B Divine and human eros

Christological enquiry cannot be divorced from a doctrine of creation. Furthermore, desire is both the creator and the creation of space. Only where there is space, where there is distance, where there is difference, can there be love that desires, that draws, that seeks participation. In one of Balthasar's explorations of pneumatology, he writes: 'The basis of the biblical religion is the diastasis, the distance between God and the creature that is the elementary presupposition that makes it possible for man to understand and appreciate the unity that grace brings about.'61 The doctrine of creation is founded upon a fundamental difference that opens up all possibilities for desire. It is a difference at the heart of any Trinitarian conception of the Godhead; a Trinitarian difference opened up by Christ, the second Person, and interpreted by the Spirit, the third Person. Christ's difference begets the creative circulation of kenotic giving. In the beginning God created by a process of separation. It is the Spirit that brooded over the chaos ready to give birth to form. It is the Spirit that moved upon the seminal waters, separating the genetic blocks of creations. Desire is built then into the substructure of creation; and in that creation is the incarnation of desire and difference within the Trinity itself.

59 See the second essay in this collection, 'The Schizoid Christ'.

60 See Michel Henry, Incarnation, pp. 311—18 for a discussion of the relationship between nihilism and an eroticism that is simply reduced to sexuality. This reduction is found even in Merleau-Ponty, who in his celebrated chapter on sexuality and the body speaks of Eros as Libido.

61 Explorations in Theology: Creator Spiritus, tr. Brian McNeil, CRV (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), p. 173. See a similar account by Julia Kristeva in In the Beginning Was Love: Psychoanalysis and Faith, tr. Arthur Goldhammer (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988): 'In reality, it is the biblical God who inaugurates separation at the beginning of creation. He creates a division which is also the mark of his presence' (p. 31).

It has been argued62 that certain feminist theologians (Grace Jantzen, Isabel Carter Heywood and Sally McFague are mentioned) have dissolved the particularity ofJesus Christ into the 'Christification of creation'. This is understood to be the attribution 'to world functions' of terms 'which classical theology reserves for Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God'63 — that is, incarnation, redemption, kenosis, 'begottenness'. The problems of confusing Christ with creation are that Jesus Christ is made an example and there is an exaltation of 'the theologian as the locus for revelation'.64 But if we are to escape these problems and yet nevertheless affirm the incarnate Word of God in the particularity of Jesus Christ, can we evade examining the operation of desire in him? Since desire is integral to the Trinity, to creation and to being a sexuate creature, can we cordon off discussions of his sexuality?65

The same issue can be approached from another angle; and it is this angle that highlights the resources of Irigaray's work for future Christological investigation. This angle is best attained through the question, Where does Christology begin? Where does it take place? I am not asking about the theological discourse and its various points of manifestation over the centuries, but about the place where the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth reveals itself as a meaningful and relevant operation pro nobis. It cannot take place solely within himself to himself — for that assumes he lives for himself alone, which is a refusal of difference, a refusal to attend to Irigaray's observation: he 'is respectful of bodily space, of sensual space, of openings in the skin'. This is an observation borne out by the two encounters with Christ we examined in John's Gospel. Revelation of Christ is a revelation of the operation of Christ in opening a relation that recognises difference, and in that recognition there is both redemption and reconciliation. So often modern Christology examines Christ by beginning with his autonomy, by assuming a philosophy of the subject and the cult of the personality that this fostered: Who is this God-man? But this understanding of personhood — 'an inward

62 David Scott, 'Creation as Christ: A Problematic Theme in Some Feminist Theology'in Alvin J. Kimel Jr. ed., Speaking the Christian God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1992), pp. 237-58.

65 See John McIntyre, The Shape of Christology (London: SCM, 1966) for a typical line of dogmatic enquiry: 'After redemption, when the image of God is remade in him [Christ] he [generic man] appears to transcend sex ... There is no need to construe [the Creator-creation relation] in sexual marital terms. In fact I doubt such nonsense need detain us' (pp. 110-11). And yet the Christian tradition provides overwhelming evidence of thinking through divinity and sexuality in 'marital terms'.

