Part 4 in a series of 4. In part 1 I asked if our focus on blood and violence has caused us to miss something vital in the Easter story. Part 2 asked if we have mistakenly celebrated the very thing that Christ came to destroy? Part 3 asked if have heard the new word that God spoke in Christ or are we repeating the old word over and over?
Do we need the cross?
Had Jesus died some other way would we still be saved?
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.
My assertion that over 90% of Christianity remains without the cross.
Jesus’ jewishness, the incarnation, resurrection, and Pentecost are the 4 things that still anchor the Christian church.
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 God wants them that way.
- Jesus’ resurrection could have followed any death – not just the cross.
- The incarnation is where the old formulations 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 – Jesus could have been beheaded or stabbed to death and reception would still have taken place. We would still have the gospel.
- The cross is a migrating signifier [like palm branches] and now its main purpose is decoration on our buildings, necklaces, and t-shirts.
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 more powerful church has been better historically, the more evident that is.
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 – the sinless one for sinful humanity.
- 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.
I would love your feedback, concerns, and questions!