Holloway on… Jesus: The Self-Conscious Manifestation of God - Part II
Holloway on… Jesus: The Self-Conscious Manifestation of God - Part II
It is not a polemic of theology which interests us, in the attempt to enter into thevconsciousness of Jesus Christ. We try to thrill to the majesty of that unique personality, divine made human, which enthralls us in all the New Testament. If we can enter into understanding, it will lift us up to communion with God whose divine life we are to share. Immediately another aspect of the same question comes in before us: did the Twelve, and the other close disciples of Christ, enjoy the same uplifting and transforming communion with the divine as an experience, as a communing with the Son of God? If they did not, how could they pass on the word that teaches us? If they did not, they had less than we have. It would be absurd to claim that our teachers, the Apostles, had the same fulness as we have, if their Jesus did not know consciously the Godhead that He was.
Besides the Prologue, the Sacerdotal Prayer, the promise so explicit of the Bread of Life to be eaten, there are those other amazing passages which juxtapose the words I AM, the all holy, unpronounceable Name of God, against claims which are also synonyms for the prerogative of God. Could this have been accidentally, shall we say unconsciously, done? I AM: the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What creature, even the Messiah that was to come, could speak that way, for only God is the Way and the Truth and the Life? Even if you are able to think that, as the greatest conceivable of mortal guides, the supreme prophet could indicate himself as the way and the truth, no created being can ever be, or claim to be, the life of men. It is this claim that John makes for the Eternal Word, also in the Prologue.
As he goes on to explain to Philip that ‘he that sees Me sees the Father also’, Christ also promises the sending of the Holy Spirit to keep them, and the Church after them, in the truth of God. The unity and equality of the Godhead between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is so manifest in these and similar passages. There is here the echo from the Synoptics, Matthew and Luke, of the baptizing in the Name, the holy, the incommunicable Name, of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the return to the Father, ‘taken up into heaven’; and the sending of the promised ‘Spirit’ by the Father, in my Name: all of this makes sense of conscious divinity. It makes sense no other way.
Eternal truth or explicit blasphemy
I AM: the Light of the World. Again, a title which made without the slightest qualification, could apply to none but God, and which no Jewish prophet, no matter how holy, could, psychologically, ever conceivably apply to himself. Once more, it echoes that supreme Prologue of John, in the opinion of this writer the greatest thing in the whole of the bible, where we are told that in the Word, through whom were made all things, visible and invisible, there was Life, and that Eternal Life was both the light and the Life of humankind. This chapter of St. John, like the sixth chapter, leads up to a mighty climax, as Jesus, challenged by the Jews, answers their demand to know who He is and what are his credentials. It is in the eighth chapter (v. 25) to the query Who are you? that we have the answer, ‘the Beginning, who also speaks unto you’, ending as the confrontation deepens with the supreme statement of Christ in St. John’s gospel that ‘before Abraham was made, I AM’ (v. 58). Therefore they took up stones to cast at Him. It was either the most eternal truth or the most explicit blasphemy.
No parts in God
Can we go on to say, in some childish way, ‘Jesus had no hot line to God, his Father ... Jesus did not always know what to do ... He had to pray like us ... He was uncertain ... He had to work his way out and find the Father’s will in the darkness … Jesus did not know at first (or, as a variant, ‘until after his resurrection’) who he was’? It makes the most utter nonsense and shows a total lack of understanding that Jesus IS God. And being God cannot be part of your IS, of your I AM, without that consciousness defining your whole being and your whole personal consciousness. There are no parts in God, no faculties in God, no aspects of created limitation in Him whose Essence is defined, and experienced as ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’. It is not possible to slough off Divinity, nor that Consciousness which spans all Eternity in the Presentiality of I AM, as if it were a shirt of which one divests oneself in the heat of the day to put it on afterwards when the toil of one’s work is over.
Divinity incapable of being ‘exaggerated’
One asks, how can Jesus be God the Son, made also for us Son of Man, unless He communicates to us the Communion of God’s own being, in Himself? We seek upwards towards God for knowledge, for truth and goodness, for law and for life. We don’t seek a creature; we seek the Uncreated Light and Life, for whom we are made, and in whom, by gift and grace, we find our meaning. That meaning is — to be co-sharers in the Divine Nature. How can God do this for us, unless He communicates Godhead to us, not Manhood, the creature only? How can God work the work of the Life of God, which is what we call ‘the supernatural order’, if God is not consciously ‘God for us’ at all times, and in all things?
