Conclusion

Let me conclude by repeating that these essays do not present a Christology in a systematic manner. Rather, they bring together a series of investigations that bear upon the doctrine of Christ. Had I been able I would have included two further investigations. The first, 'The Displaced Body of Jesus Christ' formed part of a chapter in my volume Cities of God77 and would have been an extension to part two, 'Engendering Christ'. The second, 'Beauty and the Son of God', appeared in a collection alongside essays by John Milbank and Edith Wyschogrod78 and would have provided an extension into aesthetics in part three, 'The Living Christ'. The essays collected here, along with these other pieces, tackle the major issues that constitute Christology — incarnation, atonement, the economics of the Trinity, what it is to be human, the Church — with a particular emphasis upon embodiment, the operation of desire, mediation and interpretation. The investigations testify to the fundamental role Christ plays within my theological thinking, and how that understanding of Christ can never be separated from closely examining what the Scriptures yield to us of the historical Jesus. It is Jesus of Nazareth who is the Christ. Albert Schweitzer, in his critiques of both Wrede's and Bultmann's historical exegeses, points to what is incontrovertible: all four Gospels concur that above the cross Jesus's sentence of death was inscribed 'Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews'.79 The death ofJesus makes no sense outside of his historical claim to be the Christ; a claim that the Church accepts as foundational in the manner Peter accepted it at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 9.27-33).

I am more than aware of the limitations of the investigations collected

76 'Noli Me Frangere , p. 275. For my own account of this Scriptural passage see chapter four, pp. 120—6.

77 London: Routledge, 2001, pp. 97-116.

78 Theological Perspectives on God and Beauty (Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 2003).

79 The Quest for the Historical Jesus (London: SCM, 2000), p. 71, n. 8.

here. There are three in particular. First, I am not trained in New Testament scholarship and I do not try to situate the texts either in terms of the cultures they arose in or the communities that gave them expression and shape. Partly (as I suggested earlier in this Introduction) this is a reaction against the way certain historicist tools have bound modern Christological thinking. There have been times when, to deepen my own Scriptural exegesis, I have foraged among the detailed commentary work undertaken, and in certain cases I have drawn upon the expertise of colleagues working in the area of New Testament studies in the Department of Religions and Theology at my own university. But I am aware that many of my readings of Scripture might appear idiosyncratic and debatable. My earlier training was in philology and literary criticism that, in the Cambridge English Faculty, centred upon close readings of texts in the original languages. I have followed the dictates of this training: my interpretations are close readings of the Scriptural texts — but I am more than aware of my philological limitations with Greek and my historical limitations concerning the cultural conditions in which these texts were brought to birth and transmitted. Secondly, more might have been made of the difference between my approach to Christology and that of other theologians working in dogmatics. Following in the wake of investigations into the historical Jesus, studies of Christ by dogmatic theologians abound. I am most aware of the presentations of Christ by Balthasar, Rahner, Kasper (from the Catholic perspective) and Barth, Pannenberg and Moltmann (from the Protestant perspective). But in these essays I have only engaged with these theologies tangentially. I sense now the lack, for example, of a detailed interchange with Moltmann's early work, Theology of Hope and The Crucified God, because, like the Hegel he champions, Moltmann is more Trinitarian and, in some ways, has a more Eastern Orthodox approach to God as dunamis. But what I have attempted in these essays is not to facilitate a discussion with dogmatic theologians so much as a discussion with contemporary philosophy and social/cultural theory. For that discussion I simply want to generate new ways of looking, new categories of thinking, new possibilities of conceiving the event of Christ. And certainly, the results shall be wrong, or challengeable, or in need of correction, further work, whatever. That is not the point. The point is to think Christ now. For that is where Christ is. In wishing to develop my own perspective I have drawn upon these systematic theologies (perhaps more from the Catholic than the Protestant tradition). But I have not taken the further critical step of contrasting my position with theirs in advocating my own position. There may well be a time when that is possible. Thirdly, I have not engaged in the question of Christ with respect to our multi-faith culture. In a book concerned with Christ and culture that is a major consideration. But I am quite simply not sure how to do this. I would welcome the necessary engagement with those who are able to enter such a discussion from their own faith position. But I cannot presume to speak for them or about their traditions. I offer these reflections as a way of clarifying my own position the better for such an engagement. As I said, the engagement is absolutely necessary and is already continuing. It may be there are other Christian theologians better placed for such engagements, and that my task is only to provide reflections that may assist them. But if I were to decide to treat the doctrine of Christ more systematically it would be necessary to rectify these three shortcomings. As it is I have simply attempted to sketch ways of thinking about Christ today; to think as suggestively and imaginatively as possible that others might engage with this figure whose life, death, work and claims have coloured every aspect of western culture.80

At the crux of the Christological reflections offered lies an account of desire and mimesis. Reflections on desire and mimesis run through each of these essays, being conjugated in different ways. I view both categories, and reflections upon them, as fundamental to understanding God as love and to developing a theological anthropology that issues from that understanding of God when we are conceived as created 'in the image of'. We desire because we are desired, infinitely desired. We create because we are creatures caught up in a creation suspended in the creativity of the Godhead. There is a long tradition of theological meditation upon desire and mimesis in Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, in Augustine and Aquinas, and more recently in de Lubac and de Certeau. It has not been a Protestant tradition. I situate my own thinking within this Catholic tradition, a tradition now informed by a number of poststructural and phenomenological philosophies of desire — from Irigaray and Kristeva, from Lacan and Deleuze, from Levinas and Foucault, among others. These provide the cultural context in which Christ is refigured. Hence I open my Christological reflections with a group of essays outlining what I call the economy of response. This is fundamental for the way I approach the doctrine of Christ. The second group of essays develops the notions of desire and mimesis with respect to embodiment and sexuality in order to ground materially the examination of the operations of God and the economics of desiring. The final group of essays is essentially ecclesiological — the examination of the body of the historical Christ gives way to an examination of the continuing life of that body in and as the Church. In this third group sensuous Christian living, incarnational living, is explored through a series of essays concerned with the ethics, aesthetics and

80 See Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1985).

politics of discipleship. These essays take the effects of the Christie operation in the life of the Church into an engagement with the life of the world.

The theological method throughout is both hermeneutical and phenom-enological; for ultimately, the reductions performed by phenomenology have to be read theologically, they do not render visible the theological as such. Nevertheless, in the Preface to the Phenomenology of Perception, Merleau-Ponty concludes that the task of phenomenology is 'to reveal the mystery of the world and of reason'.81 The statement might have come from the writings of his contemporary, the Catholic theologian, Henri de Lubac. But de Lubac's approach to the same 'mystery of the world and of reason' was through excavating and examining the Biblical exegeses of the Greek and Latin Fathers. While appreciating the concerns in phenomenology for exploring the complexity of our relationship to the world, I have wished to read this complexity through the lenses of Scriptural exegesis. Of course, this hermeneutical practice is circular: my mode of exegesis is also governed by the reflections of the philosophers of desire I am drawn to. But this circularity is not vicious, I believe, because it is itself a theological engagement in the life of the world: it is a theological practice vis-à-vis a specific cultural context. If the life and thinking of any Christian is a communication of their theology with respect to the social conditions in which they have been placed, then what I am doing here is no more (and no less) than doing theology in the intellectual situation in which I am placed. And, in this sense, Christ is engaged in the contemporary cultural milieu; a milieu that (as several essays demonstrate) is often engaging in Christian themes and symbolics. And so the pursuit of truth continues — creatively, polemically, politically, and apologetically.

81 Phenomenology of Perception, tr. Colin Smith (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962), p. xxiv.

Part One

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