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Piero Coda’s Theology of History

Piero Coda’s Theology Of History

The Trinity and Love

Perhaps Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s most powerful single response to the Bolshevik coup d’état and consequent ideological revolution in Russia was his novel, In the First Circle.2 His answer to the Inferno of Stalin’s anti-world of betrayal is the Paradiso of Nadya’s and Gleb’s faithfulness, all the more heroic when neither are aware of the other’s fidelity overcoming the temptation to be unfaithful. The novel focuses on those good souls who–despite being externally bound by hell’s “first circle”–have yet achieved a spiritual freedom allowing their participation in the mutual love that is the key to Dante’s Paradiso. As we know, Dante’s journey from Inferno through Purgatorio to Paradiso culminates in his vision of the mutual love of the Trinity.

My exploration of a key strand in the Italian theologian Piero Coda’s work will suggest that the theology of history he articulates takes a direction similar to Dante and Solzhenitsyn. Eric Voegelin wrote of “the community of suffering”3 brought about by ideological “power and revolution” in the 20th century, and the Italian and Russian literary echoes of the mystery of the Trinity indicate its relevance at the beginning of this third millennium after Christ for every human being attempting a genuine transfer of authority from the apparently imperious and unassailable demands of power and revolution: first in themselves, then in their societies.

This article, while clearly an exploration of works in theology, does not presuppose belief in the Trinity or in Christianity. When the Russian film director Andrei Tarkovsky noted the meaning of the Trinity in his directions for Andrei Rubilev, his film about the painter of the famous Russian icon of the Trinity, he aimed his remarks at an audience who would resonate with the appeal the Trinity can make to any human being open to the value of an interpersonal communion based on uniquely different persons united by love:

“Here at last is the ‘Trinity,’ great, serene, completely penetrated by a shimmering joy from which human brotherhood pours out. The concrete division of one alone into three and the triple union in one alone offers a tremendous perspective for the future spread out however throughout the centuries.”4

“Imprisonment in Human Nature Without Grace”

Eric Voegelin made a similar point, underlining his philosophical rather than theological concerns in his History of Political Ideas:

“Let us stress that in this study we are not concerned with theological issues. The doctrine of fides caritate formata is relevant for us as a differentiating analysis of the experience of faith, regardless of its theological merits, it is a masterpiece of empirical type construction . . .”

There is no parallel in Hellenic civilization to the passage in 1 John 4: “Who does not love, does not know God; for God is love . . . We love him because he first loved us.” The development of these experiences of Johannine Christianity (which, it is my impression, were closest to St. Thomas) into the doctrine of fides caritate formata, and the amplification of this doctrinal nucleus into a grandiose, systematic philosophy of man and society, are the medieval climax of the interpenetration of Christianity with the body of a historical civilization.

Here perhaps we touch the historical raison d’être of the West, and certainly we touch the empirical standard by which the further course of Western intellectual history must be measured. This further course, as we shall see, has as its main theme the disintegration of the doctrinal nucleus of the amicitia between God and man. In the nineteenth century, in Comte and Marx, this process of disintegration reaches its formal end in the doctrinal counter-formulation of the revolt against God as the basis for the world-immanent order of society; the dogma of human self-salvation, in hermetical closure against transcendental reality, marks an end of Western civilizational history beyond which, at the moment, nothing is visible but the bleakness of imprisonment in human nature without grace.5

“Can One Still Speak of Divine Providence in History?”

In the light of the many profoundly inhuman events of the last century, Professor Cristaudo asked the leading question: “Can one still speak in any legitimate way of a divine providence in history?” I will be suggesting here that the kind of extended meditation I have found in three of Piero Coda’s books, Evento Pasquale: Trinità e Storia, Il negativo e la trinità: Ipotesi su Hegel, and Il logos e il nulla: Trinità, religioni, mistica, along with a few other writings of his, give some useful indications of how divine providence may still be found at work, perhaps most obviously in what can seem to be a time undergoing “the dark night of culture.”6

From his Paschal Event: Trinity and History book we will draw out his understanding of the relation between the forsakenness of Jesus on the cross and the inner life of the Trinity. Coda’s grappling with Hegel in Negation and Trinity: Hypotheses on Hegel will widen out that meditation to the relevance of “Jesus Forsaken” and the Trinity to contemporary culture, and Logos and Nothingness: Trinity Religions Mysticism further expands that experience to the dialogue with the great religions. Then we will take up his application of these theological insights to a politics of fraternity, and conclude with some remarks on the centrality of suffering in his theology of history. Behind Coda’s whole project can be discerned, I believe, an attempt to develop a Christian or trinitarian humanism highly relevant to our topic of Translatio Imperii.

The Paschal Perspective on the Christian Mystery

For Eric Voegelin, the “turn” in his Order and History series, which occurred in the fourth volume, was his movement away from a linear and chronological sequence to a sharper focus on the core relationships that constitute history. While Coda does not directly address the problems in the same way, it is clear that for him that there has been a core event–the paschal mystery of Christ’s suffering, forsakenness, death and resurrection–by participating in which every human being can enter into history in that deeper sense Voegelin spoke of as “History II”: where living in the presence under God that while occurring within the conventional chronology we know as “History I,” is yet also oriented beyond it.7

Coda opens Evento Pasquale with a question regarding the book’s topic–the paschal event and the trinitarian mystery: is this a mere theological quaestio disputata or does it rather provide a hermeneutical perspective on the entire Christian mystery? His first chapter prepares for the discussion by tackling the genesis and significance of the new theological perspective. Coda sees the crisis of Western culture as a crisis within European Christianity. He sketches a phenomenology of the absence of God which he will bring into contact with the revelation of the God of Jesus Christ, which itself has an experience of the absence of God at its center. Coda writes:

“A long and complex historical-cultural process has led to the ‘cultural death’ of God in the West . . . This final result of modern thought can provide us with a new point of departure to deepen [our understanding] of the mystery of Jesus–crucified and forsaken, and especially, as the reply also to the absence-of-God experienced by humans today.”8

The second chapter works through the various theologies, Lutheran (Moltmann, Jüngel), Hegelian (Küng), and the range of Catholic theological approaches founded on the analogy of being (von Balthasar, Rahner, Kasper, Galot, Mühlen). Coda has devoted a separate study to the Orthodox theologian, Bulgakov, in his L’altro di Dio: rivelazione e kénosis in Sergei Bulgakov.9 Despite differences of emphasis, Coda indicates a common kenotic10 (self-emptying) focus in a wide range of Christian theology.

Coda’s third and final chapter discusses “The paschal horizon of a trinitarian ontology,” where he quotes Hans Urs von Balthasar’s remark that “the ultimate presupposition of the kenosis is the altruism of the Persons (as pure relations) in the intra-trinitarian life of love.”11 This explosion into human space and time of the intra-divine kenosis, of the divine not-being in order to be of the divine persons, occurs in the paschal mystery of the crucifixion-forsakenness-death-resurrection of Christ.