It is absurd and the taint, though usually unconscious, of the Arian heresy, which teaches that in the past we have overemphasized or exaggerated the Divine in Christ to the loss of the ‘human’ in Our Lord. It is impossible to exaggerate the Divine in Jesus Christ; you cannot have too much of good thing in the subject matter of the being and communication to us of God Incarnate. You cannot overemphasis the God against the Incarnate. It might be possible to fail to appreciate and to express rightly the humanity in Christ, but we do not need to play down the divine to appreciate the human. We can only understand the human in Jesus Christ, by first rightly understanding the Divine.
The implicit and usually unconscious pressure of the ‘kenotic’ theology of Jesus Christ has been to deny the real Divinity and emphasise a human personality in Jesus. To this human personality they add, as if it extrinsic, the ‘dimension of the divine’. They put the mystery of the full understanding into the divine dimension, so that Jesus becomes in fact a subject of human understanding, analysis and appreciation, on our terms, not on his own. The divinity of Christ, as the existential, i.e. the real impact of Jesus Christ upon the Twelve, the disciples. the Jews. and upon the life and ethos of the Church herself, is subtly denied and then lost as the centre of prayer and personal spiritual life. If we read the Pastoral Letters which make up the New Testament proclamation of the Christian Faith after the Ascension of Christ, we can be in no doubt that the men who walked with Jesus Christ, and the all-important apostle who knew him by direct revealing ‘as one born out of due time’, were in no doubt that they had experienced the personality of God, God become a man for them.
One personality in Christ
If we are going to make an emphasis in the elements of what is Mystery in Christ, then let it be in the affirmation of the human in Jesus Christ, and not in the affirmation of the Divine. It is the Divinity which is revealed through the Word made Flesh: it is not, as some actually dare to say, the Godhead which is revealed through ‘the perfect Humanity’. There is only one personality in Jesus Christ, one centred reference that says me: in Jesus Christ that centre of reference is through the nature of God, which IS; and Jesus experienced it and declared it as I AM. If you are God, then you experience yourself as God at all times and all the time. This is necessary philosophy, necessary theology, and the totally clear witness of John, Paul, the author of Hebrews (if not Paul) and indeed clearly enough in claims made by Christ, and the self-psychology it implies, also in the synoptic evangelists.
Destroying the magisterium
The Christ of the kenotic theology accords well with a God who is immanent within the creation, but not its transcendent creator. It accords well with a Jesus whose real consciousness is human as ‘personality’ in the sense in which we feel our own: a consciousness bounded with ignorance, doubt, and the temptations which derive from the war of the ‘two laws’ (Romans 7.23) within the flesh of fallen mankind. This is the Christology preferred by the theology of The Dissent. It is no accident that it is so, for it destroys Magisterium in the Church on earth. By so re-defining Christ in terms no longer of dogmas, but more potently of psychology, it is possible to keep the dogmas as ciphers but to destroy the actual, existential Christ of living Divinity in the flesh — the flesh that walked on earth, and the flesh that lives in the magisterial claims of the Church. It becomes possible by so emphasizing the ‘human’ in Christ (but not the human as we find it in the gospels, never except through the Divine personality and nature) to correct Jesus as the ages pass by. For we have as authority in the bible, only what he said or is alleged to have said while teaching on earth, and we know that Jesus ‘did not have any hot line to the Father’, that ‘Jesus did not always know what He had to do’, that ‘Jesus had to pray, trust, agonize, and walk in faith as we do, in the dark’ etc.
Once we have thus changed the authority of Christ’s personality in all the pages of the gospel, especially in the pre-resurrection pages, we can reinterpret Christ’s appeal to the ‘Coming of the Spirit’, who will lead the People of God into the future knowledge of the things that are to come, and of ‘the things that belong to Me’. Jesus, we can say, knew that as Man-God, even He did not know all the answers, but his Abba- experience2 made Him certain that his Father would provide through ‘the Spirit of God’ among the chosen community. Then ‘the Breath of the Spirit’, especially the spirit of change, can become community-based within the People of God, known through prophetic spirits (like Charles Curran, for instance, and Hans Kung?) who are recognised and accepted by a majority of the Assembly of the People of God. Then it can be whispered ‘in the cloister’3 that St. John’s gospel, though very beautiful is not literal fact nor history, but ‘Haggadic Midrash’4; after all there are many who already insolently say as much of the chapters of St. Luke. In the opinion of this writer the Jerome Commentary comes near to this position in the matter of St. Luke, because it does not add the comment that the technique of clustering ‘stories and tales’ around a fact is perfectly compatible with history if only the stories are true and are not legendary, although still of human interest!
