Theology from the Cross
‘…We preach Christ crucified…’
The more Luther thought about things he reached the conclusion that if anyone wanted to understand anything about the nature and purpose of God as described by the Christian tradition one should turn away from the Church as it was in his day, a Church which revelled in its wealth, believing that it was the Church’s duty to reflect the glory of God – Theologia Gloria – but rather that one should turn towards the Cross – Theologia Crucis.
“Hereby we may understand that God, of His special grace, maketh the teachers of the Gospel subject to the Cross, and to all kinds of afflictions, for the salvation of themselves and of the people; for otherwise they could by no means beat down this beast which is called vain-glory.” (Luther: @Commentary on Galatians).
But what Luther saw as a particular contrast in fact has a worldwide consequence…“The world takes us to a silver screen on which flickering images of passion and romance play, and as we watch, the world says, “This is love.” God takes us to the foot of a tree on which a naked and bloodied man hangs and says, “This is love.” (Joshua Harris: I Kissed Dating Goodbye). The Cross is the means by which God pricks the conscience of every believer…but more than that The Cross is the means by which God pricks the collective conscience of an otherwise godless world, a world that has otherwise forsaken God – because this world is not and never will be God forsaken – that is the message of The Cross. The Cross is a lively and vivid reminder of who God is, what God is, why we matter to God and how much we matter to God. It makes us realise that God has, within God, experienced the whole panoply of human emotions to such an extent that there is no experience in life that can confront us that is alien to God’s experience. God has shared everything with us from which we can derive the confidence to share everything with God…
“Our tendency in the midst of suffering is to turn on God. To get angry and bitter and shake our fist at the sky and say, "God, you don't know what it's like! You don't understand! You have no idea what I'm going through. You don't have a clue how much this hurts." The cross is God's way of taking away all of our accusations, excuses, and arguments. The cross is God taking on flesh and blood and saying, "Me too.” (Rob Bell).
The life of faith begins at the Cross. The greatest challenge, the largest stumbling block to becoming a Christian, to embracing a Christian way of living is having to believe that the God whom we are invited to believe in, to follow, to imitate to serve, this God is one and the same with the Jesus who was crucified; the Jesus who was mocked and scourged, spat upon, stripped naked, humiliated in every way; who was made to suffer an excrutiatingly painful death, His body mutilated, His strength drained, His spirit shattered, His soul tormented His life extinguished. ‘This is our God, The Servant King – He calls us now to follow Him.’ We start here simply because without death there could be no resurrection; without the Cross there be no Crown; without the agony there could be no glory; without a Saviour there is no Lord.
“He, the Life of all, our Lord and Saviour, did not arrange the manner of his own death lest He should seem to be afraid of some other kind. No. He accepted and bore upon the cross a death inflicted by others, and those other His special enemies, a death which to them was supremely terrible and by no means to be faced; and He did this in order that, by destroying even this death, He might Himself be believed to be the Life, and the power of death be recognised as finally annulled. A marvellous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonour and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death's defeat.” (Athanasius of Alexandria: ‘On the Incarnation’).
For as long as there remains sin to be forgiven, the Cross has to be at the centre of everything we say and do as a Church. For As long as there remains evil to be redeemed, the Cross has to be at the centre of everything we say and do as a Church. For as long as there remains those who would glory in their own self rather than humble themselves in the service of others, the Cross has to be at the centre of everything we say and as a Church. For as long as there remains amongst us those who are suffering in body, mind, soul and spirit, the Cross has to be at the centre of everything we say and do as a Church. For as long as there remains those who would deny God, the Cross has to be at the centre of everything we say and do as a Church. The C20 theologian, Jurgen Moltmann wrote a trilogy – ‘The Crucified God’, ‘The Way of Jesus Christ’, ‘Theology of Hope’. Theology from the Cross, Theologia Crucis is ultimately a Theology of Hope. It is because Jesus died and in so doing overcame all that would otherwise overwhelm us that we can, in spite of everything continue to hope. It is because Jesus died and in so doing overcame death that we can, in spite of everything continue to believe in a living hope. It is because Jesus died and in so doing ushered in the epoch of redemption that we can, in spite of everything live lives that are hope-filled.
“Righteousness and love, law and grace, life and death, as well as time and eternity all intersect at the cross; displaying a divine wisdom that staggers the imagination and leads the humble heart to bow in thankful adoration. To understand the cross of Christ is to understand the heart of God toward a fallen world He wants to save.” (Steven Cook).