Ecce Homo

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I’m pretty sure I’m psycho
The world’s a game like Tyco
Everybody playin
But we lackin sight tho’
All I do is stay still
Wait on the divine will
Patience is the right skill
Sight coming like the light bill
But maybe I’m just psycho
If I’m not, I might go
I ask the Lord for peace, but I’m down to fight tho’
I’m takin life in slow-mo
With my major Domo
Beholding all the beauty of the Son—
It’s Ecce Homo.

(Dwayne Polk)

Getting to the Hart of St. John of the Cross

giphy

This is becoming one of my favorite Hart pieces. Inasmuch as it deals with the processes and strategies of the soul’s transformation it’s one of the most, or (if we take him at his word that there is “not a pastoral bone in my body”) perhaps the only, pastoral of his essays. Either way, it’s a wonderful reflection upon St. John’s theology of human transformation, especially the dark nights (plural!) of the soul. Here’s a portion:

The mystical quest after God must begin with the active and arduous labors of ascetic mediation, but must culminate in the passive purification of the soul by grace. According to John, the soul goes on its way to God in darkness for three reasons: firstly, purgation is darkness because it denudes the soul of all its appetites for worldly things; secondly—and most importantly at this point—the way of illumination is a road of faith, not of the intellect, and the frail light of one’s wits cannot guide one through it; and, lastly, God is night to humankind in this world: even in union with the soul, his presence is inscrutable and his being incomprehensible (a sentiment expressed, if anything, even more strongly by Palamas, and by the entire Eastern tradition before him). To become passive before and in attendance upon the power of God is to experience how far the light of God’s wisdom exceeds human knowing; one cannot but be blinded by it; one’s first exposure to it is of necessity an affliction to all the soul’s faculties. And it is a night dark with pain, at times with torment, because in the first encounter with divine grace, with the fire of God’s love, the soul’s last impurities—the last residue of self-absorption—are burned away. The initial experience of God’s presence is shattering, seeming to destroy rather than heal the soul, to portend ultimate annihilation rather than salvation, because it obliterates the last vestiges of one’s dearly cherished illusion that one gives oneself unity, that one is sufficient for oneself, that one has any wholeness, freedom, or reality apart from God…

This is the awful extreme of self-knowledge, given to one only in a consuming intimacy with the divine: so frail, finite, and sinful is the soul that union with the divine must at first seem a condition of utter dereliction, of Godforsakeness; God’s love cannot be distinguished from his wrath. But the bitterness of this night is necessary if illusion and false comfort—even religious comfort—are to be put away, so that the life of the spirit may be reduced to one act of faith and longing. It is the night of surrender, wherein one must allow everything to be accomplished by God…

…God’s action in refining the soul is not a means by which he obtains satisfaction for sins, but is rather the necessary means by which the lover of God is made equal to the object of his love….

Bright Morning of the Soul

Make up your mind

atlas-multiverse

I’ve been enjoying conversations with a brilliant young scholar in Classics (from Berkeley) who came to faith a few years ago. Somehow questions of meaning led to questions of personal identity and that led to Scyfy (right?) and eventually the question of many-worlds theory (MWI) of cosmology came up. My understanding is fairly rudimentary. Basically, MWI (an interpretation of quantum mechanics) asserts the objective reality of all possible alternative histories. Each possibility (of the wave function) represents an actual world or universe. Hence, there are an infinite number of universes. In some I don’t exist at all. But in those worlds in which I exist, every possible path my life could have taken is taken. When I chose A over B in this world, in another universe I chose B, and so forth.

