Novak (novak) wrote,

Theological Notebook: The Love of God and the Necessity of the Death of Christ

An idea for future development: I'm reading chs. 9-10 in Ratzinger's Jesus of Nazareth right now in preparation for class tomorrow. In ch. 9, he's talking about the texts of Peter's confession of Jesus as Messiah/Christ and the Transfiguration, and the connected texts in the gospels about Jesus' prediction of the Passion, with Ratzinger mentioning the connection of the confession to the prediction, and the necessity of the Passion in Jesus's language.

The question comes up as to whether the crucifixion was really necessary. Isn't the grand miracle the Incarnation itself, the Word/Logos becoming flesh and dwelling among us? Was the crucifixion, strictly speaking, necessary? Or could not redemption have happened in some less violent way, despite the symbolic development of crucifixion/sacrifice themes that Christians would later develop from the circumstances of Jesus's death?

It strikes me that interesting connections might be made between the theology of death, Christology, and Trinitarian theology by exploring the notion as to whether the death of Christ was (again, speaking strictly) necessary as part of redemption or as part of bringing humanity/creation into the life of God because everything had to be given in the Incarnation. As part of that kenosis, that self-emptying, that the Word went through in order to enter into the finite universe in the time and space of a human life, perhaps the further giving of a sacrificial death was necessary as part of the complete or utter self-giving of the Logos. In Trinitarian theology, we speak of the love that is God's triune existence as being an existence of these three infinite Persons in perichoresis, a Greek word that perhaps best translates as "interpenetration." I try to get students to imagine this, however weakly we humans can, when we talk about God existing as Love Itself: the total and utter interpenetration of Persons – beyond any conversation, any sexual intercourse, even any telepathy we could imagine – the complete and utter knowing and possession of one another, an intimacy that is infinite in scope and holding nothing back.

If we are to be drawn into the life of God through Christ's Incarnation and through his human existence joining ourselves to the Holy Spirit, then perhaps part of extending that perichoresis to humanity, part of being entirely open to us in his humanity, is to give his life in sacrifice. In human story, in human existence, that is one of the ultimate acts of love for another: to freely offer the whole of our human existence in such a final way. (Or usually final way, given what Christ was about to do in the Resurrection.) Certainly lots of these thoughts are always bouncing around in any discussion of the crucifixion, or the love of God, or of sacrifice, but I'm not sure that I've ever put them together this way, or made the connection to joining into the Life of the Trinity in perichoresis, and so I'm thinking that there might be something to work on, here.
Tags: benedict xvi, books, christology, gospels, ideas to pursue?, jesus, mysticism/spirituality, pneumatology, systematic theology, theological notebook, trinity

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