Herbert McCabe on crucifixion and resurrection in Trinitarian perspective

Jesus lived before his crucifixion in an imperfect society, a community of fear in which two men could never finally meet each other. He was confronted by two forms of ‘settling for’ this sort of society, two forms of idolatry: on the one hand the Roman colonial empire, on the other the Jewish religious leaders. In this context he offered himself as a new medium of communication between men. This we must be clear about. Jesus did not offer a new social theory, or a new religion, he did not offer even a full analysis of the contradictions of his society, he did not provide an ideal for a new kind of human community. He offered himself. The new kind of community was to be founded upon him, upon the new relationships he was able to establish with his friends, which released them from themselves, freed them from sin and made them open and able to risk becoming human. Jesus offered not a doctrine about what friendship of this kind might be, but the friendship itself. Such an offer involves, of course, a total vulnerability, Jesus put up no barriers to defend himself against others, he was absolutely at their disposal. When, therefore, the colonialist regime and the clerical establishment recognized him as a subversive threat and sought to liquidate him, he put up no defense and he was destroyed. So far we may see this purely within history; I will not say in humanist terms because the story is deeply pessimistic and the humanist is normally unreasonably optimistic. But we may see the story, without reference to God, as a commentary on the history of man. If you love enough you will be killed. Mankind inevitably rejects the only solution to its problem, the solution of love. Human history rejects its own meaning. Mankind is doomed. In this way we may look on the crucifixion and despair. The resurrection changes the whole perspective. It says that Jesus is not only a man who happens to offer love in its absolute form, but that he does so in obedience to the Father, that this solution to the problem of mankind, the problem of communication, is the Father’s plan, and that though men may reject it the Father does not. God comes into the picture for the Christian as ‘He who raised up Jesus from the dead.’ The love Jesus offers has its source outside history. Jesus, we discover, is not only totally for others, he is also totally of the Father. The spirit he makes available, what I have called the friendship that frees men, his own spirit, is the spirit of the Father. The communication he makes possible is a living into the Father’s communication of himself. From one point of view the resurrection is a revelation of the Trinity, we see Jesus and his Spirit in relationship to the Father. For this reason there is for the Christian no Unitarian halfway between atheism and the Trinity. Any worship of the gods other than as revealed in the resurrection of Jesus is idolatry.

from God Matters, (Geoffrey Chapman, 1987), 123-124.

Robert Jenson on resurrection

Robert Jenson on resurrection

We must ask, What are we necessarily affirming about Jesus when we say that he, unexpectedly, lives? What is the basic difference between a living person and a dead one? And surely we must say: the decisive difference between a living person and a dead one is that the former can surprise us as the latter cannot. Socrates, although he remains dead, is still powerful. But if I am surprised by him, this is because of previously inadequate knowledge. Whereas if Jesus lives, he is an agent in my life, and one whom I must expect to act freely, whom I could know perfectly and yet not always anticipate. […]

That Jesus lives means that his love, perfected at the cross, is now active to surprise us. That Jesus lives means that there is a subject who has us as his objects, and who wills our good in a freedom beyond our predicting.

from Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, (OUP, 1997): 198-9.

Ludwig Wittgenstein on the Resurrection

Ludwig Wittgenstein on the Resurrection

I read: ‘No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.’ — And it is true: I cannot call him Lord; because that says nothing to me. I could call him ‘the paragon,’ ‘God’ even — or rather, I can understand it when he is called thus; but I cannot utter the word ‘Lord’ with meaning. Because I do not believe that he will come to judge me; because that says nothing to me. And it could say something to me, only if I lived completely differently.

What inclines even me to believe in Christ’s Resurrection? It is as though I play with the thought. — If he did not rise from the dead, then he decomposed in the grave like any other man. He is dead and decomposed. In that case he is a teacher like any other and can no longer help; and once more we are orphaned and alone. So we have to content ourselves with wisdom and speculation. We are in a sort of hell where we can do nothing but dream, roofed in, as it were, and cut off from heaven. But if I am to be REALLY saved, — what I need is certainty — not wisdom, dreams of speculation — and this certainty is faith. And faith is faith in what is needed by my heart, my soul, not my speculative intelligence. For it is my soul with its passions, as it were with its flesh and blood, that has to be saved, not my abstract mind. Perhaps we can say: Only love can believe the Resurrection. Or: It is love that believes the Resurrection. We might say: Redeeming love believes even in the Resurrection; holds fast even to the Resurrection. What combats doubt is, as it were, redemption.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, Ed. G.H. von Wright, Trans. Peter Winch, (University of Chicago Press, 1980), 33e.