The Good (Friday), the Bad, and the Ugly (3/25/16)

Today is Good Friday, a day of profound meaning.  This is the day we remember that the divine Logos, who had from all eternity existed within the three person community of the god YHWH, died.  This was the dark day when God himself was crucified as a blasphemer.  When the Prince of Peace was executed as a political rebel.  This is the day when the fabric of the universe seemed to come undone, when God incarnate became sin incarnate (2 Cor 5:21).  The day when God became everything God could not, should not, be according to all the categories we have so carefully laid out for him over the centuries.

This man was God with us.  He dies among us, as us.  He took upon himself our sufferings (Isa 52:13-53:12).  He embodied the curse of law (Gal 3), and declared us all righteous before God as he cried out to the cross, “Forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34). God himself, murdered for his sheer innocence, absolved the very persons who killed him to to protect their own power.

This idea weighs heavily upon me. It disturbs me, it compels me, and it drives me.  As I think about this day, it seems only fitting that this week’s edition of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” should center around the theme as well.  As such, the links below will all relate to what Paul described as the center of the Gospel, “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).

As such, I am going to take a slightly different tact.  As I see it, Good Friday is – in and of itself – a day which is good, bad, and ugly and I think we need to focus on each of these things as we observe this day.

The Good

1. Ben Corey’s blog, Formerly Fundie, is known for pushing past the often trite categories of Evangelical Christianity and working towards a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and the God we worship.  Recently, Corey invited pastor and philosopher Jeff Cook to reflect on the crucifixion.  This is part of the three part series Cook is writing.

God, the Cross, and the Problem of Evil

2. Justification by NT Wright is one of my all-time favorite books.  When I first read it, it radically shifted the paradigm of how I viewed the cross and have me categories for reading Scripture that I had never even thought of previously.  For such a small and accessible book, it absolutely rocked my world and helped me see the cross as a symbol of hope and redemption in ways I never had before.

The Bad

3. Jared Byas is a regular contributor at Pete Enns blog.  Today he wrote a post that hits right to the center of why I’ve chosen this theme.  Byas briefly explores the ways in which we use Easter Sunday to minimize the darkness and despair of Good Friday.  We ignore the ways in which the suffering of Christ speaks into our own despair and hopelessness, and often in our rush to Sunday many get left behind or marginalized.

Sunday is Not Always Coming

4. In their book Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, Joel Green and Mark Baker explore the importance of atonement metaphors in Scripture informing our paradigm for our theology of the Cross.  Green and Baker highlight how often we highlight one metaphor in exclusion of all others, and how this can create a theology which loses sight of the scandal of a God that would die on a cross.  As I was exploring theologies of the cross, this book was instrumental in humbling me and helping to develop a more wholistic approach in my Christology.

The Ugly

5. If there is one book the had been most influential in my own theology of the cross, it is Jurgen Moltmann’s Crucified God.  This is an absolutely seminal text, placing the suffering of Christ within the context of a deeply Trinitarian theology.  Even more astounding is Moltmann’s theology of hope, emanating from his Christology, which places the cross as the pivot point of human history and the image of the crucified God as the source of all human hope for New Creation.  This book takes all preconceptions of what it means to be God and exposes them as little more than anthropotheistic visions of ourselves. In the vision of the crucified God so much of our own posturing and desire for power and control is exposed as futile as God himself defies all out catgories on the cross.

6. Theology of the Pain of God is an absolutely breathtaking read.  Entrenched in the context of post-World War 2 Japan, Kazoh Kitamori presents a profound theology of the Cross which systematically dismantles so much of Western Christological tradition.  This is a book you will struggle with, there are parts you will likely disagree strongly with, but you will most certainly be glad you have read it.

7. In 2014, Brian Zahnd preached a series of sermons on Jesus crucifixion.  Zahnd set out to explore the theological baggage surrounding the Cross and, in doing so, leaves the listener standing face to face with God crucified.  In my experience, one cannot encounter the existential human crisis that is the Cross without walking away shaken to the core.

These sermons can be hear here:
http://wolc.com/watch–listen/sermon-archives/the-crucified-god/#series-sort_the-crucified-god

As we observe this day, I urge you not to rush towards Sunday.  Sunday is important, it is vital to our understanding of New Creation.  But we cannot fully appreciate Sunday until we, like the disciples before us, first experience the seeming hopelessness of expecting a great lion, and instead encountering a slaughtered lamb (c.f. Rev 5).

Peace to you.

Nate Sparks

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Thanks for taking the time to read and engage. I look forward to your feedback, I welcome any criticism. However, as my goal here is mutualy respectful, beneficial conversation, I only ask that we keep civility in mind with our words. Grace and Peace.

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