As I became ever more open to that revolutionary transformation
of consciousness which has occurred in the modern world, I just thereby
gradually became open to the possibility that a fully comparable transformation
had occurred in the very genesis of Christianity. Christian theology from
its beginning in Paul has known Christianity as the most ultimate of all
revolutions. Indeed, it is only with the advent of Christianity that
revolution itself is called forth in consciousness, for the Christian knows
a truly new creation or new world which is possible only as the consequence
of an apocalyptic ending of an old world. Yet it is only the most
radical expressions of Christianity which can know a Christianity that
has reversed itself in its very genesis. This occurs already in Paul,
is present in deep sectarian expressions of Christianity, including the
Radical Reformation, and is above all present in the most radical expressions
of Christian thinking and vision in the modern world. While classical
Protestantism cannot know such a reversal in the New Testament itself,
this is called forth in modern New Testament scholarship, as clearly manifest
in that paradigm which has been our dominant key in the uniquely modern
quest of unearthing the authentic acts and words of Jesus, a key wherein
it is precisely those words and acts which are most distant from or most
challenging to the primitive churches which are most probably authentic
acts and words of Jesus. Clearly such a paradigm witnesses to a reversal
of Jesus in the early churches, and one which becomes overwhelmingly powerful
in Hellenistic Christianity, and this is the Christianity which became
orthodox Christianity in the Constantinian establishment.
It is remarkable that so few theologians have challenged Constantinian orthodoxy. This never occurs in classical Protestantism, although it deeply occurs in Milton, the deepest voice of the Radical Reformation, who gave us in De Doctrina Christiana perhaps our only theology which is fully Biblical and fully systematic at once. But it is odd that Christian heresy was most decisively defeated by a not yet baptized Constantine and his pagan court, and that Constantine played a far greater role in the establishment of Nicene orthodoxy than did any bishop. Here the Christian can marvel indeed at a mysterious providence, and if only at this point Christian orthodoxy is unique in the religions of the world. Why such acquiescence? Why know the Roman Empire as a primary instrument of providence, an empire which undergoes a genuine metamorphosis into the Catholic Church? Is this because the Roman Empire is the most powerful empire in the history of the world? And why even after the end of Christendom is orthodoxy so powerful in Christian theology? This power is most baffling to me in New Testament scholarship itself, a scholarship commonly insisting that Ďkingdomí or basilea in the ĎKingdom of Godí, should be translated as Ďruleí or Ďreigní, as though Jesus had come to establish the imperial authority of God. The truth is that even New Testament scholarship cannot escape Constantinian orthodoxy, thereby posing the question of whether that orthodoxy can actually be transcended, and transcended in theological thinking itself.
Everyone agrees that ĎKingdom of Godí is the dominant if not the sole title employed by Jesus, and there is a substantial agreement that this is an apocalyptic title, but what is wholly missing in our theological thinking is an actual attempt to call forth the meaning of that Kingdom of God. Here is a deep iconoclasm indeed, and one just as fully present in New Testament theology as it is in systematic theology. We know that the title ĎKingdom of Godí appears in no literature prior to the New Testament, not even in the Dead Sea Scrolls where we might most expect it, so that if only here the New Testament is truly unique. So, too, is Jesus a truly new prophet in this perspective, being alone in proclaiming the immediate advent or dawning of the Kingdom of God, and there can be little doubt that this dawning is at the very center of his proclamation, and at the center of his acts and parables as well. Is a theological understanding of that dawning simply impossible? All too significantly, it is not a New Testament scholar but an historian of religions, Rudolf Otto, who has given us our fullest understanding of that dawning in The Kingdom of God and the Son of Man, a book studiously ignored by New Testament scholars; but so, too, do New Testament scholars ignore Nietzscheís The Antichrist, which has given us our most radical understanding of Christianityís ultimate reversal of Jesus. Is that reversal manifest in a deep transformation of a dawning apocalyptic Kingdom of God into the pure and absolute transcendence of God?
