The Crucifixion – did God die?! (Robert Jenson’s thoughts)

The Crucifixion – did God die?! (Thoughts from Robert Jenson-via Andre Rabe)

“That we see God in sufferings and the cross would never be guessed from them. Of possible attributes that are not good in this world, we will discuss the most offensive and decisive: God is mortal. God has in fact suffered death and therefore is somehow or other qualified and qualifiable by dying.

Jesus died, indeed, was executed. According to Trinitarian apprehension of God, he is an identity of God. What he does and suffers, God does and suffers. Nor can his significance for us be abstracted from his death. The crucifixion cannot be made an incident irrelevant to Jesus’ being as God for us, however our otherwise derived suppositions about God may make us wish it could: “but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23). It is therefore an unavoidable item of Christian proclamation and reflection: “God the Son died.” And such language was from the first deeply anchored in the liturgy and piety; so, for example, Melito of Sardis: “The Invisible is see…Impassible suffers …, the Deathless dies. … God was killed.”

Despite the proposition’s obvious gospel-necessity, it has been resisted through the whole history of the church. Arianism was at heart one long attempt to evade it: The Logos could not be God straight out precisely because he is one person with Jesus and so a sufferer of death. Indeed, the whole agony of Trinitarian development was, as we have seen, occasioned by second-century acceptance of the impassibility axiom, of which “God died” is the extreme contradiction.

…The understanding of God’s mortality must indeed be Trinitarian. “One of the Trinity” died; and when patripassionists have extended the suffering of Jesus’ death to the Father, this has rightly promptly been rejected.20 Let us set up the dialectics by posing a naïve but inescapable question: What about the time between Jesus’ death and his resurrection? If the second identity died on Friday and rose on Sunday, was God meanwhile a binity?

If we have grasped the point of Trinitarians, the question answers itself. Jesus’ death was not an interruption of his deity; as the conclusion of his obedience to the Father, as part of what the Father intends in intending Jesus as his self, Jesus’ death is constitutive for his relation to the Father and so for both his deity and the Father’s. Jesus is not God despite his death; he is God in that he died.

This answer will still seem puzzling if we continue to understand being as persistence, if we think that something really it whatever it was and persists in being. Then the three days of death must be an interruption of Jesus’ being and so of his godhood. But just that understanding of being is what Christian interpretation of God contradicts. Something really is what it will be and now is open to being.

Jesus’ death is part of his eventful relation to the Father and the Spirit. In that he is risen, this relation is future and present reality. And just this event is God’s eternity, in which Jesus is always God. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the way the particular Christian God goes about to be eternal, to be temporally infinite. For it is what happens between the identities, of which event Jesus’ death is a main constituent, that is the eternal God.

Participation in our finitude, alienation, and consequent disaster thus belongs to the event that in fact God is. Exegeting “belongs”; it essentially characterizes the true God that, if there are creatures and fallen creatures, he is able and apt so to participate in their life. It is appropriate to what itmeans to be this God that in his second identity he died with and for us. God is not subject to death, but he conquers death only by undergoing it. In this way God is indeed mortal. (From Christian Dogmatics Volume 2)

The Triune Identity: God According to the Gospel
by: Robert W. Jenson
publisher: Wipf & Stock Publishers, published: 2002-05-01
ASIN: 1579109624
EAN: 9781579109622
sales rank: 850220
price: $21.25 (new), $16.95 (used)

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