Monday, March 29, 2010

Christa in Holy Week

Sometime ago I promised a post on Christ as Christa, responding to a comment or two which insisted that Christ had to be male in order to save humanity. My thoughts are here, but by extraordinary coincidence, I am penning them on a day in which I read on Cranmer's Curate, written on the other side of the world, a post about Christa! In the days that follow through Holy Week I want to offer a series on the theme The Wrath of God was Satisfied.

I am aware in the broadest and shallowest of terms of a feminist theological theme concerning "Christa" the female Christ. Here I am not attempting to either forward or reverse that discussion; and admit that I am borrowing the name "Christa" from that theological movement in order to speak about the possibility that the Saviour of the World could have been a woman and not a man.

I am also aware that one could have a very long post dotting exegetical "i"s and crossing theological "t"s, but causa brevitatis I am going to offer as spare a post as possible!

First, then, something this post is not. It is not an attempt to suggest that the history of humanity and of Israel, as narrated through the pages of the Old Testament, Genesis to Malachi, was such that it did not matter when the Child was born to Mary whether it was a girl or a boy. That history, which is a theological history, has too much to say about Israel as Son of God for prophecy to have been endorsed as fulfilled through the birth of a female Child who would be Saviour.

Rather, the point of this post is that God could have organised the history of the world from before the beginning of time by having a Daughter rather than a Son. The sin of Adam, which is shorthand for the sin of Adam and Eve (heavily underlined by 1 Timothy 2:13-14), could have been undone by a new Eve as much as by a new Adam. For the equality of male and female, both created in the image of God, means that each sex has potential to yield the inclusive Saviour of the World (contra Cranmer Curate's post cited above).

On this line of thinking a number of things in the Old Testament would have been different were there a female Saviour. Most notable, I suggest, as well as perhaps the most obvious change, would be the emphasis on human imagery for Israel moving from "Son" to "Wife" or "Bride" (with any imagery re "Son" being omitted or becoming imagery about "Daughter"). That imagery is already there in the Old Testament, with Israel the wife of YHWH being the unfaithful and feckless wife whom YHWH would find a way to woo back to himself. To propose that Christ could have been Christa is simply, and biblically, to propose that the history of the world and of Israel could have been different in a modest way so that the Saviour sent by God could have been the perfect Daughter/Wife who redeemed Israel and humanity from its unfaithful and feckless ways. Just as the "Wife" or "Bride" imagery of Israel in her sin was inclusive of male and female sinners, so a female Saviour could be inclusive of all sinners, male and female.

That's about it really. A proposal, that is all, for the basic history of salvation is in reality different: a boy child was born to Mary, Jesus Christ, son of Mary and Son of God. Why bother speculating? Well, I have this unease that when we speculate in a different way, that the Saviour could NOT have been a woman, we maintain a subtle downgrading of women: women are equal to men except that they cannot ... and the "cannot" now includes, as Cranmer's Curate argues, that a female saviour could not be inclusive of male sinners, whereas a male saviour can be inclusive of female sinners. Let's avoid all "gynophobia"!!

Tomorrow, the wrath of God was satisfied. Why we can sing the great modern hymn, In Christ Alone, without the slightest need to change any words of the hymn, least of all a line in this verse:

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
‘Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live


Rosemary Behan said...

In a small voice I would suggest that you do both men and women a disservice. That the important thing you've missed is that male and female are ONE. That mystery requires a letting go of individualism and a grasping of the fact that BOTH genders are dependent on each other.

Anonymous said...

Ah, perfect! A post that alienates most people in a double blow! That must represent Anglicanism’s current gift at its best. And you wonder why Anglicanism is shrinking. Take care, Mr. Carrell, as a person responsible for training ministers, or you will have no reason to protest when you participate in a service where the image of Christa dominates the sanctuary and you end up chanting the Litany of the Saints all the way to the font. I hope some women will respond and suggest that they can be perfectly equal, without gynophobia, yet recognise that it is the male, Biblically, who represents in the manner we believe Christ did.

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Rosemary for your careful comment which does not dismiss what I am saying, and which points me in a direction I am keen to go in ... towards the mysteries of humanity and divinity.

I wonder Anonymous if you are misunderstanding the point of my post!

Anonymous said...

Peter, I think your speculation is wrong and unbiblical because you have not considered enough the langauge of divine and eternal Sonship used in John, Hebrews and Paul. If the Eternal Son had become incarnate as a woman, then you would be saying that "Christa" was "the Son of God", which would at least sound very odd in the individual sense; and then really, you would have to revise the biblical language to talk about the Father, the Daughter and the Holy Spirit, destroying the unity of the Divine Person and reconceptualizing the Trinity.
Your speculations sound more like a variant on second century Gnosticism, not NT Christology.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Outis,
Please keep noting that my starting point here is the view that the male is inherently capable of representing male and female whereas the female is inherently incapable of representing male and female. I have no truck with Gnosticism, but I think it fair and orthodox to continue to press for true equality of male and female in Christian understanding of male and female.