This motif became a crucial core of my theological work, but the question arises as to how this could be an actual possibility, is it possible to understand that the uniquely Christian God is a consequence of a profound reversal of that Kingdom of God which Jesus enacted and proclaimed? Already an understanding very close to this is present in The Antichrist, just as it is fully envisioned by Blake, and it was Blake who first fully rediscovered the Kingdom of God, and did so most decisively in giving us our first full imaginative enactment of the death of God (in America, engraved in 1793). Only a century later did New Testament scholarship recover the apocalyptic ground of the New Testament, so is it possible to think that Christianity, or the dominant expressions of Christianity, had succeeded in truly repressing Christianityís own original ground, and done so by a Ďforgettingí of Jesus that reminds one of Heideggerís understanding of the Ďforgettingí of Being? One of the most striking and original motifs of Barthís Church Dogmatics is its Christomonism, a Christomonism strangely paralleling an apocalyptic faith centering in the triumphant dawning of the Kingdom of God, and this despite Barthís own dogmatic repudiation of apocalypticism. Perhaps an apocalyptic theology is possible only by way of the deepest disguise, and what disguise could be greater than Christian orthodoxy itself, which only came into existence by way of a full negation of apocalypticism?
Of course, that genesis also occurred by way of a negation of Gnosticism, but Gnosticism and apocalypticism are polar twins, each revolving about an absolute world-negation, and each negating the actual worlds upon their horizons, a negation realizing for each a truly new vision of cosmic history, a cosmic history revolving about an ultimate and final fall. Gnosticism and apocalypticism are deeply contending forces in the New Testament itself, as fully manifest in Paul, but whereas a theological victory over apocalypticism occurred quickly in Christian history, the deep struggle with Gnosticism was far longer and far deeper, and many theologians believe that it is just as deep today if not deeper than it was in the ancient Christian world. It is also remarkable that deeply apocalyptic visionaries and thinkers can be identified as Gnostic in our world, as can be seen in many of the responses both to Blake and to Hegel. Perhaps Gnosticism and apocalypticism are our only full contemporary mythologies, and Bultmannianism is most directed to demythologizing precisely these mythologies. Is it only a coincidence that the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Scriptures were discovered simultaneously? Or is our world returning to its original ground? And, yes, returning by way of an eternal return, a return irresistible in terms of its sheer power. But is that a primordial eternal return or an apocalyptic eternal recurrence, is it a backward or a forward movement into eternity?
These are truly exciting theological questions, and they are deeply contemporary questions. It is possible to ask if anyone can finally evade them today, and these questions have given me a passion which I cannot possibly evade or resist. Is it possible truly to be a theologian apart from an ultimate passion? One could think of Aquinas, but how much do we know about his interior life? When we think of Augustine, Luther, and Kierkegaard, we inevitably think of an ultimate and overwhelming passion, one is tempted to say that it is passion which most clearly distinguishes the theologian from the philosopher, and if only here Nietzsche is clearly a theologian and a philosopher at once. Yet one can truly be passionate only in being possessed by passion, this is a passion that every ancient thinker except Augustine could know as a curse, a curse deeply disrupting if not ending genuine thinking, and a curse that can only be overcome by a deeply disciplined thinking, a disciplined thinking that the philosopher commonly knows to be absent from theology, and it is just thereby that theology is truly groundless. Note that Spinoza can identify such passion as passivity, for it inactivates the mind, and the mind for Spinoza is the only source of true action or activity, but it is passivity or passion which is also the source of the deepest philosophical illusion, which Spinoza could know as any kind of teleological thinking, a thinking which rationally is absolutely groundless, and is the product of passivity or passion alone.
