Forms Of Offence At Christ

Over against the speculative mediation of the Hegelians Anti-Climacus continues to stress the paradoxical contradictoriness of the incarnation: 'Humanly speaking, there is no possibility of a crazier composite than this either in heaven or on earth or in the abyss or in the most fantastic aberrations of thought' (PC 82). He then proceeds to identify three forms of offence occasioned by Christ, two of which constitute essential offence, or offence in the strictest sense, while the third concerns Christ as an individual who comes into conflict with the established order. Elucidating the third form first, Anti-Climacus observes that this form of offence is not limited to Christ, as any person who is unwilling to be subordinate to the established order can become the object of offence. From the perspective of the established order, insubordination implies that one is God or at least more than a human being, whereas in Anti-Climacus's view it is actually the established order that has deified itself as 'a totality that recognizes nothing above itself' (91). When the established order thus accuses Christ or some other single individual ofblasphemy for presumably wanting to be God or more than human, we have here another instance of an 'acoustical illusion' in which the established order hears its own claim to be divine as if it were being made by an individual about him/herself (88). That this form of offence can be expected to occur in the present age is made apparent to Anti-Climacus by the fact that Hegel's Philosophy of Right, the foremost statement on civil society and the state in the modern age, makes the individual conscience 'a form of evil' because the established order has been deified in it (87).40 The consequence of such deification, as

Anti-Climacus sees it, is that everything becomes secularized, including the relationship to God, just as the religious secularization of Judaism brought Jesus into conflict with the established order of his time, creating the possibility of offence at him because he emphasized inwardness in contrast to the external piety of the scribes and Pharisees (89, 91-2).

Whereas the possibility of offence at Christ occasioned by his conflict with the established order of his time was a 'vanishing possibility' that ended with his death, the two forms of essential offence identified by Anti-Climacus are transhistorical in character; that is, they 'will continue until the end of time' and have to do specifically with Christ as the God-human being (PC 94). The first possibility of essential offence is posed by the loftiness or divinity of Christ and is occasioned by the fact that he speaks and acts as if he were God (cf. Matthew 11:6; Luke 7: 23) and on one occasion even declares himself to be God (John 6: 51-61). Since the claim that Christ was God cannot be demonstrated and the individual who speaks this way about himself looks just like everyone else, the possibility of offence at Christ's loftiness cannot be avoided and must be encountered by everyone, even those who do not take offence at him but believe. The second possibility of essential offence has to do with Christ's lowliness or the fact that 'the one who passes himself off as God proves to be the lowly, poor, suffering, and finally powerless human being' (102). The possibility of offence in this instance is occasioned not by Christ's claim to be God but by 'the boundless self-contradiction' that 'God should be a mortal man like this' (102). However, it is the combination of loftiness and lowliness in Christ that presents the possibility of offence, for neither loftiness nor lowliness by itself is offensive.

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