The witness of Mystici Corporis
How many are aware of this passage from the Encyclical Letter Mystici Corporis (1943) of Pope Pius XII? It is hardly ancient history: ‘But the loving knowledge with which the divine Redeemer has pursued us from the first moment of his Incarnation is such as completely to surpass all the searchings of the human mind; for by means of the beatific vision, which He enjoyed from the time when He was received into the womb of the Mother of God, He has for ever and continuously had present to Him all the members of His mystical Body, and embraced them with His saving love.’
The presence of this passage in a major Encyclical may not add up to its establishment as solemn doctrine, but it does declare this vision of the personality of Jesus, even in the womb, as the safe and certain doctrine of the Church. It is totally incompatible with the modern kenotic theology. The theology of the humanity of Christ, through its communion with the divine Person as taught in the Encyclical of Pope Pius XII, does however fit very well with another interpretation of the Agony of Christ in the Garden, and the horrific meaning of the vision of sin, total and individual, through all the ages of mankind (see Catholicism: a new synthesis, Faith-Keyway, 1976, ch.17, p.267).
‘The Father is greater than I’
A further consideration concerns that passage ‘If you loved Me, you would indeed be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.’ We all know the basic orthodox interpretation, but the passage causes uneasiness to many, especially in the age of a falsely kenotic theory of Christ’s knowledge before the resurrection. St. Basil seems to have the perfect answer. In the koine, the Greek of the Romano-Hellenic civilisation, he says meizoon – ‘greater’ like major in Latin – means also ‘ancestor’, source, origin, or cause of being. Thus Christ means ‘Sad of heart as you are, because I have told you that I am going back to the Father, if you loved Me you would gladly let me go, because I go from a valley of tears to my own home: I return to the Father, the centre of my being, my source, and my joy.’ How perfect a sense this makes in the context (John 14.25-31)! Some ten years ago one referred this text to Dom. David Knowles OSB, perhaps the greatest Greek scholar of our time. He confirmed it as from St. Basil Contra Eaminsion (Migne P.G. 59-62, vol ii, col. 566) and judged it an excellent exegesis, entirely compatible with usage at the time of Our Lord.
Start from the Divine I AM
From the same theme, and probably the same discourse of St. John, what do we make of the following, acclaimed by the disciples as ‘clear. plain speaking indeed’ – ‘I came out from the Father and have come into the world; again I leave the world, and return to the Father.’ Did Jesus have a body when He ‘came out from the Father’? But it is the same I, the same person, who speaks of Himself in both states, as the eternal Word, and also as the Word made Flesh. The ‘I’ who speaks about Himself is the same conscious Jesus, equally aware of Himself, all the time, in either respect. And by the way, did any human being in history ever speak in this way? If we want to begin to understand the consciousness of Jesus, we must start from the Divine I AM. There is the abiding reality and self-possession of Jesus. From that position we may try to understand something about his human knowledge and to develop if we can, our ‘experience’ of the pain of God made man. The kenotic approach is a nonsense of theology, philosophy, psychology and of course exegesis.
‘I must be in my Father’s house’
Let us take finally that passage in St. Luke where his frantic parents burst in upon that wonderfully good boy who had never done so strange and cruel a thing to them before. There are times when God just has to let people suffer in faith, because there is no way of teaching the lesson beforehand. ‘Son, why ever have you done so to us? Your father and I have sought you sorrowing.’ ‘Why ever did you go looking for Me? Didn’t you know that I must be in My Father’s House, about His trade and business?’ They had never told Him a word, never discussed ‘Christmas Night’ with the child. But now, He told them, and us, that as He came up to dedicate his manhood to God, in the ceremony of bar miswah, that He knew who He was and was not as other men are. They were astounded and awed, and of course ‘his mother kept all these words, pondering them in her heart’. Naturally she did. There is nothing of ‘haggadic midrash’ about it. So we end where Jesus taught us to begin and to end, conscious of His divine being in the unity of God: ‘In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’ Amen!
This is a slightly abridged version of the second half of Fr.Holloway’s Editorial for the January/ February 1987 issue of FAITH.