On last week’s TNT I introduced a thought experiment: take the cross out of the Jesus story and see what you can still do.
This thought experiment appeals to me for two reasons:
- Modern Protestants have overdone it on the cross.
- The incarnation and resurrection hold far more interest and power.
I have started to get some great responses to my assertion that one could still come up with over 90% of Christianity without the cross.
I thought it would be good to give it more form here and open it up for conversation.
Keep in mind what I’m saying and what I am not saying:
- Just because Jesus’ story went the way it did doesn’t mean that it had to go that way.
- Just because things are the way they are doesn’t mean that they have to stay this way.
- Jesus’ resurrection could have followed any death – not just the cross.
- The incarnation is where the old formulation of divine/human or transcendent/imminent are breached or fused.
- The Christianity that we have was formed in the aftermath of the cross and resurrection … that is not evidence of the cross’ necessity.
- Had Jesus died some other way, he still would have died once for all.
- The satisfaction, propitiation, expiation and reconciliation that so many focus on in atonement theories are still there without the cross.
- The Christianity that would have emerged would have been slightly different but still largely the same.
- Jesus’ jewishness, the incarnation, resurrection and Pentecost are the 4 things that still anchor the Christian church.
- The cross really doesn’t play that important of a role – not like the previous 4 – it’s main purpose is decoration on our buildings, necklaces and t-shirts.
Those are some of my thoughts about the variable of the cross.
My final point is not included in the same manner as those above, but to be honest: once the Roman Empire co-opted christianity (the Constantinian Compromise) the cross has mostly been a hood-ornament on the machine of empire. Except for a few places on the periphery and during a few periods of severe oppression and domination … the powerful church has been better, as Tripp says, at building crosses than bearing them.
This point does not prove the thought-experiment, so I don’t want it to distract the conversation, but in the end … I’m not sure how much the cross really does for us.
This is one of the many reasons that I promote being an Incarnational Christian. That is where the power is – incarnation and resurrection!
- Jesus could have died of sudden-infant-death-syndrome or of old age and still died once for all.
- Jesus could have been stabbed or beaten to death and it is still the resurrection where God vindicates the victim.
I would go as far as to say what the cross was meant to expose – the scapegoating and victimization mechanism – is still firmly in place and actually still employed by those who sing ‘The wonderful cross’ and ‘on a hill far away’ on Sundays.
There ya go! I have tried to make a case with this thought experiment – I would love your feedback, concerns, and questions!
Let’s have some fun with this.