I do think that it is true that no genuine theology can negate or transcend teleological thinking, unless it does so by way of an Hegelian negation that is negation and affirmation at once, and if passion is truly the source of all teleological thinking, then passion is essential to theology. One observes that even Spinoza could not refrain from expressing joy, although this leads one to ask if a pure joy is wholly without passion, or without anything that we can recognize as passion. Yet the very word Ďpassioní is most associated by the Christian with the Crucifixion, and certainly a thinking of that passion has always been a Christian theological obligation. But again it is remarkable how little this has occurred in Christian theology, and when it does fully occur it occurs far more deeply and comprehensively in Hegel than it does in our theologians. Is it theologically impossible to think that passion? Or, if this is attempted, does it inevitably lead to deep heresy or to deep apostasy? Here, we come to that primal theological question of the role of God Himself in the Crucifixion. Is it only the humanity of Christ that suffers and dies? For the divinity of Christ in all established Christian theology is an absolute aseity that can be affected by nothing outside itself, this is the position of Aquinas (Summa Theologica III, 46, 12), and seemingly of every Christian orthodoxy, although here, too, Barthís orthodoxy is deeply in question.
Indeed, one wonders if it is possible to be a modern orthodox theologian at this absolutely crucial point. Already Milton was driven to Arianism by his refusal to accept a divinity of Christ that cannot and does not suffer and die. If the Passion of Christ is absolutely fundamental in the history of Christian worship and devotion, how could that not be the Passion of God, so that if Athanasius could defeat Arianism with his passionate argument that only a fully divine redeemer could possibly be a source of salvation for us, does not that salvation occur through the very passion and death of the Redeemer? We know that Christological arguments were a source of violent confrontation in the ancient Christian world, and even of civil war, so that Constantine himself could know the necessity of a legally enforced theological orthodoxy, and one that was not truly abated until well over a thousand years. While there is a seemingly comparable orthodoxy in the Islamic world, there it was never enforced so violently or so comprehensively, so that not only is Christianity the most intolerant religion in history, but its deepest and most terrible intolerance is directed solely against itself, against its own heretics, and most so against its Christological heretics. Arianism was not only long manifest as the greatest heresy, but as the source of all heresies, so that the full divinity of Christ is the deepest and most powerful of all Christian dogmas, and this is a deep theological truth which I have never truly doubted. But is it possible to affirm this truth even while affirming the uniquely Christian God, or is it possible that we can only accept the uniquely Christian Christ by accepting the death of the uniquely Christian God, and accept that death as occurring in the Crucifixion of God?
Is it possible to think such a theology, these propositions can be affirmed, but can they actually be thought, and thought in an authentically theological thinking? The truth is that these propositions have been deeply and profoundly thought, this fully occurs in Hegelís dialectical philosophy, and perhaps it is for that very reason that the theologian has so deeply opposed Hegel, and insisted that his is a philosophy negating every possible theology, and hence Hegelianism is the deepest philosophical enemy which theology has ever faced. Of course, almost a millennium ago theology faced a fully comparable enemy in Aristotilianism, and Aquinas not only fully met and absorbed this enemy, but it is possible to understand that Christianity would never have survived the Middle Ages apart from this victory. Surely the stakes are no lower for the theologian today, and even if few theologians take theology so seriously, there are few who doubt the overwhelming challenge which Christianity faces today, a challenge inseparable from a deep inquiry within Christianity itself, and this is the challenge which is most uniquely a theological challenge. Barth understood this all too fundamentally, as did Kierkegaard, too, for the exterior challenge to faith is finally most deeply an interior challenge, it is in the depths of faith that we most purely oppose faith, and most so in our very faith in God.
