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.
October 13, 2014 at 12:39 am
Hey Bo, some great points here. I get that “we’ve overdone it on the cross.” What then is the significance of the cross for Jesus, and then for us as well? We’ve all been taught that “Jesus died in the worst possible way” and “as a criminal”. For us the cross is more about the “cruciform” life. Is this shifting?