection of his humanity, that is, the elevation of humanity to a qualitatively higher level. What we are required to recognize in the event of the Word become flesh is the divine in the human, that the totality of divinity dwells bodily in the man Jesus Christ (Col 2:9) so that there can be no question of a retraction or surrendering of the divine properties in the event of the Incarnation.23

  Ibid., p. 95.   Barth is at pains to stress the importance of acknowledging the fact that Jesus

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shares in the limitations and weakness of the flesh – in order for Jesus to be our ‘Brother’ he must be in ‘solidarity’ with us in our lostness. Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 92. Before the event of Jesus Christ can be a real participation of the Son of Man in divine essence, we must admit the real participation of the Son of God in human essence. Ibid., pp. 73–5. The conception of a God whose Godhead is unaffected by its union with humanity is, says Barth, simply ‘unchristian.’ Ibid., p. 85. 22   Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1958), p. 337. 23   This view is consistent with the understanding of the Incarnation as self-emptying (exinanitio) that we find in Leo’s Tome (449). According to Leo, ‘self-emptying’ describes the eternal Son’s having descended from his throne in heaven, but this event of condescension

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All this is well and good, however an apparent weakness in Barth’s thought is that he views the resurrection of Jesus Christ in purely revelatory terms, in which case the resurrection does not enter into the very substance of God’s salvation in his person. The relevance of the appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples ‘is to be found always in the demonstration of His identity with the One who had lived and taught and acted and gone to His death.’24 The resurrection, according to Barth, is the event that makes it possible for us to recognize that the history of the man Jesus, which terminated with his crucifixion, is the history of the reconciliation of the world with God, thus he is critical of those who lay too much emphasis on the glorified body of Jesus as the new creation.25 At this point this study parts company with Barth, for it has consistently argued that salvation is completed in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, where God causes the fullness of divinity to dwell in his risen body as the climactic point of the Incarnation. It is legitimate to say, with Barth, that the totality of divinity dwells bodily in the pre-Easter Jesus insofar as Jesus is the incarnate Son of God who carries out his mission to Israel in perfect obedience to the Father’s will, all the way to accepting death on a cross and enduring the punishment of hell in our place. However, inasmuch as the post-Easter Jesus represents a transformed mode of bodily existence in which the effectiveness of the Spirit in the man Jesus is actuated in a new way – his physical body is transformed into a glorious body – it stands to reason that God causes the fullness of divinity to dwell in his risen body and the resurrection enters into the very substance of salvation as a sharing in the life and glory of God. This implies that the work of justification should not be restricted to the Son on the cross, but also involves the proper role of the Spirit as the Gift of ecstatic divine communion and the power of resurrection life (cf. Rom 4:25). As was argued in Chapter 2 above, only with the Son’s passover from death to the Father, which takes place through the ‘eternal Spirit’ (Heb 9:14), is the eternal begetting of the Son in the does not amount to a surrender of his Father’s glory. See, for instance, J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 4th edn (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1968), p. 337. 24   Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 145. 25   In the traditional Reformed perspective, grace is seen primarily as a restoration of the native powers that were lost by Adam’s sin; grace is a remedy for sinful human nature and not a supernatural elevation of the human to union with God. Talk of the glorified body of Christ as the new creation suggests the elevating of humanity to a qualitatively higher nature. While Barth does not subscribe to the traditional Reformed view that human nature was radically altered by Adam’s sin – Barth contends that there never was a ‘golden age’ of original justice – nonetheless he is focused on the reconciliation of sinners to God wrought by Christ’s atoning death. Grace does not alter human nature but perfects it by bringing it into blessed fellowship with God. For Barth, grace is not principally restorative (traditional Reformed view) or elevating (traditional Catholic view) but perfecting – through grace the human becomes what it essentially is, that is, loved by God from all eternity and called to be God’s partner. Hence Barth contends that the resurrection of Christ is to be interpreted in purely revelatory terms, that is, the history of the Crucified One is revealed to be the history of the reconciliation of sinners to an all-merciful God who is life, love and freedom.

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Spirit fully ‘accomplished’ within creation, so that the Risen One is to be seen as a new creation and the end-point of the wondrous or admirable exchange of natures in his person. The theology of von Balthasar is another valuable source for highlighting the dynamic and personal attributes of God’s essence as unfathomable love and freedom. Like Barth, von Balthasar is averse to adopting an abstract philosophical system and then applying it to the New Testament. What is disclosed to us in the person of Jesus Christ is the sheer splendour of divine love and this is revealed most dramatically in his descent into hell on Holy Saturday. The very possibility of the Incarnation is grounded in the inner-trinitarian event of the eternal processions which von Balthasar portrays not as processions of intellect and will, as in Thomistic theology, but as processions of love (cf. 1 Jn 4:8). All forms of kenosis ad extra are seen as contained within the primal kenosis ad intra whereby the Father eternally begets the Son. This Urkenosis of the Father, von Balthasar holds, manifests the complete surrender of divine being, it amounts to a primordial ‘separation’ of God from God wherein lies the ‘space’ for creation and the abuse of human freedom which gives rise to the distance of sin.26 In this emptying of the Father in the begetting of the Son is included every possible drama between God and the world: That God (as Father) can so give away his divinity that God (as Son) does not merely receive it as something borrowed, but possesses it in the equality of essence, expresses such an unimaginable and unsurpassable ‘separation’ of God from Godself that every other separation (made possible by it!), even the most dark and bitter, can only occur within this first separation.27

The fatherhood in God is the total giving of all that the Father is and has to the Son, and this giving away of the substance of the Father constitutes a separation of God from God. The Son, however, holds onto nothing of that which he has received from the Father and returns it in self-surrendering love, so that the Son shows himself to be of the same substance of the Father. The person of the Spirit understands his ‘I’ as the ‘We’ of Father and Son, as the fruit of their reciprocal self-surrendering in unfathomable love. This ‘event’ of self-emptying love expresses an infinite vitality and freedom within God and is the condition of possibility of God’s ad extra relations to the world, containing within itself all the modalities of love, such as 26   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Drama, vol. IV, The Action, tr. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1994), p. 323. Balthasar builds upon the writings of Bulgakov and the Gospel of John where we read that the Father imparts to the Son all that is his – ‘All that is thine is mine’ (Jn 17:10). 27   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodramatik, vol. III, Die Handlung (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1980), p. 302. Cited by Anne Hunt, The Trinity and the Paschal Mystery: A Development in Recent Catholic Theology (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1997), p. 60.

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abandonment, suffering, death on a cross and descent into hell. Clearly, then, to von Balthasar’s mind, there can be no talk of a retraction or surrendering of God’s attributes in the event of Jesus Christ: quite the contrary, the Christian faith has to do with the transposition of the eternal, trinitarian event of divine love onto the human, historical plane, with a view to bringing fallen and lost creatures home to God who ‘in himself must be life, love, an eternal fullness of communion …’28 What is also distinctive about von Balthasar’s thought is that he understands the person of Jesus in terms of his divine ‘mission.’ Jesus lives solely to fulfil the Father’s will, his consciousness is experienced entirely in terms of mission – as a modality of proceeding from the Father – so that ‘it is precisely from his mission that Jesus knows himself to be who he is, the Son of the Father, different from other human beings.’29 The divine and created natures, while radically distinct, have nonetheless attained an ultimate union in the person of the incarnate Son, a union that von Balthasar refers to as the ‘concrete analogia entis.’30 The emphasis on the one person of Jesus Christ as identical with his divine mission serves to dispel any suggestion that the divine and created natures connote separate entities – which leads to Nestorianism. It is much more profitable to think of the two natures not as things, but in terms of actions; that is, as referring to ways in which Jesus Christ is and acts.31 When he acts, his actions are at once the actions of God and those of a human, hence we must hold fast to the paradox that while the man Jesus cannot be reduced to the purely human, neither can there be a flight into the purely divine realm. The theological reflections of Rahner, Barth and von Balthasar, while differing in certain notable respects, are nonetheless all in general agreement about the essence of God as life, love and freedom, and all of them see no disjunction or discrepancy   Balthasar, Theo-Drama, vol. III, p. 529.   Ibid., p. 509. See also pp. 225–6. 30   Ibid., p. 222. Nicholas Healy explains that throughout his writings Balthasar 28

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remains focused upon the great mystery of God’s being ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28), while still holding that the created world is radically other than God. Following his teacher Erich Przywara, Balthasar names this mystery the analogia entis. In its first and deepest meaning, analogy is regarded neither as a logical principle nor as a linguistic tool for talking about God, but is the ontological relationship that obtains between God and the world. This analogy of being has been concretized in the person of Jesus Christ. Nicholas J. Healy, The Eschatology of Hans Urs von Balthasar: Being As Communion (Oxford: Oxford Univesity Press, 2005), p. 21. 31   Barth holds the same thing when he says that the relationship between the divine and the human essence in the person of Jesus Christ is one of ‘genuine action.’ Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 116. This is also the view of Colin Gunton who asserts that when the term ‘nature’ is interpreted as a noun it can be dangerously misleading, thus it is best to understand the word as a verbal adjective – the natures are not things, but refer to ways in which Jesus is fully divine and fully human. When Jesus Christ acts, his actions are at once God’s actions and those of a human. Colin E. Gunton, The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2002), pp. 91, 95.

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between God’s being and God’s action in the world. In light of their reflections and the development of the arguments presented in this study, the traditional portrayal of the divine properties is in need of some reinterpretation and modification so as to highlight their personal and relational character. Colin Gunton, for example, goes to the heart of the matter when he states, ‘All God’s characteristics are what they are because they are functions of the relations of Father, Son and Spirit in eternity. They are what they are because God is eternally personal love, the love that gives to and receives from the other.’32 On the understanding that God is eternally love, it follows that the personal attributes of God must be regarded as prior to the metaphysical attributes of God.33 The latter, as Christoph Schwöbel has pointed out, do serve as important qualifiers of the personal attributes in that they indicate the ways in which God’s action in the world is distinguished from human action, so that it is made plain that we are really talking about God’s attributes.34 The relationship between the personal and metaphysical attributes of God should therefore be seen as complementary and mutually qualifying, and once this is acknowledged we are able to effectively avoid the inherent pitfalls associated with both the metaphysical and biblical models of the God-world relationship.35 In light   Ibid., p. 190. In this trinitarian framework, the tradition of distinguishing between ‘absolute’ (incommunicable) and ‘relative’ (communicable) attributes of God needs to be modified – there are no absolute attributes insofar as the term implies that they are nonrelational. The properties that God displays in relation to the world are rooted in the eternal relations of the immanent Trinity, which is why Barth held that God’s eternity and infinity are revealed in the divine act of creating a world of time and space, and in the divine act of the Incarnation as the flowering of the covenant of grace. 33   The personal attributes of God include love, freedom, mercy, faithfulness, wisdom, holiness and righteousness, while the metaphysical attributes are omnipotence, immutability, impassibility, omnipresence, eternity and omniscience. 34   Schwöbel discusses how the four requirements for intentional actions in the human, namely, ‘power’, ‘space’, ‘temporal sequence’ and ‘knowledge’, amount to a restricted and conditioned form of agency, whereas God’s intentional actions in the world, characterized by ‘omnipotence’, ‘omnipresence’, ‘eternity’ and ‘omniscience’, are not restricted as in the case of human agency – God is restricted by nothing apart from himself, that is, by respecting the natural laws of the world and the finite freedom of human agents. Christoph Schwöbel, God: Action And Revelation (Kampen, Netherlands: Kok Pharos Publishing, 1992), pp. 46–62. Louis Berkhof in his discussion of the metaphysical and personal attributes of God, also asserts that the former serve to qualify the latter so that it remains clear in what ways God is radically different from the creature. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 52ff. 35   Schwöbel seeks to overcome a fundamental dilemma in Christian discourse about God, namely: either we uphold the traditional understanding of the metaphysical attributes in philosophical theology, which prohibits us from talking about God’s action as personal action, that is, it prohibits us from talking about God’s relation to the world in a meaningful way since God’s transcendence is stressed in a one-sided manner; or we remain faithful to the biblical traditions and take leave of the metaphysical attributes of God, which can prohibit us from acknowledging the fundamental distinction of God and world, thereby undermining the divine transcendence. Schwöbel, ibid., pp. 53, 59, 60. The assertion of 32

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of the concrete revelation of the fullness of divinity dwelling bodily in the man Jesus of Nazareth, the metaphysical attributes of God should be seen as taking on the following meanings. 1. The omnipotence of God is the power by which God creates a world ex nihilo and continues to uphold and conserve it (God’s creative action), the power through which God discloses the truth about his steadfast relationship to the world (God’s revelatory action), and the power through which God authenticates this truth as the certainty of faith and elevates creaturely being to union and communion with the divine being (God’s inspiring and perfecting action).36 The omnipotence of God expressed in these three types of divine action is a perfection of the Trinity; that is, it has to do with the ineffable mystery of reciprocal and mutual giving of the divine persons to one another that constitutes the inner-trinitarian event of eternal love, from which springs the divine economy of creation, redemption and sanctification. The omnipotence of God expressed as God’s love for the world is evident in Paul’s writings, for example, when he says that the weakness of Christ crucified is the ‘power of God and the wisdom of God’ (1 Cor 1:24), that ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us’ (Rom 5:8; cf. Jn 3:16–17), and that in Christ ‘the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily’ (Col 2:9; cf. 1 Tim 3:16). The authority with which the pre-Easter Jesus forgives sins, reinterprets the law of Moses, performs exorcisms and healings, and institutes the new covenant, are all manifestations of God’s power dwelling bodily in him. That the fullness of divinity dwells bodily in Jesus is finally revealed, though, in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead in the power of the Spirit, whereby he is ‘designated Son of God’ (Rom 1:3–4). 2. With regard to the sovereignty of God, this divine perfection is no longer conceived as holding on to what is proper to God; rather, it is thought of in terms of God’s gift of giving the divine self away in perfect freedom, which makes possible the divine economy and the attainment of true human freedom (libertas) as love of God. Some scriptural texts that highlight this a complementary relationship between the personal and metaphysical attributes of God is tantamount to upholding God’s transcendence and God’s immanence in the world in a meaningful way. 36   Schwöbel talks of God’s ‘creative’ (the constitution of reality is ascribed to God’s agency = Father), ‘revelatory’ (the disclosure of the truth about the constitution of reality is ascribed to God’s agency = Son) and ‘inspiring’ (the certainty in respect of the disclosed truth about the constitution of reality is also ascribed to God’s agency = Spirit) action as three types of divine agency which are internally related by their trinitarian structure: opera trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa. Schwöbel, God: Action And Revelation, pp. 31–45. All this is well and good, however it should be added that the Spirit’s action is not only ‘inspiring’ but also ‘perfecting’ (Cf. Chapter 2 above).

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understanding of the sovereignty of God include: ‘When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God … heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ’ (Rom 8:15– 16); ‘God sent forth his Son … so that we might receive adoption as sons’ (Gal 4:4–5); ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son … that the world might be saved through him’ (Jn 3:16–17); and, ‘For freedom Christ has set us free’ (Gal 5:1). Life in the Spirit, which Paul contrasts with life in the flesh (Rom 8), is a life of spiritual freedom that gives witness to the sovereignty of God’s free giving of the divine self to us sinners in Christ the Son. The sovereignty of God is expressed supremely in the creaturely dependence of the Son who was made man in Jesus of Nazareth. 3. The attribute of divine immutability also acquires a fuller and more balanced understanding from the vantage point of the theological writings that have been examined. Strict philosophical immutability is no longer theologically tenable given the view of God’s being as unfathomable love, as the gift of self-donation to the world in sovereign freedom. In light of the event of Jesus Christ and the sending of the Spirit, the being of God is also a divine becoming – God’s being ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28) – that expresses God’s steadfast faithfulness to bringing creaturely being to its divinely intended completion and ontological perfection. The language of divine becoming does not mean that God becomes other than God eternally is or that there is imperfection in God; rather, it expresses the dynamic nature of divine being as personal love which overflows into the world of space and time so that God becomes the ontological fulfilment of the non-divine other. The christological hymn in The Letter of Paul to the Philippians expresses in a beautiful way this fuller understanding of God’s immutable nature: ‘… Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant … to the glory of God the Father’ (2:5–11). That Christ, although he is equal to God, takes the form of a servant does not represent change in God, for, as von Balthasar states the matter, the kenotic event of selfemptying love within the life of the Trinity is the condition of possibility of the Son’s suffering, death and descent into hell. The immutability of God as eternal and steadfast love finds its consummate expression in the suffering and death of the Son who was sent into the world to redeem us and save us from the clutches of death. 4. The divine attribute of impassibility has also undergone some rethinking in contemporary theology. Many no longer accept the traditional notion of God’s ‘apatheia’, believing that the ‘pathos’ of God revealed in the passion of Jesus Christ directly challenges this notion – God is simply not passive in the face of history. The attribution of suffering to God, however, as in the case of attributing change to God, should not to be treated as a univocal attribution. It is especially helpful to follow von Balthasar here and reflect on the notions of change and suffering in God from the

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standpoint of the inner-trinitarian event of eternal love which contains and surpasses all possible happenings and distances in the drama between God and the world, including the distance of sin which has been bridged by the Son’s atoning death on Calvary and his descent into hell. The controversial ‘Theopaschist’ formula – ‘One of the Trinity has suffered’ – is alluded to by von Balthasar in order to make the basic point that while the predication of creaturely change or suffering in God is to be refuted, nonetheless to limit the suffering that Christ the Son experiences to his human nature alone (the approach of Antioch) must also be rejected as inadequate because it fails to do justice to the witness of the New Testament where the person of the Son of God is depicted as having suffered death on the cross.37 In the past, theological reflection on the death of the Son was limited to soteriology (how we are saved), but von Balthasar, as well as Rahner, Barth, Jüngel and Moltmann, have all treated the Son’s death primarily as a statement about God; that is to say, the death of the Son expresses God.38 In light of the personal union of Christ, we must not shy away from the radical affirmation that it is not only his human nature – whose property it is to suffer and die – that has suffered, but the Son of God himself has truly suffered in the flesh for our salvation, as stressed by Cyril of Alexandria.39 That the pathos of God must be taken seriously finds a solid basis, for example, in the key Pauline text, ‘For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor 5:21), and, of course, in the plain words of the Nicene Creed which states that the Son of God, who was made man, truly suffered, died and was buried for our sake. The glory of God has been made manifest in the passibility and mortality of the incarnate Son as the culminating point of the movement of the divine condescension in time and history. 5. The divine perfection of eternity, which expresses the infinity of God in relation to time, also needs to undergo some adjustment in light of the   Balthasar, Theo-Drama, vol. III, p. 226. The ‘Theopaschist’ formula, von Balthasar points out, can already be found in Gregory Nazianzen: ‘We needed a God who took flesh and was put to death’, a ‘crucified God’ (Or. 45, 28). If one person in God, the Son, has accepted suffering, then evidently suffering is not something foreign to God; it must be something appropriate to his divine person, for ‘his being sent (missio) by the Father is a modality of his proceeding (processio) from the Father.’ 38   All these theologians consider the death of the Son in a trinitarian context, so that his death is a statement of God about himself. The event of the Cross is first and foremost an event between the Son and the Father, which brings about, second, the salvation of the world. 39   This is also the official position of the Lutheran Church which is set forth in the Formula of Concord. See The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, tr. and ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), pp. 591–610, at p. 595. 37

