Behold the Man: the Passion as Coronation

June 2, 2008Cullen Tanner

One of the salient political aspects of the early church is that they claimed allegiance to a king who was not there except by dint of having his spirit poured out on all his followers. The claims of kingship are deferred in the ascension and then disbursed at Pentecost in a way that is — if you’re the powers that be — unsettling and anarchic.

The Romans called the early Jesus followers “atheists” for their refusal to sacrifice to the Roman Gods but, given the political significance of the imperial cult, “anarchist” is not too far off the mark. “Christarchist” works but it comes to much the same thing: where is this Christ to whom we profess our loyalty? Where do we find him except in our midst as we make decisions together, or in the face of the stranger or the enemy? It is, in the logic of the market or the state, one hell of a way to run a railroad.

If Christ’s is an upside-down kingdom, Christians have managed in many cases to keep the language of inversion while turning most of it right-side up again. We’ll toss out phrases like “servant leadership” much faster than we’ll grab a towel and basin. We’ll invoke authoritarian structure as a hedge against chaos by calling it accountability. Even some of us who claim a pacifist ethics do so partially by acquiescing to the idea of an eschatological violence. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”, says the Lord, and we assume this means that we can love our enemies because God will smite them if need be — if not in this life then in the next. John Dominic Crossan makes a distinction between distributive justice, which is the purview of the church, and retributive justice, which God reserves for himself.

Logically, it’s a neat package. If God wants to use the Allied forces to stop Hitler (just as he might have used the Assyrians or the Babylonians or even the Romans to accomplish his purposes), that’s his prerogative. Such a reading of history is, I think, available to us (more outlandish readings have certainly been offered). We cannot claim with definitude that God has acted in this way over and against the normal interplay of powers against one another, but it is possible. And it doesn’t justify Christian involvement in armed conflict, because we are called to a different ethics of the kingdom. We are living God’s future, as Miroslav Volf puts it, but God is still God of the nations, lord of the saeculum. How God orders the powers is none of our business. It allows us to maintain the integrity of divine sovereignty while embracing the ethical ramifications of the lordship of Jesus. On a certain level, this works very nicely.

This has become, however, less and less satisfying to me. I’ll be honest: I’ve struggled with claims of Jesus’ divinity, not because I’m metaphysically challenged but because I can’t quite reconcile Christos Pantocrator with the man on the cross. I’ve been leery of substitutionary atonement, not because that kind of forensic language is absent from the New Testament witness, but because it’s one of many metaphors and our focus on it to the exclusion of other metaphors seems to aid and abet our cultural narcissism: Jesus died for me, me, ME. Isn’t he grand?

But what if those claims of Jesus as YHWH tell us less about Jesus than they do about the true nature of YHWH? Much of the way Jesus’ story is narrated is paralleled in the wider culture of the time (Mithraism and all that) and some critical scholarship suggests that these claims were made of Jesus in order to present him as a player on the cosmic scene. I don’t know that we need to be afraid of this idea, but I am wondering if this doesn’t miss the point; what if these are, like so much else about Jesus, actually inversions?

The various and varied claims made of Jesus, whether they parallel ideas from Jewish messianism or the imperial cult or mystery religions, mean something very different when they are applied to someone who willingly suffered crucifixion. Maybe we miss the point by embracing a politically subversive Jesus but hold in reserve an ass-kicking apocalyptic Jesus who can beat up Mark Driscoll.

What if part of the beauty, even the utter necessity of substitionary atonement, is that God, who reserves the right of retribution, has already rendered judgment — meaning that we love our enemy not simply because God has forgiven us (when we were still enemies) but because, in the Cross, God has already forgiven our enemies? True, it seems a bit scandalous — talk about your foolishness to the Greeks and stumbling block to the Jews — and it plays fast and loose with our whole sense of justice. Do we dare go that far?

In the passion narratives, Jesus is given a purple robe, and a crown of thorns, and is hailed “King of the Jews.” We see this as sadly ironic, of course; those poor saps, they didn’t know that Jesus really is the King not only of the Jews, but the whole world. Too bad for them when he comes in his glory. But what if the irony goes deeper? What if this plays out the way it does because the early believers recognized the passion not as an ironic prelude to Jesus’ true lordship, but as the example par excellence of exactly what that lordship looked like? That the christological scandal is not that we crucified God but that we claim as God the one whom we crucified? That the passion is not something that obfuscated Jesus’ true identity but unveiled God’s?

It would mean that the resurrection, ascension, and cosmic reign of Christ are not something from which the passion is a tragic but necessary detour, but are instead a way of affirming the Cross, and the Way of the Cross, as the realpolitik of the Gospel:

Here is your king.