ness of self-sufficiency, of autonomous powers, of ordering by reason' — is a historical and cultural product.66 I would suggest that modern Christology has been, for the most part, concerned with the question of who rather than the operations of salvation such that we ask the question who at all. Modern Christology, as such, has been locked into a redefinition of the Chalcedon-ian formula in terms of the Hegelian Subject as consciousness. This subject was not simply Hegel's. It was, of course, bequeathed to Hegel — by Luther and Melanchthon,67 by Descartes's cogito and Kant's transcendental ego. But Hegel, in the third part of his Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, described an economic development of the Subject that overcame metaphysical dualism. The stasis of Descartes's cogito and Kant's transcendental unity of self-consciousness is now graphed on to a rapacious historical development towards Absolute identity. Metaphysical dualism can only wrestle, Christologically, with old questions that haunted the quarrels with Gnostics, Nestorians and various subordinationists. But personhood, now defined by Hegel in terms of individualised consciousnesses participating within the economy of the Spirit which sublates difference and otherness,68 offered theologians a model for understanding how the two natures of Chal-cedonian Christology were related to 'fully conscious coincidence'.69 This model and process could articulate a new second Adam Christology: personhood as homo dialecticus and Christ as the perfection of humanity who presents an encompassing and unified identity. This is the Christology of Schleiermacher's Glaubenslehre (the natural and the supernatural, finite and infinite, in the person and work of Christ as the perfect communication of God-consciousness);70 the Christology of Barth (as we saw in the Introduction); the Christology of Tillich (Christ as the symbol for the integration of divided and angst-ridden existence with the ground of ultimate reality); the Christology of Rahner (Jesus Christ, the Logos-Person, as the perfection of the relation between transcendentality and historicity); the Christology of Moltmann (Jesus the Son returning an ever-renewing creation to the Father through the Spirit). All these major modern Christologies isolate the figure

66 Charles Taylor, Sources of the Modern Self: The Making of Modern Identity (Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 158.

67 See B.A. Gerrish, Continuing the Reformation: Essays on Modern Religious Thought (University of Chicago Press, 1993), pp. 17-37.

68 Lecture on the Philosophy of Religion, ed. Peter C. Hodson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), p. 469.

69 The phrase is used to describe Hegel's model by Peter Dews, Logics of Disintegration: Post-Structuralist Thought and the Claims of Critical Theory (London: Verso, 1987), p. 31.

70 See The Christian Faith, ed. H.R. MacKintosh and J.S. Stewart (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1989), pp. 3-31,374-475.

ofJesus Christ and attempt to find ways of defining this subject as the perfection of subjectivity.

Irigaray is part of that anti-Hegelian trajectory71 that would include various forms of dialogicalism and negative dialectics. Like Foucault and Kristeva, she wishes to move knowledge from the domain of the rapacious self-affirmation of disembodied consciousness, Hegel's Geistessubjekt, and locate it in the space, the interval, the hiatus that Gillian Rose has called the broken middle,72 the between of the couple. Personhood is not Hegel's Geistessubjekt. For Irigaray (and Kristeva would agree with her), personhood is constituted only through participation in an economy of desire for and by the other: an economy of response. It is constituted, and perpetually reconstituted, not in its autonomy but in its difference: a difference that provokes a dynamic form of recognition. For Irigaray it is not that subjectivity is dissolved, but that sexuate subjects are always sub-jectum, and as such, are always being called beyond themselves. They live beyond autonomy because of desire of the other (both subjective and objective genitive). They are drawn into and they extend an eros that is both human and divine. The I is always moving in the orbit of the you, creating a space for a 'we' that is neither the dissolution of the I and the you nor a transcendental identity as such, but an opening onto the impossible — the impossibility of that final identification as 'we'. That opening onto impossibility issues from and is maintained by sexual difference. This concept of the ecstatic subject that Irigaray places at the heart of a feminist resistance to parler homme demands a new syntax. In some of her essays she struggles to compose such a syntax:

I carry you with me everywhere. Not like a child, a burden, a weight, however beloved and precious. You are not in me. I do not contain you or retain you in my stomach, my arms, my head. Nor in my memory, my mind, my language. You are there, like my skin. With you I am certain of existing beyond all appearances, all disguises, all destinations. I am assured of living

71 See Judith Butler's detailed study of the reception of Hegel in France following the lectures of Alexandre Kojeve (and the resistances to it), Subjects of Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987), particularly section 4.