Participating in the Trinitarian Perichoresis

The book goes on to deal with the dimensions of this paschal mystery in its relation with the mystery of the Trinity, where Coda writes of the intersection of the divine and human in the paschal event revealing the trinitarian perichoresis:12

“If, in fact, in the divine dimension of the paschal event, the Son’s self-giving to the Father in the Spirit implies an ecstasy of love of his person who ‘loses’ himself to rediscover himself in unity, then the human dimension of the same event implies an ‘annihilation’, in the death of his human nature so that it can be transfigured into the new divine condition belonging to the Risen one.”13

On this basis, Coda develops his project of what German theologian Klaus Hemmerle called “trinitarian ontology”:

The paschal event, then, by fully revealing the meaning of freedom as an act of being opening into the love-gift of self, can show us finally the way by which the ‘not being,’ as creaturely limit–and even as creaturely limit intensified by the ‘break’ represented by sin–is assumed and transmuted in the fundamental analogy which is trinitarian: “in the kenosis of the Son all limitedness and all contradiction are taken up into the event of the divine self-giving: “In the cry of Why on the cross and in the silence of the Sheol the Son descends to, all is integrated yet not cancelled out.”14 This trinitarian ontology of charity is participated in ‘vertically’ by human beings through grace and also ‘horizontally’ between human beings through their unity in Christ–in fact, for Coda, the two dimensions are inseparable: an inseparability we will see him later invoke to propose a trinitarian humanism (EP, 179).

Love in Freedom

Participation in the life of the Trinity means that each human person is in some way both distinct from yet one with God. For Coda, that oneness with God means that human freedom shares in the dynamic “not being,” the “losing one’s own life” for and in the other that brings distinction into unity with the other, in perichoretic love. This mirrors the trinitarian not-being-in-order-to-be (cf. EP, 179–81). And the human person’s love in freedom underlies our historicity, where sin is understood as our failure to actualize our capacity for freedom. The historicity of our freedom is deeply permeated not only by our finitude and the relative contradiction to our freedom posited by death. There is also what we can understand as the absolute contradiction posited by our sin. Yet, through his death, Christ assumes both contradictions while transcending them by the not-being of divine love. In this sense, the death of Christ becomes the fulfillment of the history of human freedom.15

The Person’s Relationship with God and Man

Finally, Coda concludes: a trinitarian ontology of the human person in perichoretic relationship with the divine persons is both intrinsically eschatological–its vertical dimension–and also intrinsically ecclesiological or communional–its horizontal dimension. What this means eschatologically is that each human person’s response in love to the Father’s offer of love in Christ through the Spirit leads finally to that culmination of history when “God will be all in all” (I Cor. 15, 28).

But that finality can only be achieved ecclesiologically in and through each human person’s relationship with all the other members of the human family. Nor can this be thwarted by the refusal of some to become their true selves in God and with others, since Christ crucified “has filled every emptiness by calling ‘non-existence’ into being.”16 Coda ends his study by repeating his theological anthropology as simultaneously open to the divine and to the human:

“. . . at the center of a future trinitarian ontology is the person understood and lived, as analogically perichoretic, that is as reciprocal gift–received and offered in an ever new and ever open unity-in-distinction–of self to God and to the brothers and sisters in ecclesial koinonia.”17

Existence Under God as the Central Problem in History

It’s probably no harm to conclude this theological reflection with a reminder of remarks Eric Voegelin made, again from a strictly philosophical perspective during his Hitler and the Germans lectures, where, perhaps surprisingly, he refers to the centrality of a trinitarian understanding of human history. There he pointed out that the unfolding of our understanding of the nature of human existence under God is “the central problem of order, that is history.” Voegelin regarded Christianity as having most thoroughly formulated “through the symbolism of the incarnation” this “historical process of increasing transparency for the central problem of order.”

Even more interestingly, from the perspective of our exploration of Coda’s work, Voegelin goes so far as to say that only in the context of the Trinity can it be unequivocally said what man is. That is to say, man is man insofar as he is imago Dei, and insofar as he is imago Dei are all men equal as participating in the reality of God and thus united with God, who historically has become flesh in the process of history.18 However, it is in the second of his books, on Hegel, that this specifically historic dimension in Coda’s application of the inner dynamics of trinitarian theology takes place.

Piero Coda

Piero Coda’s book on Hegel, Negation and the Trinity: A Hypothesis concerning Hegel (title rendered in English),19  is prefaced by two quotations highlighting Hegel’s view of the centrality of both the death of Christ and the Trinity for an understanding of history:

“The death of Christ is the central point around which everything hinges.” (Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion)

“Whoever does not know that God is Trinity, knows nothing of Christianity. This new principle is the axis around which the history of the world turns.” (Lectures on the Philosophy of History)

We will touch on five topics in Coda’s examination of Hegel:

1.  Intersubjectivity and negation,

2. The Christian origins of Hegel’s Denkform, as Coda calls it, and its unfulfilled promise,

3. The specifically Christian understanding of person in trinitarian thought,

4. Hegelian negation and its Christian equivalent in the ‘not’ of love, sin as unlove, and

5. A trinitarian humanism.

In his section on “The Dialectic of Recognition, Ethicity and Language,” Coda sees Hegelian metaphysics as “a metaphysics of intersubjectivity, that is, of being in relation.20 At the heart of that process of reciprocal recognition is the double negation, where self-consciousness to be itself must go beyond itself, and also beyond the otherness of the other.21 This, he continues, requires “a paradoxical necessity: impelled to death (of self and of the other) every self-consciousness sees the failure of its own objective at the moment in which it actuates the factual negation of the other or succumbs to the same negation on the part of the other . . .”22

Commenting on the Master/Slave relationship characterized by the lack of true recognition of the other in the Phenomenology of Spirit, Coda finds an unspoken echo of “the evangelical love of the others “as” oneself.”23 And he writes of Hegel’s remark that “the individual who has not risked his life can well be recognized as a person, but has not reached the truth of this recognition as recognition of an independent self-consciousness,” that “here too one can read between the lines an echo of ‘he who loses his own life will find it’.”24

The Christian Foundation of Heglian Denkform

Coda’s study has focused not on all of Hegel’s work, but on those moments that brought his Denkform most clearly into view. Having made his criticisms of its limitations in the fourth chapter, the final chapter takes on a twofold task:

“To ask why Hegel’s thought has had such influence on 19th and 20th century philosophy and theology in terms of the truth underlying the ambiguity of his Denkform and to outline an initial reply to the hidden requirements which can be discerned in the Denkform.”25

