Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Who would you prefer to spend Holy Saturday with?

Lovely lecture last night with Hugh Bowron speaking on Barth and Von Balthasar re Descent into Hell, under the general lecture series heading of 'Intimacy with God.' Personally I appreciate lectures like this from experts whose knowledge goes well beyond mine and in the process of sharing that knowledge challenge me about what I really believe, in this case about the atonement.

Just to give one instance I was intrigued to learn that Von Balthasar considers the Descent of Christ into Hell on Holy Saturday to be a separate event from the crucifixion and the resurrection. Barth, expectedly for a Reformed theologian, has nothing to do with such thinking, the crucifixion being the decisive salvific event.

Oh, dear, to report those few thoughts is to raise more questions for readers here than answers about what Hugh said for he said much much more than my few words can express. Suffice to say that when we think with luminous theological minds beginning with B (Barth, Balthasar and Bowron) we are forced to think about 'what was really going on' in the event of the cross. For myself I am left wondering if Barth and Balthasar mishandle the mystery of Holy Saturday, the former not exploring it enough as an 'event', and the latter making too much of it. Would our understanding of salvation be radically altered if Scripture made no mention at all of the Descent into Hell? Admittedly that possibility would suit Barth's position on the matter.

Either way, Holy Saturday is a quiet day and it would be enlivened by a metaphorical cup of coffee with Barth and von Balthasar, to say nothing of a real cup with other theologians whose surnames begin with B - not only Bowron but also Black and Brown who were present last night, and Burgess who was mentioned in dispatches (Andrew Burgess, Principal-elect of Bishopdale Theological College, who speciality is the theology of Barth).

A 'Descent' of a different kind is on the agenda today: off to the deconsecration of the Cathedral this morning. I think black suit and clergy suit will be de rigeur for this momentous day in the history of this building.


Anonymous said...

One interesting question is where you think Scripture (unequivocally) refers to the Descent to Hell. I might have some questions about that!

Peter Carrell said...

Not being able to consult with Karl and Hans I hesitate to give an answer, but Mark 16:21 may hold the key ... :)

Father Ron Smith said...

My thinking about the events of Holy Saturday,in retrospect, have long been of the journey of Jesus connected with the time between his Crucifixion and Resurrection as 'redemptive' time, spent - albeit, in the timeless area of the afterlife - where Jesus entered into the 'place of Departed Spirits', revealing his Crucified Body - no longer imprisoned in the flesh, but spiritually present in that environment.

His purpose? Maybe to reveal to the Departed His empathy with their condition, but with the implicit expectation of a fuller life with God The Father - towards Whom He was encouraging them to look for their perfecting in the interim.

I have a feeling that meeting up with the Crucified Son of God, would have given those who had not exactly died 'in Christ' (St.Paul's words), an opportunity to repent of their agnosticism and surrender themselves (like those who HAD 'died in the faith of Christ'), to God's mercy, awaiting the return of Jesus in glory to take them and 'those who are still alive' into the fullness of the Father's Home in Heaven with the Angels & Saints.

What happens to those still not disposed to accept the Crucified as God's Son and Saviour? WE DO NOT KNOW. WE do, though, have cause to believe that God, being perfect Love, would not force anyone against their will to accept the redemption that God has designed for those who accept Him.

Naive? Maybe, but strangely comforting - to anyone who believes in God's power to redeem ALL who eventually look to Jesus for salvation and redemption. AND, it's all in the scriptures - or at least a hint of it, as far as we humans can use our creative imagination.

And it does provide a specific context in which to ponder the Epistle of St. Paul for last Sunday 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

Paul Powers said...

This reminds me of an adult Sunday school class several years ago when our then rector asked whether Buddha might be in heaven. He pointed out that Buddha lived about 500 years before Christ, and so perhaps he was among the departed spirits to whom Jesus manifested himself. Of course, Mr. Einstein taught us that time is relative, so it's possible that during His descent into Hell, Jesus will give us all that one final opportunity to accept him. This may be complete universalist wishful thinking on my part.

There is also a Scottish priest who asserts that the reference to the holy lamb of God being seen in England's pleasant pastures is an allusion to the descent into hell.