Friday, July 29, 2005

Zubizantine Theology: The Crucifixion (Part 8)

In Zubiri's account of salvation, he incorporates the notion of a person's experiences being part of his reality. Thus, in Christ, the personal assumption of the experience of human life by the Word of God makes the experiences of Christ's life part of the divine reality. It is in this sense, the sharing of the very life of Christ, that Zubiri means salvation. As Christians, we are molded to the life of Christ in a process of deiformation, which can be contrasted with the concept of theosis in that it takes place at the level of personal reality rather than being (ontological union). Yet it is quite similar in that both begin with the image of God in human beings (in Zubiri's view, the formal reality of God in creation; in the Eastern view, the uncreated core of being), viewing the process of salvation in terms of being conformed by the Christian life to this image so as to become "little gods." Zubiri, then, describes the purpose of the Incarnation as follows (taken from Christianity © 2001-2005 by Joaquín Redondo. Permission to republish in any form is hereby granted, provided that source is acknowledged):

The incarnation appears within a process in which, I was saying, the Trinity is projected ad extra in its own life. And this means that creation and the created entities have a condition I call deiformed. Not deification because that involves the idea of making gods. That is not the point, but that in themselves insofar as made and created they are deiformed. In second place, this process, I was saying, culminates with the personal incorporation of God in his second Person to this creation. An incorporation that has several characteristics, out of which I chose three of them as important. In first place, a biographical characteristic, in second place, a historical characteristic, and subjacent to biography and history, a religious characteristic within the religious history of humanity. Naturally, I would have to add that the question does not end here. Indeed, we have to add that this process of deiformity, which culminates in the personal incorporation of Christ to the reality of the world and history, occurs precisely by and for the human deiformity.

Classical theology formulated a similar problem with a different title, but in the end intrinsically touching lightly on the subject I just mentioned, namely, what was the reason that motivated {314} the incarnation in creation? Theologians have divided into three positions. On one side the classical groups, inspired (needless to say) by numerous quotations from the Fathers of the Church with their point of view canonized in the maximum theology of St. Thomas. It consists in saying that Christ became man to redeem humanity, i.e., that the formal reason for incarnation is the redemptive salvation of man2. Another opinion is represented by Duns Scotus who had a different vision. He thought that the formal reason for incarnation consists in the very perfection that intrinsically and theologically concerns the incarnate Word as such. What moved God (speaking anthropomorphically) to incarnate was precisely the intrinsic perfection of the incarnate Word. That as a result he would also be redeemer is something else3. The third opinion is by Molina, a Spanish theologian, who was not in exact agreement with the other two opinions. His opinion was that certainly God has incarnated because of the intrinsic perfection called for by the reality of the Son of God made flesh, that is clear. But he thought God never “decreed”4 the incarnation independently from sinful humanity, which Christ was going to join. And, therefore, according to Molina, the two other points of view are associated in the decree of the incarnation5.

Personally, with all my clumsiness, I cannot agree with any of the three opinions. The one I might find somewhat acceptable is {315} the opinion by Molina, but with a fundamental difference. In every discussion of the opinions the incarnate Word is placed on one side, and on the other sinful humanity. But we ask, is that humanity, by virtue of which and for which the Word incarnated, necessarily and formally the humanity insofar as sinful? This would have to be proven, and I believe it is an absolutely erroneous supposition. The destiny of men was included in the formal reason for incarnation, but of men insofar as deiformed, not as sinners. To be sinners and redeem them will come afterwards, as I will point out immediately. The formal reason for incarnation is precisely the human deiformity. Men are covered by the decree (in scholastic terms) of incarnation; but not insofar as sinful humanity, but insofar as deiform humanity. Consequently the incarnation is a giving of itself ad extra in the deiformed creature.

Where Zubiri's view becomes radical is in the idea of being joined in reality to Christ's experiences, not merely by consubstantiality with Him or participation in the divine nature (energies), but in real respectivity to His human life. We will leave the exact process by which one is incorporated into Christ's life for now, and instead turn to the metaphysical aspects of certain major events in Christ's life. In particular, Zubiri addresses at length what it meant for Christ to subject Himself to the power of sin, most poignantly in His death on the Cross:

In the first place, the death of Christ. As a personal action, what was his own death for Christ? St. Paul tells us clearly, he was hupékoos (obedient) until death {321} (Phil 2:8). As I said above, obedience is not the formal reason for religation, but the other way around, obedience presupposes a religation. For the time being we must say that subsistent religation inexorably leads, in Christ, to an act of supreme obedience. An obedience to precisely acquiesce to the will of the Father being manifested to him throughout the whole of his life.