First, regarding what Coda signals as central to “Hegel and his (and our) time: the phenomenology of a decisive historical emergency,” he considers that Hegel “wanted to understand Christianity in the light of modern culture and society and wanted to understand the modern world . . . in the light of Christianity . . . ” He agrees with Wolfhart Pannenberg’s positive assessment of Hegel’s appreciation of the centrality for universal history of the central event of Christianity–the Incarnation of the Word, his death on the cross and his resurrection.26  For Coda: “Hegel . . . has keenly grasped the exigence of his time, but if we wish, of our time,” which was to reconcile modern culture with “the Christological principle of unity in freedom, that is, in the end, on the ‘trinitarian’ principle.”27

Second, in his section on “Hegel and Christianity: a genial intuition and a fatal betrayal,” Coda finds that for Hegel, Christian revelation is both the horizon of Western culture and, as in his Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, the fulfillment of the religious journey of the whole of humanity.28

Expanding this, Coda sees Hegel’s genial intuition as his grasp of what is specific to Christian revelation: in the crucified Christ’s self negation for the sake of the other, Hegel grasps that what a Christian would understand as self-sacrificing love is alone capable of “uniting the “opposites” of God and the world, the infinite and the finite, the I and the you: the principle . . . of unity in freedom-diversity.”29 Hegel’s strong focus “on trinatarity as form of God’s existence, and so also by participation, as form of created existence–rests on the centrality of the moment of the not, of the negation of self out of love, in relation to otherness.” So, for Coda, Hegel has grasped what von Balthasar has called the specific form (Gestalt) of Christian revelation.30

The Limits to Hegel’s Understanding

Nonetheless, there are limits to Hegel’s understanding: Coda speaks of Hegel’s ‘haste’ in his approach to Christian revelation: “. . . without a constant, persevering and humble deepening of his appreciation, an attitude of genuine listening, the Christian truth is above all a You who meets me and an invitation.”31 And he notes how from early on in his career, Hegel preferred to use Geist rather than Liebe. Coda quotes Wolfhart Pannenberg on how Hegel “was not aware of the structural difference between the idea of love and the monological structure of self-consciousness.”32 What is involved is “a betrayal of the originary and original personalistic-communional ‘form’ of Christian revelation in an objectively impersonal schema, and thus a betrayal of the Christian principle of unity in freedom.”33

Coda also writes of Hegel’s:

“unclear distinction between God and history–especially between the eternal generation of the Word and creation (one of the crucial points in Hegelian speculation), and also that between the individual in society and the whole–due to the intrinsically impersonal and monological style of the Hegelian Denkform . . .”34

The Christian Person in Trinitarian Thought

Coda moves on to the actual content of the Hegelian Denkform, pointing out that what is specific to it is its understanding of the unity in freedom central to the structure of the Trinity. Yet, he finds it flattens out this intrinsically communional or interpersonal reality to “the absolute spirit’s monologue with itself,” entailing a forgetfulness of the Christian notion of the person.35

Asking if there is a specifically Christian notion of the person, Coda–in disagreement with, for example, Karl Barth and Karl Rahner–sees the persons of the Trinity not only in terms of distinctly subsisting subjects, but also, “co-originarily, their constitutive relationality towards the other. Did not Thomas speak already of the divine Person as subsistens relativum or relatio subsistens?”36 In this context, Coda quotes the 11th Council of Toledo, 675 A.D.:

“Quod Pater est, non ad se, sed ad Filium est; et quod Filus est, non ad se, sed at Patrem est; similiter et Spiritus Sanctus non ad se, sed ad Patrem et Filium relative refertur: in eo quod Spiritus Patris et Filii praedicatur.”37

Commenting on this, Coda finds that the unity of God is “constitutively tripersonal,” while the Trinity of God includes the mystery of each of the divine persons.38  Coda agrees with von Balthasar that the notion of subsistent relation was not formulated by classic Greek thought, which proved inadequate for expressing the radically interpersonal dynamic of the Christian event.

He goes on to quote Canadian theologian Jean Galot who makes the point that if the formal constitution of the person in God is relation, then relation should also be constitutive of the human person created in the image and likeness of God.39 However, Coda also points out that the subject’s self-realization occurs in and through his or her relation with another, a relation which might require for the fullness of self-realization, “the evangelical ‘losing one’s life in order to find it.’” And he finds Hegel to be the first in the context of modern philosophical reflection to locate human fulfillment in this trinitarian context.40

“The Hegelian Negative”

Coda recognizes Hegel’s grasp of “the centrality of the moment of non-existence–in biblical terms of the kenosis–in the event of God’s self-revelation.” He goes on to write that:

“what is specific in his speculation on the negative is formally in his never thinking of not-being as a contradictory alternative or in each case external to being, but in having introjected it into being as the condition of the possibility of its immanent trinitarian structure.”41

He quotes Lutheran theologian Ernst Jüngel on this insight of Hegel’s:

“Hegel has conceived the trinitarian dogma as an explication of the meaning of the death of Jesus. The philosophy of religion developed by Hegel represents . . . a culminating point from the viewpoint of the history of theology, to the extent that here the theologia crucis and the doctrine of the Trinity reciprocally stimulate and ground each other.”42

Expanding this insight, Coda explains that the reason Christ crucified and risen reveals the mystery of the Trinity is that his self-emptying (the ekénosen eautón of Phil 2: 7) on the cross also expresses the mode of being of the divine persons, which consists in “their mysterious not-being of love.”43 So it could be said that the Word made flesh ‘rediscovers’ himself through that self-losing. That rediscovery in and through the intersection of Word and his humanity unites the not-being of the trinitarian interpersonal love with Christ’s subsequent resurrection.44

Sin’s Double Refusal

Coda gives a dynamic meaning to the Thomistic notion of the divine persons as relationes subsistentes when he suggests that each divine Person:

“precisely because he is not, is: because he is not a subsistence closed in himself, but a subsistence that is gift of self without remainder (and thus, in some way, renouncing self, he ‘is not’), precisely because of this he is himself, he is a divine Person in unity-distinction with the other divine persons, in the unity-unicity of divine Being as Love.”45

Coda goes on to reflect on the role of sin in all of this, as a different kind of not-being, which he differentiates from Hegel’s intensification of the negative of difference. For Coda, the not-being of sin is the created person’s refusal of his vocation “to live in a relationship of unity-distinction with God.”

Sin’s double refusal to love is implied both in the choice of self before God that denies one’s creaturehood, and the refusal to lose oneself in order to find oneself in communion with God and one’s fellow humans.46 To deepen this reflection on the “no!” of sin, what he sees as not-being in the negative sense, which drives the created subject in the direction of his or her non-realization, Coda sees Christ crucified and forsaken as becoming, in St Paul’s language, “accursed” (cf. 2 Cor. 5: 21; Gal. 3: 13), and experiences the forsakenness by the Father which is the negative not-being of sin as opposed to the positive not-being of love.