Both Barth and Tillich could know that faith in God finally transcends every possible belief in God, an argument most powerfully although also most elusively articulated in the Phenomenology of Spirit; but neither Barth nor Tillich could know Godhead itself as finally being the truest enemy of faith, even if Barth unlike Tillich could know a non-Christological Godhead as the purest enemy of faith. Naming the enemy is a genuine theological challenge, but every real theologian knows that the enemy is mostly deeply within, and most deeply within faith itself. Here lies that Satan who is truly the opposite of Christ, or that darkness which is truly the opposite of light, or that God who is the very opposite of every possible life. I cannot deny that I have been deeply affected by that hatred of God which so pervades late modernity, a hatred of God fully manifest in the great body of our literature, and only thinly disguised in our philosophy, a hatred of God which I could experience as a hatred of the theologian, a theologian who is the most open source of our deepest pathology. Frankly, I genuinely respect those who are repulsed by an Augustine, a Luther, or a Kierkegaard, I do believe that they are our deepest pathologists, or deepest apart from Nietzsche; yet Nietzsche truly belongs within this tradition, and many of his philosophical opponents justly recognize this identity. And these are the very thinkers who call forth the most terrible God, that God who has predestined all humanity to an eternal Hell, and only released from that inevitable destiny a tiny elect whom He has freely and gratuitously chosen, and the very Heaven given this elect is inseparable from the eternity and the sheer horror of Hell.
Surely there is no more terrible deity in the history of religions, Nietzsche knew this all too clearly, which is just why he could know the Christian God and only the Christian God as absolute No-saying and absolute No-saying alone, and in thinking that No-saying Nietzsche could think the depths of our pathology itself, never was thinking more realistic than this, a thinking that could think the deepest depths of our darkness only by thinking the absolute No-saying of God. At this point even Hegel pales before Nietzsche, to say nothing of Kant; indeed, every previous philosopher is a genuine innocent in this perspective, and every succeeding philosopher as well. But is it possible to know an ultimate and a final darkness without knowing God, and is the very knowledge of this darkness a genuine knowledge of God? Here, we can see why even modern Thomists such as Karl Rahner can finally affirm the absolute unknowability of God, for the God who we can actually know is too terrible to contemplate, so that in this perspective there is no more dangerous or more pathological vocation than theology, a discipline that truly is a sickness unto death. Why then choose theology? Why accept such a loathsome and pathological calling? Can one here be at most simply a scapegoat? Would it not be far wiser simply to end such a calling?
Our contemporary world has very nearly succeeded in ending every
genuine theological calling, perhaps it knows all too well that theology
is not truly a vocation for the healthy-minded, and I was shocked by John
Cobbís wonder that I did not realize that all process theologians are once-born
or healthy-minded. No, I can only think of theology as a vocation
for the sick soul, I simply cannot imagine theological depth apart from
a true opening to the deepest pathology. How could one truly know
an absolute No-saying without being deeply affected by it, there is no
innocent knowledge here, nor any actual understanding of innocence itself,
for here innocence can only be an innocence lost. And it is most
lost by our very knowledge of God! If only here we can truly know
God, and most know God in actually knowing the final loss of our innocence,
as every theologian knows this is precisely the point at which apologetics
is most powerful, for we cannot know the actual depths of either guilt
or darkness without knowing God. Kafka is an overwhelming witness
here, and while Kafka seldom employs the word ĎGodí in his writing, I simply
cannot imagine how it is possible to read Kafka and not to know God, and
to hear the very voice of God in this writing, a writing embodying an absolute
judgment, and therefore embodying the voice of God. If only in the
depths of our guilt and darkness, God is very much alive today; no one
knew this more deeply than Nietzsche, which is just why his proclamation
of the death of God can only truly be heard with a Yes and Amen.