Author Bio:: Ted Troxell is the only janitor at Central Michigan University who is also an adjunct instructor.

  • zackallen

    wow.

  • Joel

    I like this. This essay pretty much follows along with what I have felt for some time now but I was never really able to completely make sense of it in my head. I guess all the puzzle pieces were there, I just hadn't been able to put them all together yet.

    thanks for writing this and helping me to clear this up.

  • zackallen

    wow.

  • Joel

    I like this. This essay pretty much follows along with what I have felt for some time now but I was never really able to completely make sense of it in my head. I guess all the puzzle pieces were there, I just hadn’t been able to put them all together yet.

    thanks for writing this and helping me to clear this up.

  • http://littlefights.blogspot.com Nathan

    I've re-read this a couple of times and find myself in turns agreeing and disagreeing with what you're saying. I think you may need to expand on a couple of your points, if only to help me out :)

    1. But what if those claims of Jesus as YHWH tell us less about Jesus than they do about the true nature of YHWH?…what if these are, like so much else about Jesus, actually inversions?

    And what if there is no difference because, in fact, there is no difference in their nature? I'm a bit leery about using creedal statements to argue finer points of theology, hinging as they do on human description, but Hebrews 1:3 comes to mind and I'm wondering how much distinction we can make between Jesus' and YHWH's respective “natures.” Beyond that linquistic quibble, I'm not sure I understand the import of what you're trying to say. What significance are you seeing?

    2. meaning that we love our enemy not simply because God has forgiven us (when we were still enemies) but because, in the Cross, God has already forgiven our enemies? Do we dare go that far?

    Are we going as far as universalism? If not, what does it mean for God to have already forgiven our enemies? What is the nature of that forgiveness?

    3. That the passion is not something that obfuscated Jesus’ true identity but unveiled God’s? It would mean that the resurrection, ascension, and cosmic reign of Christ are not something from which the passion is a tragic but necessary detour, but are instead a way of affirming the Cross, and the Way of the Cross, as the realpolitik of the Gospel

    This I can get behind. I don't know of any orthodox Christian author, be it of the first century or the twenty-first, that has described the Passion as either an unnecessary detour or an obfuscation, but its importance has certainly been downplayed. And in that sense, I suppose the de facto interpretation is indeed that it was unnecessary or perhaps merely for show.

  • http://littlefights.blogspot.com Nathan

    I’ve re-read this a couple of times and find myself in turns agreeing and disagreeing with what you’re saying. I think you may need to expand on a couple of your points, if only to help me out :)

    1. But what if those claims of Jesus as YHWH tell us less about Jesus than they do about the true nature of YHWH?…what if these are, like so much else about Jesus, actually inversions?

    And what if there is no difference because, in fact, there is no difference in their nature? I’m a bit leery about using creedal statements to argue finer points of theology, hinging as they do on human description, but Hebrews 1:3 comes to mind and I’m wondering how much distinction we can make between Jesus’ and YHWH’s respective “natures.” Beyond that linquistic quibble, I’m not sure I understand the import of what you’re trying to say. What significance are you seeing?

    2. meaning that we love our enemy not simply because God has forgiven us (when we were still enemies) but because, in the Cross, God has already forgiven our enemies? Do we dare go that far?

    Are we going as far as universalism? If not, what does it mean for God to have already forgiven our enemies? What is the nature of that forgiveness?

    3. That the passion is not something that obfuscated Jesus’ true identity but unveiled God’s? It would mean that the resurrection, ascension, and cosmic reign of Christ are not something from which the passion is a tragic but necessary detour, but are instead a way of affirming the Cross, and the Way of the Cross, as the realpolitik of the Gospel

    This I can get behind. I don’t know of any orthodox Christian author, be it of the first century or the twenty-first, that has described the Passion as either an unnecessary detour or an obfuscation, but its importance has certainly been downplayed. And in that sense, I suppose the de facto interpretation is indeed that it was unnecessary or perhaps merely for show.

  • Ted

    Nathan,

    Thank you for your questions, especially because they assume that my post was worth a critical re-reading, and that is humbling.

    On point #1, the both/and assumption of “what if there is no difference” is probably the more balanced. What I'm trying to sit with, however, is not so much direct ontological speculation but the meaning of certain christological claims. In my experience, we seem to focus on what these claims are saying about Jesus, coming of course to the conclusion that he was God. We then interpret Jesus' reign, lordship, return in judgment, etc., in light of our conception of God. In most cases, this seems to mean that Jesus is ultimately going to have to open up a can of eschatological whoop-ass.

