The Descent of the Son

God comes to us. The Son has set out to fetch us. We need two accounts of this coming. We need an account of the coming of the Son to us. And we need an account of the coming into being of the Son. The coming into being of the Son is the growing up of mankind. This is the account Irenaeus gives us. Then we need a subsidiary account of the resistance man puts up, an account of his idleness and reluctance, and thus of sin and fall. Augustine provide this account. We need our main plot from Irenaeus, in which the Son comes to us and we grow up to be members of the Son. And we need our sub-plot from Augustine to show the actual event of his taking on and dealing with our lost and vicious condition. Then we have to relate these two accounts. The first is the account of Adam who starts out as a child, but did not grow up with, or cling to his head and master. He is led and misled. He became a people without a leader, a body without a head, a group without definition or determination. He fell into torpor and delusion, and was for a long time lost. He failed properly to name and locate all creatures over which he was to exercise dominion. Instead he began to dislocate them, creating for himself all sorts of frightening, imaginary powers to whom he was increasingly in hock. The second account is of another version of Adam, the obedient son, who receives his discipline and as a result does grow up. This new Adam is that humanity headed and led by Christ, that receives its whole definition from Christ. This is the journey of the obedient Son, made the criterion of man, and constitutive of our humanity.

1. The journey down
2. Servanthood
3. The ladder of being
4. The panic and stampede
5. The athlete descends
6. The student and graduate
7. We follow him down
8. Well-connected
9. Head and the body

1. The journey down
God comes to us. The Son has set out to fetch us. We need two accounts of this coming. We need an account of the coming of the Son to us. And we need an account of the coming into being of the Son. The coming into being of the Son is the growing up of mankind. This is the account Irenaeus gives us. Then we need a subsidiary account of the resistance man puts up, an account of his idleness and reluctance, and thus of sin and fall. Augustine provide this account. We need our main plot from Irenaeus, in which the Son comes to us and we grow up to be members of the Son. And we need our sub-plot from Augustine to show the actual event of his taking on and dealing with our lost and vicious condition. Then we have to relate these two accounts. The first is the account of Adam who starts out as a child, but did not grow up with, or cling to his head and master. He is led and misled. He became a people without a leader, a body without a head, a group without definition or determination. He fell into torpor and delusion, and was for a long time lost. He failed properly to name and locate all creatures over which he was to exercise dominion. Instead he began to dislocate them, creating for himself all sorts of frightening, imaginary powers to whom he was increasingly in hock. The second account is of another version of Adam, the obedient son, who receives his discipline and as a result does grow up. This new Adam is that humanity headed and led by Christ, that receives its whole definition from Christ. This is the journey of the obedient Son, made the criterion of man, and constitutive of our humanity.

2. Servanthood
The Son of God comes to man unaccompanied. He comes without his servants or retinue. There is none of the fanfare, panoply or any of the means by which he might command our attention and make us say God is coming. He comes as a man might come to apply to be our servant, inconspicuously, calling at the backdoor. We rejected his application and sent him away. But God has appointed over us the one we rejected. He has put in the man we threw out, and decided for the one we stated could not be one of us. Now he is our servant, the man who stands silently behind us, ready to carry what needs to be carried. He is the workforce who makes possible whatever we demand. Every has someone who works for them. All rulers force their people to work for them. The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve. He has no one to work for him. He did not come to make us work for him. He came to work for us. He did not offer another man’s work, but himself went to work in the vineyard. The crowd, held in slavery by death, panicked by its fear of the approach of death from below, was pushing in one direction. But this servant of ours did not go not in the direction we were all pushing, but went in the opposite direction. We pushed, but he pushed back against us and halted our charge. He did not have to follow us. He did not have to establish who he was, and did not attempt to cling on to any status. He went against us. He descended the ladder of being. He withstood the flood and it broke on him.
God has sent us his workman. This employed man is going to be our assistant. The man we have been sent gets to his knees to serve us. He washes us, feeds us and tends us. He Our assistant acts as our orderly and our nurse. He is going to work for us and help us, but he is not going to do what we want. He is going to do only what the one who sent him to us wants him to do. He will not receive his orders from us. Instead he tells us what we have to do. He serves us by taking us to his master. He is going to make our house a part of his house, and make us a function of his master.
Leadership is servanthood. Leadership is the provision of definition and direction, and of aid and protection. If we can admit that one may come before another, there is first-ness and second-ness. Then we can say that there is lordship and servanthood, and so hierarchy. Then we can say that Christ comes before me, and is my lord. Only if we confess that Christ comes before me, can we also say that Christ comes after me, and that he is my servant. Christ comes after me, as my servant, because he can decide to do this, and has decided to do so. He can be inferior to me because he is superior to me. Because he is placed over me by the Father, he does not have to establish his own position. He does not have to struggle to be himself, as I struggle to be myself. Because he is in fact superior to me, he is free to be my inferior – and he is both, one because the other. Christ appears at two places, above me and below me. He considers them to be one and the same place. He understands his superiority to me, or his freedom, to be the work in which he is engrossed. He is at work on me, and for me, and so he is working in my service. His superiority and his freedom is not one whit lessened by his labour on me and service to me – because he is free in it. And since he is the criterion of place, he is right, and they are one place. The bottom of the universe where the crucified servant is, is the same place as the top of the universe, where the victorious Son is, with the Father.
I am afraid, rightly, that if I do not struggle to hold myself together, against all that is tugging at me, all that I am made up of will start to drift apart. Those basic elements of which I am made will reassert themselves. I will disintegrate and my identity will be lost. I fear oblivion. But Christ does not fear this. He can feel the same forces, and can be afraid, but he also trusted his Father, and this fear did not overcome this trust, so this death did not in fact succeed in tugging him apart into non-being. They only appear to be two places to me because my fear of the bottom has made it impossible for me to appreciate that the Son is freely at the bottom, and that this freedom is the top. He is not a master like other masters, who has to be master, and master only, and who has make himself master by force. Such a master has to gather his substance and power from others, and so is utterly dependant on them, and yet above all cannot admit this. These masters have to take. But Jesus does not have to take. He takes from no man. He can give, without limit, and without fear that he will ever run out of substance to give. His mastery has what seems to us this quite contrary mode, the one we cannot sustain, and most want to escape, that of servant.

