Tuesday, March 6, 2007

valorization of suffering

There is a danger in Lent of focusing too much on physical suffering of Jesus' crucifixion. This is an old pre-occupation in the Church that goes back to the early Church fathers Origen and Anselm.

Origen held the "ransom theory of atonement", while Anselm held fast to "satisfaction atonement". Both are attempting to answer the meaning of salvation. Origen felt that Jesus' death was a ransom -- that because Adam and Eve had sold humanity to the Satan, only Jesus being both fully human and divine could win humanity back to God. The idea is that as a human he died, so it appeared to trick the devil into giving his humanity. But, as God he was able to conquer death and bring us back to God.

Anselm took issue with crediting the devil with so much. He sees humanity as being stained with sin. Indeed because God's love is so infinite and gratuitous, human being s could never satisfy repayment to God. Jesus as fully human substitutes for our humanity; because he is also fully divine he is able to properly restore the balance for humanity.

Satisfaction theology developed a linkage between suffering and sin. It developed into a notion that in order for Jesus to take on the sin of humanity, Jesus had to take on proportionate suffering. But how do we know the extent of the suffering?

Attempting to determine just how much suffering can lead to dangerous strains of thought. Indeed I am cautious not take a Gnostic tendency. Taking the view that Christ suffered the most suffering of any human being not only fetishizes the suffering, but also rejects the humanity of Christ. This is not to say that Christ's death was not immensely painful and violent. We know it was. It is to say then that if we take the view that Christ suffered more than any other human being past, present or future, it diminishes his ability to be human as we are human; it instead makes him to be an uber-mensch son of a sadistic father who will only redeem humanity if his son actualizes the highest potential of pain. It does not allow for Christ to participate in our suffering because his suffering is higher. Such a view denies the love of creation and instead privileges the spirit over the body. The concern here, therefore, is that satisfaction theology can slip into such gnostic tendencies.

7 comments:

chinniemomma said...

Hey Lady,
At the risk of leaving low brow comments on your erudite blog, I present the following. There was an episode of South Park (regarded as a classic by that Geek I love so) titled (I believe)The Passion of the Jew. Stan and Kenny decide the Passion of the Christ sucked and embark on a journey of Trains, Plains and Tricycles to get their ticket money back from Mel Gibson. Gibson chases them back to South Park, CO a crazed and raving lunatic who forces the townspeople to confront the film and it's message. I think it's Stan who delivers the requiste "I learned something today" soliloquy and states that gets everyone to realize the point is to focus on the good works Jesus did, rather than focus on his death. As it's pointed out by an 8 year-old cartoon character, obsessing on Jesus' death has too often brought about the oppression of others.
Sorry for the ramble, just thinking out loud. We must think together in person, soon, over some vino. I've got a Barolo earmarked for you.
Cheers!
CM

chinniemomma said...

Oh, a thousand pardons for the typo and tense mis-match on previous post.
;-)

clistecole said...

No problem on the post. A point definitely worth discussing over a good bottle of wine!

chinniemomma said...

Now there is a blog post for you... the merits of a good bottle of wine.
;-)
I'll look forward to both the conversation and the vino.
CM

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