When writing to the Trallians the martyr Ignatius said, “You are not living as ordinary men but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us that you might escape death through faith in his death.” What do the contemporary theologians say of Christ’s cross?

The Crisis Theologians

The foremost names in modern European theology are those of Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, and Rudolph Bultmann. The first two insist that the Atonement is an act in history appropriate to the Holy God himself. Barth says that the Father “gave effect to His (Christ’s) death and passion as a satisfaction for us, as our conversion to God, and therefore as our redemption from death to life” (Church Dogmatics, IV/I, p. 157). The obedience and self-humiliation of the Son Barth develops by indicating four respects in which Jesus Christ was and is for us: (1) Jesus Christ took our place as Judge. (2) He took the place of us sinners. (3) He suffered, was crucified, and died. (4) He accomplished this before God and has therefore done right. Further, the Cross and the Resurrection are necessary one to the other. They witness together to the Christian’s death in Christ’s death and to his resurrection life in Christ’s resurrection.

Brunner attacks those who divide the meaning of Christ’s person and teaching from His work; they are one, says Brunner. The “must” element of Christ’s death (which, the theologian claims, is missing in the Abelardian view) is inescapable in the apostolic witness (The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption, pp. 278–81).

As the active love-fulfillment of the Law, Christ’s obedience to death involves five considerations: (1) The shed blood of Christ means that his life was forfeited to the judgment death of sin. (2) Christ’s sufferings ...

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