The free servant is lord
The servanthood of Christ is servanthood by grace. It is the generosity of God. It comes from freedom, because God is free, and it creates freedom for us. We must now contrast this evangelical subordination with the account of subordination and superordination in the economy of nature, which is determined by necessity.
Modernity understands gender as matter of nature. According to nature – which is to say, according to natural theology – a man is a master, a woman is a subordinate. The relationship between them is that of master and servant. A servant is dependent on the master. On this account, it is better to be above than below, and so better to be a man than a woman – by nature. But this account of nature, is a pagan account, one in which we are set in unchanging positions, are unfree, and can only ever bewail this. As soon as we think that gender is about nature, theological discussion is stalled. Then we only want God to confirm what we already are – by nature.
Be we must not think that gender is a matter of nature, but of promise. The gospel makes us free, and therefore free to exercise the mode of the servant, and in this to be freely ourselves. It gives us that freedom, so we already have it, and do not need to seek it or establish it for ourselves. Because we are free we are masters, because ourselves mastered and under discipline. On this account then, only those who are below, and know themselves to be freely there, never in any hurry to escape that status, will be free. Only those who are freely below, not fearful, not anxious finally to exchange this status for another one, will be free and so masters. Only in being brought down into the role that pagan theology understands as inferior and womanly are we made free. Only women will be properly free and thus masters. They will be husbanded, and thus will only women be husbands. A husband is another way of saying a woman who is mostly willingly and thus free womanly, and that means subordinate. Only the subordinate, only the poor will be vindicated. Unless you become happy, only ever to perform this subordinate role, you cannot be saved. To put this at it strongest we can say that unless you become a woman, on the pagan definition, you cannot be saved. If you seek to become a man, under the pagan definition of nature, you will never be one. If you ever seek to be a lord you will never become one, but will become only more and more a servant by nature, not in freedom but in self-imposed misery of necessity. Salvation is incorporation into the servant office freely and willingly exercised by Christ.
This lordship of Christ is the servanthood of Christ. Gender, as every other thing, is about servanthood. We are not by nature servants, but as a result of our baptism, as the form of our freedom. Servanthood is not all the same. There are many modes of service. But let us say that there are just two modes, that is two modes of human existence. We each of us have one mode immediately, and the other mediately, that is that we indwell one mode and are not distinct from it, in order that we can enjoy the other mode mediately. We experience the world in these two modes, as labour that we ourselves are set to (immediately) and as the world mediated to us by this other form of existence, the existence enjoyed by the gender that we are not. There are let us say two modes of servanthood, it is therefore just an issue of their mutual reference. This is not a matter of uniformity or equality, but of compatibility and complementarity. Womanhood is a form of servanthood, and man is form of servanthood. They are like two hands, one of which holds while the other works, and then we change changes hands, and they work the other way around. They are like two tools that must be used together to fix a bolt, one from above, one from below. What in any particular operation is ‘above’ (leadership) and what is ‘below’ (subordination) is entirely a matter of perspective. Now if this is to be Christian rather than pagan theology, this perspective cannot be that of nature. We cannot say that by nature one side is above and one beneath. This must be the christological perspective of Christ our lord-servant who is (measured by pagan criteria) below and above. In each event of their servant-life one servant is an initiator, the other is a responder. This does not mean that husbands only lead and wives only follow. The leader in any relationship may do as much following as leading. Or rather, the leader in any relationship must do more following than the follower does. He follows his own leader, and so he follows (shepherds) those he leads. He responds to their every movement, and provides what they need. The one who follows best, is best at keeping in step with the other, is the one who really leads. Our evangelical definition of men, then, is as those who protect us and lead us down after Christ. The definition of women is those who are led. But both are being led, and therefore also by turn, leading. The men lead, but only because they are led, and the women are lead, and therefore are able to lead – in being led. The definition of gender is not nature but Christology, the pattern of the descent of the Lord. Christ is our definition of place. He holds the two places apart, thereby creating and sustaining a universe for us. For us though, his single mode – his servant-lordship, servant-freedom – is visible as two contrasting modes, two offices. His single existence appears to us as two contraries that we cannot emulate and reconcile. His single office appears to us as two opposite places, top and bottom. One we seek, the other we flee.
The definition of men and women is given not then by nature, but by promise. It is given by the new creature of the gospel – marriage. The definition of men and women is given by the evangelical definitions of husband and wife. Marriage is what gives humans their gendered definition and being. There are two sorts of marriage. In the first each man or each women is in covenantal relationship (that is one held good by the promise of God) with the Christian body of which he or she is a member. He, or she, is married to them. The Christian tradition calls this celibacy. The second sort of marriage is where the man or woman is married to the whole Christian body via the medium of one member of that body. The tradition calls this marriage. The definition of man and woman then is given by relationship that is both one and many, and which is itself a function of promise.
Our Lord is above us. He has been set over us with a power and elevation that we can only strain our imagination after. He is above. But that is not all. He is also far beneath us. He has come down to us, but not only to our level, but supremely and unsurpassedly far below us, lower than anyone has ever been. He has gone down into death, to the place of extinction, where the whole detritus of human failure has become solid mass. From there Jesus serves us. He brings to life all that is dead. Our servant Christ is undoing the past, making it no longer irredeemably gone, and no longer inert mass. He is recapitulating it and so bringing alive what is dead, and giving us the life that we have been missing. He is above us and he is below us.

3. The ladder of being
All the pagans want to be independent and autonomous. They want to be at the top. They do not want to be led, ruled, taught or disciplined. ‘Pagan’ means not ruled, not led, acknowledging no authority. Each raises himself above all others, wants to take autonomy by taking it from others, and taking it away from all others. Each intends to set himself above others and so to be by himself. Each intends to be alone. But he cannot never be what he wants to be or have what he violently takes, until someone else recognises and grants him what he wants. He does not have it until he has received recognition, freely.
We intend to be self-made men. We accept no external definition and no authority. We are the man against all other men. Since God has not abandoned us to the consequences of our antagonism, but steps in to protect the weak and to make himself a party in this business, we are also the men against God.
We strive to climb the ladder of being. We seek to make ourselves more secure, impervious to the hazards of fortune. We want to become serene, to put ourselves above the fray, so we are wielders of power, unreachable to external power, untouchables, gods. ‘Being’ for us means ‘being serene’, ‘being divine’. We cannot stop ourselves from making such a claim. The result of our separation of ‘being’ from ‘effort’ is that we do not understand that simply by being what we are we are making claims about what it is good to be. In being what we are, we intend to establish that other should be like us. Our whole being is sourced from the assumption that we have to climb the ladder of being. We clamber over one another to get ahead. But we have misidentified ‘ahead’. That does not lie in the direction in which we are going. It is not further down the road to isolation. We are self-exalters, but Christ is not a supreme self-exalter. ‘Ahead’ is where Christ is, behind and far below us. Below us, where all non-being is, is where ‘ahead’ is. God alone can stop us from trying to oust all others and make ourselves their lord.
The whole Western action consists in separating the being (nature) from the action (life) so the one can disown the other. Thus I can exert a lordship claim and deny that I am doing this. I can do it more effectively because I can do it anonymously. But we have no action which does not dominate and seek to suborn. We believe that our essential being is unchanging. We have a naturalised concept of being (ousia). We assert that we do not suffer others and are not made by others, are not impacted upon, let alone constituted by, the action of others. It is our claim that we are serene and untouchable. We can shake off the clamour of the outer world, return to our own deep essential being and leave all others behind. We cannot but strive and attempt to put ourselves ahead of all others, and part of this is the claim we make about our unchanging and serene essence. But we have completely mistaken the ladder of being. We cannot stop ourselves from making such a claim. But we can be stopped. And now we have been stopped.
People let us down. They disappoint us. They do not render us what we are due. We are worth more than any of them concedes. We all make this claim. We make it against one another. It is our universal claim. No one is satisfied with what they have received, with the amount of being that we have given them. They all make this complaint against us. They are not satisfied with us. We owe them an amount of being that we cannot pay. Inasmuch as they are able to make this charge against us, it is true. We have failed to pay them the being that God intends for them. God makes the same charge, against us, on their behalf. This failure we call sin. Sin is reluctance in the face of the declared intention of God. It is identifiable only through the law. It is only because this intention has been published, this promise given, and given publicly as the Scripture to the elect people, that it is possible to say that we are not yet what, according to God’s intention we will be. But inasmuch as we are all open to this accusation we are also fingered as withholders of being, and therefore as sinners.
The gospel identifies two classes of humanity, the top and the bottom. These two classes are those under the law, and those not under the law. The first have had the law taught them and thus know about the imperative of leadership and fatherhood. The lawless know nothing substance this discipline. There are the lawless leaderless rabble, and those who are to lead them and show them what it is to be well-ruled. There are the uneducated and the educated, those who are ruled only by their neediness, and the civilised, law-abiding, liberal, civil intellectuals and educators.
The ruled are not really different from the unruled, but just one group within the mass of the unruled. The leaders are those who seem, and only seem, to have benefited most from this lawlessness. The leaders are themselves not under rule or discipline. They do not lead, but merely exert themselves, put themselves before the rest of us, and try to leave the mass behind. The law then also identifies these two classes as the exploiting and the exploited. The ruling classes have not led and shepherded the people. They have not led, but left them a leaderless mass. It is their fault of the rich that the poor are a rabble, are without discipline and self-discipline. The pitiful condition of the masses is the sin of their leaders. That there is a rabble is demonstration that the educated and righteous have not led or exercised righteousness where it is needed. They are shown to be not under discipline, not educated, but unrighteous.
The dual anthropology of the gospel identifies the rich and the poor. It contrasts the disciplined and the undisciplined, the well resourced and the under-resourced, those with more and those with less substance at their disposal. Those at the top are better prepared, better resourced and have more being. Those lower down have less, those at the bottom of the pile have none. Their ontological deficiency is reflected in their bad performance and poor showing – in their unrighteousness. They don’t have much substance, and the result is that they can only put in a poor performance, and they look bad too. They do not make much of an impact, and if they do it is for the wrong reasons. None of their relationships is right, well-ordered or complete. But the gospel states that this is the fault of those at the top who would seem to be better off, to exist in better ordered lives, greater rightness and righteousness. The poor are the standing rebuke to the rich, to the adequately clothed and well-presented.
The man who observes the law is the man who has the fullness of being. He is the most manly of men. He is courageous and charismatic, a leader, a father of his people. Perhaps he can even be a father to other people too, and so compensate for the inadequacy of other fathers. He is generous. He is a teacher and a model. He is perfectly in control of himself, and therefore able to lead others.
Where shall we find such a man? Is he to be found anywhere? How shall we recognise him? Who may appoint him? Which of us will have the honour of discovering him? How shall we get ourselves ready to receive him? Who shall we appoint for this honour? How can we bring forward his arrival? How can we hasten his development, this man? Only he can lead us, and make us the people we long to be. Only he can secure our being for us? What processes of education and enlightenment can we bring him into being? But wait a moment. We do not need to ask this question any longer. There is no one who has finished his education in manhood. There is no one who has perfect self-control, such that he has no wants, is never roused and driven by his neediness, but considers everyone and everything to belong to him and thus has no need to compete with others and to do them down. There has been no such man – until now. Now he has appeared. The man with the fullness of being is the servant, the very one we overlooked.
The Christian is a man with a master. He is mastered, and therefore and within this limits he is self-master. He is what all the pagans want to be, but cannot be. He does not fall into the clutches of any needy other. He already receives from elsewhere, independently of us, of achieving the recognition he needs. He has God’s own self-recognition system, at work in him. He is uniquely the one true autonomous man because he is a the function of the autonomous (holy) Spirit of God. God distinguishes and exalts him from all others, giving him his autonomy and re-supplying it to him daily. The truly autonomous man does not grasp his autonomy but receives it gratefully from him who alone is autonomous and holy.
He is at the top of the ladder of being. He has being on his own account, and has enough over, not only for his own people, but also for us. He is at the top of the ladder not only of his own people, but also for us. He is father and master not only of his own people, but also of us. He has been raised to the highest point, from where he can not only his people but also supply what all other masters have failed to supply to their people.