The innocent Christ’s enduring of that forsakenness redeems the sinner by recovering the genuine unity and distinction between Creature and sinful creature,47 which Coda finds clarified by a comment from the International Theological Commission:

“However far sinful man is from God, this is always less than the distance of the Son from the Father in his kenotic emptying . . . and in the misery of the ‘forsakenness.’”48

The Necessity of a Trinitarian Humanism

This is the title of the last subsection in the book, which Coda sees as the “final task” for fulfilling the unfulfilled Hegelian promise. Certainly Hegel tried to apply his Denkform to the ethical-political field, and in 1987 Coda saw that application both in liberal and Marxist regimes, along with the central role of intersubjectivity in contemporary thought, even if in the limited and deformed character it has received from Hegel:

“All this has still to be transformed into a precise challenge and a great task for contemporary thought: to project an integral humanism, authentically Christian, which . . . could be called a trinitarian humanism, which could be seen as a positive reply to the ideological proposals whose roots can be found in Hegelian thought: first of all, Marxism.”49

Coda is looking for a different relation between the Transcendent and history than what for him lies at the basis of Hegelian reflection. Such a different approach, rather than counterposing theocentrism and anthropocentrism, would seek to join them together in human history . . . . 50

As a result, “intersubjective relationships are forged on the model of trinitarian relationships,” and human beings will see that “they are called to realize God’s integral plan for humanity”: “as you, Father, are in me and I in you, may they too be one in us” (Jn. 17: 21). Thus they will be not only one in God, “but also genuinely free.”51 He concludes by suggesting a trinitarian model of unity in distinction for relationships between different social classes, societies, states, cultures and religions, which would fulfill “the trinitarian vocation of history” which would adequately respond to Hegel’s project in terms of what Paul VI called a “civilization of love.”52

A Recognizable Equivalence to Voegelin

For it is the Christ of the Gospel of John who says of himself: “Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58); and it is Thomas Aquinas who considers the Christ to be the head of the corpus mysticum that embraces, not only Christians, but all mankind from the creation of the world to its end. In practice this means that one has to recognize, and make intelligible, the presence of Christ in a Babylonian hymn, or a Taoist speculation, or a Platonic dialogue, just as much as in a Gospel.53

-Eric Voegelin

While Piero Coda would not go as far as Voegelin’s “just as much” in the above comment, experientially his public engagement in interreligious dialogue over more than quarter of a century54 and theologically writings like Il Logos e il nulla: Trinità religioni mistica (rendered in English as The Logos and Nothingness: Trinity, Religions and Mysticism) have led him to carry out the very quest Voegelin found lacking “in theologians and philosophers in their work on the process of revelatory experiences in history.”55 And particularly in Il logos e il nulla, he expands the basic kenotic-trinitarian context he began with in Evento Pasquale: Trinità e Storia and developed in wrestling with Hegel in Il negativo e la trinità, into a heuristic for reaching out to all of humanity. Voegelin explored Xenophanes’ experience of “the ‘one god who is the greatest’ as a common god for all men, correlative to the identical humanity in all human beings.”56

Similarly, Coda’s exploration of the experience of the trinitarian God is inseparable from his consciousness of the whole of humanity’s kenotic relationship to that God. There can be no such thing as a “vertical” relationship with that God without a “horizontal” relationship with all humanity that exists in God. Coda is well aware of the need for a theology of history:

“The question of the theology of history as a natural and necessary presupposition and context of a relevant understanding and actualization of the identity and mission of the Church is, with all probability, one of the more important acquisitions of Vatican II.”57

And it is interesting to see him go about the elaboration of such a theology of history with a heuristic framework–while I believe it is enormously deepened by its kenotic element–in a way that seems recognizably equivalent to Voegelin’s own dynamic context of “Question-Mystery” as he formulated it in his The Ecumenic Age.58 This leads to our first topic from Il logos e il nulla.

Exploring Revelation and Mysticism

In Il logos e il nulla, Coda uses the term”revelation” to refer to what is from God, while “mysticism” (la mistica) has to do with what is occurring on the human side in the divine-human encounter: “Revelation . . . focuses on the movement of God towards the creature: but it cannot be defined as revelation except in the moment in which God’s self-manifestation/self-giving is received by the human person.” Similarly with mysticism, which involves the ascetic preparation of the creature for God’s illuminative and transformative action, “but it too becomes what it is only in the movement where God freely offers himself to human knowledge and freedom.”59 And he notes that the encounters in both revelation and mysticism structure the rest of the inquiry.

The first part of the book deals with revelation in general as a universal religious experience, in the light of the singularity of Christian revelation, and the third part with a historical and theoretical examination of mysticism, including its postmodern context. The central part of the book focuses on the event of Jesus Christ and the revelation from God and our experience of the Trinity in the context of contemporary pluralism.60

The book’s title is Logos and Nothingness, where “logos” in the Old Testament is the word of revelation, a meaning that is heightened in the New Testament, where that Word is God who became flesh. “Nothingness” is the quality in the seeker becoming nothing to encounter the divine, but also of Him who becomes Nothing to be experienced by creation. In Christian revelation, Jesus is not only the definitive word of God, but he who “empties” himself as a fulfillment of revelation. In Him, Logos and Nothing coincide. The Word made Man, giving all of himself, including God in himself, reveals the Agape that is God, so he is the All and Nothing of Love. For Coda, this is the basis for a theological understanding of religious pluralism, a spiritual key for the dialogue of encounter between religions. Living out this experienced nothingness, Christianity, instead of hindering, is the means by which such open interreligious dialogue can take place.61

Are We in the Presence of Something New?

Coda asks if we are moving towards a new epoch, and refers to the opening remarks of John Paul II’s Fides et ratio, where he says of the great and perennial questions characterizing human existence throughout history:

“we find in the sacred writings of Israel, as also in the Veda and the Avesta; we find them in the writings of Confucius and Lao-Tze, and in the preaching of Tirthankara and Buddha; they appear in the poetry of Homer and in the tragedies of Euripides and Sophocles, as they do in the philosophical writings of Plato and Aristotle” (§1); in such a way that ‘the answers which gradually emerge are set within a horizon which reveals how the different human cultures are complementary.'”62

Coda continues:

“Today it seems as if we are in the presence of something new, which in the future could perhaps be understood as the beginning of a new epoch, which does not contradict the preceding history of humanity, in whose various modes were present the illuminating action of the Spirit of God, but which impels us, on the basis of the journey already made, towards an important qualitative leap.”