    The reversal I'm suggesting is that we ponder ways in which those claims of Jesus are at least as much claims of the nature of God, meaning that maybe we should interpret Jesus' reign, lordship, and judgment in light of what is revealed in the Cross. That, scandalously, this should mitigate what we can expect God to do for us — or, more specifically, to our enemies (who may not be literal enemies so much as those we are certain should get theirs in the end, whatever end that might be).

    For #2, I have to confess I'm not interested in speculations about our postmortem fate. What I'm interested in is the ethical implication of believing that God has already forgiven anyone with whom we have to deal.

    I'm out of time for the moment, so I'll come back to this.

    Ted

  • Ted

    Nathan,

    Thank you for your questions, especially because they assume that my post was worth a critical re-reading, and that is humbling.

    On point #1, the both/and assumption of “what if there is no difference” is probably the more balanced. What I’m trying to sit with, however, is not so much direct ontological speculation but the meaning of certain christological claims. In my experience, we seem to focus on what these claims are saying about Jesus, coming of course to the conclusion that he was God. We then interpret Jesus’ reign, lordship, return in judgment, etc., in light of our conception of God. In most cases, this seems to mean that Jesus is ultimately going to have to open up a can of eschatological whoop-ass.

    The reversal I’m suggesting is that we ponder ways in which those claims of Jesus are at least as much claims of the nature of God, meaning that maybe we should interpret Jesus’ reign, lordship, and judgment in light of what is revealed in the Cross. That, scandalously, this should mitigate what we can expect God to do for us — or, more specifically, to our enemies (who may not be literal enemies so much as those we are certain should get theirs in the end, whatever end that might be).

    For #2, I have to confess I’m not interested in speculations about our postmortem fate. What I’m interested in is the ethical implication of believing that God has already forgiven anyone with whom we have to deal.

    I’m out of time for the moment, so I’ll come back to this.

    Ted

  • http://www.reclinerramblings.blogspot.com Michael Cline

    Good questions Nathan and a solid response from Ted. Thanks for the food for thought.

    I'm trying to put myself more and more in the shoes of those who believe differently than I do and bring a different hermeneutic to their faith and to the Scriptures. So I'm going to ask a question that I think many in this “other” group could be pondering:

    Ted, what do you do with the imagery of Jesus in Revelation in light of your understanding of Jesus' nature as revealed in the Cross? Doesn't Revelation's language tend towards a Mark Driscoll, “Jesus is strong and will eventually crush those who turn their backs on him,” interpretation?

  • http://www.dureggerlogistics.com TomDuregger

    “The various and varied claims made of Jesus, … , mean something very different when they are applied to someone who willingly suffered crucifixion. Maybe we miss the point by embracing a politically subversive Jesus but hold in reserve an ass-kicking apocalyptic Jesus who can beat up Mark Driscoll.”

    You are hitting here on a very salient point. Was Jesus' life an example for us to follow? Did he actually live the Spirit filled life that he intends for us? This view makes the martyrdom of the defenseless Christians make sense as a reasonable service, walking in obedience to His teachings in humility. Many accounts of this are recorded in the book “The Martyrs Mirror” and is available on line at: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror.

  • http://www.reclinerramblings.blogspot.com Michael Cline

    Good questions Nathan and a solid response from Ted. Thanks for the food for thought.

    I’m trying to put myself more and more in the shoes of those who believe differently than I do and bring a different hermeneutic to their faith and to the Scriptures. So I’m going to ask a question that I think many in this “other” group could be pondering:

    Ted, what do you do with the imagery of Jesus in Revelation in light of your understanding of Jesus’ nature as revealed in the Cross? Doesn’t Revelation’s language tend towards a Mark Driscoll, “Jesus is strong and will eventually crush those who turn their backs on him,” interpretation?

  • Tom Duregger

    “The various and varied claims made of Jesus, … , mean something very different when they are applied to someone who willingly suffered crucifixion. Maybe we miss the point by embracing a politically subversive Jesus but hold in reserve an ass-kicking apocalyptic Jesus who can beat up Mark Driscoll.”

    You are hitting here on a very salient point. Was Jesus’ life an example for us to follow? Did he actually live the Spirit filled life that he intends for us? This view makes the martyrdom of the defenseless Christians make sense as a reasonable service, walking in obedience to His teachings in humility. Many accounts of this are recorded in the book “The Martyrs Mirror” and is available on line at: http://www.homecomers.org/mirror.

  • Ted

    Continuing (now that I'm on my lunch break),

    What this might mean is that not only is taking up the sword against an enemy (or using coercive means to secure even the noblest of ends) is not only preemptive of God's right to judge, but possibly a blasphemous denial of a judgment already rendered (which none of us deserved). That's not the only way to skin that cat, but it's one that I've been pondering. And of course it raises some of the more conventional soteriological questions about heaven and hell and whatnot. How others sort that out is probably different than how I deal with it, but I'm not sure that is the important thing.