4. The panic and stampede
The pagans are desperate men. Each intends to throw off his master and make himself master. They are all lordless lords. Each acts without law and without pity, and is desperate not to be left behind. They make an unruled rabble which surges forward, in this direction and that. The hierarchy of the cosmos are created by this surging. Each intends to be at the front, and so they order themselves by who presently prevails over all others. Of course there is no external criterion for forward, nothing but the most fleeting consensus about which way is forward, so the direction they move in is continuously shifting. All are looking for the next trend, the next correction and change of direction. Each attempts to be a market-maker and yet not become over-exposed. Each of them attempts to move ahead of his rivals by identifying a margin, a competitive advantage, something that he has but the others don’t have but must be persuaded they need, and can only access through him. He has to create a gap, open another cleft that separates all mankind from himself. He has to create a gap and convince them of it in order to sell them the means to cross it, and this ceaseless competitive effort creates these gaps and the tiers of the hierarchy.
God gives. But what he gives we have either not taken, or taken and used against him. We have not recognised him as the one who gives us all things, and so have not given him the recognition due to him. We have not taken from his hands the justice and righteousness he intends us to receive from him. We have put ourselves outside his protection. We have set ourselves up in opposition to him. In doing so we have mistaken the game we are in. The game is not that he gives us his righteousness and we take it, keep it, and use it for all sorts of projects of our own. He does not give us his righteousness for our own self-aggrandisement, or in order that we fortify our own position against him. As soon as we snatch it, it is no longer righteousness, but unrighteousness. The game is two-fold. It is first that God gives his righteousness, we take it and give it back to him in praise, and he gives it back to us again with praise, and we take this too and return it to him. And secondly, it is that he gives it and we pass it to those who are our dependents around us: we give them justice, and they pass it on, give their dependents justice, and so on. Two sorts of circulation are set up, one a direct alternation of recognition that runs from God to us and back, and another that runs from God through us, through others, through others again, without limit. In these two forms the game consists in a spreading of gratefulness for the righteousness of God.
But instead of this, we have taken what we have received and held on to it. God sent us gifts and embassies. These people are the gifts he has lavished on us. Yet we have taken them for our own purposes, and taken them out of the relationship in which God has given them to us. We have employed others as our resources for constructing our selfhood. We have made them the material with which to build ourselves an empire. We have held on to what was not ours to keep, and have dug our claws into the unprotected. We have withheld it from those for whom it was also intended. We have taken things into our own hands and have seized power.
We have turned the gifts of God against him, imagining that we can remove and abstract them from him, so they cease to be his and become ours, to do with entirely as we intend. God’s purpose was that we receive his Son, that he would be our protection against the claims of other masters, and as the proper receptive audience for our selfhood, its criterion and guarantor. But we have turned back God’s advances; we have refused all his wooing. We have attempted to make ourselves beyond challenge and unassailable. We have made ourselves gods. But far from becoming gods, more just and more gracious, we are becoming beasts, less just and less able to recognise anything beyond ourselves.
We are unrighteous rulers and wicked tenants. We are usurpers and criminals. We have lived off the weakest. In trying to escape any limit, and to secure ourselves against death we scramble away from the bottom towards the top of the ladder of being. We are scaling the universe to reach the top and secure ourselves there. We make this climb by treading down all others. By this action we tear a gap between the top and the bottom, and create two tiers. As we repeat this action, we create more tiers, and more separations and means for the few to negotiate them. We are driven by fear of the bottom, where dissolution and death is. The cosmological dualism is the result of the effort of each of us to escape from the lower levels, driven by our fear of being extinguished, becoming nameless, fear of becoming nothing, of death at the bottom of the cosmos. Only when we admit that we have exercised an illegitimate authority can we also admit that we are then also in another sense the poor, because we are those who have been found out, exposed and uncovered.
All men kill, die and fail to sustain one another in life. Death is what they do in failing to sustain one another in life. We let one another fall. We let one another disappear out of mind and drop out of circulation. We forget one another. We wear each other out until there is nothing left. Dying is also what happens when God comes to man. Man fails to sustain the relationship, but God sustains the relationship. Man is dying, dying to God. Man firmly believes that God he can hold God off and wear him down. He believes that he is able to subject God to the logic to which he himself is subject, that of being brought to an end. Dying is what happens when God’s Son is given to men – but it is their dying – and his rejection of this dying. Man dies. Man imposes death. But God is life and brings to life.
The panicked act of man, short of resources, and desperate enough to take them from whomever he could wrest them from, became the only act possible to man. Sin cascaded through the world, from the beginning and increasingly. But now, this act has be interrupted and halted. In the same way, and from the new beginning, the generosity of God is rolling through the world, everywhere rolling back sin and increasingly making the panic of man redundant. One flood is being driven back by another, more powerful, flood. Generosity entered the world through one man. But his generosity did not progress as sin did, passed on slowly by heredity, slowly cramping the freedom of movement, creating increasing fragmentation and division. Generosity crashed into the world and engulfed it. It rolled back sin and drove it out, not serially, but all at once, everywhere instantly. It cut off every sin from every other, everywhere isolating the panickers, cutting them off from one another so their panic had nothing to feed off, cutting sin off from its root, so it could not multiply, and rolling back the barriers and partitions that it had served to replicate everywhere, breaking down those dividing walls that we call death.

The rebellious rulers and the hardened hearts
What is the lesson? The righteousness of God is our lesson. We are to learn to recognise God. Recognition of God is the way in which we may come to recognise one another, and concede to one another the otherness that God intends for each of us. Intending his people to deal with each other with the generosity that they received from him, God gave them a share in this work of exercising care over his sheep. He set the older over the younger, and gave those with more the task of providing for those with less.
Each intends to be at the front. They order themselves by who presently prevails over all others. The chasm is made by the continual identification of changing accidents of otherness and our own unchanging essence, the identification of nature from politics. All rulers have their power sourced to them from their ancestors and the authorities above them. They are representatives and front men of those powers (that are both natural and political). Each actual current political leader is just the lieutenant and underling of the greater leadership (headship, resource, tank) in the level above him. The very senior (made so by the (forced) worship of many generations) are very high. They ascend slowly up into a status of complete serenity and indifference (and become amalgamated). Spiritual means not only above psychikoi (intellects) and physikoi (ordinary, sensual), but it means both, the reconciliation of the two, the mental (leadership) and the material (natural). Spiritual is both the combination and unity of all (divided and subordinate) powers, but it is above all the whole.
But we have withheld recognition and being from one another. We have failed to father, to teach and bring one another up, and have failed to be obedient sons, to accept such discipline, to be taught and brought up. Each has attempted to hold on to honour, when he should pass it on, has not given recognition to anyone else. Each has tried to place themselves at the top of the hierarchy of being, the place in which they are no longer obliged to give recognition, respect and being to anyone else. They have not allowed that there is anyone above them. Each has failed to understand that seniority involves leadership, and leadership involve taking the part of the servant. A parent waits on their children. A teacher has to bear and suffer his pupils, and is therefore inescapably a servant, a servant precisely because he is a master.
Many men in opposing one another, oppose God. In opposing one another they are opposing those God intends to make his own and already regards as his own. Our offence is that no one is prepared to be brought up, because no one is prepared to be under discipline, to receive discipline from God. Instead they have put themselves under all sorts of less generous and less competent masters. This refusal to perform the work of bringing one another up to the fullness of human being set before us by God. This work of bringing up we may call instruction, or paideia, or Scripture – the Law (Torah).

