The Cross Alone Is Our Theology

What must God be like? Jesus’ death upsets every simple answer. /

“The cross alone is our theology.” So said the Reformer Martin Luther. After all, if the one nailed to the cross truly is Immanuel—God with us—then we desperately need to rethink what God is like. What kind of God is this who would bleed and die for us? This is not the kind of Supreme Being I naturally imagine when my mind goes gallivanting. Settled cozily in my armchair, I tend to assume that God must be rather like me. Bigger and better, I concede, but basically like me. Me on cosmic steroids. Then I see the cross, and it is like a defibrillator for the mind.

There on the cross is displayed the glory, the wisdom, the righteousness, the love, the justice, and the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18–31). And none of it looks anything like what you'd expect. Would you ever have thought a man dying on a cross was the definition of love? Yet this is how we know what love is (1 John 3:16). Would you ever have looked at the miscarriage of justice that was his trial and imagined that there, above all, is displayed the perfect justice of God? Yet God did it to demonstrate his justice (Rom. 3:26). Would you ever have dreamed that the Almighty would make the definitive display of his power there, nailed to a cross between common criminals? There seems to be nothing powerful about that man in the throes of death. Yet, hanging there, he is crushing the head of the Serpent, tying up the strong man, driving out the prince of this world, destroying death, putting the spiritual powers to open shame and triumphing over them. On the cross we see true, pure power, used as it should be: to bless. “And so,” wrote T. F. Torrance, “the cross with all its incredible meekness and patience and compassion ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 32 / October 1, 2015
  1. Editor’s Note

    Issue 32: Sloths’ splendid slowness, Lilias Trotter’s gambit, and a cross-eyed view of God. /

  2. Who Are You Calling a Deadly Sin?

    The sloth’s slowness is its virtue. /

  3. ‘I Cannot Give Myself to Painting’

    Why one of the greatest Victorian artists walked away. /

  4. The Basics of Iridescence

    ‘the bare bones of that fleeting / soap-bubble sheen’ /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Issue 32: Links to amazing stuff. /

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