What theological implications might such a view yield? It seems to me that once you posit an undivided God whose experience embraces all possible and actual worlds, this effectively reduces many worlds to a single integrated world, and their integration in God implicates their truth and identity in the truth and identity of all else that exists. St. Paul is explicit; God’s purposes are unitive, i.e., “to unite all things together in himself.” (Eph 1.10) But here the many-worlds view runs into theological/philosophical problems, for in God all my identities (all of which are actual throughout many worlds but inaccessible to each other) achieve their deepest truth and meaning in and through the truth of all other things in God who relates all things to each other within himself, and wouldn’t that integration reduce all my identities to a single integrated identity before God? The many-worlds theory seems to account for the meaning of each actual world through the exclusion of all other actual worlds; inaccessibility between worlds becomes the truth of identity within any world. But this seems an existential nightmare. It grounds the unity of personal identity (and I don’t at all propose identity in simple Cartesian fashion) in infinite fragmentation. The truth of who I am in any world would be an infinitely act of exclusion. Who would accept it who truly longs for personal identity at all? Presumably the truest form of personal uniqueness is unrepeatable, but unrepeatability within the truth of all things, not excluding the truth of virtually all things.

Opera of the phantom

Tehom-570x505The pages of my copy of Hart’s The Beauty of the Infinite are like the layers of a Monet landscape, comments on top of comments scribbled in various mediums (pink and yellow highlighter, pencil, black ink, blue ink – whatever was nearby) from multiple visits made to re-read its wonderful reflections. Just today I happened upon this particular sobriety (BOI, p. 399-400; the brackets are mine, just to help):

Hell is with us at all times, a phantom kingdom perpetuating itself in the wastes of sinful hearts, but only becomes visible to us as hell because he true kingdom has shed its light upon history. In theological tradition, most particularly in the East, there is that school of thought that wisely makes no distinction, essentially, between the fire of hell and the light of God’s glory, and that interprets damnation as the soul’s resistance to the beauty of God’s glory, its refusal to open itself before divine love, which causes divine love to seem an exterior chastisement. Hell is the experience (a possibility in each moment) of divine glory not as beauty, but as a formless sublimity; it is the rejection of all analogical vulnerability, the sealing off of the “self” (or the cosmos) in univocal singularity, the “misreading” of creation as an aboriginal violence. The “fire” of hell is that same infinite display of semeia [signs] by which God is always declaring his love, misconstrued (though rejection) as the chaotic sublime rather than the beautiful, not susceptible of analogical appropriation, of charity; it is the soul’s refusal to become (as Gregory says) the expanding vessel into which the beauty of God endlessly flows. For exile is possible within the beauty of the infinite only by way of an exilic interiority, a fictive inwardness, where the creature can grasp itself as an isolated essence. Hell is, one might almost say, a perfectly “Kantian” place, where the twin sublimities of the star-strewn firmament above and the lofty moral “law’ within remain separated by the thin tissue of subjective moral autonomy: where this tissue has become impervious to glory, the analogy of the heavens is not the transforming voice of God but only a mute simile, an inassimilable exteriority, and so a torment. Hell is the perfect concretization of ethical freedom, perfect justice without delight, the soul’s work of legislation for itself, where ethics has achieved its final independence from aesthetics. Absolute subjective liberty is known only in hell, where the fire of divine beauty is held at by, where the divine apeiron [limitlessness] miraculously divests itself at the peras [boundary, end, extremity] that, in Christ it has already transgressed and broken open, and humbly permits the self to “create” itself. True, though hell is the purest interiority, it is also by contagion a shared interiority, a palpable fiction and common space superimposed upon creation, with a history of its own; but still, it is a turning in, a fabrication of an inward depth, a shadow, a privation, a loss of the whole outer world, a refusal of the surface. For Eastern Christian thought, in particular, it makes no difference here whether one speaks of death, sin, or hell: in each case on speaks of the same privation, the same estranging history, the same limit shattered by Easter; and hence there can be no aesthetic explanation of hell (something that few of the Fathers occasionally foolishly attempted) that would make of it a positive moment in the exposition of divine beauty, a part of the universe’s harmonious ordering of light and darkness. Hell cannot serve as an objective elements of the beautiful—as source of delight—because it is an absolute privation of form and quantity; it has no surface, nor even a shadow’s substance; its aesthetic “place” is the sealed outside of an inside.