However, this death has two different aspects. In the first place, it has the aspect of being an event of his substantive reality. Then, the death of Christ, as the death of anyone else, means a de-animation of his organism or reciprocally a de-corporation of his soul1. But this is not what constitutes the profound reality of the death of Christ. The profound reality of the death of Christ does not concern his substantive reality, but his substantive being. Concerns that being Christ attains throughout his life, which is formally and precisely theandric. This formally theandric I is not an I that might be a subject of attribution or even subject of inhesion of his acts, but is the very figure of his substantive being. And in this figure is where his death is precisely inscribed, not simply the de-animation of an organism or the de-corporation of a mind, of a soul, but the configuration of his substantive being.

Let us remember then that Christ is incorporated to humanity in a biographic way, in a historic way, and also in a religious one. Incorporated to a humanity socially concretized, but in addition to a sinful humanity. What does it mean to be incorporated to a sinful humanity? We can answer quickly; Christ loaded himself with the sins of humanity. Of course, as long as we give an {322} authentic meaning to the verb “to load”. What does it mean that Christ loaded himself with our sins? We also have to explain that. We cannot say, formally speaking that it is the case of a load in the trivial sense of the term. The truth is that the answer to the question of what the incorporation to sinful humanity meant was given by Christ when he was apprehended at Gethsemane. He said to those accompanying Judas that it was, “the hour of the power of darkness” (he hóra kai he exousía toú skótous, Lk 22:53). To incarnate into a sinful humanity means, in one form or another, to live on a land, in a society, and in a world in which “the power of darkness” exists. “The darkness” here is an expression for sin, the power of sin. What do we understand by power? St. Luke uses the term exousía, which has several meanings. On one hand it means a power (Sp. potestad), for example, a juridical power. On the other, it may be equivalent to a potency (Sp. potencia), a dýnamis. Actually, the term exousía formally means a power that has a certain amount of juridical power. It is more than juridical power, but less than the physical meaning of the term dýnamis. Certainly, this exousía, this power, is not a mere value, not at all. But also it is not a cause in the sense of the efficient causality of a dýnamis. It is precisely the dominance of the real insofar as real, precisely the power2.

Being a power that is the dominance of the real insofar as real it has to be founded in some characteristic faculties, which constitute reality in its capacity of founding a power, i.e., in their condition. Therefore, this dimension of reality in which the power of sin is founded is {323} precisely the will of men standing in malice3. Precisely because men stand in the will to malice there exists in the world what is called the power of sin. That Christ may have incarnated in a sinful humanity means, however, that he has incarnated in a world where the malice of men constitutes a power. What is that power? Clearly, men are not only individuals they live among each other. And they decant through their socializing and coexistence on the world, their thoughts (their noémata), and their decisions (their boulémata). They are constructing a world. The world is neither each one of the individuals nor the sum of all of them, not at all. The world is something that certainly does not exist outside the individuals living in the world, but is not identified with them. The world has precisely that impersonal characteristic (consequently different from each of the individuals) of being precisely a tópos. The reality of the world is essentially and constitutively topical.

Nevertheless, this topic weighs, of course, on the individuals living in it, and not only as some sort of current exigency. The world, in a certain sense (sociologists love stories like these) is that which composes the thoughts, the decisions, the norms, etc, that have currency at a certain particular moment. This is quite true, but there is something much more radical. The fact is that this world, as arché of the individuals living in it, is not only a world in which there are things that have exigencies for the individuals, but is something more. It is a world that makes individuals live, at least inchoatively, the way it is, the way the world is. In this sense, there is not only an exigency, but also a power, {324} the power of the world over the individuals living in it. The world as power is essential to our problem.

