The Death of Christ

Jesus Christ died for us. This
piece sets out some of the logic of this basic Christian confession. The Son
performs a complete act of reciprocity. He supplies the work and effort that it

1. He bears the cost in terms
of the debt of being that others have not paid and supplied
us. He hears our prayers and comes to bail us out and takes us out of their
power. He pays them off to release us, and he pays us off to release them from
us. He pays both parties in his own stock, the only hard currency.

2. He pays it in terms of
the destruction (battle) of the predatory logic of the enemy
economy by which the unrighteous exercise a parasitic power over us. The enemy,
his rationality and currency is scattered and never spoken of again.

3. He pays the price in
terms of the honour that must be done to all sides in the court of the
public assembly. He has done so publicly, to the satisfaction of all. All
voices now praise his act of reciprocity, justice and generosity. All those
held captive in his train must confess themselves satisfied. He either closes
their mouths (binding them) or leaving them full of praise (loosed).

He bails us out. But
more than that, he gives us his own proper action, the action of bailing one
another out and covering for one another. He gave them the outcome of his
action, and finally he gave them the action itself, transforming them from
victims to subjects with a proper subordinate creaturely, priestly and
redemptive action.

The work of the Son is received
by the Father with an approval made public by the resurrection. The Son has
taken us over and bought us out. He died for our sins and he came to give his
life as a ransom for many. In battle he broke our rebellion, separating us from
it, putting himself between us and it, and like a pack animal carried its
consequences to a place from which they could not reach us. He came to give his
life as a ransom for many. We die ‘for’, that is to say as a result of our
sins. Our deficiencies catch up with us eventually. But not being under the
same logic, he is impervious to our deficiencies. He can be overwhelmed by
nothing. He gave his life, that is to say, he gave himself entirely, to the
labour of extricating people from the consequences of their actions. He finished
those actions for them, supplying endings to these actions that no one else
could. What we promised but could not deliver, he delivered. We have taken one
another’s lives and frittered them by making huge unsustainable claims in a
pyramid selling of promises that cannot possibly be made good on. But the Son
can call down the funds with pay people off and bail people out. He could
placate all the others, to whom much or everything had been left unpaid. He can
release me from all the promises I have made to you but been unable to deliver
on. He can release me from you, and you from me.

Christ died for our sins,
according to the Scriptures.

The righteous did this for the
unrighteous, the valuable for the worthless, the functioning for defunct, the
active for the passive. He bought us up, out, he bought us up, our worthless
shares for his good stock, at par. He bought them with his blood. He can extend
his stock without diluting because the Spirit can extend himself without being
divided. He bought all the smaller firms out with his own stock issue, making
their shareholders holders of his stock. They now hold their wealth in him.
Those who took the deal hold everything they had in this new stock, while those
who held out against the deal are left with nothing.

Jesus bears the fighting and
resistance which is the gentile mode of the world. Whose blood flows? The
statements ‘It is by his wounds that you are healed’, and ‘We have redemption
through his blood, the forgiveness of sins’ have different intentions: their
middle terms have to be supplied. We need two accounts. His blood flowed for
the healing of the nations. But this blood does not flow from wounds opened by
the blows of the nations. Jesus judged the nations. The gentiles are punished.
Though the blow delivered by God, it is struck by each against all. The
gentiles become the punishment of God to each other. They have to drink from
their own cup. But this takes place in the idiom of the blood of only one of
their number, one of the nations elect for this purpose – Israel. Her blood
runs, and therefore their blood has run. The gentiles are let, and Israel is
the blood that flows out. All the blood shed by the gentiles is pointless
suffering from the wounds they inflict on each other. Yet Israel’s king really
suffers in that his people, those he regards as his own substance, are wounded.
He bears them and is covered in their blood. But because he has determined that
they belong to him, their blood is his blood. Because it is his determination
to drive them to atonement through this crisis, it must be laid to his account,
yet he did not shed it. He is wounded because those who are his fight him and
each other, and bleed. He is not wounded because they inflict wounds on him:
they have no means of touching him. Death inflicts injuries on Jesus that the
resurrection demonstrates have no duration or lasting reality. Yet their wounds
are healed and lacks are supplied by him, in the form of his own substance –
his blood. But this blood does not come from his wounds. It is the opponent
that receives the wound that is fatal, and whose blood runs. The wounds are
returned to the wounder. God redeems his people from Egypt but does not have to
pay Egypt back an amount of some neutral substance (blood). God pays Egypt back
in Egypt’s currency, that of violence and fury. God refuses and returns this
currency. The medium of this atonement is the whole economy of man, which is
commandeered, seized and given a new function within the eschatological economy
of God.

Jesus and the Father are one and
together in the work of the cross. For this reason it is a mistake to
understand that death dealt finally with Jesus on the cross. On the cross Jesus
called death together and deathed it. The cross extracted death from the world
and balled it together into a place of no extension. The crucifixion is one
event with two agents. We crucified him and God raised him. The cross is our
act transformed by God into God’s act with us and against us – resurrection.
There are not two acts involving two agents here and so there is no problem of
how the second agent engages and refers to the first act. It is not us, alone
and by ourselves, that make a first act. Our rebellion does not construct some
real position we succeed in holding against God. Even our rebellion is
contained and co-opted, and made to serve no other future and hypostasis than
resurrection. His resurrection is his being with men, albeit that this
being-with sets mankind permanently under the canopy of the cross. The
resurrection is not a moving away from the cross but is the vanishing of the
sinful hypostasis that contained and secured us and the appearance of the Son
who was always ahead of us. It was the coming together of Man with God.