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Incarnation of the eternal Son of God. Given that eternity and time have come together in the one person of Jesus Christ, then we are required to acknowledge that eternity and time are not unrelated, but rather intimately intertwined. God is not subject to the temporal limitations of the world, yet God’s eternity cannot be interpreted as mere timelessness or atemporality, for eternity is the creative ground of a temporal world, which includes the ability to disclose the truth about the constitution of a temporal world and to authenticate it for human beings existing in time. The Letter of Paul to the Ephesians captures this view particularly well: ‘For he has made known to us … the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth’ (1:9–10). 6. The omnipresence of God means that God is universally present to everything that the divine has created and upholds, while retaining the radical difference from created reality. With respect to the three types of divine action, to say that God is present to everything in the world as the creative power of being means that God reveals himself in the world as its creative ground – God is encountered everywhere – and makes the truth of divine revelation present everywhere in order to grant certainty of faith, which includes the reconstitution of the capacity to act as a person who has been set free to love God above everything else. The divine attribute of omnipresence conveys the understanding that the spatial limitations that apply to human beings do not apply to God. Even in the mystery of the Incarnation where the incarnate Son experiences the limitations of bodily and spatial existence, God does not cease to be universally present to the world, upholding created being as its creative ground.40 The omnipresence of God means that the personal history of every human being in the world is conjoined to the redemptive history of the incarnate Son. The Letter of Paul to the Romans captures the divine attribute of omnipresence in the following words: ‘Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made’ (1:20). This perspective of the whole of creation as charged with the presence of the invisible God indicates a sacramental view of created reality. The capacity of creaturely   I am in fundamental agreement, then, on the necessity of the extra-Calvinisticum, that is, the view that during the life of Jesus, the divine continued to be present eveywhere: God was not only wholly in Jesus, but also wholly extra carnem (outside the flesh). This is clear from the manner in which the divinity of Jesus has been portrayed in this study – the divine nature of Jesus is conceived in terms of his modus of being-related to the Father in unathomable love, in the Spirit. Luther and the Lutheran scholastics were the first to call into question the extra-Calvinisticum and to break new incarnational ground by proposing a ‘kenotic’ Christology that sought to conceptualize a ‘full’ incarnation, that is, God is wholly in the flesh and never outside the flesh. 40

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being to encounter God and enter into personal relationship to God (capax Dei) is a precondition for the possibility of the event of the Word becoming flesh, in the power of the Spirit. In light of the assumption of human nature by the person of the Word, moreover, we can say that Christ, when he is raised from the dead and his humanity is glorified and exalted to the right hand of God, is not limited to the space of heaven but is present wherever the Spirit of God breathes in the world.41 7. The question of divine knowledge has given rise to many disputes about whether God, being outside of time, can know what we call the future. The omniscience of God is best understood as that form of knowledge which comprehends the totality of God’s action in relation to the world; that is, it is that form of knowledge that enables and accompanies God’s creative, revelatory and inspiring-perfecting action.42 We can say that the Father has ‘foreknowledge’ of the reality of human sin that will make its appearance on the world stage and makes provision for the redemption of humanity and the world through the sending of his eternally begotten Son, through whom all things have been brought into existence. However, God’s knowledge is not perfect if by this statement is meant that God knows every decision that every human agent in the course of history will make. The creation of human agents with finite freedom implies that God’s knowledge is limited by the free actions of his creatures. If we take the freedom of human agents seriously, then it seems that the future is known to God not as eternal presence, but as ‘the sum of all possibilities which are given in the world at a particular moment in time.’43 The man Jesus, who has knowledge of being the Son of the Father, personally embodies in his mission the Father’s provision for the redemption of the world, but this does not mean that he has complete knowledge of how the events of his life and mission will unfold. He obeys, in perfect freedom, the Father’s will which is communicated to him in the Spirit, thus he trusts completely and unreservedly in everything that the Father asks of him at various stages of his life, including his death on the cross as a once for all 41   The contention that the humanity of Christ is omnipresent due to the hypostatic union recalls the doctrine of ‘consubstantiation’ in Lutheran sacramental theology. According to this doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Christ is corporeally present in, with and under the elements of bread and wine at the mass. This doctrine is closely tied to the Lutheran idea of a communication of divine properties of majesty to the human nature of Christ – from the moment of hypostatic union onward, Christ’s human nature is omnipresent. I would want to qualify this position, however, by contending that Christ’s humanity cannot become omnipresent until it has been taken up fully into the dimension of God in his resurrection from the dead, and the Spirit of the risen Christ and his Father is breathed into the world as new life. 42   This is the position of Schwöbel. See his God: Action And Revelation, p. 39. 43   Ibid., p. 39.

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sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. We are required to appreciate, in other words, that Jesus Christ ‘increased in wisdom and stature’ (Lk 2:52), that he had no knowledge of the day of final judgement (Mk 13:32), and that his consciousness of being the Son of the Father, and what this personal identity entailed, emerged in the historical context of increasing isolation and public hostility to his mission of preaching the kingdom of God to Israel. He did not have a total knowledge that allowed him to see future events; rather, his knowledge related to being the Son of the Father and to the provision for the final redemption of all things in his person, to the glory of the Father. A final point that must be reinforced in respect of the term ‘divine nature’ in christological reflection is that it should not be restricted to Jesus Christ as the Word of God. Instead, since the one divine nature is possessed fully by the three divine persons of the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ must be articulated in strictly trinitarian terms that do justice to the relational character of his person – his identity as the Son is established only in his relations to the Father and to the Holy Spirit, as Chapters 1 and 2 of this study have sought to firmly establish.44 From the testimonies of the Gospels, it is quite clear that the focus of reflection on the christological mystery is the person of the Son, not the divine nature that has assumed human flesh in Jesus of Nazareth. It is the person of the Son of God who is the acting Subject in the event of the Incarnation, not his divine nature, although the latter does serve to remind us that the Incarnation is a work of the whole Trinity: the Father from whom all things are, does all things through the Word, in the Spirit. In this trinitarian perspective, moreover, each of the Three is assigned a role that is specific and proper to his person: the Father as Source of All and Unoriginate Origin, the Word as archetypal Image and Wisdom of God, and the Spirit as Breath of God and ecstatic Gift of divine communion. This fundamental point regarding the need to think in terms of the person of the Son is reinforced by the view that while the persons in the immanent Trinity all share the fullness of the divine nature, nonetheless this should not be taken as meaning that the persons can be reduced to the divine nature – person is irreducible to nature. This trinitarian proposition which is advocated, for instance, by Vladimir Lossky, can also be readily applied to humanity where it harmonizes particularly well with the phenomenon of the transcendence of the human spirit, the properties of which bear some analogy with the personal attributes of God such   When Christ’s divine nature is interpreted in strictly relational and trinitarian terms, not according to classical metaphysics, important consequences follow for an appropriate understanding of the doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum, which will be discussed below. When Oliver Crisp, for instance, seeks to illustrate what he calls the ‘absurdity’ of the Lutheran teaching that in the hypostatic union an exchange of properties takes place between the natures themsleves, his analysis is based purely on metaphysics, not the ‘event’ of Jesus Christ. Oliver D. Crisp, ‘Problems With Perichoresis’, Tyndale Bulletin, 56/1 (2005): pp. 119–40. 44

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as love, freedom, mercy, goodness, righteousness and knowledge. The experience of self-transcendence sheds light on the human ‘person’ as irreducible to their concrete individual ‘nature’, for person gives expression to the exocentric nature of the human as referred beyond itself to Something More, as radically orientated towards God as incomprehensible mystery. The human is by nature finite, temporal, spatially limited, subject to change and suffering, fallible and mortal, yet the personal attributes such as love, freedom, mercy, faithfulness, righteousness, peace and joy, highlight the fact that the human being cannot be reduced to the former properties inasmuch as it is inviolably referred to the incomprehensible and infinite God who is eternally life, love, freedom, communion, mercy, holiness and glory. Ultimately, of course, such a referring and destining of the human person to union with God involves the conquering of death, of the opposites of being, and in the person of Jesus Christ is revealed the manner in which Almighty God has acted definitively so as to transform the darkness and emptiness of death into the light and plenitude of eternal life. That all the fullness of divinity dwells bodily in Jesus Christ means, as Barth has persuasively argued, that God’s sovereignty dwells in his creaturely existence, God’s eternity in his temporality, God’s omnipresence in his spatial limitation, God’s omnipotence in his weakness, God’s righteousness in his adamic fleshliness, and God’s glory in his suffering and torturous death. To assert that the Son is in complete and utter solidarity with the human condition from within (cf. Heb 2:18; 4:15) for the sake of the redemption and elevation of mortal sinners to blessed communion and union with the living God, is to recognize that the divine and human natures are so intimately united in the person of the incarnate Son that his humanity actually witnesses to and concretely reveals the nature of God himself as merciful love, sovereign freedom and the plenitude of life. Therefore, when it comes to reflecting on the mystery of the Incarnation of the eternal Word, it must be borne in mind that since the person of Christ is irreducible to either his divine or human nature, then perforce we are required to reflect upon this mystery of salvation in terms of the person of the Word who assumed flesh from the Virgin Mary, lived a truly historical life in his mission to Israel, suffered and died on Calvary, but was raised from the dead in the power of the Spirit, all for the sake of the ‘new creation.’ At the same time, the recognition of the irreducibility of the person of Christ to either his divine or human nature serves to uphold and bolster the Chalcedonian teaching that the union of natures must take place on the level of his person, so that there can be no suggestion of a commingling or confusing of the natures which would make Christ a tertium quid between God and humanity. The emphasis on person serves, furthermore, to ensure that we avoid philosophical or metaphysical abstractions in which the focus is not squarely on the concrete historical ‘event’ of divine giving and human receiving that characterizes the life and mission of Jesus Christ, which culminates in his glorious resurrection from the dead and his sending of the Spirit of new life into the world.

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The complex doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum: God participates in the human and the human participates in God The foregoing critical discussion about how the two natures in Jesus are best thought of in terms of the unified actions of his person, and how the personal attributes of God manifested in the Christ-event are prior to the metaphysical attributes and illuminate the latter, has paved the way for a consideration of the controverted doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum, that is, the communication of divine and human properties in the person of the incarnate Word. While Christians are in general agreement that one and the same Lord Jesus Christ must be acknowledged ‘in two natures, without confusion or change, without division or separation’,45 nevertheless the history of christological thought is marked by bitter disagreement and controversy, especially between Lutherans and Calvinists, when it comes to interpreting the doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum.46 The disputes between Lutherans and Calvinists are an indication of the enduring influence of the famous patristic debates between Alexandria and Antioch. The line of argument in the Antiochene School was intended to establish two agents of what happens with Christ: ‘The one agent … must be divine, to do the empowering; to be divine this agent must be impassible … The other agent, the human Jesus, must be temporal and do the suffering.”47 The School of Alexandria, on the other hand, was motivated by the need to establish one sole agent of what happens with Christ, so Cyril of Alexandria wrote: ‘We teach that the one who is the Son begotten of the Father … did himself suffer in the flesh on our account.’48 Cyril clearly refuted Nestorius’ depiction of Christ as having suffered only in his human nature, insisting instead that the Son himself has suffered in the flesh, for our sake.   The Chalcedonian definition underlines the view that Christ is one person ‘in two natures’ and not ‘from two natures.’ The unity of Christ is not to be sought in the sphere of the natures which are preserved ‘without confusion and change’ in the mysterium Christi, but on the level of the person. For a discussion of the dogmatic formula of Chalcedon, see Aloys Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, vol. 1, 2nd edn, tr. John Bowden (London: Mowbrays, 1975), pp. 543–50. 46   Lutheran theology has traditionally distinguished three genera. (1) genus idiomaticum, whereby the properties of one or the other nature are communicated to the person of Christ. This genus was affirmed by Zwingli. (2) genus apotelesmaticum, whereby all activities of Christ – prophetic, priestly and kingly – are ascribed not to only one of the natures, but to the unique person of the Saviour. This genus stands at the centre of Calvin’s thought. (3) genus majestaticum, whereby the divine properties of majesty are communicated to to the human nature. The Calvinists rejected this third genus which they saw as a mixing and confusing of the two natures. See, for example, Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man (London: SCM Press, 1968), p. 300. 47   Robert Jenson, Unbaptized God: The Basic Flaw in Ecumenical Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), p. 122. 48   Cyril of Alexandria, Third Letter to Nestorius, 6. Cited by Robert Jenson, Unbaptized God, p. 122. 45

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The Reformed maintained that their position reflected the orthodox formula of Chalcedon and accused the Lutherans of tending toward the monophysitism of the Alexandrian School, while the Lutherans claimed that ‘the Reformed were Nestorian and that they themselves were in fact the heirs of Chalcedon.’49 The primary concern of the Reformed was to safeguard and uphold the integrity of the two natures, as required by the Chalcedonian definition, hence they argued that the communication of properties must take place from the natures to the person of Christ. This understanding is the ‘weaker’ form of the doctrine.50 Luther, on the other hand, while acknowledging the traditional interpretation that the properties of Christ’s two natures are communicated to the concretum of his person, at the same time went beyond it to affirm ‘the idea of a real communication of attributes between the two natures themselves.’51 This is the ‘stronger’ form of the doctrine. Such a proposition is regarded by the Reformed as amounting to a commingling of the two natures, thereby bringing about a tertium quid. The task in this section will be to examine this long-standing controversy in light of the critical discussion presented above, the Chalcedonian definition and key declarations of the Formula of Concord of the Lutheran Church. Earlier it was shown how Rahner is able to intelligibly establish the union of the two natures in Jesus Christ on the basis of an understanding of human nature as radically referred to the incomprehensible God and divine nature as God’s free self-bestowal in love. Rahner warns in regard to the Incarnation of the Word that the immutability of God ‘may not distort our view of the fact that what happened to Jesus on earth is precisely the history of the Word of God himself, and a process which he underwent.’52 If we face squarely the mystery of the Incarnation we must say that ‘he who is unchangeable in himself can himself become subject to change in something else’,53 and that the man Jesus is ‘the self-utterance of God in its self-emptying, because God expresses himself when he empties himself. He   Stephen R. Holmes, ‘Reformed Varieties of the Communicatio Idiomatum’, in The Person of Christ, ed. Stephen R. Holmes and Murray A. Rae (London and New York: T & T Clark, 2005), pp. 70–86, at p. 71. Carl E. Braaten writes that the Lutherans, in wanting to stress the unity of the two natures, devised the battle formula ‘the finite is capable of the infinite’ while the Calvinists in their concern to stress a distinction between the natures counteracted with the slogan ‘the finite is not capable of the infinite.’ Carl E. Braaten, ‘The Person of Jesus Christ’, in Christian Dogmatics, vol. I, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), pp. 469–569, at p. 508. 50   Oliver Crisp talks of the ‘weaker’ and the ‘stronger’ form of the doctrine. Oliver Crisp, ‘Problems With Perichoresis’, pp. 123–5. The weaker form of the doctrine can be found in Pope Leo’s Tome, while the Lutheran doctrine is the stronger form. 51   Dennis Ngien, ‘Chalcedonian Christology and Beyond: Luther’s Understanding of the Communicatio Idiomatum’, Heythrop Journal, 45/1 (2004): pp. 54–68, at p. 59. 52   Rahner, ‘On the Theology of the Incarnation’, p. 113. 53   Ibid., p. 113. We see here, note, how Rahner sees suffering not in God himself but in that which is other than the divine self. His view is very similar to Barth in respect of the suffering of God. 49

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proclaims himself as love ….’54 Rahner is clearly saying, then, that reflection on the dogma of the Incarnation, which is the very centre of the reality from which Christians live, must take seriously the utter radicality of God’s selfcommunication in Christ and allow this concrete revelatory event to shape our understanding of what God is really like and the possibilities for human existence in the world. If the fullness of deity dwells bodily in the man Jesus, then it follows that all our preconceptions about what God is like and our presuppositions in respect of the possibilities for the future must be set aside in order to allow God to address us personally in the incarnate Word. When it comes to distributing or dividing up the predicates that we make concerning the incarnate Word, Rahner underlines the need to appreciate the created reality of Christ’s human nature as that of the Word of God himself, hence we must beware not to introduce dualistic thinking into christological reflection; that is, we must not see the immutable and mutable, the impassible and passible, the eternal and temporal, the divine and human, as unreconcilable opposites. The reflections of Rahner, then, clearly echo the view of Cyril of Alexandria stated above and Paul’s assertion that the fullness of divinity dwells bodily in the person of Christ (Col 2:9). The writings of other prominent contemporary theologians bear a strong family resemblance to the christological reflections of Rahner. Barth, for example, shares Rahner’s view of the human being as referred to the incomprehensible God insofar as he speaks of the human as having a determination ‘from’ the divine, and he paints a similar picture to Rahner’s portrayal of the divine nature as God’s free self-bestowal to the other when he speaks of the divine as having a determination ‘to’ the human, that is, God as the One who loves in freedom, as the One who sends his Son into the far country for our sake. Barth, like Rahner, insists that in the person of Christ the divine expresses and reveals itself fully in the sphere of the human, thus he talks of the crucified Jesus as ‘the image of the invisible God.’ The theology of von Balthasar, of course, reinforces this understanding further by locating the source of the incarnate Son’s kenotic self-emptying, which culminates in his descent into hell, in the eternal process of kenotic self-emptying that constitutes the dynamic, inner, tripersonal life of God. The event of the Incarnation is therefore portrayed as the transposition of the inner-trinitarian event of eternal love onto the human, historical plane, so that the bodily Jesus reveals the glory of God. The theology of Jüngel, it will be recalled, which stresses God’s identification with the crucified Jesus for the sake of all – the union of death and life for the sake of life – also adds weight to the fundamental contention that the event of the Incarnation is the self-utterance of God himself as love. The identification of God with the crucified Jesus means that we must direct our thought to the ‘humanity of God’ as the very truth about God, and we are also required to affirm our personal identity as formed by God ‘who is our beyond.’   Ibid., p. 116.