Humanity has been depositing its amartémata on this world, its sins. The power the world has in which these sins have been deposited is formally the power of sin. The incorporation of Christ to a sinful humanity consists, in the first place, in living in a world of sin. And to live in a world of sin is, in one form or another, to be under the power of sin. We need to ask, in what sense? Certainly Christ is not under the power of sin as a sinner, not at all. Also, the power of sin is not something that necessarily forces or impels making the individuals living in it formally sinful. The sin consists in living aversely, but before each will on its own performs a personal act of living aversely it is immersed in a world, which is a world in aversion to God, i.e., a world of sin, of the power of sin. The power of sin hovers over the person of Christ without reaching his ultimate radical intimacy. Hence, to live in a world where the power of sin exists without personally being a sinner in any way at all is what formally constituted the incorporation of Christ to sinful humanity.

This incorporation was precisely the death of Christ. The death of Christ that, on the one hand, was the result of sin, and on the other, left him unharmed in his very filial reality. But his body and soul were harmed. He was left unharmed in his condition as Son of God, and precisely in the oblation of his life, an oblation that has a triple characteristic. In the first place, the characteristic of obeying the will of the Father, it is an act of adoration. In the second place, of beseeching him for what he said on the cross, “forgive them because they do not {325} know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Finally, of expiating the sins of humanity where expiating concretely means that next to the power of sin he has introduced a new power, the power of God. For this reason the supreme act of religion in Christ was his death because it was the supreme act of religion as Son.

Then we have to ask, what was that death of Christ as founding action of Christianity for the rest of mankind? First, I will say that the power of sin has functioned in a different way for the rest of all men than the way it functioned for Christ. In Christ the power of sin had an internal limit. Christ did not become a sinner by living in a world of the power of sin; men, taken historically just as they are, definitely did. Needless to say, we live in a world in which the power of sin transfuses with intrinsic sinfulness the reality of all that live in it. Man is internally abandoned to the power of sin, but why? Is it because of malice in some cases? Is it because of a radical weakness of its make up in others? Be that as it may, it is a fact.

Each one of the sins that humanity performs in one way or another continues to increase the power of sin. Or, at least, if it does not increase it definitely consolidates it. All the sins of humanity are in this sense equivalent without exception. They constitute the many contributions to the power of sin, which hovers as an integral element of the world in which humans live. This is no metaphysical spinning. Sufficient to read chapter 6 of Genesis on the account of the deluge where we are told that, “all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth” (Gn 6:12). The sin of humanity had reached all of humanity. And then we find the phrase, which I will not address {326} now, “I am sorry that I made them” (Gn 6:7). Nevertheless, it is the explicit manifestation that the power of sin with all the sins of all men continues to expand like an asphyxiating wave throughout human history.

All sins, in this sense, are included in this power. Clearly, Christ died for all the sins of mankind not just one. It is said that there was a first sin. I already referred to original sin when dealing with creation. However, in what does the original sin consist, and its originating characteristic? Certainly it is not an inherited sin. The idea of an inherited sin is something completely alien even to St. Paul. When St. Paul describes the situation of man he begins with Christ not with Adam. This is essential, he sees Adam from Christ, he does not see Christ from Adam. He tells us that just as Christ has brought to us redemption from sin by the unique action of his life, which his death was (at least it culminated in his death), in the same way, “through one person sin entered the world” (Rom 5:12). It does not say that men inherited that sin. It is not the case of a hereditary epidemic. Original sin has its originating characteristic by being the first sin of humanity, i.e., the sin that established on Earth, on the world, the power of sin. If Adam had not sinned any other sin of those committed in humanity would be in the same condition. The original sin established the power of sin upon Earth. And the seat of this sin is precisely the world as such. The domination of the power of sin consists in the fact that all individuals born immersed in a world of sin find themselves in the moral impossibility of being subtracted from it. Original sin is a reality of the moral order; {327} it is not a kind of chromosomal ingredient we are always inheriting.

We find ourselves in the moral impossibility of subtracing ourselves from that sin. And this happens with the sin of Adam, and with the rest of the sins of humanity. There are no differences between the sin of Adam, and all the other sins of men. The sin of Adam was the first. It is the one that brought the power of sin, which in that sense facilitated the entry of all the other sins. However, essentially, all the sins of humanity are on the same plane. The whole of humanity continues sinning, most of the time increasing (at other times consolidating) the power of sin, and the power of evil. Nevertheless, this does not mean that if we find ourselves in the moral impossibility to avoid having sin, whose power is present in the world, from hovering over us we are sinners. It is not the case that we are committing sin, but that we are in a sinful condition that may lead to sin (Sp. empecatados), which is a different thing. To be in a situation leading to sin simply consists in belonging to a world where the power of sin exists confronting which, when the time comes, each one of the individuals that perform acts subject to responsibility will not be able to subtract himself from the power of sin. Before living aversely in a personal sin man lives subject to sin in a world where the power of sin resides hovering over each individual, a power by virtue of which each man lives deprived of God.