Why is it not possible to understand the death of God as occurring in the Crucifixion itself? Is the sacrifice of Christ not finally the sacrifice of God? Is this why the Cross is the most offensive symbol in the history of religions, one wholly unique to Christianity, and yet profoundly resisted by Christianity itself, as can be seen not only in Christian theological thinking but in Christian art and iconography, for the Cross does not truly or fully appear in Christian art until almost a thousand years after the advent of Christianity. Even Dante could not envision the Crucifixion, and when this first fully occurs in Western poetry in Paradise Lost, it occurs only through a revolutionary vision of both God and Christ, one in which an uncrossable chasm separates the absolute sovereignty of the Father from the humiliation, suffering, and death of the Son. This is a chasm that only deepens in the further evolution of a uniquely modern Christian vision. And when the death of God is first called forth in Western vision and thinking, in Blake and Hegel, it is inseparable from a pure vision or a pure thinking of the Crucifixion. If it was just at this point that both Blake and Hegel transcended their earlier vision and thinking, it is just here that each is most deeply offensive, and most deeply offensive to the depths of faith itself. Is not the very ultimacy of this offense a decisive sign of the presence of an ultimate faith, is a truly profound offense possible apart from the depths of faith, is not an ultimate offense only and wholly within?
One of the advantages of entering theology through the history of religions is that it is then possible to understand the genuine distinctiveness of Christianity, and one of the fundamental points at which Christianity is most distinct if not unique is that very transformation which Christianity has undergone in the course of its historical development. Only Buddhism rivals Christianity here, but now Buddhologists are calling forth deep continuities between Theravada and Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, whereas an apprehension of such continuities have become far more difficult for historians of Christianity. Newman could understand the development of Christian doctrine as an organic and necessary historical evolution, but no such understanding has appeared in twentieth century historiography, and above all not since the discovery of an apocalyptic ground of an original Christianity. This was the very ground which was annulled or wholly transformed in ancient Christianity, and when it is renewed in Christianity it is always renewed as a profoundly heretical movement, and never more so than in the advent of a uniquely modern apocalypticism. Both Blake and Hegel are deep expressions of this apocalypticism, and perhaps it is their very apocalypticism which is most offensive to all established faith, and overwhelmingly so since this is an apocalypticism inseparable from an enactment of the death of God.
Could anything be more offensive than an enactment of the death of God? But is this not at the very center of the ultimate offense of Christianity itself? Surely this is true of Paul, and of Luther, too, or of the young Luther, and so, too, is it true of Blake and Hegel, although here the enactment of the death of God is far more comprehensive and final than it had ever previously been. Can that be understood as the consequence of a genuine and necessary evolution of Christianity? Newman was once one of my theological masters, and I immersed myself in his work during my Catholic voyage, indeed, I continue to believe that he is the greatest of modern Catholic theologians, and most so in his very understanding of the evolution of Christianity. This was a truly revolutionary understanding, and even if it has been reversed by great historians of dogma such as Adolf Harnack, the paradigm of theological evolution remains intact, even if now it must be the very opposite of Newman's paradigm. Certainly this is how Kierkegaard understood the history of Christianity, and Nietzsche, too; but it is also possible to understand that Christianityís reversal or inversion of its original ground is a genuine Christian evolution, and one realizing itself ever more deeply in this evolutionary transformation. This is how Hegel understood the history of Christianity, so that if Hegel could apprehend an overwhelming gulf between ancient and modern Christianity, that gulf itself is a decisive sign of a profoundly forward moving historical realization.
Of course, Hegel understood his own philosophical system as the final culmination of this ultimate historical movement, and one comprehending not only the history of Christianity but the history of the world, and if nothing could be a greater offense, and even a philosophical offense, Hegel is the most offensive philosopher in world history; yet it is possible that his philosophy is an enactment of a uniquely Christian offense, and of a uniquely Christian universalism. The truth is that Hegel was theologically orthodox in understanding Christianity as the absolute religion, no innovation whatsoever occurs here; Hegelís profound and ultimate innovation occurs in his calling forth of a uniquely Christian movement in the depths of pure thinking itself, and yet this is a uniquely Christian movement which is simultaneously a universal movement, one that has not only historically and universally occurred, but is now open to all who are capable of pure thinking, and whose occurrence is absolutely actual even if invisible to the great body of humanity. It is remarkable how closely such thinking echoes Augustineís City of God, and just as it is possible to understand Hegel as a truly Augustinian thinker, he is certainly an imperialistic Christian thinker, and paradoxically is most imperialistic theologically in his very ďatheism.Ē For this is an ďatheismĒ comprehending that truly new world which has now been born, all of us are now citizens of this new world, and all of us are consequences of a uniquely modern death of God, and therefore consequences of the Crucifixion itself.