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In all these theologies the human has a determination from the divine and the death of Jesus is regarded as a statement about God: ‘the meaning is that this is God, and God is like this. God is not greater than he is in this humiliation. God is not more glorious than he is in this self-surrender. God is not more powerful than he is in this helplessness. God is not more divine than he is in this humanity.’55 The upshot of all this is that a concept of the unity of the two natures in the person of Christ that remains abstract and philosophical and thereby rules out a concrete event happening between the divine and the human, fails to adequately grasp the Gospel story that narrates the history of the man Jesus as the history of the Word of God himself.56 In light of the perfect union of natures in his person, both divine and human predicates may be applied to Jesus Christ; however, it must be stressed, in a manner that recalls Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444), that the actions of Christ should not be divided up into divine and human actions, as if there were two persons in the incarnate Word, which would render him a split or psychotic personality.57 The mystery of the Incarnation is such that when Christ acts, his actions are at once the actions of God and those of a man – all that is said of Christ is properly predicated of the person of the Word, but it is asserted in his assumed flesh. Thus while, for instance, we must say, on the basis of the hypostatic union, that the Word of God died on the cross and ‘obtained the church with his blood’ (Acts 20:28), it was in human flesh that he suffered and died on the cross; while we confess that the Word of God was raised from the dead, it was as a human being that he was raised and exalted to the right hand of the Father; while it is legitimate to say that the Word of God was not all-knowing and increased in wisdom and understanding, it was as a human being that he was ignorant of the time of the Final Judgement and underwent normal human development; and while the man Jesus went around mercifully forgiving people their sins and restoring them to right relationship to God, it was in virtue of the consciousness of his mission as the Son of the Father that he assumed such divine prerogatives unto himself. Since all that is predicated of Jesus Christ in the above examples is predicated of the one incarnate person of the Word of God, then the communication of properties is from the natures to the one person.58

  Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God (London: SCM Press, 1974), p. 205.   Hans Urs von Balthasar refers to the incarnate Word as the concretissimum. In

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Johannine langauge, ‘He who sees me sees the Father’ (Jn 14:9). The Word made flesh is both the Totality (God) and the most concrete singular (man). 57   For a discussion of the Christology of Cyril see Stephen R. Holmes, ‘Reformed Varieties of the Communicatio Idiomatum’, pp. 82–4. 58   This argument is basically the position held by Pope Leo in his Tomus ad Flavianum, which became accepted as a rule of faith. Against the heresy of monophysitism – represented by the monk Eutyches – Leo asserted that one and the same person is divine and human. Leo’s diphysite approach was intended as a repudiation of the Eutychian view

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But notwithstanding the validity of the Chalcedonian definition in respect of the communication of the properties of the two natures to the one person of Christ, the question that still must be considered is, Does the Chalcedonian definition bespeak a dualistic approach to the mysterium Christi inasmuch as the divine and the human are portrayed as irreconcilable opposites? The problem with the definition revolves around the contention that ‘the Word performs what belongs to the Word, and the flesh accomplishes what belongs to the flesh. One of these performs brilliant miracles, the other sustains acts of violence.’59 The one Christ, in other words, is compartmentalized into two natures each of which has its separate principle of operation. The actions of Christ therefore appear to be divided up into human and divine actions, as if he had a divine miracle button in one hand and an ordinary human behaviour button in the other, so that he could act in each case as deemed ‘appropriate.’60 The divinity of Christ shines forth in his miracles, whereas his humanity is subjected to the insults of those who reject him and condemn him to a torturous and humiliating death. The whole thrust of the argument developed in the present study, however, challenges this view by contending that the very divinity and glory of Christ is made manifest in his life and mission as the Son which ends in rejection, suffering and human death on the hill of Golgotha. The assertion that the fullness of divinity dwells bodily in the man Jesus implies that no dualistic approach to the communion of natures in his one person is permissible. The mysterium Christi is such that when he acts as the Son – in the Spirit – his actions are at once both divine and human. In this way we avoid attributing to Jesus a split personality and come to see how intimately the two natures are intertwined in his person, so that we can say that the divine expresses itself fully in the sphere of the human or that the humanity of Christ mediates and attests the glory of his divinity – understood in terms of his modus of being-related to the Father in unfathomable love. In light of the apparent difficult with the terminology of the Chalcedonian definition, it will be worth our while to investigate whether the Lutheran interpretation of the communicatio idiomatum, expounded in the Formula of Concord (1577), offers any particular insights that could prove useful to overcoming the pitfall of dualism. The first significant point to make about the Formula of Concord is that since it was produced in the heat of controversy, the Preface seeks to make clear from the outset that the Lutheran position is committed to the orthodoxy of the formula of Chalcedon.61 In respect of the doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum, of the person as a third element that results from the unity of the two natures – Christ’s humanity would then not be consubstantial with ours. 59   Norman P. Tanner (ed.), Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1 (London: Shed & Ward, 1990), pp. 77–82, at p. 79. 60   Cf. Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, pp. 530–36; Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, pp. 334–8. 61   Tensions existed not only between Lutherans and Calvinists, but also within the Lutheran camp itself with the emergence of two rival schools, namely, the school of John

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the Preface is concerned to allay any fears that the Lutheran doctrine amounts to a blending or commingling of the two natures in Christ: Turning to the kind and manner of speech employed with reference to the majesty of the human nature in the person of Christ …This divine majesty is not ascribed to the human nature of Christ outside the personal union, or in such a way that even in the personal union it is alleged to have this majesty intrinsically, essentially, formally, habitually, and subjectively (to use scholastic terminology), as if somewhere or sometimes it were being taught that the divine and human natures, together with their respective properties, are mixed together and the human nature according to its essence and properties is equalized with the divine nature and is thus negated. On the contrary, as the teachers of the ancient church put it, it takes place on account of the personal union, which is an inscrutable mystery.62

The body of the text provides a lengthy disclaimer of any mixing of the two natures or their properties.63 The starting point for the framers of the Formula of Concord was the ‘inscrutable mystery’ of the personal union of natures in Christ, hence they were keen to refute the error and heresy of Nestorius, as well as the followers of Paul of Samosata, who taught that there can be no communion whatsoever between the two natures. If this were the case, then it would effectively result in the separation of the two natures from one another and the emergence of two persons – Christ is one person and the Word of God who dwells in him is another. In opposition to this heresy, the text asserts that the two natures are united in such a way that they have true communion with each other, otherwise the Chalcedonian formula that Christ is one person in whom the divine and human natures are united would be rendered implausible and seriously undermined. It becomes clear from the writings of Lutheran dogmatics that this stronger form of the doctrine of communicatio idiomatum is motivated by the belief that ‘it is only by such a transference that the real unity of the person can be secured.’64 In order to stress that this communion must be regarded as a real communion, as opposed to a mere ‘verbal exchange’ of properties or mere figure of speech, the Formula of Concord repeatedly talks of a ‘real exchange’ in order to indicate that such an exchange has occurred ‘in deed and in truth’ but ‘without any blending of the natures and of their essential properties.’65 Brenz and the school of Martin Chemnitz. The Formula of Concord attempted to settle the christological disputes among Lutherans, but met with little success. 62   The Book of Concord, tr. & ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), pp. 10–11. 63   Ibid., pp. 594ff. 64   Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 325. 65   The Book of Concord, p. 603. The rejection of a mere ‘verbal exchange’ of properties is directed against Zwingli’s alloeosis, that is, when something is said about the deity of

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The latter point concerning how the exchange is to be properly understood goes to the heart of the controversy surrounding the person of Christ: ‘The chief question has been, Because of personal union in the person of Christ, do the divine and human natures, together with their properties, really (that is, in deed and truth) share with each other, and how far does this sharing extend?’66 This fundamental question is answered by the orthodox Lutherans in terms of the genus majestaticum, that is, the communication of divine properties of majesty to the human nature of Christ. The insistence on a real exchange is seen as congruous with the Pauline text that ‘in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily’ (Col 2:9).67 The fullness of divinity dwells in Christ ‘not as in other godly human beings or in the angels, but “bodily”, as in its own body.’68 In the person of Christ, then, the divine majesty, which is the property of the divine nature alone, shines forth and manifests itself fully ‘in, with and through’ the assumed human nature.69 The penetration of Christ’s assumed human nature by the divine nature does not mean that the properties of the human nature have been set aside or destroyed; rather, the human nature shares in the properties of the divine nature and is perfected by the real communion of the two natures, so that, to recall the passage from 2 Peter 1:4, in Christ we have become ‘partakers of the divine nature.’ The orthodox Lutheran response to the question about the communicatio idiomatum, which is given in terms of the genus majestaticum, very much reflects the idea of ‘perichoresis’ as developed by John Damascene. The notion of perichoresis was designed to underscore the intimate union of the two natures in Christ in terms of the ‘interpenetration’ or ‘co-inherence’ of the natures. A traditional and oft-cited

Christ which after all belongs to the humanity, or vice versa. For Zwingli, we can say things about the person of Christ that, strictly speaking, are true only for one of the natures. Thus, for example, when Scripture says, ‘Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ (Lk 24:26), Zwingli asserts that the human nature of Christ suffered, not the divine nature. In distinction from Zwingli, Calvin did not consider the exchange of attributes a mere figure of speech. He held a real communication of attributes of both natures to the person of Christ and the mediating work he performed as Mediator, but not an exchange of attributes between the natures themselves. See Ngien, ‘Chalcedonian Christology and Beyond’, p. 58; and Pannenberg, Jesus – God and Man, p. 299. 66   The Book of Concord, p. 487. 67   There is a problem here, though, in that Paul speaks of the ‘fullness’ of deity that dwells bodily in Jesus, whereas the Lutheran doctrine contends that only some divine properties – the ‘operative’ attributes of omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience – are communicated to the man Jesus. It makes little or no sense, though, to separate off some divine properties from others, for the properties belong to the divine nature which is addressed to the human nature in the one person Jesus Christ. 68   The Book of Concord, p. 603. 69   Ibid., pp. 600, 603. The communication of the divine properties of majesty to Christ’s human nature is closely tied to the Lutheran doctrine of ‘consubstantiation’ in sacramental theology. See note 41 above.

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analogy used to convey the significance of the interpenetration of natures is that of a glowing iron, which is also found in the Formula of Concord: Just as in glowing iron there are not two powers of illumination and combustion – the power of illumination and combustion is the property of fire – but since the fire is united with the iron, it demonstrates and manifests its power of illumination and combustion in and through the iron in such a way that on that account and through this union the glowing iron has the power of illumination and combustion without any transformation of the natural properties of either the fire or the iron.70

In this analogy, it is clear that the fire permeates the glowing iron so that it manifests the fire’s power of illumination and combustion, yet there is no commingling or blending of the two, since fire remains fire and iron remains iron. The attributes of the fire are communicated to the iron so that they are manifested ‘in and through’ the iron. This interpretation is exactly the same as that of John Damascene who is credited with formulating the notion of perichoresis as interpenetration: But observe that although we hold that the natures of the Lord permeate one another, yet we know that the permeation springs from the divine nature. For it is that that penetrates and permeates all things, as it wills, while nothing penetrates it: and it is it, too, that imparts to the flesh its own peculiar glories, while abiding itself impassible and without participation in the affections of the flesh.71

The interpenetration of natures is not envisaged as truly reciprocal insofar as the divine nature permeates the human nature of Jesus Christ, just as fire permeates iron, but the human nature does not penetrate the divine nature, just as iron does not permeate fire. The positive aspect of this view, besides its underlining of the asymmetrical nature of the divine-human relationship, is that it is able to effectively convey the sense of the human nature as mediating or attesting the divine nature, which is to say that the divine operations proceed in and through the humanity of Christ, so that the actions of Christ should not be thought as divided up into divine and human actions. As Barth succinctly puts it, ‘the divine expresses and reveals itself wholly in the sphere of the human, and the human serves and attests the divine.’72 Just as creation is permeated by the divine presence, sustaining and upholding and developing it, so too the humanity of Jesus is permeated by the divine, sustaining and upholding and developing it in its historical existence. There exists, though, a difference between these two instances of created reality being interpenetrated by divinity, which stems from the identity of the man Jesus   The Book of Concord, p. 604.   John Damascene, De fide orthodoxa 3.7. Cited by Crisp, ‘Problems With

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Perichoresis’, p. 131. 72   Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 115.

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as the eternal Son of God in his mission to Israel. The reality of the hypostatic union implies that Jesus’ humanity is interpenetrated by divinity in a way that creation and our human nature are not, for in him ‘the whole fullness of divinity dwells bodily’ (Col 2:9). There is a difference of kind (qualitative), then, which translates into a difference of degree (quantitative), although this should not be pictured in a way that is detrimental to our ability to effectively relate to the person of Jesus.73 The statement by Rahner referred to earlier, that the Incarnation of the eternal Word is ‘the highest instance of the actualization of the essence of human reality’, is intended to show Jesus’ profound relevance for humanity, as is Barth’s statement that the exaltation of the Son of Man is the elevation of humanity to a qualitatively ‘higher level.’ Human nature is not destroyed or altered in the event of Jesus Christ, but perfected by its being elevated to blessed fellowship or union with God who is both the source and term of human existence. The apparent weakness in the traditional concept of perichoresis, however, is that it is guided by the classical metaphysical idea of divine impassibility, thus it refuses to admit any participation of the divine nature in the affections of the flesh, so that what is lacking is a genuine sense of reciprocity in the communication of properties between the two natures united in the person of Christ. In respect of the passion of Christ, then, only the human nature, whose property it is to suffer and die, could have been affected. But if the two natures form a union in the person of Christ, it is simply not possible to maintain such a separation between the natures; instead, we are required to unequivocally affirm that the Son of God himself suffered and died for us, albeit in the flesh. In a famous statement, Luther drove home this fundamental point in an arresting fashion when he asserted, ‘If it is not true that God died for us, but only a man died, we are lost … God dead, God’s passion, God’s blood, God’s death. According to his nature God cannot die, but since God and man are united in one person, it is correct to talk about God’s death when that man dies who is one thing or one person with God.’74 The radicality of Luther’s thought is evident in this citation where, on soteriological grounds, he goes beyond the traditional (weaker) interpretation according to which the properties of the two natures are communicated to the concretum of his person, and asserts that the human properties of suffering and dying are really communicated to the divine nature so as to conclusively redeem humanity and the world. What takes place in the event of Jesus Christ is the ‘humanization of the divine’ in order that God’s purpose for created reality will be finally accomplished.

73   According to the Christology formulated in Chapter 1, it will be recalled, Jesus’ modus of being related to the Father in unfathomable love (Jesus’ consubstantiality with the Father as to divinity) is what enables him to maintain an attitude of ready encounter with all, even those who reject and condemn him to death (Jesus’ identification with the human condition). The second consubstantiality enters into the definition of the first, so that the two are intextricably intertwined. 74   The Book of Concord, p. 599.

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What is more, Luther, as the above citation intimates, makes an important distinction between a communication in abstracto and in concreto,75 a distinction that has already been highlighted in the previous section of this chapter. When divinity is understood in a philosophical and abstract manner, that is, as not united with humanity in the person of Christ, Luther says that God does not suffer. However, since the Son of God, who is divine, has in concreto assumed human nature in the ‘event’ of the Incarnation, then Luther says that the divinity does suffer, so that the chasm between Creator and creature has been overcome and everything acquires new meaning in the person of Christ. Norman Nagel summarizes the consequences of a communication in concreto in the following words: The traditional phrases ‘according to his human nature’ and ‘according to his divine nature’ Luther uses so that the distinction of the natures is not lost; but his usage of them has come free of the dualism which sees divine and human, heavenly and earthly, infinite and finite, impassible and passible, as opposites unreconcilable. They are if you look at God separately, and if you look at man separately, but in Christ this separation has gone. In Christ they have a new meaning …In speaking of him we may not speak of the divinity separated from the humanity, or of the humanity separated from the divinity. By such separation our Saviour and salvation are undone.76

From the standpoint of this communication in concreto, Luther pushed beyond a real exchange of properties from the divine to the human nature to include a real communication from the human to the divine nature of Christ.77 In Luther’s Disputation On The Divinity and Humanity of Christ (1540), for example, the third thesis expressly asserts an exchange of properties in both directions: 75   See Marc Lienhard, Luther: Witness to Jesus Christ (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1982), pp. 337, 339; and Ngien, ‘Chalcedonian Christology and Beyond’, pp. 62–4. 76   Norman Nagel, ‘Martinus: Heresy, Doctor Luther, Heresy! The Person and Work of Christ’, in Peter Newman Brooks (ed.), Seven-Headed Luther. Essays in Commemoration of a Quincentenary 1483–1983 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 25–49, at p. 47. Cited by Ngien, ‘Chalcedonian Christology and Beyond’, p. 63. This non-dualistic view of the communion of natures in the person of Jesus Christ is also, as we saw earlier, emphatically defended by Karl Barth. Jüngel is even more emphatic when he says that in light of God’s identification with the Crucified One, God is more like us than unlike us, while remaining God in the ‘concrete difference’ between the human and the divine. 77   This is the genus tapeinoticum which is rejected by the old Lutherans who adopted a unidirectional perspective of the communication of properties from the divine to the human only. Karl Barth rightly criticizes this one-sided Lutheran perspective for failing to recognize a genuine reciprocity in the participation of the two natures in Jesus Christ. In the first instance, this event is the participation of the divine in the human, and only then can it be a participation of the human in the divine. Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, pp. 78, 87.

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‘So that those things, which are human, are correctly predicated of God, and on the other hand, those things which are divine are correctly predicated of the homo.’78 The personal union of the two natures in Christ allows a genuine reciprocity and mutual sharing of properties between the natures, which is argued for by Luther on soteriological grounds – in order to bring about the redemption of humanity from the powers of death in the world, God has suffered and died in the person of the Word made flesh. This emphasis on the participation of the divine in the human is seen by Luther as integral to the fundamental union that obtains between creation and redemption – the unity is realized between the God who creates through the Word and the Word made flesh.79 The hypostatic union is an event in history, but Luther regarded the Word as defined in relation to the event of the Incarnation from all eternity, so that the Word cannot be thought apart from his humanity – Barth, von Balthasar, Rahner and Jüngel all hold a similar supralapsarian perspective. The God of Jesus Christ is a God who truly participates in the human, so that we mortal sinners will come to enjoy the blessedness of fellowship or union with God whose glory is manifested in the benevolent exercise of his merciful love toward the creature. To Luther’s mind, as distinct from Lutheran dogmatics, it is simply not sufficient to hold that the divine properties are communicated to the human nature of Jesus Christ; we must also acknowledge that the human properties of suffering and dying are communicated to the divine nature, for without this reciprocal communication of properties between the natures the fundamental unity of creation and redemption is put into jeopardy.80 The strength of Luther’s position is that it does not suffer from the logical inconsistency of asserting a unidirectional communication of attributes. If one holds that a real impartation of properties takes place from the divine to the human nature, then it stands to reason that a communication must take place in the opposite direction from the human to the divine as well.81 The necessity to affirm this reciprocal transference of properties is ultimately established, however, not on the basis of rational logic but the concrete event of the eternal Word become   Cited by Ngien, ‘Chalcedonian Christology and Beyond’, p. 62.   Lienhard draws attention to the fact that Luther’s theory of the communication of

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attributes allows him to stress the fundamental theme of the unity between creation and redemption. Leinhard, Luther, pp. 342–3. 80   Even if one holds, following von Balthasar, that human suffering and death should not be attributed to God univocally but in a qualified, analogical sense, this still does not preclude a real communication of properties from the human to the divine essence. While it is sound theology to locate the mission of the Son in the eternal processions of the Trinity, nonetheless as an historical event the Incarnation represents the ‘death of God’ for the sake of the life of the world. As a real event between God and the world, the death of the Son must introduce something ‘new’ into the Trinity, even if the inner-trinitarian event of ‘diastasis’ and love is the exegesis of the event of Jesus Christ. 81   This inconsistency is also noted by Berkhof in his Systematic Theology, p. 326.