“The different religious identities, starting with those on the trunk of Abrahamic monotheism, are entering into relation with each other. They are moving from an exclusivist conception of the revelation of God (God revealing himself to us, excluding the others) to a timidly relational one (the God who is for me is also for the others, precisely because he is the One God).”63

He notes a double movement:

“coming to characterize the principal religious traditions, at least among their significant prophetic avant-garde: a movement backwards to rediscover the inspiration of God that is at their origin; and a movement forward in their opening to a ‘new’ advent of God . . . that cannot but involve the other religions, through their experience of new relationships reciprocally agreed upon, in the common service of the one human family and in faithfulness to the divine plan of salvation.”64

Again he quotes John Paul II, speaking in April 1999 on the interaction between divine invitation and human response:

“In interreligious dialogue it is not a matter of abdicating the message, but of responding to a divine appeal, because the exchange and sharing lead to a mutual witness of each one’s religious vision, a deeper knowledge of the respective convictions and a shared understanding of fundamental values.”65

The Human-Divine Kenotic Relationship

In a section on the singularity of Jesus Christ in the light of the paschal event, Coda notes how the Nicene emphasis on Christ’s homoousias with the Father resulted in putting in the shade his homoousias with man. Nonetheless, from the perspective of the incarnation, creation understood as a whole “in its diachronic development and in its synchronic convergence, is Christiform or, to use Teilhard’s phrase, Christofinalized.66 He asks how to interpret this correctly, and answers that the event of Jesus Christ intertwines the relation of love between Father and Son, between Son and in him all humanity, and between all humanity and the world.  It is this universal enosis brought about by Christ that Coda sees articulated in the Fourth Gospel: “As you, Father, are in me and I in you, may they too be in us . . . I in them and you in me, so that they may become perfectly one  (Jn 17: 21, 23).”67

So we should see a theology of history primarily in terms of relation–between the Trinity and each human person, as a unique incarnate freedom, and also between the Trinity and the communion of persons in society. That communion must expand out to include a relation to earlier communions of persons in society, and in open anticipation to those human individuals and societies to come. It’s in this light that the contemporary work of philosophy and theology of history is a continuous remembering of the human-divine kenotic relationship, along with of course the many retreats and withdrawals from it. This is where an understanding of what Coda speaks of as “the ontology of evil” becomes relevant.

The Human Freedom of Christ

For Coda, the core of the divine-human encounter of the two kinds of not-being is the love of Jesus as forsaken overcoming the human refusal to love. He sees Christ experiencing in himself the “death of God.” As God and man, Christ lives the absolute meaninglessness of evil, giving it meaning by accepting to endure its complete rupture from God. Coda has already noted that God calls into existence what is not (Rom 4: 17). This calling into existence from non-existence is itself part of “the permanent act of creation through which the reality other than God comes into existence,” in terms of “the well-known formula creation ex nihilo.68

That creation, which Paul, when speaking of the paschal event terms as kaine ktisis (the new creation), is found in God’s recreation in human freedom as the “first” creation. There, the freely given love, which had been withdrawn by sin and blocked from its self-transcendence in the divine plan, is renewed in newly freed humanity. Divine salvific action is required, but in full cooperation with that which is Christ’s human freedom. That human freedom of Christ, expressed at its most extreme in his forsakenness, must be met by the response of my freedom which, of course, remains a freedom also to reject the love of Christ:

“Which indicates the paradoxical nature of evil faced with its resolution by the grace of Jesus crucified and forsaken: it has a reality, and a tragic one, but it is eschatologically reduced to unreality by God, because it does not pass, through the Cross of Christ, into the full and definitive Reality of God, ‘all in all.’”69

A Philosophy of History, Focusing on Love

Coda does not explicitly deploy his key paradigm of human participation in trinitarian kenosis to interreligious and intercultural dialogue from the viewpoint of a theology of history faced with the question of power and revolution at the beginning of the third millennium. Still, we must take seriously Voegelin’s expansion of Plato’s dictum “society is man written large” with his own “History is Christ written large.”70 And Coda’s intrinsically relational understanding of history means that whenever we actualize our capacity for self-sacrificing love, we are overturning the depersonalizing forces of power and merely external revolution.

It is interesting how frequently Voegelin returned to Augustine’s saying “They begin to leave who begin to love,” concluding his essay “Eternal Being in Time” with the comment: “The Exodus in the sense of incipit exire qui incipit amare is the classical formulation of the substantive principle of a philosophy of history.”71 Sometimes even for Voegelin the focus for a philosophy of history is love. Then every human society, in its difference–certainly requiring both individual and social metanoia in the specific participation in the experienced nothingness of the forsaken Jesus that Coda has been speaking of–belongs to the one human family, which in its oneness and difference is a created image of the interpersonal kenotic communion of the Trinity. And in that truly Divine-Human Comedy lies the trasumanar or transhumanizing of humanity in time into eternity for which Dante gave us a language.

We will next refer to just one application of this kenotic theology of history, to contemporary politics.

The Root of Political Fraternity

In a collection entitled The Forgotten Principle: Fraternity in Contemporary Political Reflection, Piero Coda contributed an essay entitled “Towards a Theological Foundation for a Political Category of Fraternity.” In that same collection there appeared Antonio Baggio’s exploration of “The Idea of ‘Fraternity’ between Two Revolutions: Paris 1789–Haiti 1791,”72 which examines the vicissitudes of the ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ triad during the French Revolution, with a certain hollowness exposed by the refusal of Revolutionary France to concede that these values might be enjoyed by the African slave population of Haiti.

In his essay, Coda indicates the clearly Christian origins of the political notion of fraternity, including the frequent use of adelphos (brother) for the Disciples of Christ, with the substantive, adelphotes (brotherhood–cf., I Peter 2: 17; 5: 9), “not referring to an ideal to achieve but to a reality acquired . . . ” He notes how, in the Gospels, “the root of fraternity is . . . indicated in . . . the universal fatherhood of God . . . since the love of God, [when] received . . . becomes the most formidable agent of transformation in [humans’] existence and relationships with the other.”73

In the essay preceding Coda’s in The Forgotten Principle, “Fraternity: The Reason for its Eclipse,” Rozzo Pezzimenti, in his conclusion, notes why, of the three principles proclaimed by the French revolution, fraternity has been the hardest to achieve actualization: “because it is the one that costs the most.”74 So it is not surprising that Coda entitles a section of his essay, “The cross: foundation of fraternity.” He sees Jesus on the cross identifying both with the just brother Abel, but also with Cain, one who is “outside the plan of God,” with the accursed of Deuteronomy 21: 23: “‘Cursed be the one who hangs from the wood’.”75

Coda notes in Jesus’ forsakenness the overcoming of every barrier, and finds this expressed in Ephesians, “which sees in Jesus the reconciler, even more, peace itself personified,” since he has made Jews and Gentiles “‘both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh’” the cause of enmity, “‘that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two’” (Eph. 2: 14–15). As a result, no one can regard themselves as strangers or simply guests, but fellow-citizens (sympolites) and of the household (oikeíos) of God (Eph. 2: 19).76