Coffee is black

coffee

Black men enter, white people get fearful;
911 call – now more mothers get tearful.
Want me to be quiet? Hell naw, here’s an earful
Spillin’ thoughts over the top like I got my beer full.

Shout out my brothers and sisters, watchin the PoPo,
Predators roamin’ the streets like they hobo
Against people of color; it’s a war on the low-low
While the indifferent sip latte in Starbucks up in SoHo.

How many more brothers gotta give up they rights
Just to make sure that they live till the end of the night?
How many more sisters should we allow you to kill?
Maybe if we put the heat to you, that’ll allow you to chill?

Naw. But tensions continue to rise,
Anger is seethin’, we so damn tired of the lies;
I know the system, not the victims, is the thing I despise,
But sometimes the vision gets blurry from the tears in my eyes.

(Dwayne Polk)

Seeing all things in Christ

StFrancisJohnAugustSwansonWIt is common for Christians to speak of our being “in Christ” but also of all things being in him. I was recently asked what I have in mind when I speak of seeing all things in Christ. I thought I’d reflect on it some.

When I speak of all things being “in Christ” I’m talking primarily how the contemplation of anything can become the occasion for a transformational encounter with God. I don’t just mean that contemplating the existence of contingent things can lead one logically to conclude there is a God and then withdrawing from being fully present to thing and travel off and search for God in some argument. I mean to say that the things we contemplate are where God is met, that God is inseparably present in the being of things without being reducible to them so there is a immediacy of divine presence coterminous with the proper contemplation of things (contemplated as created, as good, as beautiful, as sustained by God, etc.). God’s presence and the presence of created things become convertible with each other.

This includes experiencing myself within the contemplation of things. The contemplation of things becomes the contemplation of oneself. It really is an experience of self-transcendence, because the beauty and goodness of your own existence is irreducible to the things you contemplate. This is opened up through perhaps the most important discipline of spiritual insight there is – silence. “Be still” says the Psalmist, “and know that I’m God.” That’s where I integrate the deepest truth of things into how I view the world and myself in it. The structure of it emerges precisely as St. Paul describes: “I, not I, but Christ.” (Gal 2.20)

This self-transcending approach to the contemplation of things is where one experiences not the abstract truth of God’s existence given the contingency of all things. You’re not contemplating a syllogism at this point, but the living presence of Christ as the ever-speaking Word of the Father. It’s what the contemplatives all report – when one quiets oneself and attends to the irreducible goodness and beauty of things, and when one listens there, one will find oneself (as Sarah Coakley says) being caught up in a conversation and eventually being addressed within that conversation.

Christ is ‘in’ things (sustaining them, reflected in them, etc.), and so are all things in him (sustained and held together). That’s something one can contemplate third person as it were, as a philosophical or theological construct. But you can also experience this as one’s own truth, the deepest and truest thing about you. At some point – and there’s no easy way to say this – Christ is not just ‘in’ things but ‘as’ things, ‘as’ them in the sense that however deep you go into the constitution of things, that conversation that addressed you is already there – as if Christ just is the being of things. How then do you peel apart “I” and “Christ” in St. Paul’s “I, not I, but Christ”? How do you put distance between yourself and Christ when deepest truth of who you are is (inside) the deepest truth of who he is. What else does Paul mean when he says we are given the Son’s own eternal cry of “Abba, Father!”? Who we are is on the inside of who he is. One sees “from” Christ (where one is) “to” Christ in all things. This is how one comes to see oneself in all things (again, language strains), because if I am in Christ, and Christ is in all things. I am in all things. It’s not “I” who embrace all things. Rather, I am embraced by the One who embraces all things. And the act by which he embraces all things in himself cannot be dissembled into discrete acts. There’s no distance between you and I because there’s no distance in Christ in whom you and I are.