With respect to your critique I think you are overlooking that the one born to Mary was a boy who grew into a man. He was son of Mary who in the gospel accounts is recorded as self-referencing himself as Son of Man and Son (of God, of the Father). That means that later reflection on Jesus in relation to God is reflection on the Son (so in John's Gospel's reflective parts, in Hebrews, and in Paul's writings), and to the extent that the NT develops an understanding of the Son's eternal existence, Jesus is presented as the Eternal Son. But this is reflection after the event of the boy baby born to Mary. There is no understanding of the Eternal Son of God becoming incarnate before that birth.

Yes, Isaiah 9:6 looks forward to "a son", but my post carefully acknowledges that the way history unfolded through the OT, it was geared towards the coming of a male Christ; my point being that, theoretically, before the beginning of time God could have been Father, Christa, and Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

" point being that, theoretically, before the beginning of time God could have been Father, Christa, and Holy Spirit."

Peter, I don't think I'm overlooking anything. I have read your post several times and still don't know what you're saying or whether you've grasped what I said. If God "could have been Father, Christa and Holy Spirit", then you are talking about "Father, Daughter and Holy Spirit" (not 'Father, Christ and Holy Spirit' since Christ is an earthly title) because Scripture recognizes only the triad 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' who are that *from eternity*. You are suggesting (without any biblical warrant) that the Eternal Son could have become a woman. Why don't you go the whole hog and say God should be thought of as 'Mother, Daughter and Holy Spirit'?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Outis
I am on the edge of my ability to write systematically theologically, so if I do not make complete sense the fault is mine!

No I am not suggesting the Eternal Son could have become a woman but I am suggesting that we think of the Eternal Son because there was a son. If there had been a daughter we would be having a conversation in a different way, wondering whether the Eternal Daughter also included males!

Now, while you are mentioning Mother Daughter Spirit, it is worth thinking about that at least in this way: there are limitations, necessarily, in the language of 'Father', 'Son' and 'Spirit' since they are our words to speak of God as source/creator, agent of creation/redeemer, and sustainer of life. In certain ways God is Father and Mother of us all; and one of those ways is that male and female is in the image of God, not merely in the image of 'the Father' with implications that female is always derivative of male.

Anonymous said...

"I am suggesting that we think of the Eternal Son because there was a son."

To put it more exactly: the Incarnate Son of God *revealed* this truth to us, not that men retrojected this idea onto God, otherwise we would fall into a more sophisticated version of Feuerbach's 'Auseinandersetzung mit Christentum' (that theology really = anthropology). I follow Barth here: we are dealing with revelation, not cultural reflection on gender.
Only a neo-Hellenist (like Goethe) says 'das ewig weibliche zieht uns hinan'!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Anonymous
We think of the Eternal Son because there was a son who revealed himself as the Eternal Son. There is no disagreement with me on that.

My point is slightly different, though clearly not being well expressed by me. Let me try again: the Eternal Son has existed with the Eternal Father without a time when there was no Eternal Son. But suppose there were a moment of choice for the Father: my point is that an Eternal Daughter or an Eternal Son could have accomplished all God wished for in creation and in redemption.

Anonymous said...

The essence of Christa is - you represent Jesus as a white man and as a Maori without controversy - knowing full well he was neither. Christa follows this approach representing Christ as a woman to make your point that Christ's masculinity is no more essential than the color of Christ's skin.

Anonymous said...

Depicting Christ as a Maori or as a Scandinavian American (as in Mormon iconography)is silly nonsense and projection. He was a Jew and had to be Jew, otherwise the Covenant with Abraham, Moses and David meant nothing. Have we learnt nothing (evcept error) from the 'Deutsche Christen'? Similarly, imagining him as a woman is just ideology (or idolology, if you prefer), not biblical theology. He had to be a man to be the Son of God.


Richard said...

You've used an awful lot of "would" and "if"; used often enough alternative though becomes fact. One could use your premise throughout scripture and come up with a completely different theology. Your premise has of course been used for years and is the reason the faith is rapidly crumbling, simply because it's secular thought sifting Holy Truth. If God is indeed God, there is nothing "would" or "if" in anything done or said in Divine Will, simply because there is no error in God. To argue as you do on Holy Truth is not faith but philosophical debate that, in this case, is distructive, not soul building. For some reason, folk who want to make a name for themselves often use the Christian Faith infamously in order to do so. I wonder why you teach theology in the first place.
Peter, if Truth is not truth why bother in the first place.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Richard,
One task of theology is clarification. My argument here is an attempt to clarify the true equality of men and women before God, in creation and redemption. I may have done a poor job of it, but I would prefer to do that than say nothing in the face of certain theological movements around the world which are reasserting a secondary role for women on the back of a particular understanding of God and God's purposes.