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flesh in the man Jesus. Karl Barth states the case well when he asserts that in this event of the mutual participation of natures in the person of Christ, nothing is kept back: ‘In the height of God and in the depths of man, nothing is excluded from this movement from the height of God to our depths, and back again from our depths to the height of God.’82 The twofold movement from above to below (humiliation) and from below to above (exaltation) is conceived in historical terms as an operatio between God and fallen humanity. In the man Jesus, the Son of God has truly experienced the human condition ‘from within’, he is in ‘solidarity’ with adamic flesh to the point of suffering death on a cross and plummeting the depths of the abyss of hell in order to bring us sinners home to the Father as our final destiny. While a relation of reciprocity exists between the two natures united in the person of Christ, care must be taken not to interpret this reciprocity as meaning that the natures are ‘interchangeable.’83 This reciprocity, moreover, is not a strict reciprocity given the asymmetrical nature of the divine-human relationship, which points to the different character of each nature; namely, the divine is wholly that which ‘gives’ while the human is wholly that which ‘receives’, hence the relationship is one of genuine action.84 In light of the historical event of the Incarnation, we are required to see the divine nature as having a determination to the human and the human nature as having a determination from the divine, which is to say that ‘the divine expresses and reveals itself wholly in the sphere of the   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 75. Barth insists on the need to recognize the suffering of God in the event of the Incarnation, but he is less willing to speak of ‘death in God’ (cf. Moltmann) or the ‘death of God’ (cf. Jüngel). As Alan Lewis explains, Barth refuses to take with total seriousness anything ‘which contradicts and opposes God’s own reality as life and grace and love’, for God is ‘for us’ in advance and already says No to all that is dark, unruly and deadly. Lewis, Between Cross and Resurrection, p. 214. 83   Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 116. Barth rightly explains that the ‘mutual participation’ of natures in the person of Christ must not be understood in the sense of ‘interchangeable’ – the human essence assumed by the Son of God is in union with his divine essence, but this does not mean that the human essence was ‘divinized’, that it became divine essence. The penetration of the human by the divine does not entail the destruction or alteration of the human nature of the Son, although it does mean that his human essence enjoys every perfection of the divine essence. The Reformed were horrified by the genus majestaticum of Lutheran dogmatics which they saw as the divinization of Jesus’ humanity. God became human in order that we sinners may ‘not become God, but come to God.’ Ibid., p. 106. Jüngel also insists that in the event of the Incarnation what takes place is the ‘humanizing of God’ but not a deifying of humanity. See Jüngel, God as the Mystery of the World, p. 94. 84   Ibid., p. 72. For Barth the process of divine giving and human receiving is completed in Christ’s perfect obedience to the Father unto death, but central to the present study is the contention that the process comes to completion in his being raised from the dead by God, in the power of the Spirit, so that the resurrection enters into the very substance of salvation in the person of Christ. 82

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human, and the human serves and attests the divine.’85 The divine and the human essence united in the person of Christ work together, yet in their common working they are not interchangeable but communicate with one another. An adequate understanding of the doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum, to conclude, is one that recognizes the shortcomings of the Chalcedonian definition and in the interests of purging the definition of dualistic tendencies – stemming from classical metaphysical thought on divine impassibility and immutability – seeks to rethink the Incarnation in historical terms as an operatio between the divine and the human. Reflection on the mystery of the hypostatic union, when carried out in concreto, gives rise to the view that Jesus acts as God when he acts as man, and he acts as man when he acts as God. The ‘common actualization’ of divine and human essence in the event of Jesus Christ leaves no room for a dualistic approach that divides the two essences.86 The thought of Jüngel, who develops Barth’s view of the humanity of God, is especially effective in dispelling dualistic thinking when he claims that from the perspective of God’s identification with the crucified and buried Jesus Christ, God is more like us than unlike us while still remaining God in the ‘concrete difference’ between ‘his divinity’s own humanity and the humanity of man.’87 The event of Jesus Christ, then, in the first instance, is the participation of the divine in the human which attains to its ultimate depth as a participation of the human in the divine, in accordance with the covenant of grace established from all eternity in the Son of God, through whom all things have been made. We are therefore required to acknowledge a reciprocal communication of attributes between the two natures united in the concrete person of Jesus Christ. At the same time, however, it is important to stress that the common actualization of divine and human essence does not blur the difference between them, for they actualize themselves as the one and the other as they confront and address one another in the person of Jesus Christ. 85   Ibid., p. 115. It is apparent that for Barth grace is an ‘event’, a ‘history’, an ‘act of God’, not an appropriated state. The notion of gratia habitualis of mediaeval scholasticism, where grace is conceived as a possession, is rejected by Barth. The grace of Christ takes place as a grace addressed to him as the Son of Man and received by him as the Son of Man. 86   This is the position of Barth. He talks of the event of Jesus Christ as the ‘new actualization of divine essence’ outside of the inner life of God and the ‘new actualization of human essence’ exalted to fellowship with God, hence what takes place in Jesus Christ is the ‘common actualiztion of divine and human essence.’ Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, pp. 113–15. 87   God As the Mystery of the World, p. 288. Jüngel, from the vantage point of his ‘analogy of advent’, says that the difference between God and man is ‘the difference of a still greater similarity between God and man in the midst of a great dissimilarity.’ This view of analogy, which expresses God’s arrival amongst humankind as a definitive event, reverses the Fourth Lateran Council’s view of the difference between God and man which is based upon an ‘analogy of being.’

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In order to safeguard against a confusing or blending of natures, it must always be borne in mind that the reciprocal communication of attributes between the natures takes place in the person who is irreducible to either his divine or human nature. Talk of an exchange of natures should not distract us from thinking primarily in terms of the person of the Son of God who assumed flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.88 It is the Son of God who is the acting subject and takes the initiative in this event, not his divine or human nature, and in his person each of the natures has its own determination, namely, the divine has a determination ‘to’ the human and the human has a determination ‘from’ the divine, which reflects the radically asymmetrical nature of the relationship. The emphasis on the person of Jesus Christ who is simultaneously God and man implies that it is simply unacceptable to limit his passion and death to his human nature alone – since it is the person of the Son of God who has suffered, died and descended into hell for our sake, then God is truly affected by the union of divinity with humanity in his person. An adequate doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum is one that allows us to speak of divine passibility and mutability on soteriological and historical grounds, that is, the divine plan for the final salvation of the world is realized through the Son of God who has assumed adamic flesh (participation of the divine in the human) in order that we might attain to adoption as sons of God in the Son of God (participation of the human in the divine) as our final ontological perfection. The emphasis on the person also ensures that our reflections are conducted in a strictly trinitarian framework, for the life and mission of Jesus as the Son unfolds in his modus of being-related to the Father through the Spirit that comes to rest upon and indwell him in eschatological fullness. Within this framework, moreover, we come to appreciate that since the persons of the Trinity mutually indwell one another in perichoretic relationship, then we simply cannot shy away from the conclusion that the Son’s death means that death is introduced into the life of the immanent Trinity, so as to make all things new (cf. Rev 21:5).89 In light of the saving mission of the Son, we are required to proclaim the good news that there is nothing ‘outside’ of God, including suffering and death which are now to be seen as loci of relationship with the living God. 88   Barth, von Balthasar and Jüngel all hold that we must think principally in terms of the person, not the divine and human nature. Barth, Church Dogmatics, vol. IV/II, p. 70; Balthasar, Theo-Drama, vol. III, p. 222; Jüngel, God as the Mystery of the World, pp. 95–7. 89   From the perspective of the principle of perichoresis we must affirm death in God, although this does not preclude talk of the death of God provided the latter is not misunderstood – the death of Jesus is the death of God in that he is the Son of the Father, in the Spirit, but we must be clear that the Father and the Spirit do not die. In respect of the death of Jesus, we saw in Chapter 2 of this study that we must speak of the Son’s forsakenness, the abandoning Father and the abnegation of the Spirit – each one of the Three is affected by the event of the cross, but only the Son dies and descends into hell.

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In respect of the common actualization of the divine and human essence in the person of Jesus Christ, this study, unlike Barth, has formulated the view that this happening is completed not on the cross but in his resurrection from the dead where we see what participation of the human in the divine essence comes to – in the Son’s returning to the Father his humanity is glorified in the power of the Spirit, so that the effectiveness of the Spirit in the Incarnate One is actuated in a new way. The victory of the Son over death means that his physical body is transformed into a glorious body that represents the dawning of a new creation. The twofold movement of the humiliation of the Son of God and the exaltation of the Son of Man reaches its zenith not on Good Friday or Holy Saturday but on Easter Sunday, so that the resurrection enters into the very substance of salvation conceived as participation in the life and glory of God. The Son of God as the Son of Man is truly our Brother, for he has experienced every dimension of human existence – though he remained without sin – including suffering, death on a cross and hell as God-forsakenness, in order that we might come to God and glorify God. As our Brother, Representative and Mediator between divinity and humanity, God’s sovereignty dwells in his creaturely dependence as Son of Man, God’s eternity in his temporal uniqueness, God’s omnipresence in his spatial limitation, God’s omnipotence in his weakness, God’s glory in his passibility and mortality, and God’s holy righteousness in his adamic fleshliness. From the perspective of the event of Jesus Christ where God participates in the human in order that the human may participate in the divine, we are to see God as taking the whole of our incomplete, fragmented, unfulfilled, sinful and mortal lives and elevating them to the ontological perfection of the resurrection life. The gift of dying into Jesus Christ – participation in his paschal mystery In light of the understanding that the admirable exchange of natures in the person of Jesus Christ is fully completed in his going to the Father, and that the communication of properties between the natures takes place in both directions so as to redeem fallen humanity from the clutches of death, God must be thought of as establishing new relations in the midst of death and in unity with all that is perishable, corruptible and transient, so as to create new life out of death (creatio ex creatione). This suggests that the happening of our own death, as a dying into Christ who is in complete solidarity with the human condition, should be reflected upon as a privileged locus for the reception of eschatological salvation in his person, and thus our being ontologically transferred from the kingdom of death to the kingdom of eternal life in the Spirit who is the possibility of God and the gift of ecstatic divine communion. The important thing to appreciate about the salvific character of death as our being drawn up into the exchange of natures in the person of Christ and thus ‘divinized’ – understood as human personhood sharing in the glory of the triune God – is that we are elevated to a new complex web of interactions between God, humanity and the world as a whole, so that

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human freedom at death does not operate in exactly the same way as in the pilgrim life, burdened as it is with sin, guilt, suffering, anxieties, tensions, limitations and incompleteness. In the next three sections, death as a participating in the exchange of natures in Christ will be elaborated in terms of the threefold character of salvation as involving interrelated physical, moral and eschatological dimensions. These three dimensions, furthermore, will be set in relation to the complex reality of the person as agent, as relation and as subject, respectively. The christological analyses conducted in the present study, which uphold the validity of a progressive Incarnation, provide clear support for this complex understanding of the person. The historical aspect of the Incarnation, which highlights the fact that the identity of Jesus as the Son is inextricably intertwined with his mission, points to the concept of person as agent; the ontological aspect, according to which the identity of Jesus as the Son is rooted in his being-related to the Father in eternity, highlights the concept of person as relation; and the pneumatological dimension, which recognizes that the man Jesus is the Son of God in the Spirit and that he is made holy in his humanity in successive stages of the actuation of the Spirit in his life and mission, can be seen as corresponding to the concept of person as subject – depth of self-consciousness. Physical aspect of integral salvation in Christ – regeneration The purpose of the discussion in this section is to shed light on the significance of death understood as a situation of powerlessness which represents an impasse for the person as agent.90 According to the concept of person as agent, the self is not primarily a thinker but a doer; it is by acting that a person seeks to integrate the complex of intentions, thoughts and affections, so that individuality emerges gradually in the unfolding of one’s personal history. But given that the individual never succeeds in enacting their intentions and thoughts fully, given that the length of one’s history inevitably ends in the helplessness of death, what becomes of the innate striving for personal fulfilment and the ultimate meaning of one’s history? Due consideration will be given here to the biblical and twentieth-century Protestant view of death as a natural happening – the human being is formed from the dust of the earth and returns to the dust of the earth – in which the true condition of creaturely existence is driven home to us with full force. God sets limits to the   Some important works in regard to the concept of person as agent include: Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958); Cornelius van Peursen, Body, Soul, Spirit (London: Oxford University Press, 1966); John Macmurray, The Self as Agent (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1978); and Charles Taylor, Human Agency and Language, I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). One of the basic characteristics of the existentialist style of philosophizing, it should also be noted, is the treatment of the self as agent, which is reflected in such themes as freedom, decision and responsibility. 90

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creation and death is the final limit set to the human being. In the biblical view, though, death is not only the natural end of a human life-time but is also feared due to the person’s consciousness of being a sinner and thus having to face God’s judgement. The next section will consider the latter aspect of death, but the focus here is on physical death as a natural end to human life, as a natural inevitability which highlights the fact that we humans are simply powerless and helpless when it comes to saving ourselves from the dead-end of death. The only possible attitude to adopt in the face of natural death is one of self-surrender to that uncanny otherness of reality which had engaged the exercise of our faculties of self-transcendence during the course of our pilgrim lives, but which now breaks in on us as an ‘excess of otherness’ so that we are compelled to acknowledge that personal identity is formed by ‘God who is our beyond’ (Jüngel). To speak of death as the self-surrender of our unfinished, fragmented and incomplete lives to an excess of otherness must not be confused, though, with the transcendental theory of Rahner according to which death is a properly personal act that establishes the final validity of one’s history of freedom; that is, one brings oneself to a final self-determination before God. The main problem with the theory formulated by Rahner is the failure to recognize that the truly last thing is not human freedom but the sovereign freedom of God who in the person of the Risen One has conquered the powers of death in the world and transformed them into the completed wholeness of eternal life (cf. Moltmann). In light of the Christian revelation, human freedom must be thought of as configured to Christ’s freedom which is perfected in his death as God-forsakenness, so that any final determination of personal freedom before God is to be regarded ‘from within’ the condition of death (cf. von Balthasar). With regard to the testimony of the New Testament, the significance of death as a situation of helplessness was articulated in the exegesis of Jesus’ cry of God-forsakenness presented in Chapter 1 of this study. In that analysis the episode in the garden of Gethsemane was highlighted as representing a crucial transition point for the enactment of Jesus’ obedience to the Father. Prior to this episode, Jesus had enjoyed a certain liberty of action in his public ministry; he was a figure of some power as he went about authoritatively interpreting the scriptures, healing the sick and exorcising demons, and forgiving people their sins, all of which was aimed at restoring people to personal integrity and wholeness of being as a manifestation of the drawing near of the kingdom of God. But when Jesus freely accepts the ‘cup’ given to him by the Father and gives himself over to the religious and secular authorities, this marks a transition point in the Gospel story from power to powerlessness. The words uttered by the chief priests and the scribes as Jesus hung on the cross lend poignancy to this state of powerlessness: ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself’(Mk 15:31). This statement is particularly significant, we saw, inasmuch as it indicates that Jesus saves others by freely giving up the power to save himself; that is, the actual realization of Jesus’ saving power is to be seen in the transition from power to powerlessness. Of course, it must be borne in mind that Jesus’ death is not a purely natural death; rather, his crucifixion is an accursed

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death (the second death) that he bears vicariously for our sake, so that we sinners might be freed for natural death, that is, released from the sentence of the second death (cf. Barth). The death of Jesus on the cross is the content or purpose of his obedience to the Father enacted in the garden of Gethsemane, and we are not given another glimpse of Jesus’ inner life until his cry of God-forsakenness. Placed on the lips of Jesus himself, we saw that the cry is the interpretation of his death: namely, Jesus, the Just One, has completely assumed the human condition of estrangement from the living God so as to bring a fallen humanity home to God in his very own person. By freely entering into a state of powerlessness, Jesus bears the imprint of humanity’s cruelty and sinfulness so that we sinners might be drawn up into his perfect self-abandon to the Father and be brought home to God as our final destiny. By giving up the power to save himself, by giving up any self-justifying appeal to God, all of which serves to underscore Jesus’ total self-surrender to the Father for our sake, the body of the Crucified One is now to be seen as the new temple, that is, the new locus of the eschatological presence of the living God for the whole of humanity. What this interpretation of the transition from power to powerlessness in the story of Jesus’ passion shows is that it is not possible to extricate the physical, moral and eschatological aspects of integral salvation in his person; talk of any one aspect necessarily involves reference to the other two, although this does not preclude the possibility of viewing these three aspects of salvation as constituting a hierarchical structure. Returning to a focus on death as a natural end to human life, this inevitability or helplessness amounts to an impasse for the concept of person as agent. This is apparent from the fact that the integration of the complex of intentions, thoughts and affections is something that is realized gradually through the unfolding of one’s history of personal activity, so that the happening of death deprives the individual of the possibility of securing personal integration or fulfilment. Death brings the cessation of activity, for all human activity is grounded in ‘bodiliness’ which is the common matrix in and through which individual persons are related to humanity and the cosmos as a whole. Personal activity beyond death, on this view, necessarily entails the creation of a newly embodied self that is fitted for the new conditions of life in the hereafter (creatio ex creatione). Without this hope of a newly embodied self that arises out of the abyss of death, all personal activity and striving in this life would be rendered meaningless and even absurd. For only if the total configuration of one’s concretely lived life remains indissolubly ‘before God’ (Moltmann) and is taken up into ‘a new set of relationships’ (Jüngel) to God as the mystery of the world, to the original self and to humanity and the cosmos as a whole, can this incomplete and unfulfilled life of ours assume a meaningful orientation which it would not otherwise have. The concept of person as agent can therefore be seen as corresponding to the physical aspect of integral salvation in the Risen One; that is, it points to God’s gift of ‘regeneration’ of the dead, through Christ the Dead One, in the Spirit who is the

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Gift of divine communion. This amounts to a new mode-of-being-in-the-world, which is referred to as the ‘risen life.’ The claim that the whole ‘I’ actually dies at death may give the impression to the reader that the human being dies into nothingness, but this is not what is being proposed here. Rather, what is being asserted is that since our death is now set in relation to Christ’s death, then in death our lives as we have concretely lived them remain indissolubly before God in that same Spirit who continued to preserve the unity of the abandoned Son and the surrendering Father on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and who as the possibility of God was involved in raising the Crucified One from the dead and exalting him to the right hand of God, thereby establishing him as Lord and Christ (cf. Acts 2:22–36). This is to say, in other words, that we do not die into nothingness but into the mystery of the triune God, yet we must be careful not to allow this assertion to dilute the other part of the equation, namely, the sense of utter helplessness in death. When these two poles of death as utter powerlessness and death as a dying into the mystery of the Trinity are kept in tension, then the helplessness of death emerges as the privileged locus for being ‘drawn up’ (Jn 12:32) into the life of the Trinity as our final end: death as emptiness becomes the locus for receiving the plenitude of life (cf. Rahner). The reception of the plenitude of life in the abyss of death takes place by means of God’s self-gift in Christ who has assumed our death into his saving death, and God’s self-gift in the Spirit who is the Spirit of resurrection life. As Irenaeus of Lyons was fond of saying, the Son and the Spirit are the ‘two hands’ of God the Father in the divine economy of creation and salvation. What comes to the fore in the picture of death as a situation of utter powerlessness and helplessness is the theme of the transcendence of the Spirit of the Risen One over death, so that the gifted character of new life out of the abyss of death is put in sharp relief. The phenomenon of self-transcendence ultimately gives way to God’s transcendence over death. This does not mean that death is devoid of significance in regard to the final determination of the person before God, however we must be clear that identity receives its determinate content not so much by way of a final decision before God as through being drawn up into Christ’s perfect self-abandon to the Father in love, for our sake. To be drawn up into the paschal mystery of Christ implies that Christ’s freedom becomes the freedom of the newly embodied self who participates in Christ’s glorified humanity, in the Spirit. Our death is therefore to be interpreted positively as the privileged locus for receiving God’s eschatological salvation in the persons of the Son and the Spirit. The notion of creatio ex creatione, according to which the new creation emerges from the old, aptly describes this positive interpretation of death as profoundly salvific. While we suffer death passively due to an excess of otherness, we must nonetheless not lose sight of the fact that there is much fruit in passivity understood as receptivity to the Other. This insight arises out of the understanding of ‘encounter’ (cf. Buber) which has been elaborated in this study: if the You encounters me and I enter into an unmediated relationship to the You, then the relationship is at once

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being chosen (passive) and choosing (active). The I-You relation pertains to one’s whole being – the encounter takes place in being – and an action of the whole being comes to resemble passivity since it does away with all partial actions and thus with any sense of action which depends on limited exertions. I require a You to become, and becoming I, I say You, so that all actual life is encounter. In the situation of death as an excess of otherness, Christ encounters me and I enter into an absolute, unconditional and irreversible involvement with the eternal You, and become an active whole in the new life of permanent communion with God who is ‘the One who loves in freedom’ (Barth) and whose being is in becoming all in all. Moral aspect of integral salvation in Christ – justification This study has maintained that from the standpoint of a Christology developed within an evolutionary view of the world, divine salvation is appropriately conceived in ontological terms as the attainment of a higher nature. The appearance of the humanum on the stage of evolutionary history means that the process of evolving nature now becomes centred on the human who has the capacity to reflect on the why, whence and whither of human existence in the world. The human person, however, as a self-transcending being, is conscious of being a sinner, so that no matter the extent to which transcendent meaning and goodness has been concretely realized in this life, the higher nature to which the person is called remains beyond complete grasp. The powers of sin and death in the world are serious obstacles to the formation of human being and to the perfection of our being created imago Dei. This implies that if we subscribe to the view of a physical redemption which entails the attainment of a higher incorruptible nature, then no such hope can be entertained without the definitive forgiveness of personal sins and final removal of personal guilt. To put the matter more concisely, there can be no physical redemption without moral redemption. What is in focus in this section, then, is the concept of person as relation which accentuates the relational aspect of being a person.91 It is from the perspective of the web of relationships or breadth of involvements with others that we become aware of the pervasive reality of sin. We go to our deaths knowing that we are sinners, no matter how earnestly we have sought to lead truly sacramental and holy lives. It was stated in the previous section that in the Gospel story of Jesus’ passion the actual realization of Jesus’ saving power takes place in the transition from power to powerlessness and that the shedding of his blood for the forgiveness of sins is the content or purpose of his obedience to the Father enacted in the garden of Gethsemane. The time has now come to consider the possible import of the 91   In addition to Martin Buber’s I and Thou, which was examined in Chapter 2 of this study, another important work on the concept of person as relation is that of John Macmurray, Persons in Relation (Atlantic Highlands: Humanities Press, 1961).