There’s a truth to “Christ in all things” that can be apprehended on a philosophical level. That’s helpful. But the heart longs for more. There is an encounter with the reality to which such truths point. The transition from one to the other travels along the path of the persistent contemplation of the goodness, beauty and giftedness of things, the truth of the gospel as the unity of all things in Christ. This may be why Paul is careful in 1Cor 15 to say that in the end “God becomes all in all.” Not just “in all” — which is already true — but “all in all.” Might this suggest our perceiving God in all as the explicit truth of things? It’s one thing for God to see you. That’s always true. It’s another thing to know God sees you. But it’s transformational finally to see God seeing you. That, is seems to me, is of the same species of God’s being all in all.

Battling to the end

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The only Christians who still talk about the apocalypse are fundamentalists, but they have a completely mythological conception of it. They think that the violence of the end of time will come from God himself. They cannot do without a cruel God. Strangely, they do not see that the violence we ourselves are in the process of amassing and that is looming over our own heads is entirely sufficient to trigger the worst. They have no sense of humor.

(From Battling to the End by (2010; Achever Clausewitz, 2007) by Rene Girard, in which he turns the focus of his mimetic insights from the history of human culture and religion to the future of humankind and the crucial importance of Christianity’s apocalyptic vision. You can find Girard’s own summary of it at First Things.)

Satisfaction, exchange, and our natural indebtedness to God

creation

Anselm equates the impossibility of our satisfying God’s honor with our infinite guilt deriving from infinite offense. I hinted at a different take on this in the immediately preceding post, and here I’d like to expand upon that thought for a moment.

Anselm is surely right to say we are absolutely incapable of satisfying God’s honor and so obtaining the happiness we are created for. But Anselm grounds this inability in our having infinitely offended God. I’d like to suggest that this overlooks the truth that we are naturally unable to yield God the honor he is due and that our need for grace is absolute irrespective of offense and guilt. We are not infinitely indebted to God on account of our sin; we are infinitely indebted to him on account of our finitude. Our absolute ontological poverty and our infinite indebtedness to God (for grace to achieve our end in him) are one and the same reality. It is to our createdness or finitude, not to the dynamics of guilt, offense and punishment, where we must go to answer Anselm’s question ‘Cur Deus Home?’ (Why did God become man?). God becomes a man not primarily to save sinners but to perfect human beings as such. That we are fallen adds a dimension to the job-description of the Incarnate One, yes. His career must address human enslavement to sin and violence. But that is a contingent aspect of humanity’s natural infinite indebtedness to God.

Making this adjustment makes it possible to understand satisfaction in terms of the peaceful order of creation rather than in terms of guilt, punishment and violence. What “needs to be seen” regarding justice (to pick up Anselm’s concern) is thus not that the deserved punishment is seen to be borne. Even if it’s born by an innocent person who freely offers to bear the consequences for the guilty (as one Christian model has it), how many victims would feel justice was “seen to be done”? None that I can imagine.

Rutledge (in a passage that I want to believe doesn’t reflect the general aim of her overall argument) insists that ‘something is owed the victims’ of human violence and atrocity. But what notion of justice would be satisfied by an innocent person’s suffering what the guilty deserve even if the innocent person freely offered to suffer what the guilty deserve? Even Anselm admits that ‘it is not just for God to inflict misery upon the innocent’. So this can’t be what the Cross is about. But that Anselm construes the Incarnation in terms of satisfying an infinite indebtedness deriving from guilt and offense and not in terms of nature and finitude per se may subvert some of his own points; for though he grants that God does not inflict misery upon the innocent, he does suggest that satisfaction is met if an innocent person freely offers himself to suffer the misery deserved by the guilty. But does this really suffice? I don’t see that it does. Would the parents of a murdered child be satisfied that “justice was seen to be done” were they to see an innocent person freely take the electric chair in the place of their child’s murderer? I can’t imagine so. I fear that some insist on our natural moral intuitions (or ‘common human expectations’) about justice when it comes to establishing guilt and merit, but then abandon those intuitions when it comes to suffering the consequences.