    For #3, let me affirm that you get the gist of it. Nobody I know is explicitly suggesting that the Cross didn't really matter, or that it was really only necessary to get to the good stuff of resurrection, but there's an implicit tendency toward this in the way evangelicalism (which is my background and thus my favorite imaginary sparring partner) has narrated the death, burial, and resurrection. The cross is often necessary in a way that presupposes a kind of magical thinking or a mechanistic universe in which God, for one reason or another, had to push the “sacrifice Jesus” button on the cosmic vending machine so that “redemption of souls” could pop down the chute. The resurrection then becomes this sort of “oh, just kidding” reversal of the tragedy of the Cross, rather than the affirmation of the Cross's incarnational inversion of triumph.

    Thanks for the thoughts,

    Ted

  • Ted

    That's an excellent question. Denny Weaver deals with this in The Nonviolent Atonement, and though some of the book overstates the case, I think, how he deals with Revelation is worth the read.

    In sum, cribbing from Weaver and others without holding them responsible, I think Revelation is part and parcel of the same reversal or inversion; to put it bluntly, these things mean something different when applied to a dead guy (a resurrected and ascended dead guy, sure, but we're not talking “mostly dead” here, and again I want us to sit with that). Not incidentally is it the lamb who is worthy to open the scroll.

  • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

    One of the upside down-ness of the Cross is that God's justice is restorative rather than destructive. Jesus brings justice to the blind by giving them sight, the lame by making them walk, the prisoner by setting him free.

    The thief feels entitled to what he takes. When we give to him what he didn't ask for, we place him in our debt -a debt of love. To balance the social debt, the thief must repay in kindness.

  • Ted

    Continuing (now that I’m on my lunch break),

    What this might mean is that not only is taking up the sword against an enemy (or using coercive means to secure even the noblest of ends) is not only preemptive of God’s right to judge, but possibly a blasphemous denial of a judgment already rendered (which none of us deserved). That’s not the only way to skin that cat, but it’s one that I’ve been pondering. And of course it raises some of the more conventional soteriological questions about heaven and hell and whatnot. How others sort that out is probably different than how I deal with it, but I’m not sure that is the important thing.

    For #3, let me affirm that you get the gist of it. Nobody I know is explicitly suggesting that the Cross didn’t really matter, or that it was really only necessary to get to the good stuff of resurrection, but there’s an implicit tendency toward this in the way evangelicalism (which is my background and thus my favorite imaginary sparring partner) has narrated the death, burial, and resurrection. The cross is often necessary in a way that presupposes a kind of magical thinking or a mechanistic universe in which God, for one reason or another, had to push the “sacrifice Jesus” button on the cosmic vending machine so that “redemption of souls” could pop down the chute. The resurrection then becomes this sort of “oh, just kidding” reversal of the tragedy of the Cross, rather than the affirmation of the Cross’s incarnational inversion of triumph.

    Thanks for the thoughts,

    Ted

  • Ted

    That’s an excellent question. Denny Weaver deals with this in The Nonviolent Atonement, and though some of the book overstates the case, I think, how he deals with Revelation is worth the read.

    In sum, cribbing from Weaver and others without holding them responsible, I think Revelation is part and parcel of the same reversal or inversion; to put it bluntly, these things mean something different when applied to a dead guy (a resurrected and ascended dead guy, sure, but we’re not talking “mostly dead” here, and again I want us to sit with that). Not incidentally is it the lamb who is worthy to open the scroll.

  • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

    One of the upside down-ness of the Cross is that God’s justice is restorative rather than destructive. Jesus brings justice to the blind by giving them sight, the lame by making them walk, the prisoner by setting him free.

    The thief feels entitled to what he takes. When we give to him what he didn’t ask for, we place him in our debt -a debt of love. To balance the social debt, the thief must repay in kindness.

  • Ted

    Having pondered this some more, let me add this: with all due respect to Tim LaHaye, the “glorious unveiling” is not the revelation of Jesus Christ, Buttkicker, but the unveiling of the true kingdom. The weak shame the strong, not in a Revenge of the Nerds kind of way, but precisely in their weakness. The persecuted reign with Christ. The meek inherit the earth. Servants are leaders. Janitors rule the world, one dirty toilet at a time (okay, that was self-serving, but you get the idea). I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but Revelation uses the language it does to confirm, not negate, the message of the Cross.

