Friday, May 01, 2009

Did the Father abandon the Son? (Part 3)

What then is it that Jesus' suffers on the Cross?

Death.

Our problem is that we underplay the utter horror of death. It's not 'death', it's Death. And it's because we underplay death that we want more - more from Jesus' death, more suffering in his death, more anguish and torment. Because we have such a diminished view of death, we think the punishment needs to be more than death. Yet, let me suggest, Death is Hell. One should read Genesis 2-4 with a profound sense of the tragedy and loss, as Humanity is excluded from the Tree of Life, shut out into a world now full of death, and all humanity will die. Death is not non-existence, but non-life, non-growth, non-change, non-fulfillment. It is the cessation of life in all its fulfilment. And, it is exclusion from the loving presence of God.

Presence is one of those notions I have struggled with in the Scriptures: God is omnipresent, but he is more present sometimes and someplaces than others. There's presence and there's presence. God is often present to bless, present in fellowship, present in goodness. Other times we may say God is present in judgment, when he 'visits' punishment upon sin. Death certainly involves the exclusion from the full, loving presence of God to bless. But God also reigns in Hell.

Death, according to Blocher, involves total fixity. It is the end of the possibility of repentance, and the gray reality of remorse without hope. It is the lost tormented by agreeing with God in his all-holy righteous judgment against themself. Death itself is Hell.

And it's this that Jesus suffers at the Cross. That's why the language of death is sufficient, because Death itself is sufficient. We don't need to take the metaphors of hell, the language of smoke and fire and brimstone and deep dark dank hot places of unimaginable visceral physiological and psychological torments, and somehow pour an eternity of that into Jesus' cry of forsakenness on the cross. Jesus dies.

Does the Father abandon the Son? Yes and no, I think is really the answer. Jesus, in his humanity, experiences the forsakenness of Death, of exclusion from the loving presence of God, of remorse without repentance or the hope of reconciliation. The impassable God suffers in the Humanity of Christ. But no, insofar as the Trinity cannot be divided, the Son cannot be ontologically cut off from the Father, and God is omnipresent.

Yet Death is Defeated. The Living one dies, but is resurrected. Resurrection is not the hope of 'life after death', not the 'afterlife', but death overturned, death restored to Life. This, then, is why Christians are called not to fear the death of the body. Resurrection destroys Death, and physical death for those in Christ is death stripped of power, death stripped of Hell, death stripped of the fullness of its terror.

Christus est Victor, Christus resurrexit. Alleluia!

Part 1
Part 2

2 comments:

mark said...

Brilliant series mate. So good on such a tough area of thought. I'd not yet touched the books you mentioned by this came up in a conversation with some fellas reading through Torrance's Trinitarian Faith recently. And trying to navigate the impassability issue wrt. Christology felt like dancing on a pinhead. Though my thoughts lined up with yours similarly. Yet the 2 wills (Maximus the Confessor) thought was significant in my mind on reading Torrance....

Anyway, I'm rambling! Must sleep!

I'm going to link into them again from my blog in the morning.

Thanks mate,
Mark

Seumas Macdonald said...

Thanks for the links.

TF Torrance's Trinitarian faith is coming up for another read in a few weeks. Perhaps on the 3rd time through and with some more Patristic background I'll get more of a handle on him.