72 The Broken Middle: Out of Our Ancient Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992). In an intellectual tour de force, Rose defends the thesis that the 'broken middle' is the site of the sacred. Rose, unlike Irigaray, examines the middle in terms of a rereading of Hegel's thought. She ends her book memorably with a move towards negative theology: 'The more the middle is dirempted the more it becomes sacred in ways that configure its further diremption' (p. 307). There are lines of enquiry that open up here between what Rose is suggesting and what I call the economy of distance in the second essay in this collection. See Rowan D. Williams's theological coda to Gillian Rose's work in 'Between Politics and Metaphysics: Reflections in the Wake of Gillian Rose', Modern Theology 11 (1), January (1995), pp. 3-22.

because you are duplicating my life ... How can I say it differently? We exist only as two.73

If we exist only as two, then Christology must be explored in terms of the interpersonal, the inter-erotic, not the isolated individual, the self-contained one. And so Jesus Christ as God incarnate can of himself only reveal to the extent he is recognised; he can only reconcile and redeem all to the extent he is responded to. Christology begins with the operation of Christ 'between'. We start there because it is only in our relation to him that we can subsequently contemplate all the other questions that Christology calls forth (creation, sin, sanctification, ecclesiology, what it is to be human, etc.). We are attracted to Christ and confronted by him as we draw near in that attraction — like Mary and Thomas. We are caught up in a wonder, a meditation that draws us into the gravitational fields of God's love. To take up a metaphor employed by Kierkegaard, we are caught up in a form of seduction. We desire him; our desire is evoked by his desire for us. Christology begins here in the economy of erotic response. Balthasar often analyses this in terms of the scholastic vocabulary of processio and missio or vocation (a word that bears comparison with Althusser's 'interpellation'). Personhood is the enactment of one's vocation (or role in the theodrama), but the dynamic for this enactment is the love of God. The work of Christ in Christian salvation is a Trinitarian work, for Christ's missio was a expression of his processio. Faith, for Balthasar, is 'a movement of love that makes directly towards the person ofJesus, hears his call to follow him and answers'.74 Like Mary and Thomas, no one stands before Christ as a subject to an object. To use the Pauline phrase, each stands en Christo and, as such, reflections upon living en Christo (Christology) are ongoing. Christology is rooted in praxis — in liturgy, in prayer, in relation. The nature of Christ is continually being revealed — it is an eternal action that is soteriological. The divinity ofJesus of Nazareth is birthed in and by the circulations of attraction, distance and desire, understood as the interplay of divine and human eros. He becomes Christ, that which operates through him is recognised as Christic, in relation to us as he becomes the object of our desire as we are the object of his.

In An Ethics of Sexual Difference, Irigaray observes that 'by wishing to give, he or she constitutes the other as receptacle'.75 The nature of love is not just to give, it is to create a space for reception. It is not simply a pouring out, an

73 'When Our Lips Speak Together' in This Sex Which Is Not One, trs. Catherine Porter and Carolyn Burke (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985), p. 216.

74 Explorations in Theology: Creator Spiritus, pp. 90—1.

75 An Ethics of Sexual Difference, p. 55.

emptying of oneself on behalf of the other, it is the creation, by that kenosis, of a place for the entry of the other, for participation. The kenosis of Christ, his self-abandoning love articulated in Philippians 2.6—11, creates a place within which divinity is made manifest. Jesus of Nazareth is totally enfolded within a Christic operation that reveals itself in and as that particular one in relation to and in others: an economy of redemption in an economy of response whereby divine eros transfigures human eros's simple demand for self-satisfaction. It transfigures mutual masturbation into divine intercourse.

Being biologically male, then, does not restrict Jesus's sexuality. Irigaray herself presents us with a description of Jesus Christ in which both his gender and his sexuality seem continually to overflow a particular chromosomal structure. The divine eros is presenced in and through this one man's sexuate spirituality that draws into its orbit both Mary and Thomas. The cross is the final qualification and disruption ofJesus's male biological form. Significantly, the cross, for Irigaray, is a profoundly feminine symbol. For the 'mouth lips and the genital lips do not point in the same direction', she writes. These two 'sets of lips ..., moreover, cross over each other like the arms of the cross'.76 If, in the resurrection, Jesus Christ remains a physical body, it is a wounded body;77 a body bearing the marks in his flesh of both the male and the female sex — without his being androgynous.

The focus of a Christology and an economy of salvation thought through on the basis of Irigaray's work will not be Jesus Christ, but Jesus-Christ-with-us. Jesus is a historical figure in a Christological and ongoing narrative. His divinity (and ours) is meaningless outside his relation to others and our relations to him: the economy of response. A male figure, then, is not the focus for salvation. There must be installed relation (rather than Hegelian sublation), and that installation requires difference. There can only be salvation with Christ, through Christ, if there is sexual difference.

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