Sunday, October 20, 2013

Christians and the Identification of God

As the title may indicate, I spent a lot of time on my honeymoon reading. And doing other unimportant stuff. Mostly what I read was a book on Paul by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor and Jurgen Moltmann's The Crucified God. My wife compromised on the amount of literature I was allowed to bring, and believe me, choosing just two texts was like pulling several teeth.

But I digress.

Moltmann sees all Christian theology as attempting to answer why Jesus asked "my God my God why have you forsaken me?" He sees it as a glimpse into the nature of God, but also whether or not this proclamation is the end or the beginning.

Theodicy is a powerful fan of flame. It begins and spirals amidst abstractions and climaxes in a broad sense of physical -- even existential -- suffering. One's identity may be forged in the triumphs of life, but most people remember such wonderful experiences as they were: in times of being lost or forsaken. A theology without faith is a computer without a battery. One tug on the power supply and everything simply shuts down. Foundationally, when there is no such thing, it becomes a black hole.

Theology (or dogmatics) is an act of faith. According to Karl Barth, "Faith is the determination of human action by the being of the Church and therefore by Jesus Christ, by the gracious address of God to man. The summation of determination is bound up in the character of grace. Barth's point is a potent one, but Moltmann seems to see it as insufficient.

For Moltmann, suffering as a prison of war, suffering was as in your face as such a thing could be. Faith was forsaken as there was nothing there to retain. This, however, changes when a nailed forsaken Messiah is shown in his brokenness.

Identity is bound up, most often, in suffering and in trials. The mysticism of suffering is compared with other sufferings. Moltmann suggests, as did several in his prison camp, that Jesus found him in his suffering. It becomes not only a tangible reality to witness parallel suffering when one is stricken by man, but it also brings forth empathy and a genuine response; whether of anger or compassion.

In my experience, I haven't suffered in comparison to many people. I haven't had my finger nails removed by pliers, nor have I ever had boiling oil poured down my throat. Suffering has a sense of putting one in their place, but it also shifts focus to what really matters.

The brother and sister that feels forsaken. When the crucified God was hanging there, his cry of loneliness is a cry that everyone who has suffered is able to picture with ultimate clarity. God gave of himself to exemplify how God is for us and with us. When suffering is found, identity is not far behind.

When you identify with the crucified God, you identify with everyone else who has suffered. Empathy seems to be the slope towards reconciliation at that point, abstraction be damned. A world without suffering would befit only the eschaton. A world that is presently suffering showcases the need for such an end, an end to death, an end to suffering, an end to the forging of identity within pain and evil.

Thankfully, one hopes, the formation of identity within God and us doesn't cease upon the forsaken breath in our chests. Hopefully, with universal pleas, it begins thus.

Just some mere thoughts.


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