What to do? Ground the infinite indebtedness of human beings to God in humanity’s natural state as created. We’re unable to honor God as he deserves, not on account of our sin as Anselm supposed, but on account of creaturely finitude as such. Sin will explain why we require Christ’s violent death (viz., because in our enslavement to violence we would not have it any other way), and it will enlighten us regarding the depths to which the Incarnate One is willing to humble himself in order to bear his (and our) humanity to God on our behalf (‘on our behalf’ reflecting the peaceful economy of creation’s natural need for God met by God, not a special dispensation called into being by our guilt) in a demonstration of love which violence killed but could destroy and which is thus capable of “putting right” (that is, “putting into right relationship”) victims and victimizers. But the bearing of our humanity by the grace of Incarnation to satisfy our indebtedness to God is entirely antecedent to any of the violent complications our sin introduces into an otherwise peaceful economy of exchange. There is indeed a real satisfaction and exchange to affirm, but it is not reducible to redemption from sin. Satisfaction and exchange are called into being peacefully by a good creation naturally indebted to God. They occur quite in spite of sin, not on account of it. What saves us from our enslavement to sin, then, is what God was always planning on doing for us regardless of sin.

The Crucifixion—Part 3

prodigal

I’m still thinking through whether or not I understand Rutledge (or Anselm for that matter). When Anselm says “justice must be seen to be done,” I sense there is an important truth being expressed, but I don’t think this equates to an offering of proportionate value and magnitude to the crime. I’m sure I’m going against the mainstream.

Does it make sense to calculate the magnitude of our offense as infinite because God is of infinite value? Surprisingly, I don’t think so. God is infinitely valuable, of course. But does the severity or magnitude of a finite agency’s offense derive from the value of the offended party? Get caught stealing from a poor beggar and justice is satisfied with you’re being reprimanded. Get caught stealing from the King and you pay big-time. How much you deserve to suffer is proportionate to the value of the one you offend. That’s certainly the sense of justice in much of the world, certainly the Middle East I lived in for many years. Steal from me, do public service. Steal from King Hussein, go to jail. So, as the logic goes, steal from God and suffer infinitely.

I think this is wrong-headed. I agree all value is God’s, diversely reflected in created things and that, ultimately, it is God against whom we sin. But it seems as clear to me that the severity and magnitude of an offense is judged based on the understanding and context of the offending party. The magnitude of my offense against God derives (at least in part) from the depth of my understanding. It is not simply convertible with the value of God. And since no finite perspective could possibly comprehend the infinitude of God’s value, no offense against God can be as great as God.

This is important to Anselm, because he understands our inability to make satisfaction as derived from the infinitude of our offense. But it isn’t obvious to me that only infinitely offensive failures render us helpless before God. The view I’ve propounded here for some time is that we’re helpless by nature. Sin doesn’t render us unable to satisfy our calling to “honor” God (to go with Anselm’s word), we are by nature absolutely in need of grace to participate in the happiness God created us for. We are poverty stricken as such. That we are also fallen and wrecked certainly complicates our predicament, and it does call for a just and proportional moral order that links consequence to choice, but it is not our sinning that marks the point at which we begin requiring the grace of God to satisfy our destiny. It is our finitude that constitutes that need.

I suppose one could argue that the only offense against God that approaches being infinite would be the utter rejection of God by one in possession of the beatific vision, for only here could one be thought of as sinning “with eyes wide open” so to speak. But it’s also true that the beatific vision makes offending God inconceivable, for in order to misrelate to God responsibly one has to be able to construct some reason for doing so. The beatific vision, however, is epistemic closure regarding the ends and values of things. So, I take it that infinitely offending God is in fact impossible. But there’s no need to think this a Pelagian mistake. We are by nature absolutely destitute of the ability to secure our truest happiness apart from the undeserved grace of God.