  • Daniel

    Hi I'm Daniel, Considering the fact that I just heard that my cousin is in a coma now, suffering from untreatable liver cancer, I liked this article. Knowing that Jesus suffered all things that we suffer including death and as I'm finding out more about, unanswered prayer, when He asked this cup to pass from Him in the Garden of Gethsemene and received only the comfort of God's will being best, He's a Messiah who knows us even in the darkest hours of death. With that first hand experience of being human, He longs almost covets to share more human experience in my opinion knowing full well what it is to be one of us. Despite it being a dreadful coronation it is one in which we can feel that He's never left us as orphans here on planet earth, shall I say getting down in the dirt still with us!

  • http://www.reclinerramblings.blogspot.com Michael Cline

    Glad that you've found a moment with Jesus Manifesto where God can speak to your current situation. Sorry it is so painful. And thank God we serve a Master that knows that kind of hurt.

  • Ted

    Having pondered this some more, let me add this: with all due respect to Tim LaHaye, the “glorious unveiling” is not the revelation of Jesus Christ, Buttkicker, but the unveiling of the true kingdom. The weak shame the strong, not in a Revenge of the Nerds kind of way, but precisely in their weakness. The persecuted reign with Christ. The meek inherit the earth. Servants are leaders. Janitors rule the world, one dirty toilet at a time (okay, that was self-serving, but you get the idea). I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but Revelation uses the language it does to confirm, not negate, the message of the Cross.

  • Daniel

    Hi I’m Daniel, Considering the fact that I just heard that my cousin is in a coma now, suffering from untreatable liver cancer, I liked this article. Knowing that Jesus suffered all things that we suffer including death and as I’m finding out more about, unanswered prayer, when He asked this cup to pass from Him in the Garden of Gethsemene and received only the comfort of God’s will being best, He’s a Messiah who knows us even in the darkest hours of death. With that first hand experience of being human, He longs almost covets to share more human experience in my opinion knowing full well what it is to be one of us. Despite it being a dreadful coronation it is one in which we can feel that He’s never left us as orphans here on planet earth, shall I say getting down in the dirt still with us!

  • http://littlefights.blogspot.com Nathan

    We then interpret Jesus' reign, lordship, return in judgment, etc., in light of our conception of God. In most cases, this seems to mean that Jesus is ultimately going to have to open up a can of eschatological whoop-ass.

    I get you – our preconceptions about who/what God is end up forcing a (false) reappraisal of Christ's words, mission and identity when we see things from the top-down perspective. We have to let Christ inform of us of who He is, most especially in His Passion, and let that force a true reappraisal of our conception of God. Gone is the whoop-ass god that may want us to be meek and mild for now, but who will gleefully slay all our enemies in the eschaton. I echo Michael's curiosity about what you would do with the imagery of Revelation. Can you give us a bit more of Weaver's perspective?

    For #2, I have to confess I'm not interested in speculations about our postmortem fate. What I'm interested in is the ethical implication of believing that God has already forgiven anyone with whom we have to deal.

    I agree that the ethical implications would be significant. But an obvious question is does this ethical imperative have a basis in fact? Has God actually forgiven everyone we come in contact with? A good reply might be, of course, who cares? Is the Gospel lived out precisely in treating everyone, neighbor and enemy alike, as if they were already in the Kingdom?

    The cross is often necessary in a way that presupposes a kind of magical thinking or a mechanistic universe in which God, for one reason or another, had to push the “sacrifice Jesus” button on the cosmic vending machine so that “redemption of souls” could pop down the chute. The resurrection then becomes this sort of “oh, just kidding” reversal of the tragedy of the Cross, rather than the affirmation of the Cross's incarnational inversion of triumph.

    Indeed, modern evangelicalism has tended to make the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world' into an ironic description of the militant Christ of the Rapture.

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

    Let us know if there is anything that we can do to support you or your cousin.

  • http://www.reclinerramblings.blogspot.com Michael Cline

    Glad that you’ve found a moment with Jesus Manifesto where God can speak to your current situation. Sorry it is so painful. And thank God we serve a Master that knows that kind of hurt.

  • http://littlefights.blogspot.com Nathan

    We then interpret Jesus’ reign, lordship, return in judgment, etc., in light of our conception of God. In most cases, this seems to mean that Jesus is ultimately going to have to open up a can of eschatological whoop-ass.

    I get you – our preconceptions about who/what God is end up forcing a (false) reappraisal of Christ’s words, mission and identity when we see things from the top-down perspective. We have to let Christ inform of us of who He is, most especially in His Passion, and let that force a true reappraisal of our conception of God. Gone is the whoop-ass god that may want us to be meek and mild for now, but who will gleefully slay all our enemies in the eschaton. I echo Michael’s curiosity about what you would do with the imagery of Revelation. Can you give us a bit more of Weaver’s perspective?

