Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The ground of goodness in the roots of being...

About a month and a half ago, in response to a thread at Just Thomism, I
wrote about
the Christological basis for humanity and moral worth.
Not much later, Ben, an atheist, wrote
a somewhat lengthy reply to me at his blog. I finally got around to reading and answering his reply. I post it (in truncated form) here, as always, for form's sake.

1) The point of Catholic Christology is ontological, not merely psychological. It is a revelation of the very ground of our psychological structure of goodness. It is not at all a matter of denying or affirming goodness being present in non-Christians. Rather, it is a claim about who is to be thanked and acknowledged for goodness as such, as humans concretely encounter it. The fecund joy of the Triune perichoresis is the grounding for the analogical human goods of family, social harmony, intersubjectivity, etc. This is hardly amoralism. It is a rejection of Platonism insofar as the Good is made concrete (as opposed to ideal and immaterial) in creation in the person of Jesus Christ, but not a rejection of Platonism insofar as the Good is adored as pervading and orchestrating all particular things. Goodness exists broadly in creation primarily because it was/is ontologically rooted in Christ's concrete life and death, and, secondarily, as it is mediated by humanity made in His likeness. Nature is not "good" without humans, ontologically speaking, and humanity is not good without Christ's paradigmatic humanity, ontologically speaking (not psychologially/ cognitively).


3) You also grossly mistake the nature of Christ's suffering as if it were about the quantitative nerve stimuli involved. The Passion is not about what kind of suffering Jesus endured, but about Who endured that suffering. The Fathers state on numerous occasions that Christ did not need to suffer in any way to redeem anyone, but that He did so as an even more dramatic sign of His love for the lost, the concrete way in which God says "I love you." It was only by uniting his divinity with our common, wounded humanity that Christ could offer us, as collectively-formed individuals, to the Father by the Holy Spirit. His suffering was a sign of God's love for us, not a contest for the greatest possible nerve aggravation. (I could lay a hot wire on a rat sciatic nerve until the thing died of exhaustion and shock, and that might involve "more" suffering than Jesus' Passion, but it would not involve a suffering that in any way elevates and heals our nature.) Further, Jesus did not "leave" anyone in hell. We go to hell of our own volition. He died to save us all, but evidently, some of us, perhaps many, choose to reject the light and love that pervades creation. We are each judged by the light we are given. Again, the very grounds for anyone having enough light to seek goodness and truth is rooted in Christ incarnate. He is the light every person knows, even if dimly, and even if a person does not know He is the light.


Notice how easily I myself slipped into the cosmological error I was ciritcizing in the thread at Just Thomism. It is an insidious confusion which Catholic theology, as Fr. Keefe argues at great length in Covenantal Theology (cited above), must constantly resist and reform. I said Christ assumed our humanity, but, again, the point is that "our humanity" itself is grounded in its wholeness in the very fact of Christ's Incarnation. "Our humanity" does not exist as some ideal form, waiting for Christ to don it like a cloak on a hook in the foyer to the real world. Rather, simply because the Logos deigned to unify creation to Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, thus our humanity was ratified and created. God's desire to manifest His glory and impart His being to His creatures was and is prior, ontologically, to the concrete forms by which creation enjoys the divine goodness. The Passion is but a second-order volition which the Logos accepted in union with His first-order will to unite creation with God. This is why the Incarnation did not necessarily entail the Passion, though the Passion, of course, required the Incarnation. Our humanity found a seat at the table of existence, in other words, beacuse God deemed it a suitable manner by which to express His goodness in an anthropic creation. Christ is to human nature what humanity is to nature itself.

No comments: