Sunday, October 4, 2009

on God, the World's Future: Consonance


“God is the transcendent One who has become one with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ and through whose Spirit we and the whole cosmos are being brought to fulfillment” (86). Thus the Trinity at its core is not a doctrine but a story; from the story we get the doctrine but not vice versa. The problem of Trinity is neither story nor doctrine but the tension between the two.

How we answer Heidegger – why is there something rather than nothing? – determines whether we will end up with the classical theists (God cannot die) and their non-contradictory God or with the shall-we-call-them-orthodox theists (God did die in Christ) and their paradoxical God-man. There is something rather than nothing because God discloses God-self through that which is not God: “Let us make man in our image.”

So begins the story. It culminates with making God in man’s image, so to speak, and ends with the promise of finally making all things in the imagination of God. Along the way it picks up me, or as Luther said “I believe that God has created me and all that exists.” We participate in the story. The tale of the Trinity invites us in. We are by necessity alone, but by grace called to meet someone beyond our wildest imaginings.

But where is God, yes? “When we listen for the call of the Beyond, we listen with the silent and secret hope that the call comes from within as well as without.” That God reveals God-self through finity implies that God God-self is involved with me, not in the classical Platonic ontological sense but in orthodox Hebraic time: I am an agent in God’s historic romancing of the universe, blessed to be a blessing to the nations: “And they will know that I am YHWH.”

God is an event, God-self disclosed in history. We should expect no less of Trinity. Thus Christ “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” In Christ the self-disclosure of infinity through finity comes to fulfillment: God becomes human, finds triumph through powerlessness and in death brings life anew for all creation.

The cross is thus not the negation of God but the fullness of God and the face of Trinity. It is not that Jesus Christ is subordinate to the Father but that Jesus Christ subordinates himself: this is the identity of Christ. He does so in and through the Spirit of God. The Athanasian position is that this simply discloses what has been going on forever, without us, all along. The Trinity immanent in the world through the revelation of Jesus Christ is the Trinity transcendent beyond the world and hidden behind the name of God, the Trinity that we shall one day see face to face; God’s glory has shined in the face of Christ.

Part of the scandal of the Trinitarian tale is not that this has changed the world, which any encounter with divinity might do, but that in the incarnation “redefines divinity to include humanity, the humanity of the historical Jesus.” Believers are bound to Christ and thus to God. Salvation is inclusion; the relatedness of the Trinity one to each other extends to the Trinity relating to creation, to the world, to me.

This makes God no less God because the Hebraic story means that eternity is not timelessness but everlastingness that takes all things into itself. In other words, God has always been becoming Trinity just as Christ has always been subordinating Son to Father. In God the relatedness of history in finity becomes the relatedness of history to eternity not by binding infinity but by opening God and creation both to possibility, to God’s own acts of imagination.

That God is the divine community of persons implies humanity as humane community of persons and the Kingdom of God which Jesus Christ proclaimed. The transcendent God whose name we cannot know and whose face we cannot see becomes God-for-us, whose face we have seen and in whose name we have believed, “dancing with all creation” (126). In Christ we are taken up in God or as Peters has it: “our awareness of human dignity and equality is itself an expression of the divine Spirit…part of the larger drama of the godhead’s redeeming and reconciling work within the world.”

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