Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Cross and resurrection

This morning I’ve been writing a review of Michael Korthaus’ new book on Kreuzestheologie for Reviews in Religion and Theology. It’s a fascinating work of historical theology, with chapters on all the usual suspects (Barth, Käsemann, Ebeling, Moltmann, Jüngel, et al.). And it also features an impressive constructive sketch of a contemporary theology of the cross.

Korthaus’ cast of characters consists exclusively of German-language writers – which got me wondering whether any Anglo-American writers have contributed anything noteworthy to a theologia crucis. The only person who comes to mind is Rowan Williams – most strikingly in his writings on spirituality (such as the astonishing book, The Wound of Knowledge), but also in his broader work on theological method. I suspect Williams’ frustratingly piecemeal and open-ended writing on doctrine is itself a kind of methodologia crucis, an attempt to come to terms with the shattering significance of the cross for all our speech about God. This resonates with one of Korthaus’ central arguments as well: “The word of cross cannot be translated into a hermetic theological theory…. The word of the cross does not generate a system of cross-theology” (p. 21).

Anyway, here are a few more quotes from Korthaus’ excellent book:

“We define the relationship of cross and resurrection as follows: the resurrection is to be understood as the act of God’s identification with the crucified Jesus Christ, in which the event of the cross is publicly revealed as the unsurpassable salvation-event…. This understanding of resurrection as the act by which God identifies himself with the Crucified is first of all directed negatively against every tendency to understand the cross as a temporary pathway to a salvation which was surpassed and nullified in the resurrection” (pp. 374-75).

A quote from Gerhard Ebeling: “The substance of Easter faith is not that the meaning of the crucifixion is cancelled or nullified or disproved by the resurrection...” (p. 375).

A quote from Ingolf Dalferth: “The cross is mute and makes mute. God was silent. Jesus was separated. The disciples fled. It is not ours to understand the cross in the context of human life-experience. The cross is soteriologically mute” (p. 373).

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