Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Incarnation and Cross

In this passage Raztinger discusses what he calls the two responses to Christ. What is especially interesting is the bridge that he sees between them. It will be worth watching to see if he applies a similar argument in any ecumenical effort that he undertakes.
In the history of the Christian faith two divergent lines of approach to the contemplation of Jesus have appeared again and again: the theology of the Incarnation, which sprang from Greek thought and became dominant in the West and East, and the theology of the Cross, which is based on St. Paul and the earliest forms of Christian belief and made a decisive breakthrough in the thinking of the Reformers. The former talks of "being" and centers around the fact that here a man is God and that, accordingly at the same time God is man; this astounding fact is seen as the all decisive one. All the individual events that followed pale before this one event of the one-ness of man and God, of God's becoming man. In the face of this they can only secondary; the interlocking of God and man appears as the truly decisive, redemptive factor, as the real future of man, on which all lines must converge. The theology of the Cross, on the other hand, will have nothing to do with ontology of this kind; it speaks instead of the event; it follows the testimony of the early days, when people enquired, not yet about being, but about the activity of God in the Cross and the Resurrection, an activity that conquered death and pointed to Jesus as the Lord and the hope of humanity. The differing tendencies of these two theologies result from their approaches. The theology of the Incarnation tends towards a static, optimistic view. The sin of man may well appear as a transitional stage of fairly minor importance. The decisive factor, then, is not that man is in a state of sin and must be saved; the aim goes far beyond any such atonement for the past and in making progress toward the convergence of man and God. The theology of the Cross, on the other hand, leads rather a dynamic, topical, anti-world interpretation of Christianity, which understands Christianity only as discontinuously but constantly appearing breach in the self assurance of man and of his institutions, including the Church. ... Unity makes these polarities possible... the being of Christ is actualitas, stepping beyond oneself, the exodus of going from the self; it is... a being of being spent, of being Son, of serving... This "doing" is not just "doing" but "being"; it reaches down into the depths of being and coincides with it. This being is exodus, transformation. So at this point a properly understood Christology of being and of the Incarnation must pass over into the theology of the Cross and become one with it; converesely, a theology of the Cross that gives its full measure must pass over into the Christology of the Son and of being.
In other words, Christ and his doings cannot be separated. Actor and action are one and the same, and the two views described here arise from thinking of God in an unwittingly human way, as a self who acts. Ratzinger is questioning if such a distinction applies to a God who is the ground of all being and all doing, and he is making a great deal of sense to me.

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