This is the reason why man, in his deepest reality (regardless of what may be thought), is intrinsically subject to the power of sin, and therefore, intrinsically and formally in need of a redemption or a salvation. Man is in need of salvation, and of redemption. Of a redemption that for him means not only the moral forgiveness of sins. {328} Clearly, this is true, but we have the right, and the obligation to ask what is true forgiveness. To forgive is not simply to forget or to think, “well, he has done it, but as if he had not done it”, absolutely not. In order for forgiveness to have a real and effective sense it must produce an internal transformation in the one that is forgiven. Probably because of this, forgiveness (in the strict sense of the term) is an exclusive attribute of the divinity. The rest of us can forgive in a very wide sense; even help the transformation of the other. Only Christ is capable of intrinsically transforming humanity, and to transform it, not in its substantive reality, but in its being. That transformation consists in the fact that the power of sin has been subjected to the power of God. That is in what redemption consists.

The power of sin is nothing but a situation leading to sin, which will produce personal sins when its time comes. The power of God also is a power radically conferred to the being of man, which will not produce its effects except when that man performs personal acts. Because of this the death of Christ (that is the first act we had to consider) for him was that numerical identity between the personal life of Christ and the transformation of man. Man has been molded as a reality in the power of God precisely and formally by the very act with which Christ gave his life on the cross numerically for each one of us. In that supreme act of religion that for him was his death Christ molds the substantive being of all other humans. And he molds it not symbolically, but really and effectively. He places really and effectively the being of man within the orbit of the power of God. And in this sense placed under the orbit of God we are liberated of the power of sin at least as a subjugating power. We always have in our own being the intrinsic possibility by our {329} incorporation to Christ of being realities that are more under the power of God than under the power of sin.

Certainly, this is a radical expression of the power of sin far different than many of its predecessors, yet it follows rather naturally from Zubiri's metaphysical system. There are several notable aspects. First, original sin is established by human beings coming into existence immersed in a sinful reality. Remember that for Zubiri, reality (apart from God) is never entirely de suyo (in its own right) so as to be out of respectivity with the rest of reality; thus, being situated within reality has real metaphysical significance to that reality. In particular, being immersed in this fallen world has metaphysical consequences, consequences that only God has the power to release. Second, the affliction of original sin is in significant ways far more radical than an affliction of nature. It affects one's personal reality, even though it is not personal "guilt" in the sense of one's own of rejection of God. This is, I think, quite similar to the Eastern view of original sin, although I would argue that there is a sense of being in real metaphysical respectivity to sin and to God that would harmonize with the Western view as a real metaphysical "taint" on the person (as I understand the Western view, no particular metaphysical explanation of original sin or how exactly it is transmitted has been dogmatized, so while the explanation here is very different, I do not believe it contradicts Catholic teaching). Third, from a Christological perspective, it provides a much cleaner metaphysical explanation of how Christ was subject to the power of sin (viz., his personal reality as Word of God was in respectivity to sinful reality according to His human existence) without actually being a sinner Himself (because He never personally chose to appropriate the experience of sin). Fourth, from a Mariological perspective, it explains how God could have protected Mary from the power of sin with respect to personal guilt through grace without negating her need for a Savior. On the other hand, it effectively obviates a significant part of the Western reasoning behind the dogma, which is the explanation for Christ's own sinlessness. However, I think that this too is addressed by Zubiri's metaphysical system, as it puts such a strong primacy on the Word's actual experience of human life. In this sense, it fits quite well with the recapitulation theology of St. Irenaeus regarding Christ's life as a very literal "undoing" of the Fall, and the Christological significance of the New Eve in that larger picture becomes more apparent.

Of course, the Crucifixion cannot be fully understood without viewing its obverse: the Resurrection. We will proceed to this subject in the next installment.