Coda considers this as leading to the rich interrelationship of universal humanity both with itself and with the Triune God:

“. . . now, in Christ, the relation of fraternity–of communion, that is, and of distinction–emerges as the grammar of human relationship in all its universal extension . . . Not for nothing does Jesus’ last prayer to the Father in the Gospel of John contain the meaning and aim of his passion and death: ‘Father, that all may be one, even as you, Father are in me, and I in you.’”77

The Political Consequences of Christian Fraternity

Then Coda examines three socio-political consequences of Christian fraternity:

“Paul articulates the first, in his letter to the Galatians, where, on the basis of the event of Jesus, he declares: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’”78

For Coda, Paul sees Christian fraternity as overcoming the three separations visible in his own time–religious, social, and anthropological. Paul is not saying they are abolished, rather that what is negative in them, through fraternity, can be turned into human reciprocity.79

The second consequence for Coda is that Jesus forsaken alone can articulate “an authentic praxis of fraternity” sharing with whoever in whatever way is emarginated and excluded:

“Expressions like ‘blessed are the poor . . .’ and ‘whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’ are not generic expressions. Rather, they indicate that fraternity begins only from below, from making oneself one with the least, because that is where Christ placed himself.”80

A third consequence is that Jesus in his forsakenness

“overcomes forever the category of the enemy in the political definition of interhuman relationships . . . Jesus–there is no reason to undervalue this–speaks positively of agape towards enemies: which means that the love he preaches is not a mere sentiment . . . but a determination of freedom which decides to wish well to the other, even to the enemy.”81

An instance of this third application is of course the notion of just war in its Christian version, first emerging in St Augustine, who asked how should the enemy be treated, and replied that since each enemy was still a brother in Christ, they could not be hated. In a later secularized version, in terms of respect for each enemy combatant, jurists like Grotius adopted this for international law.82

Coda concludes by noting that Christ’s salvation is not only for individuals but also for societies. Each individual is open to dialogue with the other, in quest of truth and justice as an expression of the fraternity grounded in Christ’s agápe: “This makes clear to the believer’s conscience the radical lie/injustice . . . of every attempt at integrism or millenarianism.” The social no less than the individual consequence of Christian fraternity for Coda derives from:

“the event of Christ crucified and risen. So it is only by the extreme openness required by allowing the other to live in me and the extreme outgoingness required for me to live in the other that can be realized Jesus’ promise that ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them’” (Mt. 18: 20).

He concludes, “Through this, the quality of the relationship of fraternity lived in Christ can have a real analogy that is no less than what the Son lives with the Father in the Spirit, and reciprocally.”83

Suffering as the Place of Divine Encounter

But to return to Professor Cristaudo’s, “Can one still speak in any legitimate way of a divine providence in history?” It seems to me that an approach towards history that is genuinely kenotic–recalling Voegelin’s calling Herodotus and Thucydides the “tragic historians”–must be able to bear the weight of the most horrendous ruptures that have defaced the previous century and continue to debase the first decade of the present one. Manfred Henningsen rightly warns us about focusing exclusively on the Holocaust or those genocides closer to the West, while ignoring equally horrendous slaughters in Asia and Africa, and suggests using Rudolf Rummel’s universal term of “democide.”84

But since it is the Holocaust I know best, I think of the concluding remarks to Hans Jonas’ “The Concept of God after Auschwitz.” Jonas contrasts himself to Job, who:

“invokes the fullness of the divine creative power, while mine is the renunciation of that power. And still–strange to say–both are praise: since renunciation is what makes it possible for us to be. This too, it seems to me, is a reply to Job: to know that in him, God himself suffers.”85

In an essay in a collection entitled Religions and the Crucified: God’s Compassion and Human Suffering in the Monotheistic Religions, Coda focuses on suffering as the primary locus for human-divine encounter. Like Jonas, he draws on the book of Job as a key reflection, aimed by its author at every human being who has known suffering. He mentions Islamic and Buddhist traditions which also respond to suffering, including Masao Abe of Kyoto (with his writing on the relationship between the “Kenotic God and Dynamic Sunyata“). Coda quotes Simone Weil’s remark from Gravity and Grace: “‘the greatness of Christianity comes from the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering, but rather a supernatural use for suffering.”86

“The Soul and Barbed Wire”

So it would seem that the only adequate answer to the question of divine providence in the history of democides described by Henningsen in his “Die Regime des Terrors” article is the same as that of Jonas: That in our suffering, in the suffering of hundreds of millions of innocent victims of 20th century political murder already spilling over into the 21st, God himself suffers too.

Solzhenitsyn, who has borne the weight of 20th century power and revolution on his back, placed just before the key section of the entire Gulag Archipelago entitled “The Soul and Barbed Wire” a spiritually strategic passage from St. Paul: “‘Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all die, but we shall all be changed’” (1 Cor. 15, 51). The forsaken Jesus may just be a glimmer in the direction of a light beyond that pitch darkness of historical evil.

 I will conclude with a fragment of a meditation by Chiara Lubich on this experience of divine forsakenness as the point of contact with the forsakenness of human history:

“Jesus is Jesus forsaken . . . he redeems when he pours out the divine upon humanity through the wound of his forsakenness, which is the pupil of God’s eye upon the world: an infinite void through which God looks upon us: the window of God opened upon the world, and the window of humanity through which we see God.”87



From the Address of John Paul II to the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders,88 which I think fleshes out what precisely he means in the context of the kind of interreligious dialogue Coda discusses:

At the beginning of time, as God’s Spirit moved over the waters, he began to communicate something of his goodness and beauty to all creation. When God then created man and woman, he gave them the good things of the earth for their use and benefit; and he put into their hearts abilities and powers, which were his gifts. And to all human beings throughout the ages God has given a desire for himself, a desire that different cultures have tried to express in their own ways . . .

But for thousands of years you have lived in this land and fashioned a culture that endures to this day. And during all this time, the Spirit of God has been with you. Your “Dreaming,” which influences your lives so strongly that, no matter what happens, you remain for ever people of your culture, is your only way of touching the mystery of God’s Spirit in you and in creation. You must keep your striving for God and hold on to it in your lives . . .

The rock paintings and the discovered evidence of your ancient tools and implements indicate the presence of your age-old culture and prove your ancient occupancy of this land.

Your culture, which shows the lasting genius and dignity of your race, must not be allowed to disappear. Do not think that your gifts are worth so little that you should no longer bother to maintain them. Share them with each other and teach them to your children. Your songs, your stories, your paintings, your dances, your languages, must never be lost . . .