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fundamental Christian tenet that (1) the forgiveness of sins is through the death of Christ (Mt 26:28; Col 1:14; 1 Cor 15:3) for the development of a theology of death. In order to perform this task, what is required is the setting of the latter tenet in relation to another fundamental tenet of Christian doctrine, namely, (2) we humans suffer death as the ‘wages of sin’ (Rom 6:23). When these two tenets are brought together, the logical inference to be drawn is that in the event of our death as a dying into Christ who has conquered the powers of sin and death in the world by his unique death, our personal sins are unconditionally forgiven and personal guilt is conclusively removed. Death as the wages of sin, as the reality of being separated from God, should not, therefore, be considered in purely negative terms, for death takes on a decidedly positive character as the locus for receiving new life in communion with God who is the One who loves in sovereign freedom and unconditionally justifies the sinner. To be justified by the Lord Jesus Christ and passively ‘declared righteous’ in one’s standing before God is a present reality for those baptised into Christ, to be sure, however the thrust of the argument above is that the full reality of what justification entails is established only in death as a dying into the Lord. In support of this proposition it will helpful to recall Paul’s understanding of the reality of human sin, which is not restricted to the internal sphere of the individual because the individual sinner is also subject to external powers of sin that seek to corrupt and pervert human freedom in the direction of wrongdoing. Thus Paul frequently refers in his writings to the ‘powers of sin and death’ in the world. The recognition of these powers implies that the shedding of Christ’s blood for the forgiveness of sins must be interpreted cosmologically and eschatologically, as well as anthropologically. The fact that Christ suffered an unjust death at the hands of a sinful world – both Jewish and Roman powers conspired in his violent death – captures the cosmological-historical dimension of sin, while the emphasis of von Balthasar and the Reformed tradition on Christ having endured the ‘second death’ for our sake captures the eschatological dimension of sin characteristic of Jewish apocalyptic thought. When all three interrelated dimensions of sin are held closely together, as they should be, it can be appreciated why the reality of justification in Christ can never be experienced in its fullness in this age – only by entering into or participating in the glorified humanity of the ‘Holy and Just One’ (Acts 3:14) will the sinner enjoy the full benefits of being set in right relationship to God, which entails right relationship to others, to the personal self and to the cosmos as a whole. Also integral to the argument here is the earlier discussion of the key Pauline text that Christ was ‘put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification’ (Rom 4:25). This text suggests that justification should not be restricted to Christ’s death on the cross but should include in its purview the resurrection of Christ in the power of the Spirit. The resurrection of the crucified Christ is not merely, as usually thought, his being vindicated by the Father and revealed as the Just One; instead, we should also think of the resurrection as a new stage in the actuation of the Spirit resting upon Christ in eschatological fullness, a stage which involves

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his humanity being taken up fully into the dimension of God and thus glorified – hence the resurrection should be seen as the completion of the process of exchange of natures in the person of Christ. When the Pauline statement that the crucified Christ was raised for our justification is considered carefully, the picture that emerges is that of the entire paschal mystery of Christ, not just the crucifixion, as perfecting the work of justification – the resurrection of the Crucified One is the completion of the process of justification. This means that in respect of sinners being declared righteous and set in right relationship to God, this process is to be regarded as attaining its finality in our being raised from the dead, in the power of the Spirit. The full flowering of justification in Christ, in other words, does not take place in the pilgrim life but in the life hereafter conceived as participation in Christ’s glorified humanity, which is the climactic point of the assumption of humanity in his person. Not only the person of the Son but also the person of the Spirit is therefore involved in the work of justification, each according to its specific or proper role. Even when we leave aside the Pauline statement about Christ being raised for our justification, the more traditional treatment of justification as effected on the cross still offers fertile ground for reflecting upon the moral aspect of integral salvation in the person of Christ. In light of the understanding that Christ on the cross not only took upon himself the consequences of sin but was actually ‘made sin’ (2 Cor 5:21) for our sake, given the theological interpretation of Jesus’ cry on the cross as meaning that he has fully assumed the human condition of estrangement from God of which the cross is the consummate sign, then this compels us to reflect further on whether we can intelligibly hold to the traditional view of hell as an irreversible state of the hardened sinner. For if Christ is truly the One who transforms the ‘heart of stone’ into ‘a new heart’ in the power of the Spirit (cf. Ezek 36:26; 2 Cor 3:3), if he is the One who has endured the ‘second death’ (Rev 20:6) and transformed the sinful human condition from within by bringing his humanity into perfect union with the Father precisely in his free acceptance of an unjust death at the hands of sinful humanity, then the event of death as unmediated encounter with the Crucified One must be viewed as having special significance in the matter of our final salvation. To borrow a powerful image from the Book of Revelation, the event of death as a dying in the Lord (Rev 14:13) can be envisaged as profoundly salvific because it is the privileged moment in which the ‘old’ sinful self is washed white in the ‘blood of the Lamb’ (Rev 7:14). To be washed white in the blood of the paschal Lamb is a cleansing or purifying event in which the personal self can be envisaged as immanently revealed to itself no longer in part and by discernment as it used to be in the pilgrim life, but fully in an unmediated encounter with the Lamb of God (cf. 1 Cor 13:9, 12). What is fully unveiled in the event of death as dying in the Lord, in other words, is the inviolable ‘original’ identity of the human being as created in the image and likeness of God. To be created in the divine image means that human sinfulness can never destroy the basic human predestination to fellowship and union with God, hence evil is to be regarded as always carrying

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within itself the invitation to conversion: if this were not the case, then God would simply not be able to redeem a fallen humanity by drawing good out of evil (O felix culpa!). This process of drawing good out of evil should be elaborated in primarily ontological terms, though, since the object of the process of salvation is the formation of being – as Rahner, von Balthasar, Barth, Jüngel and Moltmann all emphasize – which involves the overcoming of the opposites of being in the world. From the standpoint of Christ being made sin for our sake, the judgement executed by Christ is an essentially saving judgement, for in the person of Christ the reality of sin has been abolished altogether, thereby paving the way for the full actualization of our deepest potential as personal beings created in the divine image and destined to live in glorious union with God. What the saving judgement executed by the paschal Lamb indicates is that the first ontological status of the human being is not the reality of sin which leads to death, but the original reality of being created to partake of the very life of God, by grace. The contention that the personal self is revealed fully to itself in death is tantamount to asserting that death is the privileged locus for the definitive conversion of the old, sinful self. We are required, in other words, to think of real freedom as having personal identity in the crucified and risen Christ as its determinate content. Freedom should not be regarded as the human capacity to dispose of ourselves in our totality in a final decision before God; instead, we should think of freedom as receiving its definitive orientation in the unmediated encounter with Christ in death, an encounter in which the personal self is fully revealed to itself immanently as created in the image of God and thus becomes fully ‘alive’ to the glory of God revealed in Christ. The issue of real freedom established through the gateway of death will be discussed at greater length below. The negative reality of death as the wages of sin, to sum up, must not be treated in isolation from the positive affirmation that the unconditional forgiveness of sins is through Christ who in his atoning death has borne the sin of the world, so that no sinner can any longer be estranged from the living God. In light of these two fundamental tenets of Christian faith, it becomes apparent that moral redemption in Christ is inextricably intertwined with physical redemption in Christ. It would be quite appropriate here to borrow a term from cosmology and speak of the situation of death as a point of ‘singularity’ inasmuch as it is a gateway through which the dead enter irreversibly into a new mode of personal being because they are introduced into a new set of relationships to God, self, humanity and the cosmos as a whole – the reconciled wholeness of the risen life. Death as unmediated encounter with Christ, in whose person the sinner is justified, truly emerges as the sacramental situation par excellence. What the notion of death as justification clearly brings into sharp relief is the relational aspect of being a person. As a relational being caught up in a web of involvements with a world estranged from God, as a being who necessarily seeks to forge identity in relation to others, the person becomes conscious of deep complicity with the reality of sin which poses a formidable barrier to the formation

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of being. The concept of person as relation can readily be seen as corresponding to the moral aspect of integral salvation in the person of Christ: to be justified and declared right in one’s standing before God, which gives rise to positive consequences for the quality of one’s relations to others, is to be introduced to new possibilities for personal being in the world; that is, justification involves our being introduced to a new mode-of-being-in-the-world wherein the old self fades away by allowing the final graciousness of reality to provide the basic orientation to human existence. To be transformed by the justifying grace of God’s forgiving love is to know real freedom as an unmerited gift of the One who loves in freedom and whose being is in becoming. The establishment of real freedom in the Spirit, which empowers us to be the persons we are truly meant to be in loving God and neighbour above all else, is the topic of the next section to which we now turn. Eschatological aspect of integral salvation in Christ – sanctification The foregoing argument about justification in the person of Christ is closely connected with the view of personal identity as always a responsive identity; that is, identity is not self-constituted but is forged in the attitude of ready encounter with others so that being-related is to be seen as a modus of being. The proposition that personal identity is realized by thinking and living in terms of the I-You relationship finds clear support in the biblical writings where the human being is presented as constituted by its integral relationships to God and to others, as well as to the created order. The picture painted in the biblical writings is not the kind of closed ontology characteristic of classic Greek metaphysical thought where the category of ‘substance’ predominates; rather, we find a dynamic picture of ‘personhood’, of the human as having been given a vocation by God who personally addresses the human in the sphere of history and calls the human to the holy service of God – ‘sanctification’ as the dedication of persons to the service of God who is life, love and freedom. The openness of being implied by personhood points to a movement that has communion with God as its intended end, and it also directs our attention to the thinking of human freedom in an ontological, rather than moral, sense.92 In this section the discussion will be centred on the paradox of grace and the establishment of real freedom in the situation of death as a dying into the Lord. What will be in focus is the concept of person as subject; that is, since the person possesses subjectivity, a relating to self, then personal being involves

  John Zizioulas in his understanding of personhood stresses that freedom must be understood in an ontological sense, not a moral sense, and that personhood has a metaphysical claim built into it. See John Zizioulas, ‘On Being a Person. Towards an Ontology of Personhood’, in Persons, Divine And Human, ed. Christoph Schwöbel and Colin E. Gunton (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991), pp. 33–46. 92

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self-consciousness.93 In light of this subjectivity, each one of us is called to say ‘yes’ to God’s self-communication in grace. In the tradition of Christian theology there exists a long-standing recognition of the view that human freedom and divine grace are manifested simultaneously, which extends as far back as Augustine: ‘I … yet not I, but the grace of God.’94 This utterance of Augustine conveys the understanding that true freedom (libertas) to become what we humans ought to be is realized with the help of grace which heals a flawed human nature and elevates it to union with God. This ‘paradox of grace’ consists in ascribing to grace anything that is good in us humans, yet far from undermining freedom, our actions are never more truly free and never more truly human than when they are wrought in us by the grace of God in Christ. In more contemporary theology this paradox of grace continues to be recognized, as is evident, for example, in Rahner’s understanding of how human autonomy does not decrease but increases in direct proportion to dependence on grace, and Barth’s contention that the Christ-event reveals the human as having a determination ‘from’ the divine. True freedom to be what we humans ought to be, then, is to be seen as a God-given capacity to enter into communion and fellowship with God as the ontological fulfilment of the human subject. The problem with the thought of Rahner, though, as has already been stated at various places in this study, is that because his whole system of thought is guided by a transcendental philosophy of freedom, he tends to make human freedom the truly last thing in the order of salvation. This is especially evident in his theology of death when, after having asserted that death itself as a ‘dying in the Lord’ is to be regarded as a salvific event corresponding to the real nature of grace, he then proceeds to claim that death is a salvific event only for those who undergo death as the highest act of believing, so that the saving benefits of Christ are conditional upon the person’s final act of freedom which recapitulates the person’s whole life. The main problem here is that for Rahner everything in the order of salvation seems to be decided upon by the person on this side of death, which effectively means that one has to make a decision of eternal significance in respect of one’s final destiny without having received the eschatological benefits of Christ’s redemptive death through an unmediated encounter with Christ at death. Rahner is to be applauded for portraying the human person as the event of God’s self-communication in grace and the hiatus of death as a situation corresponding   Two notable works dealing with the concept of person as subject are Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (New York: Humanities Press, 1961), 5.632–5.641; and Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, tr. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. 151. The notion of ‘self-relatedness’ is a basic characteristic of existentialist thought. Either the existent is itself, it is existing authentically as standing out from the world of objects; or it is not itself, it is being absorbed into the world of objects as just another object and thus exists inauthentically. 94   Cited by Donald M. Baillie in his God Was In Christ (London: Faber & Faber, 1961), pp. 144–5. 93

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to the real nature of grace – the advent of God in the midst of the emptiness and loneliness of death – but his thought needs to be developed further by appreciating that in death as a dying into the redemptive death of Christ, God himself creates the final conditions wherein the original identity of the human person is definitively established as pure gift. From the perspective of the paschal mystery of Christ, the truly last thing in the order of salvation is not human freedom but rather the sovereignty of divine freedom made manifest in the crucified and risen One in whose person corruptible human being is drawn up into the life of the Trinity as its final destiny. This is not to say that human freedom plays no role whatsoever in death as a salvific event, however the final consummation of freedom should be viewed as integral or intrinsic to the expanded ontological horizon of truth (verum), goodness (bonum) and beauty (pulchrum) that opens up to the person in death as a being drawn up into the admirable exchange of natures in the person of Christ and thus divinized. The fact that the movement of love being played out between the Son and the Father, in the Spirit, reaches a climactic point in the paschal mystery implies that we are required to think of human freedom as having personal identity in the crucified, buried and risen Son as its determinate content. The view of Christ’s freedom as perfected on the cross (Heb 5:8–9) has significant implications for our understanding of how human freedom becomes definitive at death. In the previous section it was proposed that when death as the wages of sin is set in relation to the tenet that Christ shed his blood for the forgiveness of sins, then in death as a dying into Christ our personal sins are unconditionally forgiven and we receive the gift of an original identity with which we had been only dimly familiar in this life. A similar argument can be formulated with regard to the perfection of Christ’s freedom in his passion and how his real freedom becomes our freedom in the situation of death. The two propositions that form the basis of the argument can be stated as follows. (1) The freedom of Christ is perfected in his being ‘made sin’ for the sake of sinners, and (2) sin as the perversion of freedom prevents the human from realizing its deepest potential as being created imago Dei. When these two statements are brought into relation to one another, the logical conclusion to be drawn is that death as a dying into the death of Christ involves not only the unconditional forgivenness of sins but also the concomitant establishment of real freedom in being drawn up into Christ’s perfect self-surrender to the Father, through the Spirit. The happening of death therefore emerges as a unique situation which is conceived in primarily ontological terms, inasmuch as death corresponds wholly both to the nature of grace as God’s gratuitous self-bestowal toward the non-divine other, and the nature of the human being as the event of God’s self-gift in grace. This study has portrayed the reality of sin as an ontological category before being an ethical one, which is the essence of the doctrine of original sin, but now what comes into focus is the other half of this equation; namely, since Christ has borne the reality of sin itself and transformed it from within into eternal life, then the freedom of new life in the Spirit is also to be seen as an ontological category before being an ethical one. The reality of original sin, understood as the

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disjunction that exists between what we presently are and what we are destined to become according to God’s eternal covenant of grace, has been overcome by the Son who was sent into the far country for our sake, thereby showing us that no disjunction exists between what God eternally is and what God does in time and history. As the One who loves in freedom, God can assume human flesh in Jesus of Nazareth and die as a human being for the sake of humanity’s determination to blessed communion with God. The prototype of the death of every human being, on this view, is not the death of the first Adam, but the death of Christ as the second Adam.95 The essence of the Christian faith should not, then, be reduced to the mere forgiveness of sins, but should be portrayed as participation in Christ’s divine identity, a participation in which we receive the gift of true freedom to become sons and daughters of God in the Son (cf. Gal 4:4–6) who has made our death his by taking our humanity as his very own, so that by making his death ours we will share in his glorious resurrection from the dead in the power of the Spirit. ‘This is the foundation for a Christian answer to the question of death.’96 In this pilgrim life we sinners can already experience real freedom in the Spirit of the Risen One, to be sure, yet our freedom is never fully realized and conversion remains ontologically precarious as long as we continue to be beset by manifold ambiguities and trials, tensions and anxieties, and the reality of sin within and without, all of which wreak havoc in respect of continual development of the self towards complete personal integrity in relation to God and other humans. It seems that a solid case can be made for the view that to live authentically is to acknowledge death as the ‘sign’ of our unfinished, incomplete and fragmented selves; it involves the abandonment of ourselves to transcendent forces over which we can have no control and which alone can confer upon us the totality of meaning, goodness and beauty that eludes us in this pilgrim life. The disjunction between this age of death and the age of new life to come has been conclusively overcome in the One who is the ‘first born of the dead’ (1 Cor 15:20) and possesses the ‘keys of Death and Hades’ (Rev 1:18), yet this gap between the two ages cannot be filled in this life although it certainly can be bridged by living in the Spirit of the Risen One who is the God-given future of the world. It is only by passing through the gateway of death as a dying into the Lord Jesus Christ that the full benefits of eschatological salvation are conferred upon us, namely, the freedom of new life in communion with the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit who is the bringer of the ecstatic gift of divine communion. This proposition regarding the event of death as the final establishment of real freedom calls to mind the concept of person as subject. The previous two sections have focused on the length of history (person as agent) and the breadth of relationships (person as relation) as integral to the development of the person, but the person is always more than these two elements given that the person is 95   This point is stressed by Helmut Thielicke, Living With Death (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983), p. 164. 96   Ray S. Anderson, Theology, Death and Dying, p. 5.

