Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Domesticating The Crucified I: Let Jesus Die
The gospel story is incredible. God dies, and we don't come round to this easily. We (Christians) have had all sorts of ways to shield us from the bare fact of the story, namely, God's union with a corpse. A favoured heretical device is to split the union of human and divine in Jesus to shield divinity from the ignominy of human death. Another device is to dim the divinity of Jesus ever so slightly so that it is not true divinity that is united with a corpse. As common as the above devices is the more common of using the resurrection of Jesus to save him from death. Of course, only a few extremists think that Jesus didn't die, and the whole point of the resurrection is that it is the resurrection of someone who died. But the resurrection can be used to blunt the raw shock, incredulity and offense of the cross. How dare God let Jesus die! Oh, it's OK, God resurrected Jesus later! The shock and impossibility of Jesus' actual death is blunted in this way by the resurrection. The resurrection is not meant to relieve us of the shock of the crucifixion and death of God. On the contrary it merely reinforces the importance of the identity of the crucified Jesus and challenges our pre-existing notions of God. In Christ God is given over to the finality of death for our sake. God did that? God does that? What kind of God is this? Atheism is an understandable response to the cross of Jesus. Faith in the crucified-risen Jesus is not a reinforcement of the God of ordinary religion, but is the product of conforming our understanding and expectations to the narrative of cross and resurrection, not the other way around.