The secret
A great secret has been kept, a long time. The world has been kept under a cloud, constituted by the muck generated by the world. Above it are the many lessons that mankind is to learn. The rulers could know nothing about who was to topple them and succeed them. It was precisely their claim to autonomy, a claim that they would not be succeeded, that they were irreplaceable, that there was no one stronger who could replace them, that put them in rebellion and ensured that they would be unseated. They had made themselves unable to hear the warnings of the danger they had put themselves in. This open secret was a mystery to them, and they insisted that they not be told it, punishing anyone who suggested that their hold on power was limited. They ensured that what the poor under-world knew was a mystery to them. They could not know of their impending demotion or dismissal. They could not see in any domain but their own, could not know what was to follow their disorderly rule, or see what was coming after their own end. But now that demise is coming.

Cut off
The Christian is cut off from and rendered dead to his former masters. His being cut free from them is his being raised and made alive. The life he receives from his new master is his separation from and death to his former masters. He is emptied of the old fuel as he is filled with the new fuel. It is the invasion of the new fuel that drives out the old fuel. We have no present life. We do not possess and command the presence of our life, our presence. It is not present to us in the sense that we can command, and it is present to us on command. Our life now (between his resurrection and ours) Now we have only life delivered to us from the future, or rather we are supplied with ourselves by the future. The future makes our present life past – it tears it out of our hands and shoves it away from us, where it cannot reach us and we cannot reach it. It is only the future that makes (our) present past and gone, irretrievable. Our resurrection is his resurrection of us: it is his being-raised being supplied finally as the only truth about us. our present life is not present to us (not possessable or commandable to us) but future to us, because it is his act, the act he can keep aloof from (future to) us. Nothing (else) can now come between the (entirely future) resurrected One and the people to whom he now supplies a future, his future, piece-meal. The future of Christ is supplied piece by piece, present by present. They have no other present than the present Christ supplies to them, his presence, entirely future to them, which makes their other life increasingly and entirely past to them. There is no empty space in theological conceptuality – everything that is, is a spirit and a space.

The naturalisation of death
Western doctrine of the cross has been vitiated by an ontology of nature. This relates life and death to the state of our bodies rather than our persons. The gospel provides and requires a relational ontology that says we die as people fail to include us, and we come alive when they do include us, that we are dead when we are ‘cut off’. Modern theology has not taken seriously enough this preaching that ‘You put him to death but God raised him from the dead.’ God refused and reversed the verdict of man. The one who was thrown out was thrown back in to supplant us as the leader of men. He is God’s decision against us.
The word ‘dying’ sums up the whole act of man. It summarises all that takes place between any and all men. This is their effect on each other over the long term. They fail to support one another. They cannot sustain one another. They wear each other out until there is nothing left of them. All their acts amount to individuation and isolation. They are separated, scattered and lost. The limits imposed on man he has swallowed and internalised until he has become a creature of barriers and gaps, comprehensively balkanised and able to reproduce only the same divisions. Dying is what man does before God. Man fails to sustain the relationship, but God sustains the relationship. Man is imposing death, and himself dying. But God is life and brings to life. He replaces the dying action of man with the living and life-renewing action of God.

5. The athlete descends
The Son refuses. The Son is the athlete of non-compliance. He was able to do without all external support. He did not rely on the work of any man. He did not rely on the word of any man. He was able to refuse everything he was tendered. He was able to see through all worldly offers of support, and assurances of good faith, and to see them as what they are, as temptation. He was able to see all worldly gifts as offers to absorb him into an alien hospitality and economy, to draw him into the sphere of some other master, and so as attempts to control him and separate him from the Father. Each of us offers Christ something as he descends down the ladder of being. We are his tempters, each of us saying to him ‘Never Lord, this shall never happen to you.’ He is able to refuse our offer. He waited patiently for a better offer. He demonstrates the way to lose substance and visibility, to get poorer and less respectable. He fends off every offered form of earthly respectability, support and covering. He says No to every offer of cooperation.
He was baptised. He made the plunge, down through all layers of being into non-being and death. He made the sickening descent. The platform which supports all men at higher or lower levels opened up and he plummeted. This was done to him. But it was also done by him. This descent was the act of Christ. This passion was his action. Christ descended through all levels by giving back all that he has received from each dominion. He returns to each what each offers him, refusing whatever each offered. He alone is strong enough to refuse every offer, and so to refuse master. His regime of self-control was absolute. He refuses to accept the gift and place offered by each of the lordship. By refusing each lordship, he is sent down to the lordship beneath. Each refusal then represents a step down into the domain below. He takes from no one – except the Father. His is an athleticism of refusing and resisting all gifts of power and offers of power shared. He is strong enough to thrust away everything they come at him with. He alone is able finally to say No to every lordship and domain and to make that No stick. He descended into hell. The Servant went down through all tiers of relationship, from the thicker and more secure, down into the increasingly slight, unstable and precarious. He went down beyond this into the place of no-relationship. When threatened he did not cling his nearest master. He did not ask his master to extricate him from his difficulties. He did not refer his attackers to the power of his connections or patrons. He did not boast in his relationships or his strength. He did not hang on to any relationship. He rather let them all go. Everyone expected him to appeal to the ones who could save him – to each – to point out how well-connected he was. He did not appeal to his lord, nor to his lord’s lord, nor to his equals, nor to those set under him, nor even to those set under them, nor to anyone below them. He let go of every one of them, knowing that God would not let go of him. So he fell from the temple, and dashed his feet on the stones.
In descent a diver experiences increasing atmospheric pressure. For the God-man it was a transition from one sort of pressure to another. He underwent a drop in order, being and reality, as he moved down into a place of increasing disorder, inconsequentiality, and non-being. People are progressively more lethargic, indolent and unable to concentrate on one another. At the bottom of this gradient is total dissolution. The man who is expelled publicly from society, and suspended and exposed as someone who no longer belongs to it. He has offended against all intermediary protocols and means of commutation and re-integration. His public exposure and suspension is confirmation that he is no only condemned by man, but man’s condemnation is confirmed by God. He is put outside the covenant, cut off from Israel.
Jesus was abandoned by all. He was hung on the cross to display his complete isolation and shame. All resources of support drained away from him, until he had nothing. In this visible world he was cleared out of all resources of public reputation and recognition. He descended through all intermediary levels of status and being until he reached the lowest point, left altogether without being, in total shame. This was his act. He refused every estimation of him and every place made for him. He did not accept another man’s work.