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also determined by an abiding disposition or attitude that persists throughout the multiplicity of changes in its length of history and breadth of relationships. The self-referential word ‘I’ indicates that a person possesses subjectivity or a relating to self, a being aware of standing not only in the world but also apart from it. The person as subject implies, in other words, the openness of being, the movement towards self-transcendence. The subject relating to itself and reflecting on itself is ultimately directed towards God as the mystery of the world, so that to respond in faith, hope and love to God – a response that pertains to the human ‘spirit’ – is to attain authentic personhood and to realize communion with God as the final goal of human subjectivity. The concept of person as subject can therefore be seen as corresponding to the eschatological aspect of integral salvation in Christ inasmuch as it is the subjectivity of the person that has to do with the actualization of the deepest potential of personhood as union with God and thus dedication to the service of God. This union with God is through the work of the Spirit who relates the human subject to the person of Christ who alone has responded in a total, complete and perfect way to God’s self-communication to the world, thereby bringing the history of revelation and salvation to a climactic and unsurpassable point. The argument presented in this section is intimately tied to the previous two sections, since the eschatological aspect of salvation cannot be considered apart from the moral and physical aspects of salvation in the person of Christ. No one dimension of integral salvation in Christ can be considered in isolation from the other two elements that together comprise the complex reality of ‘new being’ in the Risen One in whose person the human has become a partaker of the divine essence, so that the movement of creation emerges as a movement towards the life of grace and glory. The argument can be summarized as follows. (1) The physical aspect of salvation in Jesus Christ, which recognizes the mortality of the human ‘body’ and thus the finite length or time of the person as agent, corresponds to the notion of regeneration which conveys the sense of a transformed bodily existence or ‘spiritual body’ (1 Cor 15:44) that is incorruptible and imperishable. (2) The moral aspect of salvation in Jesus Christ, which acknowledges that the person in developing a web of relations to others becomes conscious of the problem of sin and guilt that weighs heavily on the human ‘soul’, corresponds to the notion of justification in the Crucified One. The focus here is on death as the wages of sin (Rom 6:23) and as the sign of God’s judgement (2 Cor 5:21) against sin. (3) Finally, the person as subject corresponds to the eschatological aspect of salvation, given the understanding that the deepest potential of the human person is realized by entering into union or fellowship with God. What is in focus here is the human ‘spirit’ in the sense of self-consciousness and freedom of the subject who is capable of responding in faith, hope and love to the promptings of the Spirit who is the principle of God’s self-communication to the world. Personal identity has to do with receiving ‘adoption’ as sons and daughters of God in the Son, through the Spirit (Gal 4:4–7) and becoming heirs of ‘eternal life’ (Rom 5:21; 6:23).

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The traditional terms body, soul and spirit, are not to be treated as discrete substances that make up the person; rather, they denote integral dimensions of personal existence that correspond with the physical, moral and eschatological aspects of integral salvation in the person of Christ, respectively.97 The best language to communicate the nature of integral salvation in Christ is ontological language, for God’s action in the world has to do with the formation of creaturely being which involves the overcoming of the opposites of being in the world. In light of the event of the Incarnation that reaches its zenith in the Son’s paschal mystery, God has overcome the opposites of being by assuming our death in the person of the incarnate Son. As argued earlier in this chapter, an appropriate understanding of the doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum is one that acknowledges, on soteriological grounds, the need for the exchange of attributes in the hypostatic union to flow in both directions, for God has suffered and died in the Word become flesh in order to redeem a fallen world from the powers of death and liberate it for the life of glory. To affirm the humanity of Jesus Christ as the humanity of God is to acknowledge that God has participated in the human (the divine expresses itself in the sphere of the human) in order that the human might participate in the divine (the human expresses itself in the sphere of the divine), so that the principle of admirable exchange of natures in the person of the Son of God becomes an effective way of communicating the inviolable dignity of the human being created in the image of God and destined to partake of the glory of God by the workings of grace. The three integral dimensions of personal identity, furthermore, highlight the fact that human existence is characterized by temporality. We are temporal beings who have a present that stands in relation to the past that has shaped us and to the future that holds possibilities for our lives. Temporal existence implies, in other words, that we have a history, both a past history and a future history. Yet for each human life-time to acquire its own unique importance as irreplaceable and genuinely historical, it must be regarded as ‘a moment in God’s history with all men.’98 The world has been created for the sake of this history, and every human being participates in this history by virtue of belonging to this world. The late Pope 97   The terminology employed by Paul Tillich when speaking of the threefold character of salvation, it is worth noting, is compatible with what is being proposed in this chapter. Tillich speaks of regeneration as ‘participation in the New Being’, which is an apt term for describing the physical aspect of integral salvation in Christ; he refers to justification as ‘acceptance of the New Being’, which clearly corresponds to the moral aspect of integral salvation in Christ; and he talks of sanctification as ‘transformation by the New Being’, which can be seen as coinciding with the eschatological aspect of integral salvation in Christ. Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. in 1, vol. 2 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1967), pp. 176–80. 98   Eberhard Jüngel, Death: The Riddle and the Mystery, tr. Iain and Ute Nicol (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1974), p. 118. See Chapter 1 of this study for a discussion of the irreplaceability of each human person.

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John Paul II stated something very similar when he employed the Gospel metaphor of ‘the vine’ and ‘the branches’ (Jn 15:1–8) to highlight the understanding that the paschal mystery of Christ is ‘grafted onto the history of humanity, onto the history of every individual.’99 The meaning of salvation on this view is that God takes the whole of our lives as we have lived them and freely grants us a share in the very life and glory of God. Each human life-time, then, is hidden in the life of God who is our beyond. The question of resurrection life concerns the lives we have actually lived which are destined to enter into the eternity of God, however this must not be understood as the immortalizing of this fragmented, sinful and incomplete pilgrim life of ours (cf. Moltmann); rather, resurrection life has to do with our personal histories being transformed and made whole and complete by the gratuitous grace of God’s merciful, reconciling, rectifying and healing love made manifest, concrete and real in the event of Jesus Christ. The above elaboration of the integral character of final salvation in the person of the Son sent into the far country as the revelation of the Father’s love for the world, is intended to underline this view of resurrection life as the transfiguring of each human life-time into the completed wholeness for which it has been destined according to the eternal covenant of grace in the Son. The ecological model of the Risen One as the ‘new emergent whole’ The three interrelated aspects of integral salvation in the person of Christ are concerned with the movement of creation towards a higher nature; that is, they collectively represent a new stage in the process of evolving nature since the ontological joining of our humanity to that of Christ the Son means that the God who raised the Crucified One from the dead ‘will also raise us up by his power’ (1 Cor 6:14), so that our lowly body will be transformed and be ‘like his glorious body’ (Phil 3:21). The language of evolving nature expresses the understanding that the higher nature, that is, the qualitatively new complex whole, always contains the lower (creatio ex creatione), hence the world is a fundamental unity in which everything is linked to everything else. In this perspective, the Risen One appears as the ‘new emergent whole’,100 the omega point of the movement of creation. What is significant about the ecological model of evolutionary biology is that it represents a shift away from a mechanistic model where ‘substance’ thinking prevails, towards ‘event’ thinking where relations are seen as internal to events understood in terms of complex interacting. According to this model, since all things are intimately related to their environments, this means that behaviour at   Pope John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, ed. Vittorio Messori (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), p. 74. 100   For a discussion of the risen Christ as the ‘new emergent whole’ in evolving nature, see Henry Novello, ‘Integral Salvation in the Risen Christ: The New Emergent Whole’, Pacifica, 17 (2004): pp. 34–54. 99

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any one level is accounted for in terms of complex interacting with other levels. Event thinking views relations as ‘internal’ to events, so that the emphasis lies on the explanation of things in terms of the interconnectedness among events. As one moves up the levels of organization in evolving nature, the properties of each larger whole derive not merely from the units of which it is composed but are also given by the new relations between these units, in which case we are to think of the parts themselves as redefined and re-created in the process of evolution from one level to another.101 The critical thing that happens in the process of evolution is the change in the internal relations of the subjects. An electron in a lump of iron, for example, is not the same as an electron in a cell in my brain, given the different organizing relationships that apply in the latter environment. The properties of matter relevant at one level, such as the atomic, simply do not begin to predict the properties of matter at other levels, such as the cellular, let alone at the level of complex organisms. With regard to the Christian faith, if the risen Christ is the new emergent whole who represents a new set of relationships between the transcendent God, the immanent self, humanity as a whole and the entire cosmos, and death is conceived as the ‘event’ of being drawn up into the exchange of natures in the person of Christ, then on this model human freedom in the new environment must not be regarded as operating in exactly the same way that it does in the present environment. It is also important on this model not to think of the physical, moral and eschatological dimensions of salvation in the Risen One as taking place in a sequential or chronological manner – there is no before or after. Instead, as integral and non-discrete dimensions, we must appreciate that they are internal to the complex ‘event’ of death as dying into the Lord Jesus Christ and being drawn up into the admirable exchange of natures in his person, an exchange which was completed in his passing from death to resurrection life in the power of the Spirit who is the possibility of God and the power of becoming in history. Many hold the view that hell is not only a possibility but is populated, and the basis for this belief is the present experience of human freedom; that is, since in this life many reject God and the Gospel of Christ, given that there are those   The ecological model offers an alternative view to the mechanistic model. The parts of a machine are subject to the laws of mechanics with its external forces acting upon these parts. There is no evolution of computers, for example, in any real sense of the word. For the development of computers involves the rearrangement of the parts and the invention of better parts. In the ecological model of nature, which builds upon Alfred North Whitehead’s philosophy of organism, evolution involves change within the parts and in the organism as a whole; it is not just a matter of rearrangement of the building blocks into ever more complex systems from atoms to human beings. Karl Rahner’s notion of ‘active self-transcendence’, note, lends support to the ecological model inasmuch as it emphasizes that the development of matter in the direction of spirit has to do not merely with the emergence of the quantitatively more complex, but also the qualitatively new which represents a ‘higher’ nature in relation to the previously existing reality or structure. 101

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who willingly give themselves over to the forces of darkness in our world, then it is argued that even if there were an encounter with Christ at death there would inevitably be those who say ‘no’ to God’s final offer of salvation in Jesus Christ. What this view on hell fails to appreciate is the new environment that opens up at death when each human life-time enters into Christ’s time, and the personal self is fully awakened to its ‘original’ identity with which it had been only dimly familiar in this life (cf. 1 Cor 13:12). To be fully awakened to one’s original identity entails the transformation of the dead person into a new mode-of-being-in-the-world where freedom is realized in the ontological sense of the person coming to know itself as that particular being whose identity is established in communion with the Trinity as the movement of love, life and freedom.102 The saying ‘yes’ to God’s salvation in Christ, in other words, is to be thought of as intrinsic or internal to the qualitatively new ontological reality that presents itself when the dead person is drawn up into the wondrous exchange of natures in the person of Christ, and Christ’s freedom becomes the freedom of the newly embodied person. The Hegelian concept of dynamic ‘moments’ can serve as a further tool for illuminating the manner in which the act of appropriation of my original identity in the person of Christ takes place at death.103 According to this concept, each moment in a hierarchical system is mutually and dynamically related to the other moments, so that the verification of any one moment intrinsically refers to the other moments of the system. In each of the moments, in other words, the other moments are present as part of its own inner make-up, so that entry into the system can take place through any one of the moments, although once in the system the principal moment assumes a governing role. This Hegelian concept of dynamic moments can be applied to the three interrelated dimensions of integral salvation in the risen Christ as formulated above.

102   It is worth noting here that this ontological perspective is supported by certain proponents of hermeneutical theory who claim that ontology forms the ultimate horizon of new understanding which is portrayed as an ‘event’ or ‘fusion of horizons’ where what was initially alien or unfamiliar to the interpreter is made their own in an act of appropriation. Cf. Hans-George Gadamer, Truth and Method (London: Sheed & Ward, 1979); David Tracy, ‘Hermeneutical Reflections in the New Paradigm’, in Paradigm Change in Theology, ed. Hans Küng and David Tracy (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1989), pp. 34–47; Paul Ricoeur, ‘The Task of Hermeneutics’ and ‘The Hermeneutical Task of Distanciation’, Philosophy Today, 17 (1973): pp. 97–142. The act of ‘appropriation’ is Ricoeur’s concept of subjectivity, 103   Frans Jozef van Beeck, for instance, has used the Hegelian concept of moments to express the dynamic relatedness of the structures of Christian faith – worship, life and teaching. The principal moment in this hierarchical stucture is taken to be that of worship, since van Beeck views the Christian faith as having a doxological essence. Frans Jozef van Beeck, God Encountered, vol. 1 (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989), pp. 209–11.

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In the ‘fusion of horizons’104 that takes place when my life-time enters into Christ’s life-time at death, the principle moment in the hierarchical system of moments is to be regarded as the eschatological moment, for integral salvation in Christ ultimately has to do with my being predestined to glorious union with God in accordance with God’s eternal covenant of grace established in the Elect One. It must always be borne in mind, however, that the other moments are present in this principle moment as integral parts of its own inner make-up. It is not acceptable, on this view, to regard the unveiling of my original identity that ‘happens’ at death as attributable to one particular dimension of integral salvation in Christ. Nor must it be thought that Christ first reveals to me my true identity in relation to his person, then I subsequently decide for or against his offer of final salvation. Rather, since my awakening to my original identity as created imago Dei is intrinsic to the complex interacting involved in the system of integral salvation, then the dynamic moments of the system are to be seen as constitutive of the full awakening to my original identity in the person of Christ who is the eternal Image of God, through whom all things have been made. When my time enters into Christ’s time at death, in other words, Christ’s freedom actually becomes my freedom, with the result that my ‘personhood’ enters into ecstatic union with the living God as the workings of eschatological grace.105 To be ‘with Christ’ beyond death, then, is to participate in the glory of the Risen One who is the new emergent whole in the movement of creation, and thus to become a new creation or a new being. This does not necessarily mean, though, that all the dead will enjoy exactly the same degree of beatitude in heaven, for it is possible to conceive of the risen ones as displaying different degrees of beatitude depending on their intellectual, moral, emotional and spiritual state at death. A helpful distinction can be made between the ‘essential beatitude’ enjoyed by all the risen ones in the interim state and the ‘accidental beatitude’ which affirms that they are ever more perfectible in heaven.106 The reality of heaven should be viewed 104   The notion of ‘fusion of horizons’ was coined by Hans-George Gadamer. David Tracy and Paul Ricoeur have developed hermeneutical theories based upon this fundamental idea. 105   The term ‘personhood’, as John Zizioulas explains, implies the openness of being, and even more than that, the ekstasis of being; that is, a movement towards communion that leads to a transcendence of the self and thus to freedom. What is more, in its ‘ekstatic’ character the person’s being is revealed in an integral and undivided way, and thus it becomes hypostatic, that is, the bearer of its nature in its totality. ‘Ekstatis’ and ‘hypostasis’, as two basic aspects of personhood, reveal that personhood is related to ontology. J.D. Zizioulas, ‘Human Capacity and Incapacity’, pp. 406–9. According to the thesis proposed in this study, it could be said, then, that the person becomes truly hypostatic at death as a sharing in the exchange of natures in the person of Christ. 106   Edmund Fortman, Everlating Life: Towards a Theology of the Future Life (New York: Alba House, 1986), pp. 233–9. Karl Rahner’s understanding of the beatific vision as the immediate vision of the incomprehensibility of the mystery of the triune God can also serve as a basis for developing a dynamic view of heaven. See Rahner’s three lectures under

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as not only dynamic, however, in the sense that the risen ones continue to make progress in their love of God, but also as in ‘process’ inasmuch as the space of heaven is progressively transforming this cosmic world into the ‘new creation.’ In such a perspective, the much anticipated new creation is not delayed until the end of time, as traditionally taught, but is already a present, albeit incomplete reality in the intermediate state between Christ’s resurrection and the general resurrection of the dead when cosmic time will enter into Christ’s time. The end of time will come about on this view when the present world is fully transformed into the new creation.107 The theory of resurrection at death formulated in this study, to conclude, does not automatically rule out traditional Catholic eschatological doctrines such as a particular judgement at death, purgatory, the interim state and the general resurrection of the dead at the end of time. The doctrines, though, will clearly require reinterpretation and reformulation. With regard to purgatory, for instance, it is certainly plausible to conceive purgatory not in terms of ‘duration’ of time, but rather ‘intensity’ of purification and healing that is intrinsic to the complex of new relations created by God in death. When it comes to the doctrine of the general resurrection of the dead, this also can be retained, although it now serves to highlight the understanding that the risen ones in the interim life cannot attain the perfection of personal integrity of being until cosmic time enters into Christ’s time – this is because the times of the risen ones remain connected to many other times in the world, so that their times continue to have an impact, both good and bad, on the history of the world, in which case only when the whole of history and cosmic time enter into Christ’s time and the new creation is totally consummated, can bodily resurrection be finally perfected. The various ways in which a theory of resurrection at death impacts upon the eschatological doctrines of the Catholic Church is not the concern of the present study, however. Suffice it to say in bringing this study to a close that a new intellectual framework will have to be adopted for explicating the personal and collective eschata, a framework that allows ample room for the investigation of the following issues: the idea of heaven as a space ‘created’ by Christ’s resurrection from the dead; the view of heaven as not static and immobile but as dynamic and the title, ‘The Concept of Mystery in Catholic Theology’, Theological Investigations, vol. IV, tr. Kevin Smyth (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1966), pp. 36–73. 107   A recent article of mine deals with these eschatological issues. Henry Novello, ‘Heaven in Evolutionary Perspective: The New Creation in Process’, Irish Theological Quarterly, 76/2 (2011): pp. 1–22. In this article it is argued that the traditional view of heaven as a pre-existing space reserved for the righteous is inadequate. In the perspective of the Risen One as the new emergent whole in the process of evolving nature, heaven, where Christ ‘is’ with his risen body, is a heaven that arises out of this world. This cosmic heaven represents a ‘new creation’ which is in process since it is continually transforming the reality of this cosmic world into itself. This process will be completed when cosmic time enters into Christ’a time and God becomes ‘all in all.’

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mobile; and the notion of heaven as ‘processive’ since the new creation is being forged by the transformed lives that the risen ones enjoy with Christ in heaven which is a ‘different universe’ within this universe.

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Conclusion

Liberated for Total Commitment to the Here and Now The theology of death formulated in this book has important implications for Christian mission and hope in this world of ours which, notwithstanding the pervasiveness of sin, evil and suffering, is God’s world. A Christian hope in the full sense is a hope that is truly universal and cosmic because it takes seriously Paul’s words, ‘For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Cor 15: 22), and, ‘For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God’ (Rom 8:19). A hope for the future that is too narrowly conceived because it ignores the realm of nature and excludes the majority of the (non-baptized) human race from the ‘good news’ of final salvation in the person of Jesus Christ, is a bogus hope that fails to motivate Christian commitment to this world as God’s ongoing creation. Ultimately, the salvation of humanity must include in its purview the salvation of the whole movement of creation and history, for the human person is always a person in nature and a person in history. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, as Jürgen Moltmann has rightly reminded us, is the meaning of both history and nature, hence the joy of Easter Sunday leads ‘not into the next world, but into this world renewed as the new creation of all things.’1 The conviction that death has been conquered by Christ’s unique death, and that his death reveals both the nature of God himself as compassionate love and the glorious possibilities of this world as redeemed and divinized in his person, is an important conviction that should motivate the Christian to preach the good news of a divine salvation that death cannot touch and to seek for the expression of unconditional love towards all. If each human life-time is understood as grafted onto or taken up into Christ’s time, if death in the integral or full sense has been transformed in the person of Christ into the plenitude of new life, then the Christian hope is essentially the hope that God will become ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28) in the creation of a ‘new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21:1). The risen Christ is the new creation in person, therefore to be configured to him, through the Spirit, involves personal commitment to the salvation of all and to the upholding of justice and peace in the world.

1   Jürgen Moltmann, ‘The Resurrection of Nature: An Aspect of Cosmic Christology’, in The Resurrection of the Dead, ed. Andrés Torres Queiruga, Luiz Carlos Susin and Jon Sobrino, Concilium 5 (London: SCM, 2006), pp. 81–9, at p. 87.