    For #2, I have to confess I’m not interested in speculations about our postmortem fate. What I’m interested in is the ethical implication of believing that God has already forgiven anyone with whom we have to deal.

    I agree that the ethical implications would be significant. But an obvious question is does this ethical imperative have a basis in fact? Has God actually forgiven everyone we come in contact with? A good reply might be, of course, who cares? Is the Gospel lived out precisely in treating everyone, neighbor and enemy alike, as if they were already in the Kingdom?

    The cross is often necessary in a way that presupposes a kind of magical thinking or a mechanistic universe in which God, for one reason or another, had to push the “sacrifice Jesus” button on the cosmic vending machine so that “redemption of souls” could pop down the chute. The resurrection then becomes this sort of “oh, just kidding” reversal of the tragedy of the Cross, rather than the affirmation of the Cross’s incarnational inversion of triumph.

    Indeed, modern evangelicalism has tended to make the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ into an ironic description of the militant Christ of the Rapture.

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

    Let us know if there is anything that we can do to support you or your cousin.

  • Ted

    The way you ask the questions indicates that you're tracking pretty well. I'm afraid that, without the book in front of me, to delve into Weaver's perspective would risk a distortion that is unfair to Weaver. Or it would require an exegetical foray into Revelation for which I'm not prepared. I tried to expand on things in an addendum to my reply to Michael.

    Suffice it to say that I don't see the imagery in Revelation as something to be explained away, but rather as language that desperately needs to be seen in context, and I think the context in question is a subversion of typical triumphalistic expectations that were prevalent at the time. Jesus was crucified, but Christians claimed him as a risen king. Believers were persecuted, but Christians claimed this as participation in that reign. Christians were (not exclusively, but largely) slaves and women and the poor and the unwell, but they claimed to be rich in every way, not marginalized but central to God's work in history — including Gentiles! This is crazy talk, and that crazy talk is the heart of our faith. To de-invert that context in order to support present-day triumphalism is a tragic distortion of the text.

    I agree that the ethical implications would be significant. But an obvious question is does this ethical imperative have a basis in fact? Has God actually forgiven everyone we come in contact with?

    Without sounding hopelessly “postmodern”, I don't think this sort of thing is knowable as “fact”. What we have are interpretations, ways of telling the story. I'm playing around with what it means to tell the story a certain way. At the end of the day, it may be that the difference between assuming God's judgment to be eschatologically (and, it would seem, perpetually) deferred and assuming such judgment to have already been rendered in some way is academic in the sense that either way, we are called to forgo our claim to render judgment — it's a basically a call to spit out that damn fruit and stop pretending to the knowledge of good and evil. Basically, the ethics of Jesus is a way for us to recuse ourselves of such knowledge and live beyond the fall.

    What I'm after is a way to avoid the implication that ultimately God is not nonviolent, but more like a just-war thinker. Now, I have a lot of respect for just-war thinkers over against typical evangelical hawkishness, but my problem with just-war thinking is that it holds in reserve the possibility that “this time”, violence might be okay, which pretty much guarantees there will always be a “this time”. To be polemical about it, it is a position that doesn't really believe in the Resurrection. That seems a curious position to put God in.

    Is the Gospel lived out precisely in treating everyone, neighbor and enemy alike, as if they were already in the Kingdom?

    I think the “as if” is really important, not to quibble, because not everyone has willingly placed themselves under the non-coercive lordship of Christ (which participates in the same). So it's maybe not a formulation I would use but it could be a great way to think about hospitality. We give to the needy person which is to give to Christ. We welcome the stranger as Christ. We embrace the enemy as Christ. And we do this because Christ always already stands in for the Other, becomes the Other, is the Other.

  • Ted

    The way you ask the questions indicates that you’re tracking pretty well. I’m afraid that, without the book in front of me, to delve into Weaver’s perspective would risk a distortion that is unfair to Weaver. Or it would require an exegetical foray into Revelation for which I’m not prepared. I tried to expand on things in an addendum to my reply to Michael.

    Suffice it to say that I don’t see the imagery in Revelation as something to be explained away, but rather as language that desperately needs to be seen in context, and I think the context in question is a subversion of typical triumphalistic expectations that were prevalent at the time. Jesus was crucified, but Christians claimed him as a risen king. Believers were persecuted, but Christians claimed this as participation in that reign. Christians were (not exclusively, but largely) slaves and women and the poor and the unwell, but they claimed to be rich in every way, not marginalized but central to God’s work in history — including Gentiles! This is crazy talk, and that crazy talk is the heart of our faith. To de-invert that context in order to support present-day triumphalism is a tragic distortion of the text.