6. The student and the graduate
The Son became a servant. He endured discipline. His perseverance through it, without protest, demonstrated that he was a true son of his Father. He regarded the work he was given not as someone else’s work, but as his own. He was no hired hand. The Son endured the status of a servant, under the word of his master. This servant was ready to learn. He was a good student, eager for correction, keen to learn whatever he can from whatever master, including those who do not intend to do him good. The Son seeks instruction. He makes himself apprentice to every master, demanding from each that the master give him the teaching and leading that the Son identifies as required for all the people in that master’s command.
There are two classes of men in the world, and there is a struggle between them. There are the unleadable, and the leaders who do will not lead. There are the bodies, the labourers, and there are brains, the leaders. These two groups are not only unnaturally separated, but at war, each declining to follow or lead or serve the other. There is Israel, ruled by God, and the Gentiles, ruled by idols, by their passions and delusions, and thus not ruled at all. These are two households, and now they are being amalgamated, married, to make one single household and man. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two. This mystery in past ages was hidden in God.
Now the whole lesson has been revealed. The finished Student, the Son, who has practiced in, trained on everything, has been publicly raised and revealed. He is experienced in everything and so knows how to command everything. He is the finished product of the course. He has been disciplined by all masters. He has felt the strength of all forces. They did all they could to halt him, to prevent him passing. Each was determined that the Son would not graduate, and so take over from himself.
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered. He learned from the discipline imposed on him, by all educational, political and natural powers. Everything he received, he took as from the Father. The Son in his minority who is set to work under the law learns to be a servant in order to learn how to command servants. He is sent back to the floor.
As long as the heir is a child, though he owns the whole estate, he is no different from a slave. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time decided by his father. We are children, subject to all the basic principles of the world. We are indentured to them. We are under the protective tutelage of the forces of nature. But the Son must grow up. He must cease to act as just another one of the servant boys. He is brought up below stairs, but must leave below stairs and take his place at the head of the household. He must leave us. The whole estate is his. In him the while estate is now our own. We must cease to act as though only this or that small part were our responsibility. We must cease to be afraid of the whole. We were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.
We own the whole earth. The law – natural law, the laws and forces of the natural world – may serve as means of our paideia. These natural forces to some degree buffer us from the consequences of our acts. But we do not have the mental apparatus to understand that it is all ours, or to be able to do anything with it. The heir is prevented by learning disability, or illness or forgetfulness from acting and so growing up into his full estate. Someone must exercise a power of attorney for him. It must keep him in the protection of downstairs until he is able to recover his own mind. But nothing on the estate, and nothing below stairs can help him. The world of his estate is exposed to all kinds of abuse without its master to protect it. In the world below stairs we may be kept frightened by all sorts local powers – and may seek to continue our apprenticeship, and may even to feign that our disability is worse than it is in order to continue to avoid responsibility. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also when we were children we were in slavery to the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law (able to speak the language of those he employs and thus to command them) to redeem those under the law, so that we might have the full rights of sons.
The Christians are disciplined with the descent and cross of Christ. They are circumcised. God treats them as sons. Every son is disciplined by his father. If our father did not discipline us it could only be because he did not care for us. Other fathers, who do not care for their sons, do not make them submit to discipline. So we must treat every authority as part of the authority to which our father submits us. We must be greedy for discipline for any rule that will serve to rub the unrighteousness off you. Even unrighteous rulers will serve this purpose.
The Christian cannot carry his own sins. Christ these carries these, and carries them away, for him. But then in Christ he can carries the sins of other people, in particular bears the resistance of others – and this to him is ‘undeserved suffering’. The Christian bears the load of the sin committed by the sinful man which the sinful man cannot possibly bear precisely because he is sinful and therefore too weak. The righteous man is carrying the sinful man, until his sin comes off and he can carry himself. we should not get this beating because we deserve it. The discipline we get is only good if it makes us able to carry also what is not ours, if through it we learn to carry others.
The apostle stays in training. He does not give up this discipline he teaches. He tells us to train rigorously in order to get what we are training for. Lots of people start this training, but do not complete it. They attempt to graduate out of it, and so emerge too early. We must run to get the prize. The apostle trains purposefully. Everyone who competes goes into training, not just for the sake of it, but to make sure that, after training others, we will not disqualify ourselves. The discipline is not purposeless. It is intended to make us ready, so we do not let down the other members of the troop who depend on us.
The sons of God are enduring their period of training. The people of God is out in the wilderness being prepared for to bear these loads. But we must take this training. We must not forget what it is for. Many of the children of Israel did not get through the first round. God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness. The majority of them did not care for the discipline. They did not take this discipline because they did not realise that God is their father and that they are his sons. Only sons would take such discipline, and only this discipline can make you sons. Watch out that you do not fall! Stay under discipline, continue to submit yourself to all criticism.

The mystery now revealed
The purpose of the Son was to create in himself one new man out of the two. There are two men, and two classes of men, in the world. They is a permanent struggle for power between them. They are two warring houses, but now they are being amalgamated, married, to make one single household and man. The world is composed of two classes of the leaders and the led. But the leaders have not led, and now do not know how to lead, and the led have become unleadable. The two have become unnaturally separated, and gone to war, each declining to follow or lead or serve the other.
Now the whole lesson has been revealed. The finished Student, the Son, is revealed. He has passed out of school with honour. He who has practiced in, trained on everything, is experienced in everything, knows how to command everything. He is the finished product of the course constituted of all lords, the properly appointed and the self-appointed masters. All the masters and trainers tried to extinguish this student, did all they could to fail him and to prevent him passing, each determined that he would not graduate (and so take over from) from himself.
A great secret has been kept, a long time. The world has been kept under a cloud, made up of the muck generated by the world. Above this waits the many lessons that are in queue above mankind for mankind to learn. Now the Church, the people dragged along in his victory procession by Christ display to all authorities the supremacy of Christ to which they must submit.
The rulers could know nothing about who was to topple them and succeed them. It was precisely their claim that they would not be succeeded, that there was no one stronger, that made their rebellion unendurable and ensured that they would be unseated. They had made themselves unable to hear the warnings of their own peril. This open secret was a mystery to them, and they insisted that they not be told it, punishing anyone who suggested that their power, and their hold on it, was limited. They ensured that what the poor under-world knew was a mystery to them. They could not know of their dismissal, demotion or reward. They could not know what was to follow their disorderly rule, or see into any domain but their own, or know what was coming after their own demise. Now all the riches of the intermediary levels, long denied to the poorest, hoarded and never disbursed, are conglomerated into the riches dispensed direct by God. The whole cosmos has been made a free and open place which those animated and led by Christ, the head, have access to all levels.

The masters are dismissed
That those who are oppressed, are unhappy, is no news. But that those who are doing the oppressing, are unhappy, that is news. That is the new information presented by the gospel. The oppressors are oppressed. They are not oppressed in same way. They are in more trouble than the oppressed are. They are worse off than even the worst off. They are going to be more oppressed – oppressed by God. That is the announcement made.
The gospel is to tell those who have been made servants of bad leaders that their time of servanthood to bad leaders is up, that they are released. They are manumitted. And it is to tell bad leaders, and that includes those who should exercise leadership but do not, that their responsibility is now taken away from. They are fired. They are thrown out. It is a managerial clear-out. The bosses are thrown out to their share-holders. But our responsibility is never taken away from us. Even though we who were in positions of explicit responsibility did not exercise it, still we are responsible, as all men are responsible, for all other men.
We are the masters, and the ones who are about to be dismissed. What we have snatched for ourselves, we must let go of. What we have taken, without authority, from others we must return to them. The game is won by the first people to have got rid of all their cards. We have to shed our provisions for our financial security. We have to rid ourselves of all securities as though they were a rash. All the things of this world are the tokens and badges issued by the various lords of this world. We must get rid of all these incriminating insignia. We will cease to be comfortable. We will no longer have a ready account of who we are or what we are doing. You have to do without the welfare state. It is not until we are utterly dependent that the Church can possibly know that it is a welfare state for its members, that it can know how to take care of them, to take up their weight and support them. All our lives are preparing the next generation in the skills and character of the disciple. At the end you see whether the generation you have taught has learned its lesson, whether it has compassion. They do not open the safety net beneath until you are already in freefall.

7. We follow after him – we make the descent
We are baptised. We are pushed over the edge. We make the sickening descent. We plummet down the mine shaft. The platform which has supported us and deceived us gives away, the floor opens up and we fall. We descend through all layers of being. We lose first our public face, then our sense of our personal worth, then our rationality, we become a merely animal being, lose then our most basic homeostasis, lose our corporal integrity. We cease to have any visible or nameable form. Baptism is falling past all the floors of the building. But we do not fall to a bottom. We fall into dissolution. We fall apart and our elements are scattered, lost a parts of a unit and go to re-join the rest of creation. All our identity is lost. The word of God spoken against us is this baptism plunge.

Under discipline
Each of us is to be a disciple. A disciple is under discipline. A disciple is a learner and a student, a son of the Father. Circumcision has been the sign of this discipline. To be a man is to be a son, and to be a son requires that you are the son of the master. You give him your recognition that he is father and master. Then you are a father to your own people, and pick up the bill for all the little people around you. They are the load you have to carry, so they also represent a discipline on you. The truly circumcised and obedient sons obey their father, love and remember their parents; they nurture and hand on the tradition of their fathers. They also produce righteous sons. The real circumcision is the properly received discipline and corrective surgery on the whole man, or as Paul says, the heart.
On the cross the Son sketched two parties and two outcomes. He represents us to ourselves. He did so first dramaturgically, then constitutively. Instead of annihilating the irresponsible masters the Son plays out their annihilation himself. The body on the cross displays the exposure and defeat of the gentile rebel leaders. He is playing the kings of the earth dangling there isolated, deserted and helpless.

We died. We are the rebellious kings whom Christ has overcome. Christ has killed us by taking our victims away from us. Our rebellion, and God’s compassion for those we have been consuming, has turned God into a warrior. The complaints of all those who have been left out have been heard. He no longer holds back to see if we will act on them. He intervenes for them, and against us. we have been defeated and now the people so have their people, and now the one is to be removed from the other. The act of forcing this knowledge and admission onto us is an intrinsic part of this defeat of theirs. He has announced and displayed this news publicly, to defeated kings and to the world now released from them. He has published it in the exposed body of his Servant. The body on the cross displays the exposure and defeat of the gentile rebel leaders. The Son shows us the kings of the earth dangling up there isolated, deserted by their men and helpless. This is what their rebellion has brought them. All who followed them can see that their power is broken, that they are without resource or support. Who will remain loyal to the old rulers with this evidence of their powerlessness? The world must know that it has been defeated, body and head, on the ground and in their own minds.
The Son displays the outcome of the act of our kings until our nerve fails and we desert them, and until the reality of surrender and capture fills every last hideout, and there are no more rebellious corners, no more unwillingness. The Son has closed down our local headquarters, ending our autonomy and replacing it with his direct rule. We have suffered a collapse of mind and leadership. Now our bodies will receive their orders not from our mind, but from outside, from the Spirit.