No one has thought God more universally than did Hegel, or no one since Augustine himself, yet Hegel became a universal thinker only in thinking the death of God. If he could know this very thinking as a rethinking of Luther, Hegelís Protestantism is Catholic and Protestant at once, Catholic in its universal horizon, and Protestant in its radical thinking of justification. This is a justification which now and for the first time can be understood as occurring in the depths of thinking itself, and even in the depths of a purely logical thinking, a thinking finally thinking kenosis or self-emptying and kenosis alone. Luther could intuit that justification, but he could not think it, or purely think it, hence his assaults upon that whore ďreason,Ē assaults which Hegel could renew in his assaults upon Verstand. But Verstand is finally transcended by Vernunft, that purely dialectical thinking which negates and transcends every possible ďreason,Ē but only thereby does reason truly become or realize itself. And what could be a greater offense than understanding true reason as justification itself, a justification enacted in all genuine philosophical thinking. Even if this only fully occurs in the course of two and a half millennia of philosophical evolution, occur it does, for it was Hegel who created the history of Being, and this history is finally the history of justification. For Hegel knows the history of Being, or the history of God, as an ultimate and universal process of atonement or reconciliation, and one finally realized only by an apocalyptic union of the polarities or absolute poles of Godhead or Absolute Spirit.
Now the Christian knows justification as occurring only in the Crucifixion, and this is true of Hegel, too, but a uniquely Hegelian thinking universalizes the Crucifixion. This is a deep philosophical and theological innovation, and here philosophical and theological thinking are united. Never previously had philosophical and theological thinking been so purely identified, or not since the pre-Socratics, and is this why a Nietzsche or a Heidegger can so deeply center their thinking upon the pre-Socratics, and even do so in attempting to unthink Hegel? Hegel himself could claim that every fragment of Heraclitus is present in the Science of Logic, but, so, too, could he claim that all philosophical thinking is fully and even totally present in his system. This is surely the most audacious claim ever made in the history of philosophy, but it was Hegel who created a thinking enacting the history of philosophy, and here the history of philosophy is at bottom the history of theology, too. And this is a history not only deeply grounded in God, but revolving about the history of God in thinking itself, for here the history of Being is the history of God, and this is a history culminating in that apocalypse which is the full and final advent of Absolute Spirit or the Absolute Idea. Is it possible to think the history of God? Is this not a pure and ultimate illusion, and one with catastrophic consequences in late modernity? For innumerable scholars understand Heglianism as a deep source of twentieth century totalitarianism, and this was already profoundly understood by Kierkegaard himself.
Yet it is also possible to understand Christianity itself as such a source, and most clearly so a truly secularized Christianity, a secularization certainly occurring in Hegel, but therein Hegel is just as much if not far more so a witness rather than a creator, for as Kierkegaard was the first to know, Christianity has become the very opposite of itself in the modern world, and this is a deep secularization which has only occurred in a Christian world and horizon. Certainly this can be understood as the consequence of a uniquely modern realization of the death of God, but that does open the possibility that this is a uniquely modern realization of the Crucifixion itself, a crucifixion that is universalized in the very advent of modernity. For only with the birth of modernity does a true and actual atheism become possible, and not only possible but actual, an actuality that is ever more fully universalized in the very evolution of modernity. But such universalization could be understood as a universalization of the depths of Christianity itself, and the universalization of a uniquely Christian justification, a justification occurring only through the death of the uniquely Christian God. Only with the full birth of modernity can God be known as being wholly solitary and alone, the very Father of Paradise Lost, for only with that birth does there occur a yawning chasm between the Father and the Son, and one making impossible any genuinely modern orthodox Trinitarianism, and when one finally appears in Barthís Church Dogmatics, it can only be realized by way of a profoundly backward moving theological movement, and one reversing modernity itself.