    I agree that the ethical implications would be significant. But an obvious question is does this ethical imperative have a basis in fact? Has God actually forgiven everyone we come in contact with?

    Without sounding hopelessly “postmodern”, I don’t think this sort of thing is knowable as “fact”. What we have are interpretations, ways of telling the story. I’m playing around with what it means to tell the story a certain way. At the end of the day, it may be that the difference between assuming God’s judgment to be eschatologically (and, it would seem, perpetually) deferred and assuming such judgment to have already been rendered in some way is academic in the sense that either way, we are called to forgo our claim to render judgment — it’s a basically a call to spit out that damn fruit and stop pretending to the knowledge of good and evil. Basically, the ethics of Jesus is a way for us to recuse ourselves of such knowledge and live beyond the fall.

    What I’m after is a way to avoid the implication that ultimately God is not nonviolent, but more like a just-war thinker. Now, I have a lot of respect for just-war thinkers over against typical evangelical hawkishness, but my problem with just-war thinking is that it holds in reserve the possibility that “this time”, violence might be okay, which pretty much guarantees there will always be a “this time”. To be polemical about it, it is a position that doesn’t really believe in the Resurrection. That seems a curious position to put God in.

    Is the Gospel lived out precisely in treating everyone, neighbor and enemy alike, as if they were already in the Kingdom?

    I think the “as if” is really important, not to quibble, because not everyone has willingly placed themselves under the non-coercive lordship of Christ (which participates in the same). So it’s maybe not a formulation I would use but it could be a great way to think about hospitality. We give to the needy person which is to give to Christ. We welcome the stranger as Christ. We embrace the enemy as Christ. And we do this because Christ always already stands in for the Other, becomes the Other, is the Other.

  • http://xristocharis.wordpress.com/ Jon

    I think your concluding remarks are spot on. Do we worship Jesus because He is like God, or do we worship God because He is like Jesus? I think central to the Incarnation is that we are proclaiming that God “looks” like Jesus. Jesus is God's self-expression and everything that Jesus is is how God has chosen to show Himself to be. Jesus is the Word of God, in Him “is the fullness of Deity in bodily form”–what we are proclaiming is that God is “shaped” like Jesus. What is God like? Look to Jesus.

    In this, the very nature of Deity is revealed in the cruciform life of Jesus Christ. The Cross is the location of God's self-poured-outed-ness; it is where God proclaims in absolute fullness what God is like.

    Jesus means that the entire Trinitarian Life of God is one of kenosis: the Father pours Himself out as He begets His Son, the Son pours Himself out to the Father through His devotion to Him, and the Spirit is poured out reciprocally. The Father offers Himself to us through the sending of His Son, the Son in being offered to us, offers Himself back to God, and the Spirit is offered–poured out–upon all flesh on Pentecost. Giving, pouring, offering–Grace.

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    That's beautiful.

  • http://xristocharis.wordpress.com/ Jon

    I think your concluding remarks are spot on. Do we worship Jesus because He is like God, or do we worship God because He is like Jesus? I think central to the Incarnation is that we are proclaiming that God “looks” like Jesus. Jesus is God’s self-expression and everything that Jesus is is how God has chosen to show Himself to be. Jesus is the Word of God, in Him “is the fullness of Deity in bodily form”–what we are proclaiming is that God is “shaped” like Jesus. What is God like? Look to Jesus.

    In this, the very nature of Deity is revealed in the cruciform life of Jesus Christ. The Cross is the location of God’s self-poured-outed-ness; it is where God proclaims in absolute fullness what God is like.

    Jesus means that the entire Trinitarian Life of God is one of kenosis: the Father pours Himself out as He begets His Son, the Son pours Himself out to the Father through His devotion to Him, and the Spirit is poured out reciprocally. The Father offers Himself to us through the sending of His Son, the Son in being offered to us, offers Himself back to God, and the Spirit is offered–poured out–upon all flesh on Pentecost. Giving, pouring, offering–Grace.

  • http://markvans.wordpress.com markvans

    That’s beautiful.

  • Ted

    What he said.

  • Ted

    What he said.

  • Daniel

    My cousin has now gone the way of all flesh, unless Jesus tarries! I just ask that you would pray for me and my family as we prepare to celebrate a life that has now past. And I wouldn't mind correspondance via e-mail to get to know people who visit this site better. I attend Missio Dei the church in Minneapolis, Mark Van Steenwyk helps author this site and he's the pastor.

  • http://markvans.info markvans

    Jeesh Daniel! I didn't realize that this was you. I'm glad you're commenting here. Welcome. I'd love to hear your thoughts on some of the things we post.