We did not die: Christ died. He has raised from us the death that was killing us. He has separated us from those who were living off our life and denying life to us. he has freed us from our vicious masters. He has broken their power.

Christ did not die, but was raised. He killed the rulers who were taking our life. We were at war, each of us against all the others. God intervened on the part of the losers in this war. It took this war to be directed against himself. He stepped in. He took us on, so we the oppressors are now directed against him. He lets us have the violence we have committed, and the consequences of all our acts. The God of Israel acts to end this war and put down this rebellion. He moved against the two opposing armies of all the kings of earth. He does so in the form of a single servant of God, one unaccompanied warrior. This single Israelite suffers alone the contradiction and resistance of the whole world. Their enmity is the cup he drinks out and the baptism he undergoes. While we were shooting at him Christ acted towards us as a friend; his friendliness exhausted us and broke our resistance. Man extended to God, the form of his Servant, his product of refusal of relationship, rebellion and separation.
We put all our resources into putting him down and throwing him out. But the death we imposed on him could not hold him. He has more resources than we do, so our acts fail to hold against his. The crucifixion was the bond we intended to hold him by. The resurrection is his overthrow of it. He is now free and we are now bound, bound by him with the bonds we had imposed on him.
We die for our sins, which is to say, as a result of, our sins. Our deficiencies catch up with us eventually. But he has no deficiencies of his own and so is not 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, 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. He can release me from you, and you from me. He can me alive by your death, and he can release you by putting me to death to you. I am dead to you, you are dead to me.
The job of each Christian is to re-integrate all others back in the line. In the line they are inviolate. The purpose of the Church is to protect the little ones from predation, to intervene and denounce predatory behaviour, and attack the ideological constructions that make it seem normal. The Church is given the tools to dismantle all the constructions that oppress.

Fasting, mourning and waiting for the last and least to come in
The gospel is the announcement that we are given the status of a servant. It is the announcement that we are put into service. The Christians have been taken and co-opted into service. They have been put into service. Now they are not their own, but someone else’s. They have not been set above the world, but placed at its feet, and at its disposal. They have been kidnapped and pressed, as it were, into someone else’s power, the power of the high God. The gospel is that they have been made slaves – again. They have been seized and made prisoner, and are now being set to work, sent out into the field. They are not people of leisure, for the whole prospect ahead is of work. We are in the labour camp. For us there is nothing beyond the task we have been given. We are under the eye of the supervisor. We have foregone the status of masters and now are manual labourers. We serve with our hands.
The new Christians are given a servant. The apostle describes himself in terms of his servanthood. He boasts about it. His hearers will realise that this is also their own status: the truth about him, is now to be the truth about them. It takes a long time for this realisation to sink in. They belong to this unknown lord, and he will give them away, as he has given the apostle Paul, to others. They will have to serve others, whom they do not yet know, with all the uncertainty and misery that entails. They will have to serve those who are as yet ruled by their own passions, who admit to no lord, and who therefore treat their own servants and all others with disdain.
The Gentiles have as their apostle a former chief enemy of Christ to serve them. An enemy leader sits at their feet and serves them. He does this by telling them of his capture, and by telling them what a servant he is for them. Paul, once the persecutor, is now a defeated general, and is made to serve. The apostle tells them of his service until they realise that they too are such a servant, of those others, their own (future) children in the faith. The apostle teaches Christians what service is. He regards everything as worthless, he forgets all about what he once had, and presses on towards the prize and the heavenly call of God. He teaches them that they have in their apostle, and so in every Christian, a servant who will serve them well, and who has a reliable and indeed better idea than they themselves what it means to serve them well. The servant boasts in his master, who is his protector. He can taunt the world, telling it that it cannot touch him, because he is under the protection of his master. He is inviolate, immune. The Christians are the master of their servant in that they are the beneficiaries of his service. His service is to the Master, the Lord, Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ sent them a servant, his own servant. All this discussion of service is discussion of the life set out for the Christians: their life is the service of their master. Children are brought up to become parents, who are to produce children, children who produce children. This is the meaning of sonship. An obedient son takes from his father, and passes it on to others, making sons of them, becoming himself a parent, and then passing on the skills of parenting.
The Christian will return to each what he owes. They must take what each master offers, no matter how disobedient the master, and take it as given by God. That is why the Christians are told ‘Give to everyone what you owe him. If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect then respect, if honour, then honour. Let no debt remain outstanding.’ They must transform each gift from the way it is given by the master, as violence, which they simply refuse and return, and make it their discipline, which they must accept as a kindness. Get rid of the currency they have issued you with as quickly as you can. Do not be found with any of it about your person. ‘Sell all you have and give to the poor.’
Praise of God is proper boasting. It is good for the world that the voices of the grateful water the world with the interjections of God. What the Christians receive, half they return, as public praise to God, and the rest they pass on.
The servant boasts in his master. His master is his protector. This servant can taunt the world. He can tell it that it cannot touch him, because he is under the protection of his master. He is inviolate, immune. The Christians are his master in that they are the beneficiaries of his service, which is service to the Master, the Lord, Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ has sent them a servant, his own servant. All this discussion of service is discussion of the life set out for the Christians: their life is the service of their master. Children are brought up to become parents, who are to produce children, children who produce children. This is the meaning of (obedient) sonship. You are linking this to an ontology of reception and transmission, of taking and passing on, of (subordinate) parenting. Some of what we receive from God we return to him in the form of public praise – and that this praise is public means that it is addressed to the world, captive to lesser names, and holding captive. It drives out all other would-be rival claimants. It is exorcism. Praise of God is proper boasting. It is good for the world – that the voices of grateful water the world with the interjections of God. What the Christians receive, they split – half they return (as public praise to God) and the rest they pass on (transmit). We are manumitted. Granted he sets us to work, he frees us from paralysis. Christianity is a technological revolution. It lifts our arms and makes them much more powerful. It sets a greater force at our disposal.

