Years ago, when I first started reading the Molt, I started with his infamous The Crucified God. The following quote stood out:
“If it is true that the inner criterion of whether or not Christian theology is Christian lies in the crucified Christ, we come back to Luther’s lapidary statement: Crux probat omnia. In Christianity the cross is the test of everything which deserves to be called Christian. One may add that the cross alone, and nothing else, is its test, since the cross refutes everything, and excludes the syncretistic This is a hard saying. To many it sounds unattractive and unmodern, and to others rigid and orthodox. I will try to disappoint both.” (p.7)
At the time I had finished John Stott’s The Cross of Christ and was loving the emphasis on the cross. Truth be told, when I came into contact with the Reformers and the Puritans, I was overwhelmed with the glory of the cross. I slowly came to have a better understanding as to why Paul wrote, “far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). The cross is central to Christianity. And I agree with David Bebbington that it’s one of the four hallmarks of Evangelicalism.
However… and yes, I need to provide a “however” here. I’m concerned that we have, at times, been guilty of ignoring the other side of the coin: Jesus not only died upon the cross but was raised from the dead! The cross of Christ must include the resurrection of Jesus. And yes, I have in mind a physical event found in history at which point Jesus the Messiah, fully God and fully man, was miraculously raised from the dead. I realize that the Molt spends time talking about the resurrection in chapter 5, so I don’t want to suggest that the Molt views Christianity as being entirely comprised of the cross with little or no attention to the resurrection. That would be a misrepresentation.
But I seem to read and hear a lot of statements in certain streams of Evangelicalism where there is much emphasis on Jesus’ death and very little emphasis on the resurrection. Of course, this is challenged around this time of the year because Easter is right around the corner. For my part, I think crucicentric thinking is an oversimplification of the Christian faith that must be connected to the resurrection of the Son of God! So while I have found much to think on from the Molt’s The Crucified God, I want to attach N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God to my interaction with and study of the Molt. Wright helpfully, in The Resurrection of the Son of God, ensures that the Christian faith is intricately connected to the powerful raising of Christ from death, victoriously defeating Satan, sin, sickness, and death.
Don’t get me wrong. I like how the Molt values and sees the cross as shaping the Christian faith. I love it. Yet I can’t stop talking at the cross. I need to keep talking about the resurrection too!
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If Christ has not been raised… we are still in our sins. Good stuff.
Great stuff, Luke, and I wholly agree. For me, the cross has come to mean more than ever in light of the resurrection. I see, in the resurrection, God co-opting the world’s (at that time) greatest symbol of the power of death, and completely reversing its meaning. If THAT can be one way that we keep a cross-centered faith, then I’m good. Speaking of N.T. Wright, I am especially thankful also to his insistence that the death of Jesus must also be unpacked in light of the life of Jesus so that we don’t reduce the gospels to something like, “Jesus was born — then he did a bunch of stuff here, but the really good part is when he died on the cross for our sins.” In other words, the message of Jesus must be Birth, Life, Death, Burial, and Resurrection as a theological – soteriological package that helps us to see all the layers of the gospel in vivid detail.
I agree that an evangelical re-balancing of the cross and resurrection has been needed, and has been led by NTWright.
BUT, more than either, don’t we need a rediscovery of the discipleship dynamic of the Great Commission, pointing us back to Jesus’ teaching, starting from the Sermon on the Mt?
I forget where I read this but I think it has a lot of truth in it, “Most evangelicals are stuck in Romans 7: and never make it Romans 8:”