Cross/Resurrection vs. Cause-Effect

The Nazarene theologian, Craig Keen, author of After Crucifixion and The Transgression of the Integrity of God, insists that the logic of crucifixion/resurrection is absolutely other than the logic of cause-effect. In a Facebook comment (posted just a few days ago, February 6th), Keen explains, “… causation is a subcategory within what Paul calls ‘flesh.’ According to the flesh, our actions are the causes of all kinds of things. However, what happens according to the Spirit is an apocalyptic event that, in terms of the flesh, comes out of nowhere.”

The non-causal relationship of cross and resurrection bears serious significance for the right-here, right-now ministry of the church:

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If the church cannot cause the Kingdom, then what can she do? Aren’t we called to a faith that works by love (Gal. 5.6)? Didn’t God predestine us in Christ to good works (Eph. 2.10)? Won’t we be judged for what we do and don’t do (Rom. 2.6-11)? Yes, of course. But, as Keen puts it (in another Facebook post, this one from January 2014), “The task of the church is to teach me … how to respond without the presumption that we are doing good, that we are advancing the work of God in the world, even though we will always calculate and be tempted to be proud of what we have accomplished.”

We can and should, I believe, ground Keen’s claims in the doctrine of God.  God is not one cause among other causes—not even an “omnipotent” one. As Rowan Williams says (in this piercing response to John Shelby Spong),

“God is not an object or agent over against the world; God is the eternal activity of unconstrained love, an activity that activates all that is around. God is more intimate to the world than we can imagine, as the source of activity or energy itself… God is more different than we can imagine, beyond category and kind and definition. Thus God is never competing for space with agencies in the universe.”

Bulgakov (Bride of the Lamb, 36-37) is right: God is not the cause of the world or a cause within it; God is creator. As acts of God, Jesus’s dying and being raised from the dead are neither caused nor causes—they are created and they create. Because he died, death is dying. Because he lives, life—his own Spirited relation to the Father—is ours to adore and to enjoy.

 

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Author: Chris EW Green

Associate Professor of Theology Pentecostal Theological Seminary

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