The Spirit does not make us feel good
We rejoice in our sufferings. We are not suffering for our own salvation. But we are working, and consequently suffering, for the salvation of others, as others have worked and suffered for us. They suffered the resistance we put up, and God paid their lives in order to win us. Our suffering, or rather resistance, is the means by which the dross is scoured off us and the hang-overs from our former masters is shaken off us.
The Spirit makes us like Christ. In this he is not so much the comforter as the enforcer who conforms us to the shape of Christ and drives and fuels this transition. He puts us in the downward pathway created by the descent of Christ. The Spirit does not make us feel more Christ-like. We do not experience this change as increasing closeness to Christ, but as increasing isolation and loss of sensation. He cuts us off from every familiar thing. He takes us away from everything we are familiar with. We become closer to the whole company of heaven, but our senses do not reflect this. We have no knowledge of the company of heaven. We do not know that they are there. It feels to us like emptiness, dislocation. Experience of the Spirit is experience of the cross, which is the experience of having every familiar thing removed from us. We are divested. We undergo privation. We live anaerobically. Though we are given more and more, it feels only that more and more is being taken away from us, more than we ever thought could be taken away from us, without robbing us of life. We are quite unaware of what we are given, because the gifts of the Spirit are not given us in the sense of being put into our hands. They are assembled, but not here where we can grasp them, but stored up for us in heaven, where they remain out of our present control, like a bank account run for us by godparents. The gifts we are given are accessed by those around us who have to use of them through us. we ourselves remain unaware of them.
We are being removed from the old masters. We are losing all the old and familiar sensations. We are being joined to the new company but do not yet have the new sensation by which we can perceive this. We are hooded and led into a place where we can see nothing and have no idea where we are. We are told what is happening to us. The Scriptures read out every Sunday morning tell us where we are and what is happening to us, and they are our only source of information. We live by faith. In our fear we have trouble associating what we are told about our situation with the sensations we feel. We are merely told this, are reassured about it, but have no other source of knowledge. We live by the second hand assurances we are given by the saints, through the Scriptures. We are told what is happened to us, but have no independent knowledge of this it, have no means of checking this, or of establishing this knowledge for ourselves, no independent means of verification. This is the awesome rites of initiation. The saints are nearer us, but it is as though we have a blanket over our heads. The Spirit does not make us feel stronger, but weaker. He deflates us. He does not puff us up. That he makes us more confident does not at all negate the fact that he makes us more powerless than before. He makes us weak, and makes us boast our weakness. The only Christian pneumatology is a pneumatology of the cross, that teaches us to see in the darkness, and teaches us the art of increasing discomfort.
The ability to take criticism, to be judged, is the absolute hallmark of the Christian life. It is the very first fruit of the Spirit. That we are disciples means that we are under discipline, and take discipline, take our lesson without murmur. Criticism and resistance does not from the outsiders. It comes from fellow Christians, who are shocked and hurt that we utter what they consider to be critical and therefore uncharitable words. Junior Christians are always sure that they are always senior and better informed, doubtful of the orthodoxy of those they always see as their critics, rather than as their teachers. They are sure their relationship to God is superior than that enjoyed by their critics. The life of the Christian community is always one of shock and hurt, slights and resentment. There is no progress except by this route, which the juniors will battle against. Senior Christians are always in a minority of one, the junior Christians in a majority so able to have their view confirmed for them.
Christians take criticism. If they cannot take criticism they are a ‘spiritual’ people in the ‘super-spiritual’ sense that the apostle warns against. They believe they have been removed above the fray and above the confusion and uncertainty of real church agonies. But our elite can only ever be the advance guard who leads us downwards after Christ. They give up all pretensions and getting greedy about correction, and are happy to take it from the unrighteous.
The Church will therefore always look as though it is in trouble. It will not look good. It must always expect to be told that it is in retreat, and unable to oppose the force of secularisation. The Church is humiliated. It is taken down by Christ, and it must be content with this. It is to be made a fool of in front of all the peoples of the world. Inasmuch as the Church makes its errors, and endures mockery, the Church is the servant who suffers.
They are showing how much more it is now possible for us to refuse, that we can refuse everything, and so break out of the whole circle of nature. We do not need to observe the limits observed by all other heroes. We do not need to observe their injunction not to go beyond what they have done, not to stray across the perimeter of human experience, not to try for the ultimate kenosis. We do not need to stay corralled with the perimeter of human experience. The whole previous experience of human beings we can call ‘human nature’, the whole territory of human beings up to now. Our leader has broken out through this nature. He has broken to achieve a vaster nature and definition of what is proper to humans. He has broken through the final perimeter. He has gone beyond what anyone has achieved in the whole history of human domination. He is has now been made the new criterion for human nature.
The Christian witnesses, martyrs, ascetics and monks, were a public demonstration of this greater than ever before possible descent. Their life is the demonstration of the Nicene teaching that the very lowest, the one who abased himself most utterly, is the same as the one who has been raised above all other names. The bottom of the cosmos is no longer something to be shunned and feared. To be with him we must follow him down, be stripped of all other forms of being. We must follow the Son who received his being from no creature, and so received it from the Father alone, and purely. Theosis, divinisation or glorification, means descent. Theosis means a reduction to servanthood. We are swept along in the Son’s descent and escape from all other masters. The Son rises above all lords by descending down and away from all lords. The descent is merely descent in our eyes, shameful in our eyes because we strive upwards. It is not shameful in the eyes of the Father. The downward journey of the Son is not downward or away in the view of the Father. It is precisely the act of obedience to the Father. The Father receives, and this we call his ascension.
Jesus was abandoned. He was displayed on the cross in complete public shame and isolation. But the forces of this world could not keep him down. Being unable to make their judgment stick, they are demonstrably without power. When he was raised by the Father, Jesus was set at the highest place. The Father reversed the action of mankind by overturning this public assessment of his servant. Those who shamed him are now shamed. By his resurrection ride back up through all levels of the cosmos the God-man intimidates all would-be rebellious forces. He stiffens the resolve of all the faithful, demonstrating to the wavering that his forces are greater and that he will therefore prevail. The troops of the rebellious forces re-assess the chances of their winning under their leaders, and desert, returning to the leadership of the one God. By his Spirit the victorious Son calls and draws together out of the earth all the dispersed elements. He calls out all the bodies of the poor, hidden by wicked men, and brings them together to form one bright new and living body, united with himself, the resurrection body. This man is re-assembled from the divided and plundered spoils held by the various rulers of the aeons.

8. Well-connected – he is raised
We killed the author of life. But God raised him from the dead. The God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus. He raised him from the dead and exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Saviour. God has distinguished him, has picked him out, and set him clearly above all of us. There is no one who has not been made subordinate to him. We have all been demoted, and must now take our orientation from him. All the greatest lords are now made servants, of him. All others are servants within the house, but he has been made master over the whole house. Others are subject to him, no longer him to them. He is no more subject to decay or to the impact of others, no longer subject to the wear and tear inflicted by the movement of others. This because he subjected himself not only to some, but to all, making himself the lowest, lower than all of them – and this act pleased the Father, the Father recognised and affirmed this as his own act, the act by which he gathered and called in not some, but all, and not on their terms but on his terms, and thus on terms of utter surrender, defeat and passivity, in which God is entirely solely and utterly active, and his activity stills all other activity and agency, making it utterly passive. They are made subject to him, they are pushed and worn and decayed by his movement.
God is righteousness in himself. He is all proper relationship and relatedness in himself. He does not need to come into relationship with what is not God to be made complete. He is the criterion of rightness. He is not made more or less right by association with us, nor by comparison with us. God’s rightness is neither threatened nor enhanced by the contrast with anyone else’s rightness or lack of it. It is untouched, undiminished and not added to by man. It is not increased or amplified by whether we do or do not render what is due to him or give the right. God has demonstrated his righteousness by main force. His righteousness makes him stronger than all the rival gods, and he has now publicly broken their power. The law, the proclamation of the righteousness of God, has been vindicated in the act of God before the whole world. ‘He has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof (warning) of this to all men by raising him from the dead.’ Once Israel was given one land to enter and inhabit. Joshua paused and looked into that land before crossing over the river to take hold of it. Now Israel, led by this obedient Joshua is advancing across the known Mediterranean world into every land. The land now promised is every land. The new Joshua, the Son, now leads them from the front by his Holy Spirit.

Justification and the speech-act of God
God provides for his people. He looks after those who look to him. What we lacked he provided. What we required, he credited to our account. God spoke and it was so. He said we were his, and suddenly we were his. We were swivelled about, so we were no longer against him but with him. We have ceased either to march against him, or run from him, but now follow him, We have been co-opted and annexed and are now members of his train. This is the act and righteousness of one man, the one sent from God to be the public righteousness of God. He opposed us and halted us. He seized us and made us his. He acted unilaterally. Who could stop him? We hated him and fought him, but he overcame us and turned us. He turned us into his own troops. He accepts our company. Where is our dignity in this? He gave us to his troops, who took us and bathed and cared for us. They gave us new clothes and dressed us in them. They armed us as they were armed and then we are members of his troop just as though we had always been members of it. All this is done on God’s say-so, and as though our assent to this was understood. God called an Israelite and the Israelite heard him. This relationship and righteousness between them was complete. This Israelite didn’t ask to see any credentials, or ask what God’s purposes were, or enquire into the time-frame. He simply took it that things were as God said, and that he could look forward to what God forecast. To Abraham it did not occur that it would be any other way. He was a hearer of the Word, and therefore not merely hearer, but doer also.
We need two definitions of ourselves. We are the aggressors, the unrighteous kings, who have held down the poor and withheld from them all the good things. The aggressors are now receiving their judgment. And we are also their victims, saved from them and made alive. When he has turned us from oppressor to oppressed then he will save us. Christ opposed us and carried us. Christ died for the ungodly. While we were in active rebellion against him, intending to put him to death, Christ came against us. He halted our rebellion against him, and he did so by spending his forces against us. If he was kind to us when we were his enemies, will he not be kinder now he has made us his friends?

