All posts tagged: crucifixion

Can Christianity Stop at Good Friday?

In a letter to Father Couturier written one year before her death, Simone Weil confessed that “if the Gospel omitted all mention of Christ’s resurrection, faith would be easier for me. The Cross by itself suffices me.”[1] This confession should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Weil’s life or thought. Few things stand out so prominently in Weil’s late writings, after all, as her principled discomfort with the Christian language of resurrection and redemption (as well as her principled fixation on the language of crucifixion and dereliction). This is not to say that Weil rejected “Easter” language altogether; on the contrary, she found numerous uses for it within the parameters of her own rather bleak Christian Platonist framework. What Weil did believe strongly, however, was that virtually all ways of thinking and talking about redemption outside such a framework are not only misguided but spiritually damaging. In the vast majority of cases, Weil worried, Christians invoke Easter for no other reason than to evade the hard truths of Good Friday: to shield themselves …

Integralism and the Logic of the Cross

I. Timothy Troutner’s Objections to Integralism Catholic integralism is the position that politics should be ordered to the common good of human life, both temporal and spiritual, and that temporal and spiritual authority ought therefore to have an ordered relation. As a consequence, it rejects modern liberal understandings of freedom. Timothy Troutner, in a recent article, strongly objects to the integralist position. Troutner argues that integralists in reacting to liberalism become liberalism’s mirror image. Liberalism, he claims, is understandable as a reaction to real errors in Christendom, and promoted, though in a distorted way, the precious Christian truths of the goodness of liberty and equality that Christendom had forgotten. In simply rejecting liberalism as a deception of the Anti-Christ, Troutner argues, integralists end up defending indefensible crimes of Christendom, and condemning important truths associated with liberalism. Integralists commit a fatal error, Troutner thinks, in attempting to attain spiritual ends by means of coercive, temporal power. In this, he suggests they play the role of the devil. Just as the devil tempted Christ in the desert …

The Point Where the Ugliness of Our Individual and Communal Lives Is Transfigured

Throughout its long history, theology has certainly seemed more comfortable understanding itself through its claim to truth or goodness than to beauty. It is not that the connection between theology and beauty has never been notarized. One simply has to recall the early Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, and the Dionysian tradition to realize that this is not true—even if beginning with Tertullian and proceeding through the iconoclasm controversy and on to the Reformation, faith in the Cross made it difficult to think of theology and beauty being anything other than bitter rivals, when it came to allure and existential pledge. Of course, throughout the long histories of Catholic, Orthodox, and even Protestant theologies, there have been internal corrections. The Catholic theologian Matthias Scheeben might  represent a correction within the late nineteenth-century form of Neo-Scholasticism, with its forged alliance between propositionalism and moralism. And, of course, in the Reform tradition no theologian showed a greater openness to beauty than Jonathan Edwards, without succumbing in the slightest to the emerging temptation to elevate beauty while essentially dethroning God. Pace …

Good Friday: Creation Always Exists in Darkness

The predominant Christological concept governing William Congdon’s 1960 painting “Crucifix no. 2” is that of kenosis. The painting conveys a sense of abject abandonment, leaving no doubt that Christ’s self-sacrificial act of obedience, “to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8), is indeed an ultimate form of self-emptying, and especially so, not in spite of, because of his being the God-Man. Beyond this immediate kenotic impression conveyed by the work, the Christological insights of Hans Urs von Balthasar can flesh out further the significance of this particular representation of Christ. How we understand Christ’s relationship to his mission and the significance of this relationship in Congdon’s image will be our focus. Then we will consider what it means to involve ourselves in the viewing of Christ’s mission–as Congdon’s representation does—especially in light of the fact that Christ is the ultimate form of revelation, the image that in fact structures all revelation. We shall ultimately see that theological reflection and artistic representation inform and draw out the deepest meanings of one another so …

Žižek Has a Lot to Say About Christ, but Should the Church Listen?

Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek has a lot to say about Jesus Christ, which might not appear terribly out of place in the present journal, especially during a month devoted to discussing the ecclesial imagination. It is his other qualifiers, however, that mark him an unlikely candidate. Žižek is perhaps one of the world’s most important leftist intellectuals, an ardent Marxist, resolute materialist, committed atheist, and, paradoxically, a “faithful Christian,” though Žižek himself will provide the terms for being the latter. My present intentions in writing about Žižek and his thinking about Jesus are pure, I hope, aiming only to pose the question whether or not Žižek deserves to blip the Catholic radar. Even the most casual of armchair theologians will be rightly wary enough of intellectual trends that announce themselves on the theological scene—“Finally, a new kind of Christianity!”—only to recede back into the ether, often leaving the less than faint impression that a good deal of time had been wasted and attention misdirected. The popularity of Slavoj Žižek in both academic …