    Sunday we'll be spending a lot of time in prayer…lets spend a good chunk of time praying for your family.

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

    My username at gmail.com. I'm a local too, and have stormed the Christarchy meetings on occasion.

    Peace to you & yours

  • Daniel

    My cousin has now gone the way of all flesh, unless Jesus tarries! I just ask that you would pray for me and my family as we prepare to celebrate a life that has now past. And I wouldn’t mind correspondance via e-mail to get to know people who visit this site better. I attend Missio Dei the church in Minneapolis, Mark Van Steenwyk helps author this site and he’s the pastor.

  • Daniel

    My cousin has now gone the way of all flesh, unless Jesus tarries! I just ask that you would pray for me and my family as we prepare to celebrate a life that has now past. And I wouldn’t mind correspondance via e-mail to get to know people who visit this site better. I attend Missio Dei the church in Minneapolis, Mark Van Steenwyk helps author this site and he’s the pastor.

  • http://markvans.wordpress.com markvans

    Jeesh Daniel! I didn’t realize that this was you. I’m glad you’re commenting here. Welcome. I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the things we post.

    Sunday we’ll be spending a lot of time in prayer…lets spend a good chunk of time praying for your family.

  • http://markvans.wordpress.com markvans

    Jeesh Daniel! I didn’t realize that this was you. I’m glad you’re commenting here. Welcome. I’d love to hear your thoughts on some of the things we post.

    Sunday we’ll be spending a lot of time in prayer…lets spend a good chunk of time praying for your family.

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

    My username at gmail.com. I’m a local too, and have stormed the Christarchy meetings on occasion.

    Peace to you & yours

  • http://hewhocutsdown.blogspot.com hewhocutsdown

    My username at gmail.com. I’m a local too, and have stormed the Christarchy meetings on occasion.

    Peace to you & yours

  • http://jonathanstegall.com/ jonathanstegall

    Wow. This is a wonderful article, and there are powerful comments. To address a thought, though:

    “That the christological scandal is not that we crucified God but that we claim as God the one whom we crucified? That the passion is not something that obfuscated Jesus’ true identity but unveiled God’s?”

    I really like the view that the passion is the central unveiling of God's identity. We can see it beautifully expressed in this article, as well as in the writings of Moltmann/Bonhoeffer/Barth/etc., and you're absolutely right that we have, over the years, obscured this by viewing the passion as a detour to Left Behind style interpretations of Revelation.

    I have to say, though, that in affirming this as the Truth, we don't have to negate the fact that Jesus is the crucified God, in addition to a man that shows us what God looks like. I get the idea that you would agree with this, but feel free to disagree.

    On another note, I love the janitor comments. I spent most of college as a night shift janitor. Theology from the mop closet was a book I wanted to write…

  • http://jonathanstegall.com Jonathan Stegall

    Wow. This is a wonderful article, and there are powerful comments. To address a thought, though:

    “That the christological scandal is not that we crucified God but that we claim as God the one whom we crucified? That the passion is not something that obfuscated Jesus’ true identity but unveiled God’s?”

    I really like the view that the passion is the central unveiling of God’s identity. We can see it beautifully expressed in this article, as well as in the writings of Moltmann/Bonhoeffer/Barth/etc., and you’re absolutely right that we have, over the years, obscured this by viewing the passion as a detour to Left Behind style interpretations of Revelation.

    I have to say, though, that in affirming this as the Truth, we don’t have to negate the fact that Jesus is the crucified God, in addition to a man that shows us what God looks like. I get the idea that you would agree with this, but feel free to disagree.

    On another note, I love the janitor comments. I spent most of college as a night shift janitor. Theology from the mop closet was a book I wanted to write…

  • http://jonathanstegall.com/ jonathanstegall

    Wow. This is a wonderful article, and there are powerful comments. To address a thought, though:

    “That the christological scandal is not that we crucified God but that we claim as God the one whom we crucified? That the passion is not something that obfuscated Jesus’ true identity but unveiled God’s?”

    I really like the view that the passion is the central unveiling of God's identity. We can see it beautifully expressed in this article, as well as in the writings of Moltmann/Bonhoeffer/Barth/etc., and you're absolutely right that we have, over the years, obscured this by viewing the passion as a detour to Left Behind style interpretations of Revelation.

    I have to say, though, that in affirming this as the Truth, we don't have to negate the fact that Jesus is the crucified God, in addition to a man that shows us what God looks like. I get the idea that you would agree with this, but feel free to disagree.

    On another note, I love the janitor comments. I spent most of college as a night shift janitor. Theology from the mop closet was a book I wanted to write…

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