Herbert McCabe on crucifixion and resurrection in Trinitarian perspective

Jesus lived before his crucifixion in an imperfect society, a community of fear in which two men could never finally meet each other. He was confronted by two forms of ‘settling for’ this sort of society, two forms of idolatry: on the one hand the Roman colonial empire, on the other the Jewish religious leaders. In this context he offered himself as a new medium of communication between men. This we must be clear about. Jesus did not offer a new social theory, or a new religion, he did not offer even a full analysis of the contradictions of his society, he did not provide an ideal for a new kind of human community. He offered himself. The new kind of community was to be founded upon him, upon the new relationships he was able to establish with his friends, which released them from themselves, freed them from sin and made them open and able to risk becoming human. Jesus offered not a doctrine about what friendship of this kind might be, but the friendship itself. Such an offer involves, of course, a total vulnerability, Jesus put up no barriers to defend himself against others, he was absolutely at their disposal. When, therefore, the colonialist regime and the clerical establishment recognized him as a subversive threat and sought to liquidate him, he put up no defense and he was destroyed. So far we may see this purely within history; I will not say in humanist terms because the story is deeply pessimistic and the humanist is normally unreasonably optimistic. But we may see the story, without reference to God, as a commentary on the history of man. If you love enough you will be killed. Mankind inevitably rejects the only solution to its problem, the solution of love. Human history rejects its own meaning. Mankind is doomed. In this way we may look on the crucifixion and despair. The resurrection changes the whole perspective. It says that Jesus is not only a man who happens to offer love in its absolute form, but that he does so in obedience to the Father, that this solution to the problem of mankind, the problem of communication, is the Father’s plan, and that though men may reject it the Father does not. God comes into the picture for the Christian as ‘He who raised up Jesus from the dead.’ The love Jesus offers has its source outside history. Jesus, we discover, is not only totally for others, he is also totally of the Father. The spirit he makes available, what I have called the friendship that frees men, his own spirit, is the spirit of the Father. The communication he makes possible is a living into the Father’s communication of himself. From one point of view the resurrection is a revelation of the Trinity, we see Jesus and his Spirit in relationship to the Father. For this reason there is for the Christian no Unitarian halfway between atheism and the Trinity. Any worship of the gods other than as revealed in the resurrection of Jesus is idolatry.

From God Matters, (Geoffrey Chapman, 1987), 123-124.

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