ANDREA DEL CASTAGNO,, c. 1450
Gil Baile, follower of philosopher/theologian Rene Girard, and a philosopher/theologian in his own right, is the author of the stellar and important Violence Unveiled.
His new book is called God's Gamble.
"Was the outcome of Christ's incarnation and death a foregone conclusion, or did something hang in the balance?...Did Jesus's Passion pose any risk for the Triune God and for the created order stamped with a Trinitarian ordination? Having chosen to bring the created order into the Trinitarian communion through the one creature endowed with true and truly consequential freedom, was the outcome of the plan of redemption--foreseen by omniscience though it was--nonetheless truly dramatic? Was there a sense of a divine gamble on the outcome of which both Jesus's Resurrection and the continued existence of the created order itself depended? "Is there not, right from the start, writes [Hans Urs von] Balthasar, "something we might call 'hope' on the part of Father and Spirit, namely, the hope that the Son's mission will succeed?"
Whatever unimaginable degree of divine condescension the Incarnation itself must have entailed, might we not draw closer to the heart of what Balthasar calls the theo-drama by framing Christ's culminating plunge into the realm of sin and death as quite literally the greatest gamble of all time: the "momentary" interruption within the Trinity of the world-sustaining exchange between the Divine Persons. As preposterous as this may sound, no one has captured this possibility better than did Joseph Ratzinger. Commenting on Jesus's death on the Cross, he writes:
When the human instrument comes to fall away, the spiritual action which is founded on it also disappears, temporarily. Thus something more is shattered here than in any ordinary death. There is an interruption of that dialogue which in reality is the axis of the whole world. The cry of agony in Psalm 21, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me," makes us perceive something of the depths of this process.
The Passion of Christ consists of a series of the most important events in history and beyond, but these events are also--and even more importantly--traces of and evidence for an inner-Trinitarian event of literally earth-shaking scope and consequence. For what is at stake is the survival of the created order, imperiled by man's misused gift of freedom and threatening the irreversible disfiguration of creatures divinely destined for participation in the communion of Trinitarian Love. Giorgio Buccellati saw the cosmic peril in Christ's godforsakenness prefigured in Jesus's temptation in the wilderness:
In the tempter's view, the possibility that Jesus might succumb to temptation would have caused a seismic rupture such as to rent asunder (again, in his view) the very core of trinitarian life, hencethe order of being in its integrity. If so, it was by avoiding sin that Jesus saved the whole of reality from ontological collapse.
--Gil Bailie, God's Gamble, Angelico Press, 2016, pp. 218-220.
In my clumsy way, I tried to get at something similar several years ago, in a post called "Waiting Without Anxiety."
Did God himself not know how the events of what we now know as Holy Week would pan out? The more I think about it, the more I think not.
A simple way to say it is that God would never ask Christ and thus us to do something he hadn't done or wasn't doing himself ("If you have seen me, you have seen the Father."). He wouldn't ask us to hold the tension of an anxiety he hadn't himself consented to hold. The whole thing HAD to be a gamble.
Thank you, Gil Bailie, both for the book and for my inscribed copy.
I'm headed out to a cabin in Joshua Tree with no electricity and no running water for the rest of Holy Week! Sardines, crackers, vinegar mixed with gall...let's see if I make it.
Wishing one and all a deep Semana Santa. I'll bring my camera.