Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Crucified God, Moltmann, part 2


Moltmann has no mockish sentiments comparing bogus stories about kings sacrificing their sons, nor does he communicate the meaning of cross by multiplying examples of the physical torment a crucifixion victim undergoes. Those are all third rate apologetic and they have no place in Moltmann's thinking. Moltmann talks about the eschatological meaning of the cross. He had already laid down the most sophisticated eschatology in his first groundbreaking work Theology of Hope. He goes on to talk about the meaning of the cross in terms of the solidarity statement.

The participation of Christ in the life of humanity creates the basis for God's solidarity. Other martyr figures died for their noble causes but Jesus did not die for a noble cause. No one understood that he was making a statement of God's solidarity. He was tagged as a blasphemer by the religious authorities and he was being crucified as a criminal with criminals. It was understood that his cause was political power and he was labeled as such. Thus he was not sen as atoning for the sins of the world but as another misguided terrorist who tried to take power and didn't make it. He was crucified among thieves which to the masses "this guy is no better than a thief."

Atheists on message boards sometimes go through gyrations trying to deny that the atonement meant anything. They will say "that was no sweat for God. He was invulnerable like superman and so he didn't feel a thing." Motlmann doesn't mention atheists but that kind of response, which carries all the subtly and sensitivity of a lynch mob, is totally inapplicable. Even though Moltmann doesn't talk about the physical torturer of the cross he illustrates the devastating nature of its meaning in the abandonment by God. This is not an attempt to say "see Jesus really suffered after all." The God haters who long to think of God as suffering will have to be disappointed. The issue of solidarity is not an issue of "did he really suffer?" Instead it's an issue abandonment.

Jesus was abandoned by God. Moltmann makes that point in showing that only one evangelist records that cry "my God, my God why have you forsaken me?" The others all soften it up (Luke, Matt, John). They change it to "into thy hands I commend my spirit," or "it is finished." Mark records the original abandonment cry and Jesus life ends there. Jesus dies abandoned by God. He has no noble cause to die for, he's labeled and classed at the lowest level of society, and dies misunderstood and alone. Moltmann is not wallowing in how much he suffered because the abandonment plays a much more important role in the drama of salvation. It's not that it gives Jesus "street cred" as suffering. It links him to humanity. It establishes the solidarity because he died as a man at the lowest level of humanity, tragically and alone, as we die. He was a man and he died as men die. He felt abandoned by God as we all feel and as some of us feel in extreme measure.

Of cousre that sets up the hope of the resurrection.
As Paul says:

...all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into his death.? We were therefore buried with him in baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in his death we will certainly be united with him in his resurrection.For we know that the old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we will also live with him, for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him; the death he died to sin he died once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God. In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Chrsit Jesus.(Romans 6:1-5)

As I express it on my website doxa:

Jurgen Moltmann's notion of Solidarity (see The Crucified God) is based upon the notion of Political solidarity. Christ died in Solidarity with victims. He took upon himself a political death by purposely angering the powers of the day. Thus in his death he identifies with victims of oppression. But we are all vitims of oppression. Sin has a social dimension, the injustice we experience as the hands of society and social and governmental institutions is primarily and at a very basic level the result of the social aspects of sin. Power, and political machinations begin in the sinful heart, the ego, the desire for power, and they manifest themselves through institutions built by the will to power over the other. But in a more fundamental sense we are all victims of our own sinful natures. We scheme against others on some level to build ourselve up and secure our conditions in life. IN this sense we cannot help but do injustice to others. In return injustice is done to us.Jesus died in solidarity with us, he underwent the ultimate consequences of living in a sinful world, in order to demonstrate the depths of God's love and God's desire to save us. Take an analogy from political organizing. IN Central America governments often send "death squads" to murder labor unionists and political dissenter. IN Guatemala there were some American organizations which organized for college students to go to Guatemala and escourt the leaders of dissenting groups so that they would not be murdered.

The logic was that the death squads wouldn't hurt an American Student because it would bring bad press and shut off U.S. government funds to their military. As disturbing as these political implications are, let's stay focused on the Gospel. Jesus is like those students, and like some of them, he was actually killed. But unlike them he went out of his way to be killed, to be victimized by the the rage of the sinful and power seeking so that he could illustrate to us the desire of God; that God is on our side, God is on the side of the poor, the victimized, the marginalized, and the lost. Jesus said "a physician is not sent to the well but to the sick."The key to salvation is to accept God's statement of solidarity, to express our solidarity with God by placing ourselves into the death of Christ (by identification with it, by trust in it's efficacy for our salvation).
When we put ourselves into Christ's death and reckon ourselves dead with him then we are in solidarity with God and that puts in the stream of the hope of resurrection which is real and truly had through Christ's actual resurrection. That is the real meaning of Christmas.

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