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If non-Western critics are right, American Christians have a skewed view of Jesus. Asian and African American theologians have consistently emphasized the suffering, compassion, and humiliation of Jesus—not just on the cross but in all stages of ...

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James Cowles

November 22, 2013  7:50am

@ Carlos Ramirez Trevino ... "It is through our willingness to endure suffering that Christ has the victory over sin. If anyone disagrees with my assessment, please point out the weaknesses in this argument." First of all -- and I say this sincerely, not in the least sarcastically -- thank you for taking my post seriously. Most Christians simply respond by wrapping themselves more tightly in their faith, stopping their ears, and repeating over & over "Not hearing this! Not hearing this!" My response to your argument is just the following image: little 11-year-old girl sitting in a bed in a pediatric oncology hospice whimpering in pain from stage-4 bone cancer. Also, see Ivan Karamazov's "give back my ticket" speech about this in "The Brothers Karamazov".

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Carlos Ramirez Trevino

November 21, 2013  9:35am

Clearly, J. Cowles' comments make more sense than many are willing to admit. It is no comfort to have someone stand by, rope in hand, as you dangle from the frail root protruding from the cliff's ledge and say, "I know what it feels like!" That is reason to ask if we really understands God's role in our suffering. From my perspective, there are at least two different aspects to suffering: the personal and the theological. At the personal level the impact of suffering on a person's well-being can be devastating and blinding. As a result, Paul cautions us not to let anger rise to the level of sin. We are also told that suffering builds patience, tolerance, obedience and trust. That is the human dimension of suffering in this temporal existence which God created to achieve His purpose. The philosophical angle requires academic examination that explores and answers the 'why' question from a Biblical perspective. Is it appropriate then to challenge the current views on this issue? My response is that we tend to view suffering at the emotional level and that gives us a skewed perspective of the theology of suffering. But when we explore the relevant Scripture, the image that comes into focus is much different than the emotionally charged perspective. From the human point of view, suffering is an affliction that can make us better. The cosmic perspective is that suffering is a necessary component of created things. On the other hand, theologically speaking, God created the known universe, to include mankind, to get rid of the causes of suffering. So, while to Cowles it seems as if God is standing by and just letting things take their course, God is in fact not idly standing by like a common spectator. God has in fact designed all things to bring about the eradication of the physical, metaphysical, moral and spiritual corruption that engender suffering. Unfortunately, the battle to suppress corruption, itself subjects the fighter to the daggers of suffering. While it was necessary for Christ to die and endure suffering to strike it down, it is also necessary for us to face off against this enemy. Consequently, the reason for our suffering is not to impress the love of Christ on humanity, nor to make us better individuals. Our suffering is the result of the battle against the evil that creeps in with the necessary component of corruption in all things created. Like soldiers marching into battle, we suffer, not because it makes us better soldiers, but because suffering accompanies war. But the result of our spiritual war will be the introduction of Christ’s eternal righteousness (Dan 9:24). We suffer because Christ had to have a body that could suffer so He could put an end to death (Hebrews 10:5). And finally, we suffer because that was God’s best and wisest plan for the eradication of evil, from before the beginning of time (2 Tim 1:9). It is through our willingness to endure suffering that Christ has the victory over sin. If anyone disagrees with my assessment, please point out the weaknesses in this argument.

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James Cowles

November 18, 2013  7:58am

@ Vijay Mathias ... "What then of Matthew 25, where Jesus explicitly says "when you feed the poor, clothe the naked etc you do it unto me. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto Me"?" You're right, Vijay. Matthew chap. 25 is one of those texts, like living by the sword & dying by the sword, that conservatives carefully ignore ... while nevertheless continuing to bloviate about the "authority of Scripture".

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Vijay Mathias

November 17, 2013  8:49pm

The strangest and most ironical statement in this review in my opinion was the authors dismissal of Mother Teresa's actions (feeding the poor is like feeding Christ) as a violation of Christian doctrine. What then of Matthew 25, where Jesus explicitly says "when you feed the poor, clothe the naked etc you do it unto me. Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto Me"? That statement alone by the authors proves that the Asian and African Christians are correct, and defeats the entire purpose of the book in terms of 'answering the charge'. I will not be reading this book.

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James Cowles

November 17, 2013  12:52pm

Even when I was a Christian, I was always puzzled by the comfort people drew from reflecting on Jesus, as the saying went, "being with" us in our suffering. What is the content of "being with"? To be sure, humans' power to alleviate suffering is limited, so sometimes all we humans can do is "be with" someone -- and there is some value in that. But the real advantage, the real comfort, is in ALLEVIATING suffering ... something God presumably has infinite power to accomplish. CURING the suffering, not merely BEING WITH us in it, would be the best comfort. It's as if I swim out into the ocean too far, get cramps, and begin to drown. The lifeguard, a big, muscular strapping fellow who could easily outswim a great white shark, sees my plight and swims out to rescue me ... or so I think. But instead, when he reaches me, he says "No, I'm not here to rescue you. I'm here to share with you the experience of drowning. Now ... doesn't that make you feel better?" Well ... frankly ... no.

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Padre Dave Poedel

November 15, 2013  6:44pm

The key to this review, in my estimation, is the frequent use of the word "Reformed" in describing the Christus Victor model. Citing Peiper calls to mind that this LCMS Lutheran is a "theologia crucis" preacher, pastor and sinner/saint. My Roman Catholic upbringing found me on my knees in front of what you call "agony crucifixes" and I found great comfort and acceptance there. Somehow, "for me" became part of my internal faith life, and helped me endure a childhood of verbal and physical abuse with, I believe, fewer scars than my siblings and peers. Finding myself in the Lutheran Church as an adult, and not knowing that there were different "flavors" of Lutheran, always seemed to end up in the LCMS, I found a spirituality and piety that was familiar and oddly comforting, even though I was reminded over and again that we were NOT Roman... OK, so now I am an Evangelical Catholic pastor/priest and a theologian of the Cross...oh, and we have a Crucifix up front and on the altar for me

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John Bresnahan

November 15, 2013  5:14pm

Interesting issue. A few years ago I saw a movie about St. Francis of Assisi. One of the early scenes took place inside a large church which had two crucifixes--one of Christ the King in all his kingly robed glory--the other of Christ in bloody agony. But what was most noticeable were the people praying in front of each crucifix. Before the Christ in agony were mobs of the poorest of the poor. In front of Christ the King crucifix were all the "swells"-- the well-fed and well-dressed. At about the same time Vatican II was shaking things up and many Catholic churches were redecorating and tossing out old "agony" crucifixes to replace them with crosses that had risen Christ bodies. But even more interesting was the fact that it was churches in well-to-do parishes that put up new crucifixes. Inner city churches kept the Christ in agony crucifixes. The American Catholic bishops finally set a policy requiring all Catholic churches to have at least one traditional crucifix

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