Monday, May 14, 2012

The Suffering God.

Hear, hear, Sir Jüngel (and Karl)!

"[God's being] is a being in a becoming threatened by perishing. For humanity in opposition to God is condemned to perish. And in the existence of Jesus Christ God suffers this very condemnation. 'The more seriously we take this, the stronger the temptation to approximate to the view of a contradiction and conflict in God Himself.' Barth takes the passion of God very seriously. 'The Almighty exists and acts and speaks here in the form of One who is weak and impotent, the eternal as One who is temporal and perishing ... The One who lives for ever has fallen a prey to death. The Creator is subjected to and overcome by the onslaught of that which is not.' But he categorically rejects that we must draw from this the consequence of a contradiction through which God would come into conflict with himself. For Barth this consequence is blasphemy. However, his rejection of this consequence does not lead to any toning down of his discussion of God's suffering, but conversely, to a critique of the traditional metaphysical concept of God, according to which God cannot suffer without falling into conflict with his being. In this critique, Barth's opposition to every kind of natural theology received its most pointed statement. No concept of God arrived at independent of the reality of Jesus Christ may decide what is possible and impossible for God. Rather, we are to say from what God as man in Jesus Christ is, does and suffers: 'God can do this.' For 'who God is and what it is to be divine is something we have to learn where God has revealed Himself and His nature, the essence of the divine. ... It is not for us to speak of a contradiction and rift in the being of God, to reconstitute them in light of the fact that He does this. We may believe that God can and only be absolute in contrast to all that is relative, exalted in contrast to all that is lowly, active in contrast to all suffering, inviolable in contrast to all temptation, transcendent in contrast to all immanence, and therefore divine in contrast to everything human, in short that He can and must be only the "Wholly Other". But such beliefs are shown to be quite untenable, and corrupt and pagan, by the fact that God does in fact be and do this in Jesus Christ."

- Eberhard Jüngel, God's Being is in Becoming, 99-100.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Patriarchy and Kenosis.

I'm currently writing my last term paper and it has been incredibly difficult to quite get my thoughts and ideas together. This blog post, I'm hoping, will serve as a way to think aloud as I am still trying to think through various issues related to the kenotic self-emptying of Jesus Christ and what this means for women, specifically for the ends of feminism. I consider myself a disciple of Jesus Christ and my identity as a disciple who has been liberated by the Gospel directly informs and conditions my feminism. While my theological beliefs as well as my anthropology are quite dynamic in nature and never as linear as I just articulated, for conceptual purposes, I first and foremost confess my identity in Jesus Christ as a new creation and my identity is directly informed by what has been accomplished in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The only reason, I believe, that I need and defend the cause of feminism is because anything that maintains distinctions and separations within society whether based on gender, race, disability, cultural or otherwise is man-made and ultimately denies the very freedom and liberation that comes in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, those cultural and man-made distinctions are torn down so that all are freed to serve and love one another as Jesus Christ first served and loved us.

At times it feels as though I don't identify with a lot of the language that surfaces in feminist circles. The language of "rights" and "empowerment" are difficult for me to fully grasp, let alone accept. In my mind, the Gospel has no room for language of "rights" since the very notion of what it means to be a disciple is to deny oneself, pick up your cross, and follow Jesus Christ as Lord in life and possibly into death. You can only find your life when you lose it. The Gospel promises liberation, but only once death occurs. Sunday comes after Friday. And so the language of rights creates this space of autonomy and control that the Gospel specifically calls me to forfeit and lay down for the sake of the Kingdom of God. But what does this mean, precisely, in light of the fact that male bodies have controlled, dominated, abused, marginalized, silenced, killed, raped, and humiliated women in various ways for centuries? Is kenosis and the example of Jesus Christ's self-emptying really a word for me as a woman? How am I supposed to empty myself for the sake of the Gospel when that same emptying has been used to convince women to submit to abusive relationships like Jesus Christ Himself submitted to abuse even onto death?

I don't have a lot of answers for these questions. In fact, I often don't feel as though there are any safe places to ask these questions because so often it feels as though you are either a Christian or you are a feminist. If you are a Christian, it seems that these feminist concerns are seen as selfish and utterly in antithesis to the Gospel. But if you are a feminist, it seems that the questions about self-emptying and denying oneself onto death is only a word for men and Jesus Christ could never possibly be a true example for women to model. It seems that somehow, patriarchy has robbed women of the space to truly grapple with what it means to be a servant of Jesus Christ because we live in fear that such service will mean our very oppression. So many feminists allow patriarchy, even when it comes to the very questions that should essentially define who women are as disciples of Jesus Christ, the standard for defining our faith. But I wonder if true freedom might mean saying that despite patriarchy, despite the abuse and despite the danger of oppression, women created their own spaces where they could truly believe that the example of Jesus Christ's radical self-emptying even to the point of death on a cross was truly a word for them. I want to create such a space. I want to be a Christian and a feminist. And truth be told, I don't think it is possible for any person to be the former without being the latter precisely because of the liberation that comes for all humanity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.