Capon on Faith, Death, and the Shipwreck of Time

From his exegesis of the parable of Dives and Lazarus in Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment, […]

Ethan Richardson / 8.14.12

From his exegesis of the parable of Dives and Lazarus in Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment, Capon hits on the historical human effort to make the world right, from ethnic cleansing to “Christian ethics,” and lands on the only answer that has ever been satisfying to Jesus–that of death and resurrection. He uses the two Greek concepts of time (kairos, the ever-enduring season of God’s reality and chronos, the tick-tock of earthly causes and effects) to talk about how faith in the resurrection is all the hope we have this side of the Jordan.

But for all that, Eden has never returned. The world’s woes are beyond repair by the world’s successes: there are just too many failures, and they come too thick and fast for any program, however energetic or well-funded. Dives, for all his purple, fine linen and faring sumptuously, dies not one whit less dead than Lazarus. And before he dies, his wealth no more guarantees him health or happiness than it does exemption from death. Therefore when the Gospel is proclaimed, it stays lightyears away from reliance on success or on any other exercise of right-handed power. Instead, it relies resolutely on left-handed power–on the power that, in a mystery, works through failure, loss, and death. And so while our history is indeed saved, its salvation is not made manifest our history in any obvious, right-handed way. In God’s time–in that kairos, that due season, that high time in which the Incarnate Word brings in the kingdom in a mystery–all our times are indeed reconciled and restored now. But in our time–in the chronos, the sequential order of earthly events, the low time of days, years, centuries, millenia–the shipwreck of history drags on unchanged and unchangeable now. And the only bridge between the now in which our times are triumphantly in his hand and the now in which they are so disastrously in our own is faith. The accomplished reconciliation can only be believed; it cannot be known, felt, or seen–and it cannot, by any efforts of ours, however good or however successful, be rendered visible, tangible, or intelligible.

Death, you see, is absolutely all of the resurrection we can now know. The rest is faith (317).