O’Donovan: the Cross and Resurrection and Christian Ethics

“The cross and resurrection of Christ is, it seems to me, central to the way Christians speak of two crucial moments in acting. First, in being forgiven the past: this discovery that we are not prisoners of our past, that our chains fall off.

“Because the natural thing to suppose … is that what we are and have been is what we needs must be. There is nothing else for us but to be what we have been. The ground on which Christians have denied this, and summoned one another to faithful action, has been the ground of the cross of Jesus Christ, the great act of justification and forgiveness which stands at the very heart of God’s relationship with mankind. The possibility of being a new agent, with the offenses and inadequacies and failures, which for us are simply part of what it is to be, put aside and forgotten.

“The resurrection – in the resurrection we are taught to believe in God’s will to restore the created world and humankind to its good purposes – to the purposes for which it was made. It seems to me both those focuses are absolutely crucial if we are to understand what acting is: if we are to understand our agency on the one hand, and the goodness of the world into which we act on the other hand.

“Because, of course, it’s not always easy to see the world as good, either. It’s one of the things that actually stops people doing good, is the vision they have of the world – a depressing closed-down tragedy-ridden vision which is hostile to human action. The resurrection of Jesus Christ teaches us that God will not have it so – that God’s world is restored to the goodness he intended for it. And we are able to enter it, to engage in our actions in it, on that basis.”

Oliver O’Donovan, from September 13, 2012 Veritas Forum Q&A at Cambridge University