>Act 1: Crucifixion is topic that has been written about for centuries. The first 500 years of Christianity were contentious on this issue and 500 years ago it became the source of a major schism between the Protestants and the Catholics. It is currently being hotly debated again – in the publishing industry, on blogs, and in pulpits.
If you look it up you will find everything from ancient Penal Substitution theories to modern Bloodless theories.
You will find Forensic theories, Governmental theories, Satisfaction theories, Recapitulation theories and everything in between.
They will have names like Christus Victor or Ransom Theory. But one thing that they will all agree on is twofold:
- something divinely significant happened on the cross
- Jesus impacted both humanity and eternity by what happened on the cross
I hate that there is so much division and venomous aggression from those in one camp toward those in another. I do not think that it cast Jesus in the best light nor does it bring Jesus the type of exalted glory that should come by looking at this subject!
I really like how Larry Shelton comes at this. In his book Cross and Covenant he surveys them all and suggests using the analogy of golf clubs. If each of these views is seen – not as the totality of truth – but, as an angle or perspective that is useful in certain situations for a specific purpose. I like this a lot. The idea of gleaning meaning from a collection of metaphors is pretty sweet.
Of course, if you have a collection of golf clubs you are going to need an organizing principle – a golf bag if you will. Here lies the brilliance of his approach: Shelton says that the collecting concept is Covenant. Covenant is relational and it runs from the front to the back of our religion.
Act 2: Here is where I am at on this.
The crucifixion means a great deal to me, as it does to many. To me, the incarnation, the teaching and model of Jesus’ life, the crucifixion, and the resurrection are the four things that form the core of the Gospel web. Pentecost and the coming of the Comforter launch us into the Acts of the Apostles and the rest of church history. The importance of the crucifixion would not get much disagreement. What we think happened there, however, would.
Here is the question that I think exposes it. This is the the litmus test that brings it to the surface: where was God on Good Friday? When you envision the Passion Play, what role have you cast God in?
Let me tell you the three most common answers:
- God is off the stage. God has abandoned Jesus and has pulled back from him in his suffering.
- God is with the Romans. God is punishing Jesus for the sins of the world, taking out his wrath.
- God is with Jesus. God was in Christ is a unique way and therefor God suffered with Jesus. This is what Jurgen Multmann calls the Crucified God. The God part of Jesus suffered and died, not just the human part of Jesus.
I do not believe that God abandoned Jesus or that only the human part of Jesus died.
I do not believe that God was on the side of the Romans. Jesus suffered and died unjustly and God was with him on that cross.
I do not believe in the Puppet Master God who is pulling the strings behind that curtain and causing things to happen to punish us or hurt us or destroy us.
This is why we need to be careful about reading that into Psalm 22 ‘my god my god why have you abandoned me.’ It does not mean that God DID abandon Jesus, but that the separation of sin (a broken relationship) felt that way.
This becomes important when we go through tough times, are assaulted or insulted, and suffer unjustly. Where is God in that moment?
The truth is that God is with you. God is suffering with you. God has not abandoned you and God is not punishing you.
A) God is with you. B) God, in Christ, knows what you are going through C) Jesus paid that price and now nothing can separate you from the Love of God.
This is where most people who are into Relational Religion would stop.
I am going to go one step further.
Let me throw out 2 ideas:
- Is it possible that the “Job view” of God (from the Old Testament) was suppose to die on the Cross. That conception of God began to die when God became a man and “it was finished” when God gave his life – unjustly – for us. It is not only that Jesus died FOR our sins but also that he died BECAUSE of our sins.
- If one reads Romans 8 as : God works for the good with those who love God and are called. It is NOT that God cause the THINGS to work for us. It is GOD who works with us for the good. This allows us to leave behind the obsession that ‘everything happens for a reason.’
Here is why I am saying this: When someone wins a football game and thanks God, and when someone drops a touchdown and blames God (on Twitter)…is it possible that neither is God’s doing?
This view of God was suppose to die on the cross. God had not abandoned Jesus. God was not on the side of the Romans. God was with Jesus in his suffering.
Here is why this is important:
A) if we use the old dualism (which I do not like) then it is tough to make the case that ‘god’ is all loving AND all powerful. If ‘he’ is loving then ‘he’ is not all powerful and if ‘he’ is all powerful then ‘he’ is not all loving. These old dualism are a trap! that is why it becomes impossible (under Greek metaphysics) for the Incarnation to happen IF god is THAT transcendent then it becomes impossible to be incarnate or immanent and thus we chalk it up to “mystery”.
B) This idea of God being ‘in control’ … it that like “sovereign”? Because a King is sovereign but not IN CONTROL of all that goes on in his kingdom…
C) So the reason that I say Job’s god dies on the the cross – actually I have been writing a big essay on that – but here are my quick thoughts (5 of them)
#1 God does not cause people to catch or drop touchdowns. That is not what God does. God is not pulling the strings behind the scenes.
#2 God is not doing things TO people. This idea is dead. God partners with or calls to – this is not coercive but is instead persuasive – it is more seductive than dominant.
#3 The idea that God is making deals with the devil to make people (like Job) cry “uncle” dies with Christ on the cross. Jesus died unjustly!! which leads to …
#4 not everything happens “for a reason” Jesus did not only die FOR our sins but BECAUSE of our sins. We have to get rid of this obsession of ‘everything happens for a reason’. It doesn’t. Unless you mean sin, that explains somethings. But stop blaming God.
#5 WWII: The Christian Germans and the non-Christian Japanese make it impossible to draw clean lines between the “Good guys” and “Bad guys”. Victims and oppressors got all messed up in the 20th century. The Christian Orthodox Serbians in the Bosnian war would be more contemporary example.
Act 3: I was introduced to an idea on this topic that was brand new to me. I was listening to a presentation a while ago and something jumped out woke me up. The presenter said that the crucifixion not just opens a way for God to forgive us – but for us to forgive God. Essentially saying that once Jesus unjustly endures what he does in the flesh, that humanity can not be angry at God for the injustices of life and the cruelty of existence.
God died for us. We can forgive God for not rescuing us from harm, for not stopping assaults, and for not preventing genocide and other atrocities. Jesus is a victim of injustice. Jesus was killed unjustly by the military powers of a foreign occupier.
In that moment of violence, God is not with the strong. God is with the weak and those that have been victimized. Just as in the Exodus story, God is not with the Pharaoh, God is with the slave. But this time… God is the victim. Jesus died unjustly.
This opens the door – not only for God to forgive us – but for us to forgive God.
Final Thoughts: I know the idea of forgiving God may rub some people the wrong. Others may get upset by the idea of a concept of God dying. I have gotten in trouble over the years on the podcast for saying that Jerry Falwell’s god is dead.
Try to think of it this way: Gods die all the time. No one worships Thor or Zeus anymore. At least Job’s god died for a good cause! Jesus opened the door for us to have a new relationship with God. This is not the Puppet-Master God, this is God as Parent Perfect and loving friend. Then, we were given the gift of Holy Spirit – that Christ could abide with us always. I don’t know why christian keep trying to save the old God’s life and keep the Job concept around on Life Support. We should just let that concept of God die it’s natural death (for Christ’s sake). Or, if we really wanted to, we could be more proactive and put it out of it’s misery by crucifying it … the final nail in the coffin as they say.