Boasting about the place of the Son
Where is the Son? Is he in one place or two? Is he with the Father, or is he both there, and simultaneously beneath us. Is he in both one place and two? Perhaps we have to have two accounts. In one Christ is IN two places. He is at the top, but also bottom and at the top. In the other account, he is one place – with the Father. He, and they, are the definitive definition of place. To say he is at the bottom is simply to say that he does not cease to be our servant, to be for us. The Son is the criterion of place. Do we need the Son to remain in heaven while he is on earth and under the earth? He is the unity of these two places, making earth a sub-department, a simplified and serial mode of heaven.
The question we all ask is whose hierarchy reaches the top. Which of us can get an answer from the top? Who has the best connections? It is not what you know, but who you know, or even more than, who knows you? Who returns your call? Who can you find to receive your requests? How far up the ladder can you get a hearing? You must intercede and engage with all your energy. You must campaign to get yourself known by anyone in authority, and you must aim for the top. The man who God hears can really boast. He can pray, and be heard, and can boast that God hears him.
Israel boasts in God, the God above of all gods. Israel proclaims the superiority of the patriarchs and prophets to all the leaders of the Gentiles. David is their senior, Moses is more senior, Abraham still more so. Each of these has more clout than any of the kings and gods of the Gentiles. The Son of God is senior to all the patriarchs. They are his servants, and owe their loyalty and their station to him. They were all given their commission and power by him. Their work and authority time is his work and authority, and is only theirs because he gave it to them. He is before them all, timeless.
The pagans boast in their gods. If we take the Roman hierarchy, for instance, we see that Pilate defers to Caesar, who defers to Scipio and to Rome’s other heroes, and they in turn all defer to Rome’s founders, Romulus and Remus, who themselves defer to Mars and Jupiter, who with all the other gods defer to Fate. All these are personifications, but over them all is no person nor anything personal, nothing that will answer when called.
Whose hierarchy reaches the top? Who can get an answer from the top? Who can speak to the high God? Is it Rome’s hierarchy or Moses’ hierarchy which reaches the top? Which hierarchy is highest and the oldest? Rome’s hierarchy reaches only to Necessity. But Necessity is not the top. Necessity is only the name given for those who don’t know the name of the Creator of heaven and earth. For them therefore the world remains inert. They cannot make it answer, because above a certain level of the hierarchy they know no name to call. There might be several or even many gods, but we follow only one. Once we followed Woden, Bran or Finn, or Artemis or Zeus, or Serapis or Attis, Baal or Moloch. But now we follow Yahweh, the god of Israel. The other gods are too needy, and never trustworthy. They demanded loyalty but never gave it, never delivered what they promised, but expended us to serve themselves.
The God of Israel is above the whole hierarchy and all its many individual nameable gods. And he is above that god we call Fate, Nature, Necessity, who is above all the nameable gods. The apostle Paul calls Necessity Death. Death is necessity. Necessity is the non-personification that is found beyond all the personifications (names, gods). Necessity is the end and destruction of all personality and personhood. He allows a certain temporary life under licence. But he cannot himself sustain anything, so under his rule everything packs up and cannot be re-started. Everything closes down on him eventually. But the God of Israel can give life to everything, and can bring to life whatever has died under the ministrations of Necessity. The God of Israel provides seasons and openings for new things, each with a place. He does not provide limitless life, but definition and life. He is able to supply it properly to us because, not being needy, he does not need us to supply it to him.
In praising the one whom the God of gods has praised we are ourselves properly ordered. He has been publicly preferred and promoted above all divinities and forces, above all forces of nature, all transcendentals, above all space and time and above every distinction that can be given, and dichotomy that can be identified. All these God has given us. God is not them. They are the gift he has given. So they are identifiable with him. But none of them is identical with him. They are below. He is above.
The God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus. He has picked him out, and set him above all others. He has set him over all rivals. He makes everyone subordinate to this one. Everyone is demoted, and must now take their orientation from him. All others are servants within the house, but he is over the whole house. All the greatest lords are now made servants, of him.
He is no longer exposed to them, but they to him. He is no more subject to decay or to the impact and pushing of others. He is no longer subject to time, to the wear and tear inflicted by the movement of others. It has not made him wait for his own time. Now is his time, for time is his creation, he is not its creature – time is subject to him, not he to it. Others are subject to him, no longer he to them. This because he subjected himself not only to some, but to all, making himself the lowest, lower than all of them – and this act pleased the Father, the Father recognised and affirmed this as his own act, the act by which he gathered and called in not some, but all, and not on their terms but on his terms, and thus on terms of utter surrender, defeat and passivity, in which God is entirely solely and utterly active, and his activity stills all other activity and agency, making it utterly passive. They are made subject to him, they are pushed and worn and decayed by his movement. The Risen One is the pre-existent Son. Being raised is not only ascending the ladder of being, but it is going back (and equally forward) in time as it is moving into – not timelessness – but the fullness of time.
The Son has excelled Moses, David and all the prophets. His act, the challenge and destruction of all rivals, the act we call death on the cross, is greater than all theirs. As a result of it he is promoted, not step by step, but at one swoop, over all of them. They felt the consequences of their own deficiencies, and had to endure them. They had no way of making good their own deficiencies, let alone anyone else’s. They could not supply themselves with being, so had none left over with which to supply others. They had to bear their own guilt, so could not do this for others. But Christ had no deficiency or weakness that he had to pray God to forgive and supply. He had no guilt of his own to bear. His strength had not been compromised, he was not weakened by sin or decay. He was therefore of limitless strength, able to live for all men, able to carry away all their weakness and decay and unfinished acts, and to provide from his own unlimited stores the provisions they needed. They fed them. They ate from his table, and thus became his men.
All this took place according to the Scriptures. It was for us that this was written. Israel underwent all this humiliation for us and at our hands. They were picked on for this abasement for us. They made the great descent. They went very publicly down through all the levels of being. What has happened to our leader and his people must now happen to all of us. Now the Christians too are formed by the habit of humbling themselves, and telling stories against themselves. Now the Gentiles are to look uncomfortable. Losing face and getting overlooked invisible is the Christian gift. God pronounces his word against us, halts and deposes us. He takes away all our being and fullness, attaching it to this cross where we are stripped of that makes us recognisable to one another. The cross is the descending escalator that removes all visibility and reality from us. It sends us down the whole scale of being. It removes us from everyone else, isolating and individuating us until we have no more existence.

9. The head and the body
We are a body fought over by many masters. Slowly they dismember us to use us for their own purposes. Together they represent death to us. Now we have been rescued from these masters, and from that body of death. We are no longer left to be their prey. The collective body of the human is joined by the Spirit to the source from which the fullness of being is now supplied. We are controlled from a different head, one external to us, who stands over us, gently providing a dosed supply of his attributes to us. He extends his being, action and speech to us. He extends to us his holiness, that is his power to make us other than himself. Because he is our head, and we are not our own head, (his) headship is piped into us by the Spirit and we are made a unified whole, part of the whole that is his. Our unity is external to us. Every element of his headship and control is supplied direct to every part of us.
What the head does, the body does too. The whole body is made servant. The Son is not simply leader, but also servant. He is not simply head, but also the body. He is the whole act, body and force of God for us. With his company the Spirit, he is unity of the head and the body, the mind and the members. The whole body is pervaded by him, so the whole body is head. The Church is the head of the body of the world. It must feed it and lead it until it is filled and directed by Christ. This head is not simply at the top, but at both top and bottom. The Son considers the bottom of the hall no more strange to him than the top where the high table is. By starting at bottom, and establishing the proper differentiation between all places and ranks, he has opened all the room, creating a circulation and an economy. All the disordered forces of the world will take their lead from the Church gathered around its head, from whom all order and peace expand. Then the disordered forces of the body without the head, the modern mind, now all turn to this single centre.
The body grows from the head and is replenished from it. The body is now no autonomous packet, but joined by the Spirit to the source of the fullness of being. Brain signals are fed to each body from an external headquarters. The head of the body stands over it supervising the work of resuscitation that proceeds by Spirit’s provision of a dosed supply of new being. The body is not a whole, but a part of the whole, but wholeness is piped into its every part, so in every part the whole is fully present.
Under Christ, the whole body is headed. The head is every where present in it and present to it. The Church is the head of the world. It must feed it and lead it, pass on to it what it receives from the head, and make it through and through informed and directed by Christ. Christ is the head of the body. But more than that, Christ is both head and body. He is the lord and he is the servant. First, Christ is the body. He is all bodiliness, all worker, all labourer. This servant is the real body. This body is a worker, active, fully able to reach and aid the other. He can grasp and hold every other. His arm is not too short to save. He has laboured, and his labour has been received by the Father, and accepted as the Father’s own labour. Because he has been all body, he is now made also the head. Because the Father has received his labour the servant has been vindicated. The Father has made the servant the lord. He can be leader and head precisely because he is still uniquely and thoroughly the servant, the servant vindicated by the Father.
Now because he is head we may become his body. The worker has been set over the idle and helpless. He makes us part of his own active lively working body. We do not add to his being, but he extends his being to us and, made part of him. The head can replenish the body. The head is the point from which the whole body grows. We are called the body only by extension, only because he calls us this. Then we are no longer idle or out of touch. Then we are able to reach one another at last. The Son has not ceased to be our servant. Could this be our account of the coming of the Son to us which is an account of the coming into being of the Son, and which includes in it an account of our growing up in him?