Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Inoffensive Crucifixion?


I know it is Holy Saturday now but...

Giles Fraser, a Vicar in Putney has written a piece for The Guardian, headed, 'The Merciful Crucifixion: What kind of a vicious God would demand Jesus sacrificed for our sins?'

Understandably, from his work in Ivory Coast, he goes on to explain the horror of human sacrifice and ritual killings, having lived in Wiawso, 'not far from the cathedral, for having taken part in the ritualised murder of a disabled man, a hunchback. He was staked out and dismembered. The men involved went on to sell his body parts for large sums of money to witchdoctors.'

He then says: 'Thinking about the celebration of Holy Week in my new adopted cathedral brings home to me quite how important it is for Christians to insist upon a non-sacrificial reading of the death of Christ. For too long, Christians have put up with a theory of salvation that has at its core the idea that God requires the sacrifice of his own son so that human sin can be cancelled. "There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin," we will all sing. The fact this is a disgusting idea, and morally degenerate, is obvious to all but those indoctrinated into a very narrow reading of the cross.

No, Jesus is not a blood sacrifice to appease a vicious God. The story is not an endorsement of the idea that sacrifice brings peace with God but an attack on it. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice," Jesus insists, going on to side with the scapegoats themselves. The Gospel is clear. I am with the hunchback. I am with the one cast out. He became one with the rejected and the cast out. And thus he suffered the same fate. This is not to endorse sacrificial theology but to condemn it.'

Unfortunately, the writer fails to understand the full meaning of Christ's Act of Redemption, His pouring out of His blood for the salvation of mankind. I understand that during His Crucifixion, Suffering and Death, that Christ united Himself with the sufferings and pains of all mankind. The Son of God suffered, even died upon the Cross, uniting Himself to humanity and humanity to the Divine. Yes, uniting Himself to the poor and cast out, and for all.

But, I think the writer is picking aspects of the Crucifixion out which he likes, which are palatable and inoffensive, rather than the theology of the Cross as a unique event in human history.

Man disobeyed God and sin came into the World. God became man. This man is the Son of God. In order to ransom mankind, redeem us and forgive us, He Himself takes upon Himself the punishment that should have been ours. He had no sin, yet for us 'became sin.'

I know it isn't 'nice' that God should undergo such torturous suffering on our behalf, yet Christ's crucifixion and of course, His Resurrection, is the full and total expression of God's infinite love for us. The truth of the Cross is that God chose to undergo every aspect of human suffering, to unite us to God, to save us and so that we look upon the Cross now, and wonder at the fact that when it comes to us, mankind, there is nothing that God would not do for us, no suffering that He himself would not undergo for us, no pain He would not endure for us.

The question, what kind of a vicious God would demand Jesus be sacrificed for our sins is a valid one. Yet, it misses a crucial point. The other aspect of the question is, 'What kind of a Son of God would submit Himself to the horror, torture and desolation of the Passion? What kind of love is this? What kind of holy, Sacred Heart, would find it within Himself the will to do this to say, 'I love you and am taking everything you have ever done, ever do and ever will do upon Myself, because I am the God of Love.'

It wasn't 'nice', the Passion is not 'nice', but what part of 'God died for our sins' does the writer not understand!

1 comment:

Larry Denninger said...

It's been my experience that some people take this view because they are unable to face their own sins, or deny that they are in sin; thus, they put the onus on God rather than putting it on themselves, where it truly belongs.

That Christ suffered out of love for me serves to remind me that I still fall short of the glory of God in many ways.

I like your blog - I'm going to blogroll you.

Happy Easter blessings!!

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