That said, what’s it then mean to say that in “setting things right” (“rectifying” the fallen world, to go with Rutledge’s translation) justice “must be seen to be done”? Rutledge writes:

Forgiveness is too weak a word to embrace the full scope of what Christ has done and what he calls us too. How can we begin to speak even of forgiveness, let alone transformation, in the worst of the worst situations? The extermination of millions does not cry out for forgiveness. Never mind millions; what about just one baby burned up in a microwave over by its own father? After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Forgiveness is not enough. There must be justice too…

Something is owed to the victims of such atrocity. No one needs to have it explained to them what is meant by the language. It is common human expectation that there should be justice, and that justice should be in some way related to the magnitude of the loss…

If when we see an injustice, our blood does not boil at some point, we have not yet understood the depths of God.

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I sense something amiss here, because what is also “common human expectation” regarding justice is that forgiveness is not part of the deal. What’s expected is that those guilty for the most heinous crimes ought to suffer the equivalent to what they’ve done to others. This is no different than (lex talionis) ‘eye for eye’ and ‘tooth for tooth’ justice Christ calls us to not participate in. He calls our “common human expectation” and “blood boiling” into question. It is also not a part of our “common human expectation” that someone else suffer on my behalf what I deserve to suffer, even if such suffering is freely chosen. So there’s good reason to question our common human expectations.

What about justice for all the innocent babies abused and monstrous evils done to the poor, the weak and the defenseless? How is that “put right”? How’s it accounted for? It gets accounted for by Christ who is the only truly Innocent One suffering torture and rejection, not as a substitute for the punishment perpetrators of violence deserve, but as the consummate instance of the violence they perpetrate – consummate on account of Christ’s unique innocence – being forgiven in this case by the victim. As David Hart says, it is Christ’s innocence that saves us. Let us consider saying in addition that this would remain true had we, hypothetically, never fallen. It’s not only sinful human beings who are united by grace and faith to God through Incarnation. We don’t need God more as sinners than we needed him in any imagined, originally righteous state. Christ’s humanity was perfected by grace too. Let that sink in.

Moreover, it is what Christ does as innocent victim that sets the world right. Because he suffered as did all innocent scapegoated victims, he is in a place to offer us a means of both receiving and extending forgiveness through participation in his suffering. Only Christ as the Innocent One can offer victims a mode of identification with him that can contextualize their victimization within his own (rather than, as typically understood, by contextualizing his victimization within theirs) and thus empower victims in the forgiveness of others. At the same time, only Christ as the “forgiving victim” (thank you James Alison) offers victimizers a mode of identification in his suffering which identifies and exposes both their guilt and forgiveness. But the world is not, I don’t think, “put right” by Jesus suffering “what the persecutors deserve.” Justice is served when Jesus suffers what victims experience and forgives in return. So to answer Rutledge’s passionate call to the “boiling of blood” over evil and to the call for a suffering that is “owed” victims – which sounds very like retribution to me – I don’t know how analogously to conceive of the boiling of the blood of the impassible God of delight, and if God’s blood isn’t boiling, why should ours boil? Right here I suspect that if we consider this to be a pitiless disregard for the suffering of victims, it may be due to lack of our own participation in God’s impassible delight.

So does Jesus suffer what is “owed” the victims? God forbid. I rather suspect he suffers in a manner that is able to free us from such equations. Forgiveness – if it’s real at all – suggests an entirely different economy of relations, and so must the justice we embrace challenge our shared expectations, especially if those expectations require our blood to boil or ask us to make proportionate compensation of eyes for eyes and teeth for teeth. I may be missing Rutledge’s point here. My apologizes. But if not her, there are others who do adopt such a view of things.