Is that the price which must be paid for theology today? Or is an opposite choice possible, a choice accepting full modernity as a universalization of Christianity, one in deep continuity with its original ground, a continuity most openly manifest in a uniquely modern apocalypticism, and in that very apocalypticism enacting the death of God? A deeply modern apocalypticism can know the death of God as redemption itself, is this only a perverse parody of genuine Christianity, a true reversal and inversion of Christianity itself, one which is truly Satanic in this deepest of all possible negations, and Satanic likewise in its subsequent effects? Many if not most theologians can so respond to our atheism, but they, too, pay an ultimate price, and that is a total isolation of theology from all modernity, as most purely enacted by Barth. For every middle way between an ancient faith and a modern atheism is now withering away, and as Newman could already foresee the only real choice in full modernity is between an ancient faith and pure atheism itself. Yet what is pure atheism? Is it not inevitably a fully theological atheism, one fully present in Blake, Hegel, and Nietzsche, and an atheism present here far more profoundly and ultimately than it is in every non-theological atheism. Indeed, it is a non-theological atheism which is finally an illusion, and a truly theological atheism was already present in that Epicureanism which was the only genuine atheism in the ancient world, and if it is only the Western world which has truly known atheism, this cannot be a true or pure atheism apart from a genuine negation of God. But this is a negation which the Christian alone knows as a self-negation, and a self-negation or self-emptying occurring in the Crucifixion itself.
Yet is it that self-negation or self-emptying which calls forth the absolute transcendence of God, a pure and wholly other transcendence truly alien to the Old Testament, except for the Book of Job. Only now is it possible to know the Torah of the Old Testament as an alien Torah which is the source of sin and death, as in Paul, and even to know the God of the old covenant as Satan, as in the Fourth Gospel. An absolute world-negation first enters the world in Christianity, and just as we now can understand that Gnosticism originates in Christianity, it is Christianity which first knows the absolute No of God, or knows that No as Godhead itself. Is this a No only fully or actually released by the Crucifixion, a crucifixion realizing transcendence itself as an absolute No, and only thereby releasing or embodying the absolute Yes of God? Now this is a Yes of God which is the consequence of an absolute sacrifice or self-emptying, and is wholly unreal apart from the self-negation of Godhead itself, a self-negation which the Christian knows as the Crucifixion. Only that self-negation calls forth a wholly other transcendence, a truly alien transcendence, one known to Israel only in the Book of Job, the most subversive book of the Old Testament, and the only writing of Israel which could know that pure transcendence which Hegel could know as the ďBad Infinite,Ē or the only infinite which is and only is the absolute opposite of the finite.
Christian theologians can rejoice that only Christianity truly knows the absolute transcendence of God, a transcendence alien to every philosophy, except for the scholastic expressions of Neoplatonism, but the Protestant theologian knows scholasticism as a voice of the Antichrist, and above all since scholasticism claims to embody a purely theoretical knowledge of God, a knowledge which could only be a true idol, and an idol reversing the absolute transcendence of God. Now it is true that Protestantism is a consequence of a deep nominalism, a nominalism breaking asunder every scholastic integration of reason and revelation, but nominalism is an ultimate source of modernity itself, and if the God of nominalism is absolutely other as is no previous philosophical understanding of God, this can be and has been understood as an authentic recovery of the uniquely Christian God, that God who is absolute transcendence and absolute transcendence alone. Only that transcendence could be a truly alien transcendence, and while this transcendence only became conceptually and imaginatively fully manifest and real after almost two millennia of historical evolution, that evolution did occur, and with the advent of the twentieth century that evolution would appear to be truly irreversible. Is this why all philosophical thinking about God has ended in the twentieth century, or ended for all purely philosophical thinking within a Christian horizon, or all philosophical thinking in genuine continuity with our uniquely Western history?