Thursday, March 31, 2005

Cross-Shattered Christ: Reflection on "The Fifth Word"

"I thirst." -- John 19:28

I spoke to Dr. Stanley Hauerwas about these words on the cross and how it reveals his humanity, but Hauerwas was insistent that it also simultaneously reveals his divinity. Certain things can't be neatly separated out to say here's where Jesus is only human and here's where he is only God. He's very God and very man in everything he does. This also helps explain reflection four posted earlier.

SH: Right. You draw close and the closer you come, the more the assumption that you know who this is, is challenged. The temptation is to say, “Oh, when Jesus says 'today you will be with me in paradise,' that must be God, when Jesus says 'I thirst,' that must be man.” It’s like he’s fifty percent God here and fifty percent man there. When what you must come to understand is that he’s one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man in saying 'today you will be with me in paradise' and when he says 'I thirst.' And that’s a lot to get our lives around.

WS: So in other words, the one hundred percent God side might be the 'today you will be with me in paradise,' and 'I thirst' more the man side?

SH: No, they’re both. (laughs) He’s a hundred percent God and a hundred percent man when he says both of those things, which helps us to begin to realize, Oh, this is different.

WS: So God is not . . . comment on the "cuddly God syndrome" that seems to be out there. Say one thing to the average person who is looking for God in culture today . . .

SH: Well there are two kinds of fundamental attitudes, both of which I find horrible. One is, I say, the most determined conviction among American Evangelicals: that God is nice. You can’t make any sense of the cross if God is nice. This is high stakes stuff. The other equally disastrous view is people walking out of Mel Gibson’s The Passion saying, “Gee, I didn’t know he had to suffer that much for me.” What that does is indicate an inadequate view that this is some suffering that has to be undergone because the Father is mad.

WS: Because God needs to be satisfied?

SH: Right, no this is the second person of the Trinity. This is justice. So there’s no justice to be satisfied—that isn’t this justice.

WS: So how do you separate that in our minds? Because this is a very common misconception . . . when you try to explain the opposite, it’s mysterious in a way . . .

SH: Of course (laughs)

WS: It’s slippery to hold on to.

SH: It’s very hard.

WS: How do you go forth and explain the real mystery there?

SH: What you have to remember, where you need to start, is getting over narcissistic fascination with your sin. There’s bigger stakes going on here (laughs) than just God helping us to think that even though we’ve messed up in life, God’s forgiven us and we’re going to be okay. This is about the cosmic re-orientation of all that is. That reminds us that we no longer have to live as if we’re our own creator. Therefore, we’ve been brought within God’s eschatological kingdom in a way that we no longer have to live the desperate lives that think we have to make sense of all this on our own grounds.

Read more of NEW Wineskins interview with Stanley Hauerwas

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