father, son and Holy Ghost

Tonight I danced with my son as we worshiped. I danced with my four-month old son Nicholas in my arms as he cooed along with the music.


I don't know what to say...

I guess I'll just say this, love is amazing at so many levels.


You Damn Liberal

Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov said...

Wow, you damn liberal. I knew Fuller would mess you up.

Also, are you using a moral example theory of atonement here? Did Jesus die simply so we would all see his selfless act and be energized to be good people as well? This was Arius' view. Be careful not to slip into a works salvation you Catholic sympathizer.

Oh yeah, and see my comment on your last post and check out Irenaeus' recapitulation theory, it's my favorite.

One of my closest friends at seminary is named Greg. He left this comment on the previous post which to the uninformed looks downright rude. But in-fact it was made completely tong-in-cheek. Greg is himself a flaming Roman Catholic liberal, at least in some area's. I can say this because I know him, and because we have shared countless theological conversations. I know precisely the look on his face as he wrote this. As he wrote, he wore a sly mischievous grin, one which I miss very much. In this grin Greg communicates any number of things, but one of them is this: “I a roman catholic know what I think, and you a conservative (kind of) evangelical know what you think, yet in spite of our sometimes large differences we press on with a contagious kind of love. A love for theology, each other, and most of all Jesus Christ that allows us to be worlds apart but best of friends” (yes all of this is communicated in Greg’s grin.)

Looking back on our time together at Fuller. I think that one of the things that made this possible was our lack of desire to win a debate. We were both so committed to our positions that we would just sit around chatting, sometimes passionately, but never really debating, just talking, learning from each other, what the ins and outs of each others positions were. Ironically, in trying not to debate each other, we did in fact rub off on each other.

Interesting yet disconcerting is the fact that what we chatted about over beer and cigarettes, others have literally (and I mean that) killed over.

I responded to Greg's comment as follows:

Greg, I don't think any of this will be news to you, but I'll say it anyway. Jesus didn't die simply so that we would all see his selfless act and be energized to be good people as well, he DIED so that would all see his selfless act and be energized to be good people... and so much more. Yes there is a line of reasoning that would suggest that Jesus was just a good teacher and that his death sealed this teaching, catapulting them to the next level if you will, and that Peter and Paul then invented Christianity on the back of this "good mans deeds". What is different here is that I am saying not "yes, but" but rather "yes, and" The good teacher, (who was also the Son of God) sealed his teachings, our example, and did a great number of other things as well. These "other things" I believe can be grouped or described under three broad categories, anthropologically, kind of what the previous post was getting at, and theologically, which we do too narrowly, and spiritually. You and I both believe that on the cross, something amazing happened at a spiritual/supernatural level that mere theological discourse fails to get its arms around. What Jesus did on the cross fails comprehension at so many levels it should stop us in our tracks. Instead we summarize it in neat theological statements and package and sell it for only $9.99 on necklaces and bookmarks at the local book store.


The Scandal of the Cross (2)

On the cross, Jesus accomplished a number of things, a wide variety of things that we tend to boil down to a simple explanation. This is very unfortunate. By simplifying what Jesus did on the cross to a simple statement like, “Jesus died for my sins.” Or “Jesus’ blood covers my sins”, we do not do justice to the degree to which Jesus’ death turned the world upside down. What follows is just one of many other things that Jesus’ death accomplished.

The Roman world was based on patronage, people doing what was expected of them by others. Everyone had expectations. Slaves were indebted to their owners, sons to their fathers, the Elite to the Emperor, and the Emperor to the gods. Gifts and favors were given with an expectation of a return on the “investment”.

In contrast to this, Jesus set forth an alternative ethic, one in which we “die to ourselves take up our cross and follow him.” This ethic is found through out the gospels. For instance, we see the disciples fighting among themselves over who is the greatest. Jesus responds by saying that the last shall be first and the first shall be last. During the sermon on the mount, over and over he says, “you have herd it said, but I say unto you…” He invites the little children to come to him with out reservation, and shortly before he dies, he takes on the role of a lowly servant, washing his disciple’s feet. The teachings of Jesus have turned and are turning the world as we know it upside down.

Now none of these teachings constitutes something new for those of us who identify ourselves as Christians, but how far would these teachings have multiplied if Jesus had not died a horrible death on a cross? They would be lost. By making the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus set his other teachings and examples in concrete, causing them to be immovable objects. As Paul puts it “we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

To draw an analogy, the life and teachings of Jesus are like a demolition team setting up a building for demolition. If the effort of the demolition team over the course of weeks doesn’t result in a gigantic explosion, bringing an old building to the ground, their effort is for not. Similarly, if Jesus hadn’t died, his teachings and life would be like a demolition team setting the charge but not igniting the fuse. If Jesus hadn't died, would we even know his name?

His teachings have changed the world, and continue to change the world, but none of this would be true if he hadn’t died the way he did. If his teachings had endured, but he hadn’t died, there would be a point at which we could say, “this far and no further, I am willing to give this much up, but no more.” Instead, because Jesus is our example, and because he went all they way, we have no option but to also go all the way… whatever that might mean. : )


The Scandal of the Cross (1)

What did Jesus do on the cross? That is the question I would like to examine in the next few posts. I'm reading a book, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross - Atonement in the New Testament and Contemporary contexts. And in the up-coming posts would like to explore the implications of what both the authors, and the Bible itself says about the meaning of Christ's death on the cross.

The back cover says: "The New Testament displays a rich array of interpretations of the cross. These were shaped by the church in mission as it rooted the saving story of the scandalous cross in the language of every day realities and relationships. But for many Christians today, not only has the true scandal of the cross been obscured, the variety of its New Testament interpretations have been reduced to a single, controlling view of the atonement."

A question: how would you describe what Jesus did on the cross? Not physically, but theologically. How would you alter your description if you were addressing believers, verses the un-churched?