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Moral-pastoral implications The Christian hope for the salvation of all means that in respect of the traditional doctrine of hell the reflections of a theologian such as Hans Urs von Balthasar must be taken seriously when he points out that when we are assured that hell is a fact, and that therefore it is populated, the result is that we tend to fill hell according to our taste and place ourselves on the side of the saved from the torments of hell.2 A similar point is made by Hans Küng when he explains that if we are convinced that people are condemned by God to the eternity of hell because they are heathens, Jews or heretics, then we cannot fail to regard these categories of people ‘as good for nothing, as unfit to exist, and unworthy of life.’3 The effect of such a conviction is that any sense of urgency in working towards a realized eschatology in human history is seriously undermined since the kingdom of God is viewed as reserved only for observant Christians who will be rewarded in the afterlife as ‘saints’ of the Most High God. When we turn to the New Testament, the obligation to hope for the salvation of all is most radically rooted in Jesus’ commandment to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Mt 5:44). In the preceding commandment (Mt 5:39) Jesus had spoken of the need to passively and patiently endure the evil person and to forgo revenge, but in this commandment Jesus goes even further and demands that we actively engage in love towards our enemies. This clearly indicates, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer so keenly emphasized, that the Christian life is characterized by the quality of the ‘extraordinary’, the ‘peculiar’, that which is not ‘a matter of course.’4 To love our enemies is clearly no ordinary love, it is not a love which can be realized within the realm of natural possibilities, for it is the love of Jesus Christ himself which is the way of the cross. The extraordinary quality of the Christian life is something which the followers of Christ do because it is a partaking in his passion which is the victory of divine love over the powers of death in this world of ours. In light of the cross of Christ, the right way to requite evil is not to resist it violently, otherwise evil will be heaped upon evil: ‘The only way to overcome evil is to let it run itself to a standstill because it does not find the resistance it is looking for.’5 Needless to say, such profound wisdom goes against the grain of every natural instinct and desire for self-preservation and self-maintenance by the exercise of power, which is why those who passed by Jesus while he hung on the cross derided him: if he were truly the Son of God then he would come down from the cross; God would save him from his enemies and deliver him from his anguish 2   Hans Urs von Balthasar, Dare We Hope ‘That All Men be Saved’? tr. Dr. David Kipp and Rev. Lothar Krauth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), p. 190. 3   Hans Küng, Eternal Life? tr. Edward Quinn (London: Collins, 1984), p. 167. 4   Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, tr. R.H. Fuller, complete edn (London: SCM Press, 1959), pp. 126–38, at p. 136. 5   Ibid., p. 127.

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(Mk 15:29–32; Mt 27:39–44). This biblical text indicates just how anthropocentric our understanding of divine power really is and why we find the proclamation of the Messiah ‘crucified in weakness’ (2 Cor 13:4) so scandalous and incredulous. The God of the crucified Christ is a God whose power is made manifest in the unfathomable depths of a compassionate love which disarms evil by drawing its sting, a love which requites evil with good. This extraordinary quality of the Christian life is nowhere underlined more than in Jesus’ demand that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. The radical commandment of Jesus leads us, in turn, to the consideration of another pertinent and fundamental point regarding the Christian life, which was also emphatically stressed by Bonhoeffer.6 To be followers of Christ does not mean that we follow a universal law or adhere to an intelligible programme of ideals worth pursuing.7 Rather, to be a disciple of Christ is to be summoned to ‘an exclusive attachment to his person’ which affects our whole existence.8 Since it is Christ himself who calls us, and we follow him in faith, then grace (the gift of his person) and commandment (obedience to the call) are to be regarded as forming an indissoluble unity. In order to underscore the importance of this unity, Bonhoeffer formulates two propositions which he insists must be held together in respect of the call to discipleship: ‘only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.’9 These propositions clearly intend to dispel any notion of a chronological distinction between faith and obedience to Christ’s command, insisting instead that obedience is constitutive of faith, that faith only becomes faith in the act of obedience. Our faith will be unreal or inauthentic if we do not obey Christ’s command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, which effectively amounts to the obligation to pray and hope for the salvation of all. The Christian life, as Paul emphasizes so strongly, is none other than the way of the cross. It will be well to listen to what Jerome Murphy-O’Connor has to say in a concluding reflection on crucifixion in the Pauline letters: The attitude that Paul had to counter in Galatia and at Corinth remains a perennial problem in the church. The temptation to adopt a vision of salvation that will not make us look ridiculous, and that can be defended by logical arguments, is ever present … Contemporary sermons and retreats emphasize discernment of the

  Ibid., pp. 48–68.   There is a trend nowadays amongst many Christian moralists towards an autonomous

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ethics that fails to recognize the primarily pneumatic understanding of Christian morality – it is through the Spirit of the risen Lord that we make our ethical choices in living out our imitation of Christ. Bernard Häring, for instance, is an eminent proponent of the pneumatic understanding of morality. Bernard Häring, Christian Renewal in a Changing World (New York: Desclee, 1964), pp. 14–24; Christian Maturity (New York: Herder, 1967), pp. 19–26. 8   Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 49. 9   Ibid., p. 54.

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will of God … We put such emphasis on the will of God, however, because it can be made anything we want it to be … For Paul, the will of God is very simple, and this lack of ambiguity terrifies us. It mandates the following of Christ who is defined by the cross. This is the revealed will of God. We must exhibit the self-sacrificing, empowering love that Christ showed in his crucifixion. We must bear in our bodies the dying of Jesus in order that the life of Jesus may be manifested to the world. Crucifixion is what makes a Christian.10

This understanding puts paid to the fear expressed by many that to emphasize the need to pray and hope that all will ultimately be saved is an inducement to laziness in our moral or ethical commitment. Properly understood, such a radical hope arises out of the extraordinary quality of the Christian life as a life committed to the imitation of Christ in loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. The Christian life as the way of the cross necessarily entails the radical hope of salvation for all, and such a hope is constitutive of real faith given the essential unity that obtains between faith in Christ and obedience to his radical commandments. Far from being an inducement to ethical laziness, then, the hope of salvation for all is actually inseparable from the moral imperative to act in such a way that all will be saved. If we truly live what we hope for as Christians, then this hope ‘is not merely a hope that all will be restored at some final point, but that already here and now, all men and women are being saved.’11 This hope, in other words, is a living hope that expresses itself in active and committed discipleship; it seeks to make concretely present in our world that communion of love and justice which is the kingdom of God that has dawned in the person of Christ. By really living what we hope for, by living the way of the cross for the salvation of a fallen and fragmented world, we cannot be accused of cheapening grace: quite the contrary, we show by the loving sacrifice of our lives that the grace of God in Christ is costly grace.12 The baptized Christian, as von Balthasar reminds us, is ‘planted’ into the only one form of life, namely, commitment to ‘the crucified form of love’ that beholds the ‘glory of God

  Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, ‘Even Death On a Cross: Crucifixion in the Pauline Letters’, in The Cross in Christian Tradition: From Paul to Bonaventure, ed. Elizabeth A. Dreyer (New York: Paulist Press, 2000), pp. 21–50, at p. 43. 11   John R. Sachs, ‘Current Eschatology: Universal Salvation and the Problem of Hell’, Theological Studies, 52 (1991): pp. 227–54, at p. 254. 12   See Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, pp. 35–47. This understanding, it is worth noting, serves to effectively address Emmanuel Levinas’ trenchant criticism of Christianity as immature and childish, in contrast to Judaism which he maintains is a ‘religion of adults’ because it never divorces faith in God from a mature and disciplined sense of taking responsibility for a just world. See Frans Jozef van Beeck, Loving the Torah More than God? (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1989), pp. 32–53. 10

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in the face of Christ’ (2 Cor 4:6).13 Only this form of Christian life can be believed by the world because love alone is credible. The Christian obligation to pray and hope that all will ultimately be saved also serves to effectively safeguard the Christian faith against every form of particularism and elitism. It comes as no surprise to read that the endeavour by John R. Sachs, SJ, to recover the theme of universal salvation in current Catholic eschatology is motivated by his concern to counteract what he describes as the ‘increasing apocalyptic language of hell’ and the alarming growth of ‘fundamentalism, sectarianism, and integralism.’14 The hope of universal salvation constantly reminds us of God’s unwillingness to abandon even one wayward sinner (Mt 18:10–14; Lk 15:3–7), of the fact that Christ’s mission was centred upon the purpose of liberating people from the powers of darkness in which they are caught (Lk 11:20) so as to restore their freedom and integrity (Gal 5:1) in loving communion with one another and with the living God. What Christ preached was the ultimacy of the kingdom of God being made manifest in his very own person; he was not a hell-fire preacher, for the retributive justice characteristic of such preaching can, at best, bring about a momentary change in people through fear of punishment: it cannot truly change people because fear of retribution fails to engender a true conversion of the heart. It is the liberating power of God’s love instilled in the heart by the indwelling Spirit of the Risen One that brings about true conversion (cf. Gal 5:16–25) and the imitation of Christ in faithfully carrying out the ‘ministry of reconciliation.’ Ministering to the dying The theory of resurrection at death proposed in this study has pastoral implications for ministering to the dying. Morton Kelsey in his writings on the afterlife is correct when he says that we do not tend to give much thought to the effect which our attitudes and beliefs about death have on people who are dying.15 If we believe, for example, that there is nothing on the other side of death, then it seems appropriate to either try to hide the fact that someone is dying and allow them to meet death as unconsciously as possible or encourage them to face death boldly as the culmination of the absurdity and meaninglessness of human existence. If we hold to the conviction, on the other hand, that death is not the final word because there is some form of afterlife, then this will give rise to noticeably different attitudes and behaviours toward the dying, although no uniformity of view exists since a

  Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone (New York: Herder & Herder, 1969), p. 110.   Sachs, ‘Current Eschatology’, p. 227. 15   Morton Kelsey, Afterlife: The Other Side of Dying (New York: Paulist, 1979), 13 14

p. 217. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her On Death and Dying (London: Tavistock, 1970) makes the same point more emphatically.

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number of scenarios can be imagined in line with the various theologies of death critiqued in the present study. Firstly, if it is held that one’s future life is dependent upon making a final decision before one dies, then this view may lead to pressuring and frightening dying persons into making a deathbed decision upon which their salvation depends. Fundamentalists, those who hold to a ‘fundamental option’ for God and those who believe that one must die in a state of grace to avoid eternal damnation, can all be seen as prone to this type of criticism. It is difficult to imagine how such attitudes and beliefs can alleviate the anxiety of the dying, help them accept imminent death with equanimity, and lead them to the assurance that their suffering has meaning because enveloped by God’s love in Christ who is in solidarity with the dying and the dead, and who has identified with the concrete human condition. In the final analysis, it seems that the dying are being pressured to enter into some form of bargaining with God in order to reduce their risk of eternal damnation in hell, rather than being assisted to realize that they are already embraced by Christ’s outstretched arms on the cross of Calvary. Secondly, the view that personal existence does not continue beyond death and that Christian hope is associated with Christ’s judgement of the world on the ‘last day’ when there will be a general resurrection of the dead, can be more helpful in ministering to the dying provided the final judgement expected is understood as ‘a blessing which befalls humanity’ and ‘the valuation of humanity.’16 The union of life and death in the person of Christ for the sake of life means that the dead will share in Christ’s glorious resurrection in the establishment of a new heaven and a new earth. Their lives are believed to have enduring and inviolable worth on the basis of their being ontologically joined to the humanity of Christ, thus those ministering to the dying will not be intent on pressuring the dying into making a final decision on which their salvation depends. What is paramount is God’s sovereign freedom communicated in the Christ-event, not human freedom, so that attending to the dying becomes a special ministry for entering more deeply into the mystery of Christ and radicalizing Christian hope in the promise of new life out of the midst of death. On a more negative note, it is questionable how effective such a view proves to be with respect to consoling those who mourn the loss of a loved one, since the person as a whole is understood to be dead – the deceased’s life is preserved in the divine memory – and the event of the general resurrection of the dead seems all   Eberhard Jüngel, ‘The Last Judgment as an Act of Grace’, Louvain Studies, 15 (1990): pp. 389–405, at p. 396. Jüngel is keen to do away with juridical and forensic categories that pertain to a human court of law in order to emphasize the judgement of Christ as an act of grace. This emphasis is supported by John O’Donnell who argues that divine justice must not be thought of as ‘retributive’ (cf. Calvin), ‘distributive’ (cf. Augustine) or ‘commutative’ (cf. Anselm), but as ‘saving’ because it sets the relationship between God and humanity aright. John O’Donnell, ‘God’s Justice and Mercy: What Can We Hope For?’, Pacifica, 5 (1992): pp. 84–95. 16

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too distant and far away in the unforeseeable future. It is therefore possible that the mourning, notwithstanding their faith and hope in Christ’s Parousia, could be overwhelmed by a sense of tragedy, loss and emptiness stemming from the belief that the deceased have entered a void that will only be filled by Christ’s glorious coming at the end of time. What is more, it is difficult on this view to underscore God’s ongoing creative activity in the world as creating new life out of death, since the establishment of the new creation is wholly connected with the all-consummating event of the Parousia of Christ. Thirdly, if death is conceived as entry into a time of fellowship with Christ in which the negative realities of each human life-time are transfigured, healed and rectified as a necessary process for entry into eternal life, then this view is certainly more hopeful and helpful than the previous ones insofar as all aspects of the person’s life are seen as assumed by the Christ-event in order that all may attain to eternal life as their final, gratuitous end. The dying, then, need not be anxious about their final destiny before God, trusting that God’s merciful love in Christ will triumph over all human sins, all unrealized human possibilities and all debilitating illnesses. Those ministering to the dying will be better able to console them by their acceptance of the limits of the human condition and their loving solidarity with the dying, all of which helps to humanize the situation and bring a sense of peace and dignity to the dying. A possible weakness in this view, however, is that the purgatorial process of being with Christ is envisaged as ongoing until the Parousia of Christ, so that the indefinite delay of the gift of eternal life until the last day could undermine a sense of true joy for the deceased who die into Christ. Finally, if we hold to the view that the dying are approaching the moment of sharing fully in the paschal mystery of Christ and passing from death to the glory of the risen life, then this view is even more hopeful than the previous one and it leads to an even greater acceptance of death as the moment for the definitive encounter with Christ who is the Mediator between humanity and divinity. It is precisely in the midst of dying and death that the radicality of Christian faith is brought home to us, so that ministering to the dying becomes a privileged time for renewing Christian hope and encountering the crucified Christ who identifies with the concrete human condition and makes known to us the infinite compassion of the Father, from whom are all things. The fullness of divinity, as Paul says, dwells bodily in the man Jesus Christ; since our human essence is conjoined with the divine essence in the person of Jesus Christ, the ministering to the dying is to be seen as a privileged locus for entering into the mystery of God as our beyond, as the true centre and absolute future of this world. The belief in resurrection at death, moreover, not only confers inviolable meaning and worth to the life-time of the deceased, but also brings great consolation to the mourning and grieving because their loved ones are viewed as already sharing in Christ’s victory over death and enjoying the beatific vision of God in the risen life. That the deceased already share in the glory of Christ’s resurrection from the dead also involves, as the following section will elaborate further, a new understanding of the ‘communion of saints’ which links closely together those already enjoying

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the heavenly life and those still journeying through the vicissitudes of the pilgrim life on earth. Implications for the funeral liturgy The proposed theory of resurrection at death clearly has implications for the funeral liturgy. The Second Vatican Council laid down the basic principle for the renewal of the funeral rites: ‘The rite for the burial of the dead should evidence more clearly the paschal mystery of Christ’ (Sacrosanctum concilium 81). The renewed funeral rites are designed to highlight the Christian hope that baptism into the death of Christ means that the baptized are destined to pass with Christ from death to new life. While this has been a welcome renewal in the funeral liturgy, nonetheless liturgical practice in the Catholic Church still preserves many remnants that make sense only from the earlier viewpoint of an immortal soul in the interim state that awaits the general resurrection of the dead at the end of time. The Order of Christian Funerals, published by authority of Pope Paul VI, clearly reflects a basic tension when it talks of commending the dead to God’s merciful love manifested in the crucified and risen One, while still holding to the notion that the dead benefit from the prayers and intercessions of the Christian community on earth.17 The liturgy for the dead is still full of prayers that in their literal expression ‘make God’s mercy depend on our petitions, blotting out the glorious truth of God’s pre-existing, gratuitous, and unconditional love.’18 But if God in Christ is the One who is victorious over the powers of death in the world, for the sake of our salvation, it simply makes no sense to attempt to convince or placate a God who is perceived to be harsh in his judgement of sinners and demands satisfaction for sins committed. The funeral liturgy still gives the impression that the supplications of the assembled Christian community are required to assist the deceased in making satisfaction for sins and reducing punishment, as if the assembly’s love for the deceased were greater than God’s! The supplicatory tendency is especially evident in that the Eucharist is celebrated for the deceased, not with the deceased.19 When the Eucharist is normally celebrated as the centre and soul of the community’s practice of worship, though, it is not celebrated for Jesus but with Jesus who has offered up his body 17   Cf. General Introduction to Order of Christian Funerals (Sydney: E.J. Dwyer, 1989), pp. 2–13. 18   Andrés Torres Queiruga, ‘Resurrection and Funeral Liturgy’, in The Resurrection of the Dead, pp. 110–20, at p. 115. The Orthodox liturgy for the dead also has many prayers for the dead, which is seen as continuous with the practice of the early Church. See John Nankivell, ‘Orthodox Liturgy, Theology and Pastoral Practice’, in Death Our Future: Christian Theology and Pastoral Practice in Funeral Ministry, ed. Peter C. Jupp (London: Epworth, 2008), pp. 190–201. 19   Queiruga, ‘Resurrection and Funeral Liturgy’, p. 114.

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and shed his blood for our sake, so that we might pass with him from death to new life. Just as the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a transfigured presence, so too the celebration of the resurrection of the deceased means truly being able ‘to speak to them, to experience their presence, to rejoice in their happiness, to know ourselves wrapped in their love.’20 This is what Christians have believed in their relationship with the canonized ‘saints’ – those who are with the Lord in glory – but the idea of resurrection at death requires that our understanding of the communion of saints be broadened to include all the deceased in this communing, not only those canonized. What is more, the notion of this-worldly solidarity with the deceased is helpful in indicating intelligible ways of upholding the traditional Catholic doctrine that we can really help the deceased. Given that the influences of their lives, both good and bad, remain at work in persons and in history, our commitment to carrying on their good undertakings while seeking to obtain forgiveness from any they have offended and to make reparation for the unpaid debts of their sinful actions, is a compelling way of expressing this-worldly solidarity with the dead who now enjoy the glory of the risen life.21 The dead, from the standpoint of the thesis developed in this book, are transformed by virtue of dying into the death of Christ, but there is also a transformation that takes place here ‘below’ inasmuch as the communion of saints leads to the renewal of our lives and to the more perfect imitation of Jesus Christ for the sake of our world. There is a legitimate place for prayers and suffrages for the dead provided they are envisaged as serving to make reparation for the negative effects of sin that the dead have left in the world, which calls for justice, and not as assisting the purgatorial process of the deceased souls destined to the glory of heaven. The truly ‘last thing’ in eschatology The problem with much of theology in the past was that it tended to present the individual’s personal choice as the ‘last thing’ instead of God’s sovereign freedom and ineffable love revealed in the event of Jesus’ life, crucifixion, burial and resurrection from the dead. As Tony Kelly has rightly stated about how theology has tended to treat personal choice as the really last thing: ‘The good news of the Father’s unconditional love in giving to our world what is most intimate to himself, his Son and Spirit, has to share time with an equally present threat, the bad news of God’s dire and impending judgment on human sinfulness.’22 From the   Ibid., p. 114.   Ibid., 118. This is also the view of Tibor Horvath, Eternity and Eternal Life:

20 21

Speculative Theology and Science in Discourse (Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University, 1993), pp. 138–40. 22   Tony Kelly, Touching on the Infinite: Explorations in Christian Hope (Melbourne: Collins Dove, 1991), p. 21.

