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The Logic of Cross/Resurrection vs the Logic of Cause-Effect

Craig Keen argues that the logic of crucifixion/resurrection stands over against the logic of cause-effect:

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.

He can make this claim because he knows that God is not one cause among other causes—not even an "omnipotent" cause. On this score, Bulgakov is exactly right. God is not the cause of the world or a cause within it; God is creator (Bride of the Lamb, 36-37). As Rowan Williams puts it, "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."


Laura James Crucifixion (detail from Easter Painting) 1993

Keen concludes from this essential difference that the church's work cannot bring about God's work in the world:

The work of the church has no causal power to contribute even remotely—say, in an imperceptible or negligible way—to the coming of God's Reign. It's calling, to use Sartre's language, is to be a useless passion.

But we should not take this to mean that the church's work is meaningless. We are, after all, predestined in Christ to do good works (Eph. 2.10), called to live a faith that works by love (Gal. 5.6). Indeed, we are called to work the works of God (Jn 9.4). And in the end we must answer for what we did and did not do (Rom. 2.6-11). Still, our work "counts" only inasmuch as it holds true to the wisdom of the God who works in our working. So, we must do what we do in ways that testify to the fact that God's work does not need to be brought about by what we're doing. Thus, and only thus, can we be brought about to the infinite goodness always already at work on our behalf.