Genesis and Apocalypse – Chater 11

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Christ and Satan

Altizer argues that Christianity is utterly singular in understanding an absolute dichotomy between the Spirit and the flesh and between Christ and Satan. Satan is a figure that only officially enters the Bible in the New Testament. Jesus’ ministry was an attack against Satan, which is why so many of the church fathers could understand the atonement as the ultimate triumph of Christ over Satan. It was not until Milton’s Paradise Lost that man could know Satan as the “full and actual opposite of Christ” (162). Milton’s Christ differs from Dante’s Christ in Paradisio because Milton can only make use of the Christ of passion not Dante’s Christ of glory. While Milton’s Satan was truly unique as an embodiment of the negative, Blake went further with his “realization of a coincidentia oppositorum between Christ and Satan” (164). Christ’s sacrifice and kenotic redemption can only be fully actualized if Satan is truly sovereign over a world of death. We must remember that original Fall was not Adam’s fall into sin or Christ’s humiliation on earth but rather Lucifer’s angelic rebellion in heaven.

Milton’s dialectical relationship between Christ and Satan is more fully expressed when one considers Satan’s rebellion and Christ’s humiliation. While Satan initially rebelled against the worshiping of the Christ so Christ only realized his mission by suffering at the hands of Satan’s sovereignty over earth. “Satan’s monarchic sovereignty in Hell is inverted in the Son’s free and acceptance of incarnation and crucifixion, an incarnation and crucifixion which is a full and total reversal of the Son’s rule and glory in Heaven” (167). Following Luther, he understood the finality of Christ’s death, a death that would make him a Son of God that could never partake in the fullness of the Godhead. Milton’s radical theology comes to its fullest expression because his commitment to divine impassibility led him to assert that Christ and God do not share the same essence because of Christ’s absolute death. Blake would take things further than Milton by recognizing that the entirety of the Godhead was affected by the crucifixion. Altizer believes that Blake was our primary epic poet of the death of God because his poetry witnessed this death enacted in both the French and American revolutions. For Blake, the Creator who is utterly “isolated apart from that sacrificial passion is finally and only Satan” (169). Hence, in Blake, “Satan is that Godhead which dies or is “Self-Annihilated” in Christ” (169). Thus Satan’s annihilation is the negation of the negation, which is likewise the negation of the absolute detached and self-alienated God. Altizer wagers that Milton could not know the Godhead of Christ because he could not identify Satan as the “self-estrangement of God” (170). Thus the dialectical identity of Christ and Satan is made possible by God’s self-emptying in Christ that could finally lead to the full and actual death of the wholly other, oppressive God and Satan in Christ’s passion.

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