Our crucifixion of him was not
an act we succeeded in exerting over him by ourselves. The crucifixion was not
our sole act that made God’s act of resurrection possible. Rather, resurrection
is what becomes of our act of crucifying him. The cross – our attack on God –
is not the first act that sets us up as autonomous beings who have sent God
away. Rather this death is just the sum of the deviations that represent the
gentile mode. God has protected us from the consequences of our acts, but in
the cross God no longer holds back. He lets us have the consequences of all our
acts. We are punished by the return of all the violence we released into the
world. He unites us with our act. It is not the act that we did alone, but our
act with him, and thus his and our single co-work.. Crucifixion of us, in the
form of the crucifixion of our one representative, is the form in which
resurrection comes to us.

Everything that the pagans do
amounts to grief, decay, waste, fruitless suffering. They want what will never
come. It is therefore bitter and pointless. Christ’s suffering consisted in
refusing and returning to them the projects of the gentiles. Their designs
shatter on Christ. He retrieves the gentiles and bears them to that other set
of designs which God has for them. Paul’s own pre-conversion life consisted of avoiding
suffering the gentiles. Now Paul understands that it is God’s will precisely
that Israel bears and suffers the gentiles. This realisation becomes a
hermeneutic of the cross. From the very beginning of God’s history with Israel,
God had borne Israel, and borne her against her own resistance. He bore her not
so that she should suffer a gentile fate, but that by re-birth Israel should be
delivered from the gentile hypostasis. God has suffered and waited and been
patient, not so this state should continue and be ratified, but so that it
should come to an end and Israel be elect and released from slavery to the
gentile mode. The cross is therefore two sorts of suffering. It is the
suffering of the gentiles, which is without purpose, and which God refuses. And
it is the suffering of God which is patient, merciful and purposeful. Apart
from God we are subjected to pointless, fruitless suffering – the problem
identified by theodicy. Such suffering has no time and no end. But the
suffering of God is the patient and purposeful waiting that redeems a people
from futility. Since they are not their own but God’s, the suffering of
Christians is not fruitless but God’s purposeful suffering and labouring by
which the world is borne into new life. The purposeless gentile mode will pay.

The resurrection was the
crucifixion of the many by the One. It took the form of the crucifixion of one
by the many. The crucifixion and resurrection of that one without the many made
this many the dead he was raised from. The many have been corralled by the
death that his resurrection has imposed upon them. Their death is now not at
all their death, but entirely his death, the death that holds – not him – but
those he has imposed it on. Now they can be taught and slowly be supplied, by the
Spirit, with the resurrection. It can be supplied by the one who has risen from
them and is therefore able to be with them, without their sin and death. The
resurrected one is the Lord, the Spirit, the true and faithful servant who will
not waste his talents or lose a single member of the flock he has gathered. He
has worked, and his work is united with its harvest. He has paid.

The new action given to the new
people. Man does not have being – but being is what he will
have. Being is the acting – of God. The attention God pays to man holds man (in
being). God gives man a new acting (ie being). Man does not have a mind – but a
mind is what man will have. Mind is the work of God who makes sense of man, and
gives man sense, in terms of the sense of God.Man does not have freedom – but
freedom is what man will have. Freedom is the work of God who draws man into
increasing freedom, progressively leaving behind the comforts of a shallow will
for a deeper will. Man is being taught discrimination and taste.

God is judge. But God does not
intend to be alone in exercising judgement and authority. He intends that we
also come to learn this action and exercise it with him and under him. He
intends that we come to find his action good, to be informed by it and come to
share it. The purpose of his judging is that he brings us up into the office
and work of judges. God gives us an action. It is an action that is
intrinsically his and which will always remain his, yet which he does not will
to be his such that it is not also ours. This is the action of servanthood and
leadership. This is action is given, or rather loaned to us (only) as long as
we exercise it with God and under him. In the event that we do not discover its
proper use, God takes it away from us again.

God intends to admit new members
to the council and assembly of heaven. This assembly will then govern a
combined kingdom of heaven and earth, in which we will be not divine, but for
the first time properly human, creatures made holy. This assembly is gathered as
an earthly ecclesia that inducts its members into the skill of judging. Part of
the skill of judging is the skill of advocacy, the office of defence counsel,
that puts the case for mercy and judgment. The saints are trainee judges who
must be taught the skills of entering a plea, interceding, prayer. They must
learn to argue on behalf of those who are not yet holy that a little more time
is needed, and on behalf of the oppressed to argue that their release come now.
They must be able to say ‘Have mercy on us – give us a little more time’, and
‘Come Lord Jesus – give no more time to the oppressors’. These advocates must
be able to say which plea is at any time appropriate. The new Christian action
is that of the members of the assembly that God gathers around himself.

The people of the world will
come to this assembly of saints for justice. Their training for this role
starts as the exercise of self-government of the Church. Right-judging and
right-doing is the proper action of the new people. It involves coaching them
in the action of right speech and public speech. They see God judges rightly
and they say so: they learn to praise God for the generosity and finesse of his
practice of justice. The Christian community is being trained up to a range of
offices that serve a single end. The singleness of this end, and the oneness of
this assembly, offends the separation of powers that under the modern
constitution are understood to be incompatible. Leadership of the project of
the formation of a people is the proper work of the Christian community. The
Church must model the lead that the state must give to the people, and model
the openness of public political discourse. It does not long to take away the
task of ruling from the state, to do it better, but always to encourage
leadership, on such a broad definition, to grow in confidence and