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vantage point of the one eternal decree of the tripersonal God, eschatology must not absolutize personal choice as the last thing in the divine-human relationship; rather, since Jesus Christ risen is the eschaton in person, then he is the truly last thing and thus the basis of our ‘exceedingly abundant hope’ (Rom 15:13) of being ‘raised up’ to permanent and blessed union with the Trinity. If the tendency in theology is to make personal choice the last thing, then the inevitable result is to restrict Christian hope and render the outlook for universal salvation grim, notwithstanding the fact that the Catholic Church, for instance, has never ventured to affirm the damnation of any particular individual. In the past, the most generous theology found itself caught in a bind: either God in Christ saves us mortal sinners without our free consent or with it. If without our consent, what becomes of our freedom? If with our consent, we must be really free to make our choices, thus the possibility of hell must be upheld.23 Theology must endeavour to transcend this impasse by shifting the focus in eschatological matters to a sustained reflection on the central paradox of the Christian life, namely, the paradox of grace, which is evident in the claim that the Spirit of the risen Christ confers upon us real freedom as adopted sons and daughters of God (cf. Gal 4:5–6). To be truly free in the Spirit is to live, as Paul Tillich has highlighted, in the power of ‘New Being’ which is a genuinely ‘new creation’ (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Jn 3:3–7).24 The language of new being effectively expresses the view that salvation in Christ is not a matter of quantitatively more being, but of a different type of being since it concerns the furthering or perfecting of nature (gratia perficit naturam) made possible by the gift of God’s self-bestowal in the persons of the Son and the Spirit. Any attempt to unpack the meaning of the paschal mystery of Christ should proceed along ontological lines that focus on the formation of creaturely being. When it comes to considering the saving benefits of the mystery of the Incarnation, such benefits must be seen as going beyond the moral-juridical dimension of forgiveness of sins and removal of guilt to bestow upon humanity an extraordinary new possibility for personal being in this world of ours. The presence of the Risen One in the Spirit compels us to orientate our lives towards the horizon of grace and to live meaningful lives in the here and now in 23   It is worth reiterating that all this talk of human free-will is about what Augustine called liberum arbitrium (freedom of choice or moral freedom) which must not be confused with libertas (freedom to be or spiritual freedom). The latter (love of God) is the goal of the former and can be realized only with the help of grace. Spiritual freedom is founded on the verum (truth) and the bonum (good), thus Augustine views grace as working to ‘illuminate’ us sinners with divine truth and ‘empower’ us with divine love, so that the end of free-will is realized as participation in the divine life. This is the paradox of grace in Augustine’s thought (cf. Confessions 9.34). 24   Cf. Paul Tillich, The New Being (London: SCM, 1956). Tillich elaborates his understanding of salvation in Christ in terms of the transformation of the Old Creation into the New Creation.

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hopeful expectation of the age of glory to come. It is this future orientation of the Christian faith, the fact that the ‘already’ is intrinsically directed towards the ‘not yet’, that accounts for the basic openness of the structures of the faith – worship, life and teaching – and the need to interpret these structures in the context of contemporary life in order to understand the Christian faith. The enterprise of theology is fundamentally hermeneutical since, as Origen contended long ago, this world of ours has a radically open-textured nature and open-ended future: we are involved in a dynamic and transformative process of becoming that which the living God has eternally decreed for our world. What transpired in the garden of Gethsemane and on the hill of Golgotha reveals the manner in which God is working to accomplish the divine purpose for history and nature. In respect of the mystery of Christ’s atoning death and the mystery of our own death as a dying into the Lord, we would do well to ponder at length Paul’s utterance that ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’ (Rom 5:20), together with the statement, ‘For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all’ (Rom 11:32). The basis of Christian hope is God’s boundless grace and infinite mercy revealed in the perfect self-sacrifice of the man Jesus who is ‘the Christ of the Father compassionate.’25 By virtue of the common actualization of divine and human essence in the event of Jesus Christ, a suffering and fallen world is inalienably destined to be born anew by participating in the life and glory of the Blessed Trinity.

25   Gerard Manley Hopkins, ‘The Wreck of the Deutschland’, st. 33, in Poems, ed. W.H. Gardner and N.H. MacKenzie (London: Oxford University, 1970), p. 62.

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Index Annunciation, the, and the Holy Spirit 77 Anselm, St, satisfaction theory 66, 67 appropriation doctrine, and the Trinity 75, 104 Aquinas, Thomas, St 27 Athanasian Creed 2 Athanasius 72, 74, 104 Augsburg Confession 2 Augustine, St on the Holy Spirit 103 on the Trinity 103 Baillie, Donald M. 49 Balthasar, Hans Urs von 13, 54, 222 on Christ’s ‘second death’ 130–31 on death 122–35, 159 on God’s love 126 Heart of the World 124 Holy Saturday theology 122–35 critique of 134 on the Holy Spirit 49–50, 78 on the Incarnation 187 on kenosis 62–3 on the mystery of the cross 39 on the Trinity 125 Barth, Karl 13, 55, 56, 57 on Christ’s human and divine nature 59–60, 61–2, 166, 170–71, 195–6 on creation 137 on death 136–42, 159 critique of 141 on Gethsemane 29–30 on the Incarnation 61, 172 punishment, meaning of 67 on the Resurrection 174 on sin 136, 138 substitution notion 63–8 Basil of Caesarea, on the Holy Spirit 74–5 beatitude, accidental/essential 217 becoming and the Holy Spirit 89–90, 105 and the Incarnation 88

process 8 and self-transcendence 87–8 Beeck, Frans Jozef van 11, 17, 19, 24, 48 Christology 49, 50 being-related, and representation 45–6, 68 body, the as common matrix 92 as spirit 86 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich 222, 223 The Cost of Discipleship 15 Breath-Spirit 79–80, 81 see also Holy Spirit Buber, Martin 11, 42 I and Thou 18 I-You relationship 18, 42–6 Chalcedon, General Council (451) 169 and communicatio idiomatum 186, 189, 190 Christology 7 solidarity 131–2 substitution 131–2 van Beeck’s 49, 50 Church, the, as sacrament of Christ 10 communicatio idiomatum doctrine 185–99, 213 adequacy of 198 Alexandrian School 185, 186 Antiochene School 185 Calvinists, Lutherans, disagreement 185 Chalcedonian definition 186, 189, 190 Formula of Concord 186, 189–91, 192 Luther on 186 meaning 185 Congar, Yves 99, 100 Constantinople, First Council of 72, 73, 76 creatio ex creatione 79, 88, 102, 109, 160, 163, 199, 202, 203, 214 creation Barth on 137 as dynamic process 78–9 and the Holy Spirit 79 and the Trinity 75

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cross, the mystery of 41 von Balthasar on 39 pneumatology of 93 symbolism 117, 118 theology of, Moltmann 155 as trinitarian event 95 crucifixion 1 Murphy-O’Connor on 223–4 Cullmann, Oscar 158 Cyril of Alexandria 185, 187, 188 Dabney, D. Lyle 94, 95, 101 Daly, Gabriel 7–8 death Balthasar on 122–35, 159 Barth on 136–42, 159 Catholic thought 5, 112–35 Protestant thought, comparison 160 Christ’s see under Jesus Christ definition 14 dying, distinction 154fn137 as ‘dying with Christ’ 116–17 as excess of otherness 203, 204 and freedom 207, 210 as gateway 207 and grace 121 and the Holy Spirit 109 Jüngel on 147–8, 159–60 justification in 205, 207 Moltmann on 150–59, 160 as natural happening 200–201, 202 negative view of 112 pastoral implications 225–7 as personal act 5fn8 positive view of 159, 160, 203, 205 as process 114 Protestant thought 5, 135–59 Catholic thought, comparison 160 Rahner on 112–22, 133, 159 resurrection at 4, 227 funeral liturgy 228–9 and salvation 206, 217 and self-transcendence 203 and the soul 114–15 theologies of 102, 109, 159–64 Thielicke on 151fn124

Torrance on 151fn124 as transformation 155–6, 216 of human spirit 153 and union with God 15 as wages of sin 205, 207, 212 Denzinger, Heinrich, Enchiridion 4 discipleship 223, 224 divine nature 14 Docetism 48 Dordrecht Confession 2 Dorner, I.A., on the Incarnation as process 167–8 Dunn, James 96 Duns Scotus 116 Durrwell, F.X. 6, 12, 90, 96–7 dying, death, distinction 154fn137 dynamic moments concept, Hegelian 216 enemies, commandment to love 222, 223 eschatology, and personal choice 229–30 eternal punishment, versus redemption 2 Eucharist celebration 228–9 Eutyches 48 evil cause of 25fn20 disarming of 222–3 and potential for good 25 evolution, ecological model 214–15, 215fn101 exchange principle 70, 134–5, 215 Irenaeus of Lyons on 166–7 exchange of properties, doctrine, Luther 149, 169, 193–4, 194–5 faith, and obedience 15 Formula of Concord, communicatio idiomatum doctrine 186, 189–91, 192 Frankl, Viktor, Man’s Search for Meaning 15 freedom and death 207, 210 and divine grace 209 and hell 215–16 in the Holy Spirit 208 Rahner’s theology 122, 209 as self-realization 117 Frei, Hans W. 11, 17, 20–21

Index Genesis, Holy Spirit in 76–7 genus majestaticum 191 Gethsemane 28–31, 36, 58, 94, 125, 201, 231 Barth on 29–30 God absence of as love 144 and suffering 32fn33 attributes 177–83, 183–4 being in becoming 57, 137 and Christ’s death 144–5, 148–9 divine knowledge 182 eternity of 180–81 Holy Spirit as ecstasy of 89 as possibility of 77, 78, 86, 95, 143, 156 humanity of, Jüngel on 143–4, 149 immutability, divine 179 impassibility 179–80 love, Balthasar on 126 omnipotence 178 omnipresence of 181–2 as the Reconciler 145 sovereignty 178–9 union with, and death 15 Gospels, literary approach 18, 19–20 grace 8 and death 121 and freedom 209 paradox 230 see also grace-nature relationship grace-nature relationship 7–8 Gregory of Nyssa 92 Gunton, Colin 84–5, 177 Hartshorne, Charles 149, 157 Hegel, G.W.F., dynamic moments concept 216 Heidegger, Martin 142 hell on the cross 38–42, 67–8, 124 and freedom 215–16 traditional doctrine of 222 Holy Saturday, Balthasar’s theology of 122–35 critique of 134

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Holy Spirit and the Annunciation 77 Augustine on 103 Basil of Caesarea on 74–5 and becoming 89–90, 105 and creation 79 and the cross 93–5 and death 109 as ecstasy of God 89, 105 and the Father 97 freedom in 208 in Genesis 76–7 as God’s gift 103 and human potential 82 and I-You relationship 50 and the Incarnation 104 Jesus Christ, relationship 49–50, 83, 84–5, 107–8 justification in 99–103 Kasper on 88–9, 105 as possibility of God 77, 78, 86, 95, 143, 156 as precursor of Christ 73fn4 and the Resurrection 80–81, 95–8, 108, 184, 205–6 Richard of Saint-Victor on 104–5 role 12–13, 74fn7, 75, 91, 105, 107 and salvation 98, 108 and self-transcendence 88, 89 von Balthasar on 49–50, 78 and the Word 90 see also Breath-Spirit; Spirit-Christology human existence, temporality of 213 human nature 14 of Christ, Barth on 59, 170–71 and divine nature, Barth on 59–60, 166 divinization 171 and imago Dei 165–6 as emerging reality 10, 26, 91 as open system 91 human potential, and the Holy Spirit 82 humanity, of Jesus Christ 24–5, 26, 46–7, 48–9, 50 hypostasis 217fn105 divine 83 of the Logos 47fn68, 108 and the Trinity 83

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I-It relationship 43 I-You relationship 106, 203–4 Buber’s thesis 18, 42–6 and the Father 52, 170 and the Holy Spirit 50 and identity 45, 68, 208 identity and I-You relationship 45, 68, 208 and imago Dei doctrine 217 of Jesus Christ 20–22, 23, 24fn16, 42, 47, 51–2 markers of 167 personal, formation 201, 208, 212 and the Trinity 46 imago Dei doctrine 91, 92, 152 and divinization of human nature 165–6 and identity 217 impassibility of God 179–80 and perichoresis notion 193 Incarnation, the 8–9 Balthasar on 187 Barth on 61, 172 and becoming 88 fulfillment of 26 and the Holy Spirit 104 and kenosis 54–5, 58, 62, 145 mystery of 188 as process 69, 167–8 purpose 9 and the Resurrection 164 Irenaeus of Lyons 85, 203 on the exchange principle 166–7 Irving, Edward 85 Jesus Christ as our Brother 173 cry on the cross 17, 18, 29, 31, 202 and Book of Wisdom 33–4 Father, non-intervention of 39–40, 94 human condition, identification with 36–7, 54, 206 mystical interpretation 27 and passio justi motif 31–7, 42, 67 Psalm 22: 32, 36 Reformers’ view 28 trinitarian view 38, 39

death 115–16, 118, 127 and admirable exchange of natures 167, 168–9 defeat of 221 as expression of God 180 and forgiveness of sins 205 and God 144–5, 148–9 as powerlessness 201 as second Adam 211 ‘second death’ 66, 67, 68, 120, 122, 123, 124, 128–9, 130–31, 132, 138–9, 163, 202, 205, 206 as substitution 63, 124, 160–61 vision of 129–30 divinity 18, 48, 83, 183, 184, 191 and the Father mediator role 63 obedience to 29, 30, 36, 38, 83, 108, 173, 201, 202 relationship 42, 49, 51, 111 in Gethsemane 28–31, 36, 58, 94, 125, 201, 231 hell on the cross 38–42, 67–8, 124 Holy Spirit and the cross 93–5 relationship 49–50, 83, 84–5, 107–8 human and divine nature, Barth on 59–60, 61–2, 170–71, 195–6 see also communicatio idiomatum doctrine humanity of 24–5, 26, 46–7, 48–9, 50, 69, 162 Rahner on 171–2, 186–7 identity 20–22, 23, 24fn16, 42, 47, 51–2 individualization 23–4, 26, 36, 42 in Johannine scheme 127–8 love of enemies 25 mission 176 as our Representative 18, 63–70, 161 paschal mystery of 14, 70, 107, 120, 127, 199–214, 230 salvation in 2fn3, 212, 213, 216 as sin-bearer 68 John Damascene, perichoresis notion 191, 192 John Paul II, Pope, on salvation 214

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Jüngel, Eberhard 13, 57, 142–50 on death 147–8, 159–60 on humanity of God 143–4, 149 on possibility 143, 148 on salvation 146, 148 substitution concept 148 justification 206 in death 205, 207 in the Holy Spirit 99–103

Moltmann, Jürgen 2, 13 on eternal life 151 on the Resurrection 221 theology of the cross 155 death 150–59, 160 Monophysites 48 Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome, on crucifixion 223–4

Kasper, Walter 84 on the Holy Spirit 88–9, 105 Kelly, Tony 229 Kelsey, David 19 kenosis 54–63, 123, 125, 175 and the Incarnation 54–5, 58, 62, 145 in Russian Orthodox theology 54fn82 theologies of 55fn83 von Balthasar on 62–3 kerygma 11 Küng, Hans 25, 222

Nagel, Norman 194 nature 7–8 evolving 8, 9 Rahner on 8 see also grace-nature relationship; human nature Nestorianism 169, 176, 185 Nicea, Council of (325) 72 Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed 72 Nicholas of Cusa 129

lament, psalms of 32–3 Lampe, Geoffrey, God as Spirit 83 Lauber, David 66 Leo I, Pope, Tome 169 life eternal, Moltmann on 151 meaning of 15fn21 Logos, hypostasis of 47fn68, 108 Logos-Christology 3, 11, 42, 72, 81, 84, 85, 101 critique of 46–53 Logos-sarx relationship 81, 101 Lossky, Vladimir 183 Luther, Martin on communicatio idiomatum doctrine 186 Disputation on the Divinity and Humanity of Christ 194 exchange of properties, doctrine 149, 169, 193–4, 194–5 on the Word 195 Lutheran Church, Formula of Concord 186 matter, as frozen spirit 86–7 Moingt, J. 39–40

obedience Christ’s 29, 30, 36, 38, 83, 108, 173, 201, 202 and faith 15 Order of Christian Funerals 228 Origen 231 Owen, John 25 Pannenberg, Wolfhart 63–4, 149 passio justi motif 31–7, 42, 67 Paul of Samosata 190 Paul, St, on sin 205 Paul VI, Pope 228 penal substitution theory 28, 36fn41, 37fn43, 40, 66, 67, 119, 141 Pentecost 104 perichoresis notion and impassibility 193 John Damascene 191, 192 person as agent 14, 167, 169, 200, 202, 211, 212 as relation 14, 18, 42, 52, 63, 167, 169, 200, 204, 208, 211 as subject 14, 167, 169, 200, 208, 211, 212 personhood 46, 208 see also hypostasis

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pneuma-sarx relationship 81, 109 possibility of God, Holy Spirit as 77, 78, 86, 95, 143 Jüngel on 143, 148 punishment, in Barth’s theology 67 purgatory 218 Rahner, Karl 13, 52, 86, 87–8, 170 on Christ’s humanity 171–2, 186–7 on nature 8 theology of death 112–22, 133, 159 critique 118–22 theology of freedom 122, 209 reconciliation doctrine 120 redemption 1, 117, 127 and moral redemption 204 representation 45–6, 63–70, 120 and being-related 45–6, 68 and substitution 18, 64, 161 resurrection at death 4, 227 funeral liturgy 228–9 in Catholic theology 158fn145 as creative act 35 life, meaning 214 as transformation 155 as trinitarian event 106–7 Resurrection, the Barth on 174 and the Holy Spirit 80–81, 95–8, 108, 184, 205–6 and the Incarnation 164 Moltmann on 221 salvation 174 Richard of Saint-Victor 103 on the Holy Spirit 104–5 Rossé, Gérard 38 ruach 79, 82 Sachs, John R. 225 salvation 45, 91–2 and death 206, 217 eschatological 102, 212, 225 and formation of being 207 and the Holy Spirit 98, 108 in Jesus Christ 2fn3, 212, 213, 216 John Paul II on 214

Jüngel on 146, 148 and the Resurrection 174 Tillich on 213fn97 satisfaction theory, Anselm 66, 67 Schleiermacher, Friedrich 136 Schoonenberg, Piet, on Christ’s humanity 46–7 Schwöbel, Christoph 177 Second Helvitic Confession 2 Second Vatican Council see Vatican II self-realization, freedom as 117 self-transcendence 9, 86, 87, 102, 105 and becoming 87–8 and death 203 and the Holy Spirit 88, 91 Sheol 128, 138 sin Barth on 136, 138 death as wages of 205, 207, 212 original 210–11 St Paul on 205 Sölle, Dorothee 19, 64, 68 soul, the, and death 114–15 Spence, Alan 25–6 Spirit see Holy Spirit spirit, body as 86 Spirit-Christology 3, 72, 73, 81, 83, 101 see also Holy Spirit substitution Christ’s death as 63, 124, 160–61 concept Barth 63–8 Jüngel 148 and representation 18, 64, 161 suffering and God’s absence 32fn33, 39–40, 39fn48 vicarious 67 Tanner, Kathryn 69 temporality, of human existence 213 Tertullian 27 Thielicke, H. 158 on death 151fn124 Tillich, Paul 109, 149, 230 on salvation 213fn97 Torrance, Thomas F. 57–8 on death 151fn124

Index transcendence 45 see also selftranscendence Trinity, the 71 appropriation doctrine 75, 104 Augustine on 103 Balthasar on 125 and creation 75 and hypostasis 83 and identity 46 Vatican II Dei verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation) 3, 10 eschatology 10 on funeral rites 228

249 Gaudium et spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) 3-4, 10, 72 Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) 4, 10

Westminster Confession 2 Whitehead, Alfred North 157 Wisdom, Book of, and cry on the cross 33–4 Word, the and the Holy Spirit 90 Luther on 195 world, ecological model 9 Zizioulas, John 46