If we construe forgiveness as Christ’s suffering the ultimate consequence we deserve, then our indebtedness is not in fact “canceled” or “erased” (Col. 2.14). Rather, it is stamped “paid,” which is not what Paul says. Nor was it true (2Cor 5.19) that “God was in Christ…not counting our sins against us.” Rather, God was counting those sins, prosecuting the case against us, making sure justice was seen to be done. That an innocent man suffered rather than us creates a drama that hides the fact that nothing is actually forgiven. Is not the point of Paul’s language here to subvert the very economy of indebtedness under which Christ dies? That the indebtedness is “canceled” (Col 2) shows its power is mythological and not of divine origin. I think this post is entirely lost on Rutledge.

Let me offer this as carefully as I can – the innocent victims of injustice are not “owed” anything (in terms of proportionate justice), they are infinitely loved which is much better, and they are called to free themselves from proportional economics by participating in Christ’s gratuitous suffering and forgiving response. What of the victimizers? They too are infinitely loved by the Forgiving Victim, Jesus, who calls them also to the same participation in an infinite impassibility that suffers without being harmed and forgives without needing compensation for the wrong done. Both victim and victimizer escape the violent math of proportional justice through the same Cross – approaching Christ either as his victimizer (which we all are on some level), or as a victim alongside him.

Is justice pure fiction, then? Are we not longing for the good and the true when we cry out to see justice done? We are indeed! But the reality we long for is not what we get when we possess our desire in terms of proportional suffering. When the parents of a murdered child see the perpetrator die in the electric chair, the relief they feel is not the satisfaction of justice God intends (not if the gospel is true). This is not to say that the renewed grief we experience when the guilty are acquitted is not a genuine longing for that justice which leaves nothing unreconciled. It is simply to say that justice is only finally satisfied when victims and victimizers transcend the distinction between justice and mercy in the gratuitous gift of Christ.

Let me suggest that justice be thought, then, simply as being brought to acknowledge the truth about one’s choices. The world is set right wherever the guilty confess, take responsibility for their choices, and are reconciled to their victims. The Cross makes this possible not by satisfying the deserved punishment, but because God in Christ suffers victimization and forgives. As James Alison says, Jesus becomes the “forgiving victim.” This “rectifies” the world. How? By creating space for both victimizers to be forgiven and victims to extend forgiveness. But there’s no suffering that compensates for wrongs. What compensates, if we must speak in such terms, is the beatitude of Christ’s sufferings where victimizers and victims meet each other within an the impassible economy of God’s delight. What we need, then, is not proportional justice, i.e., victims seeing that their perpetrators are suffering a pain equal in magnitude to their crime, but proportional forgiveness, i.e., the consummate Innocent One forgiving his perpetrators and so empowering both victimizers (to take responsibility for their actions) and victims (to extend forgiveness in Christ).

(Prodigal Son by Oleg Korolev)

Creation as intra-trinitarian gift: Postscript 1

bubbles

I was rethinking through an old post of mine: Creation as intra-trinitarian gift. It begins:

Let’s conceive of creation as an intra-trinitarian gift. Take the rationale for incarnation out of the sphere of human salvation. Instead of finding a place for the incarnation within the larger act of creation, let’s turn it around and locate the rationale for creation within incarnation. In other words, creation occurs to make incarnation possible. Creation really is about God celebrating Godself. Creation is God’s gift to Godself. The cosmos is just the means by which God creatively expresses himself to himself for his own enjoyment. One might conclude that we humans are an afterthought, and in a qualified sense, yes, that’s exactly right…

I noticed no integration of Scripture in that post. That was an oversight, for at the time my thought was on 1Cor 15.22-28:

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all. (emphasis mine)

What is the end or telos of creation? God’s being “all in all.” This is achieved through Christ surrendering the Kingdom to the Father. So the entire redemptive economy ends with an intra-trinitarian gift – i.e., Christ giving the Kingdom (all of redeemed creation) to the Father. Eschatology and protology are a single revelation; the end reveals the beginning. If Christ’s giving fulfilled creation (which includes giving his own humanity as Incarnate) is the end, then that is what it was intended for from its beginning. And so, creation is intra-trinitarian gift.

Have a nice day thinking about it: You are God’s gift to himself.