For thousands of years this culture of yours was free to grow without interference by people from other places. You lived your lives in spiritual closeness to the land, with its animals, birds, fishes, waterholes, rivers, hills and mountains. Through your closeness to the land you touched the sacredness of man’s relationship with God, for the land was the proof of a power in life greater than yourselves . . .

Some of the stories from your Dreamtime legends speak powerfully of the great mysteries of human life, its frailty, its need for help, its closeness to spiritual powers and the value of the human person. They are not unlike some of the great, inspired lessons from the people among whom Jesus himself was born. It is wonderful to see how people, as they accept the Gospel of Jesus, find points of agreement between their own traditions and those of Jesus and his people . . .

Take heart from the fact that many of your languages are still spoken and that you still possess your ancient culture. You have kept your sense of brotherhood. If you stay closely united, you are like a tree standing in the middle of a brush-fire sweeping through the timber. The leaves are scorched and the tough bark is scarred and burned; but inside the tree the sap is still flowing, and under the ground the roots are still strong. Like that tree you have endured the flames, and you still have the power to be reborn. The time for this rebirth is now! . . .

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ speaks all languages. It esteems and embraces all cultures. It supports them in everything human and, when necessary, it purifies them. Always and everywhere the Gospel uplifts and enriches cultures with the revealed message of a loving and merciful God.



This essay was originally delivered as a paper at a symposium on the topic of Translatio Imperii at the University of Hong Kong in February 2010. After the ideological horrors of the 20th century, participants were asked: “Can one still speak in any legitimate way of a divine providence in history?” Piero Coda’s work, particularly his Evento Pasquale, Il negativo e la trinità, and Il logos e il nulla, could be read as a development of a humanism expanded to the dimensions of a participation in the Trinitarian kenosis. His grappling with Hegel shows the centrality of Jesus’ forsakenness and of the Trinity to contemporary culture, while his Il Logos e il nulla indicates how the intra-Trinitarian kenosis becomes the context for dialogue with the great oriental religions. Finally, his “Towards a Theological Foundation for a Political Category of Fraternity” develops a Trinity-based understanding of fraternity as an experience overcoming religious, social, and anthropological divisions in contemporary culture. Shining through Coda’s work can be discerned a profound rethinking of divine providence in a history however deeply scarred by evils such as the Holocaust.

1. Piero Coda was born in Turin in 1955, studied philosophy at the University of Turin, and theology at the Lateran University, Rome, and Freiburg, Germany. He was professor of systematic theology at the Lateran University from 1985 until his appointment in 2008 as President of Sophia University Institute near Florence. He has been very involved in interreligious dialogue and in the dialogue between theology and contemporary culture.

2. Recently published in English in the restored text, trans. Harry T. Willets (New York: Harper Perennial, 2009).

3. Eric Voegelin, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” Review of Politics 15 (1953): 68–85, at 68.

4. Andrey Tarkovsky, Scénario littéraire du film André Roublev, quoted in Olivier Clement, L’espirit de Soljénitsyne (Paris: Stock, 1974), 299.

5. Eric Voegelin, History of Political Ideas, Vol. IV: Renaissance and Reformation: Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 22, eds. David L. Morse and William M. Thompson (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998), 250–51.

6. Cf. Giuseppe Maria Zanghí, Notte della cultura europea (Rome: Città Nuova, 2007).

7. Eric Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974), 173.

8. Piero Coda, Evento Pasquale: Trinità e Storia (Roma: Città Nuova, 1984), 48.

9. Piero Coda, L’altro di Dio: rivelazione e kénosis in Sergei (Roma: Città Nuova, 1998).

10. The use of St. Paul’s term for Christ’s ‘emptying’ himself, ekénosen (Phil. 2, 7) has given rise to nouns like “kenosis” and adjectives like “kenotic” which are frequently used in contemporary theology.

11. Piero Coda, Evento Pasquale: Trinità e Storia, 159.

12. “Perichoresis” is a standard theological term for the mutual indwelling of the divine persons and a key term in Coda’s theology.

13. Piero Coda, Evento Pasquale: Trinità e Storia, 167.

14. Ibid, 174, quoting Klaus Hemmerle, Thesen zu einer trinitarischen Ontologie (Einsiedeln: Johannes Verlag, 1976), 66.

15. Piero Coda, Evento Pasquale: Trinità e Storia, 181–82.

16. Ibid., 182-83. Cf. Rom. 4:17: ” . . . God, who gives life to the dead and calls the things that do not exist [ta me onta] into existence [ós onta].”

17. Piero Coda, Evento Pasquale: Trinità e Storia, 192.

18. Eric Voegelin, Hitler and the Germans: Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 31, trans., eds., Detlev Clemens & Brendan Purcell (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999), 204–05. His remarks on the rejection by the Greek Fathers of Eusebius’ attempt at a monotheistic foundation for an imperial politics can be found in his The New Science of Politics, in Modernity Without Restraint: Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Vol. 5, ed. Manfred Henningsen (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000), 170–74.

19. Piero Coda, Il negativo e la trinità: Ipotesi su Hegel (Roma: Città Nuova, 1987), 140-ff, 142.

20. Cyril O’Regan, in his The Heterodox Hegel (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994) several times refers to Coda’s work, along with, among others, Dale M. Schlitt, Hegel’s Trinitarian Claim: A Critical Reflection (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1984), which context Hegel studies firmly in the light of the Trinity.

21. Coda, op.cit., 145.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid., 146-7.

24. Ibid., 147.

25. Ibid., 348.

26. Ibid., 350.

27. Ibid., 353, 354.

28. Ibid., 356.

29. Ibid., 356-7

30. Cf. ibid., 359.

31. Ibid., 362.

32. Ibid., 363.

33. Ibid.

34. Ibid., 367.

35. Ibid., 367-368.

36. Ibid., 371.

37. Ibid., 371n3. [A translation: “309 [526]: We also confess that the Son was born, but not made, from the substance of the Father, without beginning, before all ages, for at no time did the Father exist without the Son, nor the Son without the Father. Yet the Father is not from the Son, as the Son is from the Father, because the Father was not generated by the Son but the Son by the Father. The Son, therefore, is God from the Father, and the Father is God, but not from the son.”

From Neuner and Dupuis, The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church, (New York; Alba House, 1982), pp. 102 ff. Numbers refer to Neuner-Dupuis ref. Nos., numbers in brackets to The Denzinger Schoenmetzer equivalents. Ref. found at

38. Ibid., 372. Bernard Lonergan’s formulations, deliberately overlaying a Chalcedonian-Thomistic theology with insights from Hegel’s distinction between substance and subject–although he does not see his dialectic notion of the ‘law of the cross’ as in some way expressive of the inner life of the Trinity–may be of help here. So he speaks of the Incarnate Word in terms of one divine subject with two consciousnesses, divine and human: “ . . . in Christ there is one psychological subject present to and conscious of himself both in a divine manner through his divine consciousness, and in a human manner through his human consciousness.” Bernard Lonergan, De Verbo Incarnato (Rome: Gregorian University Press, 1964) 308.

