Kathryn Tanner’s Christ the Key, Creation
My earlier posts on Tanner’s Christ the Key can be found here. In this post I would like to place two claims in Christ the Key in the context of her first two books, God and Creation and The Politics of God.
The clearest connection, as I pointed out in my second synopsis post, is found in the final chapter of Christ the Key on the working of the Holy Spirit. In God and Creation, Tanner argues that coherent Christian discourse depends on a conception of the divine-creature relation as non-constrastive. Any contrastive characterizations inherently imply a finite God (God is bigger, stronger, etc.). “Non-contrastive” indicates the “radical transcendence of God” which “can be exercised in both God’s otherness over and against the world and God’s immanent presence within it” (79). God and human agency are not in competition; they do not operate in inverse proportion. This non-competitive relationship is at the heart of her conception of the working of the Spirit in ch.7 of Christ the Key.
In the opening chapters of Christ the Key Tanner argues for a grace-centered account of creation (most clearly stated on p. 116 and summarized in my first synopsis post). We must start with grace and God’s intentions for us (to share in God’s life) in order to understand creation. Indeed, our greatest value as a creature is that we depend on the grace of God for our own well-being (139). This is an interesting claim in the context of her second book, The Politics of God. In this book, Tanner builds upon her argument for a non-competitive Creator-creature relation to argue for the progressive political potential of an affirmation of God’s radical transcendence. First, radical transcendence de-sacralizes social-political orders since they cannot be identified with God (32); there is a “non-participatory” relation between God and social orders (65). Yet, this claim is purely negative, a No! to every political order (124). She thus second argues for a positive political criterion: respect due to all simply as creatures of God. Each person as the right to be treated in accordance with this dignity. Tanner explores this claim in great detail with regards to both types of rights (see, for example, 178-179) and the application of her claim to situations of oppression (228-244). What I find most interesting is that it is the Creator-creature relation which (very effectively) grounds human dignity in The Politics of God. Grace is not even mentioned in the text. In Christ the Key, she does not deny this dignity as creatures but focuses on our weakness, our inability to function well as creatures without grace, and our dignity as creatures precisely in this need for God in order to thrive.