November 25, 2018


God's Gamble: Gethsemane, Free Will, & the Fate of Man: a review of God's Gamble: The Gravitational Power of  Crucified Love, by Gil Bailie  (Dwight Longenecker, 11/25/18, Imaginative Conservative)

God's Gamble is a strong sequel to Mr. Bailie's 1995 volume, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads. Of the numerous theological works based on Girard's thought, Mr. Bailie's is the most creative, wide-ranging, and profound. In God's Gamble, he begins by pondering the emergence of homo sapiens wondering if the moral choices recounted in the Garden of Eden story also indicate the evolutionary step from humanoid to human.

This anthropological exploration raises fascinating questions about free will, the knowledge of good and evil, the fall, original sin, and the subsequent bondage to desire, envy, murder, and Girard's perception of ritual sacrifice. Is this very dynamic the crux of the matter? Is humanity's happy fault the crisis that distinguishes us from the apes? Is the knowledge of good and evil both the glory of man and his downfall?

Mr. Bailie then traces the steps from the primeval parents, to the first murder, the compulsion to blame and the emergence of ritual sacrifice in primitive religion. From there he shows how the faith and trials of Father Abraham unlock new understandings of God. He traces the strange history of the Hebrews and the development of religious knowledge, culminating in the breakthrough of the Virgin's affirmation, the incarnation, passion, and resurrection of Christ the Lord.

Mr. Bailie's captivating title comes from his speculation that the heart of the passion narrative is not only the crucifixion, but Christ's herculean mystical struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. Was Christ's abandonment there and on the cross simply his perception of a battle that did not really exist or was there a genuine break--even for a moment--in the union of dynamic love at the heart of the Trinity?

In other words, did God gamble everything in the Garden of Gethsemane, the second Adam facing a real, existential, and eternal choice of going through with the Father's will or backing away from it? If Jesus had refused the cup of suffering would the unity of the Trinity itself have been broken? God's gamble is also therefore in the creation of creatures with free will.... Would the Almighty risk everything to save some knowing that we would also lose some?

Mr. Bailie's book is an important contribution to the ongoing work of plumbing the depths of the providence and the paschal mystery. In every age it is the work of theologians and mystics to make clear the meaning of the saving mystery of the God-Man's self sacrifice. Giving a comprehensive overview from the Eden's garden to Gethsemane's, God's Gamble attempts that effort to re-tell the old, old story of man's fall and God's plan to lift him back again to a restored glory.

The important thing here is that there are really only two choices: either God does have free will and when He despairs on the Cross it represents exactly the sort of break that makes us Man, which then reconciled Him to us; or it was playacting and He had to mouth certain formulae in order to fulfill prophecy.  One story is compelling, the other trivial.

Posted by at November 25, 2018 8:20 AM