And in his De Deo Trino, he writes of one divine consciousness with three divine conscious subjects: “ . . . since there are several subjects, there are also several conscious subjects; and so it remains that the three subjects are conscious of each other through one consciousness which is possessed differently by the three.” Bernard Lonergan, De Deo Trino II: Pars Systematica (Rome: Gregorian University Press, 1964), 193.

39. Coda, op.cit., 374.

40. Ibid., 376, 384.

41. Ibid., 387, 388.

42. Ibid., 392.

43. Ibid., 397.

44. Cf. ibid., 398-399.

45. Ibid., 402.

46. Ibid., 407.

47. Ibid., 407-408.

48. Ibid.,408.

49. Ibid., 418.

50. Ibid., 419.

51. Ibid., 419.

52. Ibid., 421.

53. Eric Voegelin, “Response to Professor Altizer’s ‘A New History and New but Ancient God?’” in Published Essays 1966 – 1985, ed. Ellis Sandoz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), 292–303, at 294.

54. Cf. Piero Coda, Nella Moschea di Malcolm X (Roma: Città Nuova, 1997); Il tappeto del Sufi: Viaggio in Iran tra gli Ayatollah (Roma: Città Nuova, 1998); L’amore di Dio è piu grande del nostro cuore: Il dialogo interreligioso (Casale Monferrato, AL: Piemme, 2000).

55. Eric Voegelin, “Response to Professor Altizer,”  294.

56. Eric Voegelin, The World of the Polis, Order and History, Vol. 2 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964), 178.

57. Piero Coda, Il logos e il nulla: Trinità, religioni, mistica (Roma: Città Nuova, 2003), 90n177.

58. Eric Voegelin, The Ecumenic Age, Order and History, Vol. 4 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974), 316ff.

59. Piero Coda, Il logos e il nulla: Trinità, religioni, mistica, 9.

60. Ibid., 9-10.

61. Ibid., 11.

62. §3, quoted in ibid.,124.

63. Ibid., 124.

64. Ibid.

65. Ibid., 124–25. Cf. Appendix for a generous development of this opening out to a profound set of archaic experiences in John Paul’s 1986 Alice Springs Address.

66. Ibid., 217.

67. Cf. 217-ff.

68. Ibid., 218.

69. Ibid., 219–21. Coda, in a footnote here, remarks “the definition of evil (hell) as ‘reality of unreality’ is Chiara Lubich’s. But Simone Weil too defines hell as ‘the nothingness that has the pretence and gives the illusion, of being’” (LN, 221n130).

70. Eric Voegelin, “Immortality: Experience and Symbol,” in Published Essays 1966–1985, ed. Ellis Sandoz (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), 52–94, at 78.

71. Eric Voegelin, “Eternal Being in Time,” in Anamnesis: On the Theory of History and Politics, ed. David Walsh (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002), 312–37, at 337.

72. Antonio M. Baggio, “L’idea di ‘fraternità’” tra due Rivoluzioni: Parigi 1789Haiti 1791: “Piste di ricerca per una comprensione della fraternità come categoria politica”; Piero Coda, “Per una fondazione teologica della categoria politica della fraternità,”  in Antonio M. Baggio, ed., Il principio dimenticato: La fraternità nella riflessione politologica contemporanea (Roma: Città Nuova, 2007), 25–56; 101– 08.

73. Piero Coda, “Per una fondazione teologica della categoria politica della fraternità,” 101-102.

74. Rozzo Pezzimenti, “Fraternità: il perché di una eclissi,” in Baggio, Il principio dimenticato, 5777, at 75.

75. Piero Coda, “Per una fondazione teologica della categoria politica della fraternità,” 103.

76. Ibid., 103-104.

77. Ibid., 104.

78. Ibid.

79. Ibid., 105.

80. Ibid. I am reminded here of Annette Flynn’s illuminating discussion, where she writes of one of Jorge Borges’ last poems, ‘Cristo en la cruz’ where Borges sees Christ hanging in the place of the good thief: “With ‘Cristo en la cruz’ there seems to occur a slippage from saviour (Cristo en el medio) to saved (el tercero, the good thief)” (The Quest for God in the Work of Borges. Continuum: London, 2009, 170). Borges somehow experienced in Jesus’ forsakenness his identification with all who were excluded, including those like Borges himself, who desired, but seemed to lack, faith.

81. Piero Coda, “Per una fondazione teologica della categoria politica della fraternità,” 105.

82. James T. Johnson notes that Augustine placed war “in the context of a theological world view that stressed the work of charity in transforming history,” which “stands as a constant reminder to Christians who have taken up the sword that they can never act as though what they do is absolutely right.” See James T. Johnson, Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981), xxiv, xxxi.

83. Piero Coda, “Per una fondazione teologica della categoria politica della fraternità,” 108.

84. Cf. Manfred Henningsen,“Die Regime des Terrors,”Merkur, 575, February 1997, 105–16. For Henningsen, only individuals with backbone and civil courage, prepared from time to time to carry out actions of civil disobedience and resistance, will be required to ground the democracy that for Rummel is the only antidote to democidal terror.  It seems to me that those who are not Christians as well as those who are should be able to find in the self-sacrifice required by kenotic existence an ally in this tough democracy Henningsen proposes.

George Weigel’s The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); Barbara von der Heydt’s Candles Behind the Wall: Heroes of the Peaceful Revolution that Shattered Communism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993); Etty Hillesum’s Etty: The Letters and Diaries of Etty Hillesum, ed. Klaas A.D. Smelik, trans. Arnold J. Pomerans (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), are only a few of the many accounts of the relationship between belief and resistance, where the believers’ priority is to serve others and God rather than themselves, accepting if necessary the loss of their own lives.

85. Hans Jonas, Le concept de Dieu après Auschwitz: Une voix juive (Paris: Payot & Rivages, 1994), 39–40.

86. Piero Coda, “Linee per una prospettiva sistematica,” in Il Crocifisso e le religioni: Compassione di Dio e sofferenza dell’uomo nelle religioni monoteiste, eds. Piero Coda & Mariano Crociata (Rome: Città Nuova, 2002), 347–59, at 356.

87. Chiara Lubich, The Cry (London: New City, 2001), 136.

88. Alice Springs, November 29, 1986.

Brendan PurcellBrendan Purcell

Brendan Purcell

Brendan Purcell is a Board Member of VoegelinView and an Adjunct Professor in Philosophy at Notre Dame University in Sydney. He is author of several books, including From Big Bang to Big Mystery: Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution (New City, 2012).

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