Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Theology

Editor-in-Chief: Taliaferro, Charles

1 Issue per year

Open Access
Online
ISSN
2300-6579
See all formats and pricing
More options …

Levinas and the Significance of Passivity in the Christian Religious Experience

James Cyfko
Published Online: 2018-10-05 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0040

Abstract

Analyzing the tendency of Christian believers to rationalize the religious experience of the face of the Other, I reveal through Levinas, how, in doing so, they paradoxically neglect to perceive God, who is love. I will focus on the appropriate response shown by both Levinas and Christ in the inter-human drama, specifically, that of passive kenosis, as opposed to self-preserving activity. In undergoing the an-archic passion of the Other, I encounter a possibility of transformation from my self qua ego which disconnects me from reality, to my self qua responsibility which throws me back into my finitude. This becomes most powerful upon experiencing the Crucifixion of Christ, as ‛I’, as active agent, become traumatically substituted by ‛me’, as passive recipient. When I surrender to this accusative gaze of the face of Christ which pierces my egoistic shell, I encounter, according to Levinas, the infinite demands of the vulnerable Other haunting me before ontological qualification. In this, I experience the trace of the inescapable Infinite who calls me to holiness. This holiness can only be reached if I cease to manipulate God, instead allowing him the freedom to do with me as he wills through the self-emptying passivity which Levinas describes.

Keywords: Levinas; phenomenology of religion; self-Other relationship; substitution; ethics; kenosis; transcendence; guilt; Christianity; love

References

  • Burggraeve, Roger, “Violence and the Vulnerable Face of the Other: The Vision of Emmanuel Levinas on Moral Evil and our Responsibility.” Journal of Social Philosophy. 30:1 (1999), 29-45.Google Scholar

  • Crowell, Steven, “Why is Ethics First Philosophy? Levinas in Phenomenological Context.” European Journal of Philosophy. 23:3 (2015), 564-588.Google Scholar

  • Falque, Emmanuel, “Christ Doesn’t Save Us by Words First of All, but by His Body.” Church Life Journal, 2018. Web. 23 Aug 2018.Google Scholar

  • Gschwandtner, Christina M. “Praise - Pure and Personal? Jean-Luc Marion’s Phenomenologies of Prayer.” In The Phenomenology of Prayer, edited by Bruce Ellis Benson and Norman Wirzba, 168-184. Fordham University Press, 2005.Google Scholar

  • Gschwandtner, Christina M, “The Neighbor and the Infinite: Marion and Levinas on the Encounter between Self, Human Other, and God.” Continental Philosophy Review. 40:3 (2007), 231-249.Google Scholar

  • Lévinas, Emmanuel. “Ethics as First Philosophy.” The Levinas Reader. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1989, 75-87.Google Scholar

  • Lévinas, Emmanuel. “God and Philosophy.” Of God Who Comes to Mind. Stanford University Press, 1998.Google Scholar

  • Lévinas, Emmanuel. Is it Righteous to Be? Interviews with Emmanuel Lévinas, edited by Jill Robbins. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001.Google Scholar

  • Lévinas, Emmanuel. “Reality and Its Shadow.” In The Continental Aesthetics Reader, edited by Clive Cazeaux, 117-128. London: Routledge, 2000.Google Scholar

  • Lévinas, Emmanuel. “Substitution.” Emmanuel Levinas: Basic Philosophical Writings. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996, pp. 79-95.Google Scholar

  • Marion, Jean-Luc. The Crossing of the Visible, translated by James K. A. Smith. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.Google Scholar

  • Meeks, Wayne A, and Jouette M. Bassler. The Harpercollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocryphal/ deuterocanonical Books, 1993.Google Scholar

  • Purcell, Michael. Levinas and Theology: An Introduction for Theologians. Cambridge University Press, 2006.Google Scholar

  • Topolski, Anya. “Listening to the Language of the Other.” In Radical Passivity: Rethinking Ethical Agency in Levinas, edited by Benda Hofmeyr, 111-132. Nijmegen: Springer, 2009.Google Scholar

  • Zimmermann, Nigel K, “Karol Wojtyla and Emmanuel Levinas on the Embodied Self: The Forming of the Other as Moral Self-Disclosure.” The Heythrop Journal. 50:6 (2009), 982-995.Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2018-06-06

Accepted: 2018-09-18

Published Online: 2018-10-05

Published in Print: 2016-08-01


Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 4, Issue 1, Pages 511–519, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2018-0040.

Export Citation

© by James Cyfko, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in