Wednesday, December 28, 2011

God Endured What He Decreed

The fourth day of Christmas, Holy Innocents, calls to mind these thoughts from Dorothy Sayers and Charles Williams:

Dorothy Sayers:
What does the Church think of Christ? The Church’s answer is categorical and uncompromising, and it is this: That Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter from Nazareth, was in fact and in truth, and in the most exact and literal sense of the words, the God “by whom all things were made.” His body and brain were those of a common man; his personality was the personality of God, so far as that personality could be expressed in human terms. He was not a kind of demon pretending to be human; he was in every respect a genuine living man. He was not merely a man so good as to be “like God”—he was God.

Now, this is not just a pious commonplace: it is not a commonplace at all. For what it means is this, among other things: that for whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he [God] had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole of human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile.
- The Greatest Drama Ever Staged, The Whimsical Christian

Charles Williams:
The original act of creation can be believed to be good and charitable; it is credible that Almighty God should deign to create beings to share His Joy. It is credible that he should deign to increase their Joy by creating them with the power of free will so that their joy should be voluntary. It is certain that if they have the power of choosing joy in Him they must have the power of choosing the opposite of joy in Him. . .

He could have willed us not to be after the Fall. He did not. Now the distress of creation is so vehement and prolonged, so tortuous and torturing, that even naturally it is revolting to our sense of justice, much more supernaturally. We are instructed that He contemplates, from His infinite felicities, the agonies of His creation, and deliberately maintains them in it. . . The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together. (Romans 8:22)

This is a creation then that ‘needs’ (let the word be permitted) justifying. The Cross justifies it to this extent at least–that just as He submitted us to His inexorable will, so He submitted Himself to our wills (and therefore to His). He made us; He maintained us in our pain. At least, however, on the Christian showing, He consented to be Himself subject to it. If, obscurely, He would not cease to preserve us in the full horror of existence, at least He shared it. This is the first approach to justice in the whole situation. Whatever He chose He chose fully, for Himself as for us. This is, I think, unique in the theistic religions of the world. I do not remember any other in which the Creator so accepted the terms of His own terms–at least in the limited sense of existence upon this earth. It is true that His life was short. His pain (humanly speaking) comparatively brief. But at least, alone among the gods, He deigned to endure the justice He decreed.
- The Cross (from Charles Williams: Selected Writings, chosen by Anne Ridler)

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