Friday, July 16, 2010

Christology: Jungel and the Righteousness of God

Jungel was hilarious for me, because for all the times that people have explained justification to me, and for all the different ways I've understood and internalized it, I've just never cared, and so, for this non-Lutheran at least, and for all the times I've complained about it in other classes, there was this place where Jungel used justification like five times in two sentences and it's like someone saying 'wastebasket' over and over.

Well, I guess I had that one coming.

At any rate, God is righteous, says Jungle. And God is righteous in such a way that the merciful righteousness of the cross is not a negation of God's just righteousness but an expression of it - indeed, maybe, a definition of it. This is so because God's righteousness is not legal righteousness but relational righteousness: the bringing of two into some alignment. In the case of Christ, this is gospel and faith: the words that God speaks in favor of human beings are those that pronounce and actually make them righteous. This is not a break between God's righteousness and God's justice because the very nature of God's righteousness is that it is merciful. In other words, yes, righteousness is proper to God, but only insofar as that righteousness takes two and the very definition of God's righteousness is to justify the sinner. 'God forfeits nothing by forgiving us.'

In other words, if we can verb words like Calvin and Hobbs, God righteous-es. It's a verb. Whenever God justifies a sinner, God is righteous. For Jungel, this reaches its epitome in Jesus Christ, the 'subject of the doctrine of justification.' In the same way that the righteousness of God is simultaneously righteousness from God and righteousness due to God proper, Jesus Christ is doubly righteous: 'in him God is righteous and in him we becomerighteous.' Or, God's being righteous is our becoming righteous, and in Jesus we become the righteousness of God. This is the nature, the shape of the bond, of our fellowship with God.

It is also disruptive justification in this world, because it is the removal of the unrighteousness from life and the death of the unjustifiable, much as truth comes in the context of lies and reveals and destroys them.

But it is not a disruptive event in God, as God is always and already righteous Father to Son and Son to Spirit and Spirit and Father to the Son, each person of the Trinity as righteous other to every other of the persons. What the redemption of creation is, is the reiteration of this event for that creation: "If God is already righteous because he affirms otherness within himself, then he is also and even more righteous by affirming in addition the creature, which is, in contrast to him, completely other...He does so out of grace."

While I didn't come across anything new, per se, in Jungel's elegant formulation, what I did realize is that it works just as well, and for me is much more exciting, if you replace every use of righteousness with holiness, the center of my own tradition of faith. I wonder what that says about the relationship of God's attributes as a whole with creation - and of course, what it says about our own understandings of Jesus Christ.

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