Been blogging through Christopher Wright’s book about things that are hard to understand about the Christian God. In earlier chapters he covered things that make him uncomfortable but now he gets to the third section about the cross–something that puzzles but delights him. He begins with this thought:
As I ponder the cross, three fundamental questions sum up our struggle to understand it: Why? What? and How? Why did God ever consider sending Jesus to die on the cross? Why was it necessary from our point of view? Why was he willing to do it, from his point of view? And then, What did God actually accomplish through the death of his Son? What was it all for? And finally, How did it work? How did one man’s bleeding body stretched on two pieces of wood for six hours of torture and death on a particular Friday one spring outside a city in a remote province of the Roman Empire change everything in the universe? (p.111)
In this chapter he takes up the why and the what questions.
Why?The simple answer is “Because God Loves us.” (p. 112). But he also admits that the answer is “totally inexplicable.” Wright doesn’t believe that we can really answer the question but is convinced we can deepen our understanding traipsing through the OT. Then Wright shows what is not the OT’s answer for why God loves Israel. It is not because they are special in any shape or form. In fact they may have been the unfortunate example of “all that is worst about humanity in general.” The only way to understand why God loves us, says Wright, is to accept that it is God’s character to love. And while that states the truth, “…it doesn’t explain it.”
What? Wright points to 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 and the quick summary of what happened. He then reflects on the metaphors the Bible uses to describe what the cross does for human sinners. Metaphors used to describe the atonement cannot fully capture the “what” but neither are they lacking in reality. Wright then explores these metaphors:
1. Coming home (Eph. 2:11f)
2. Mercy (Eph. 2:3-7)
3. Redemption from slavery
5. Reconciliation with God and other
8. New Life
Each of these reveal that God was doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. What is not a metaphor, says Wright, is the word “substitution.” That is, he says, is what he actually did. God accepts the penalty which belonged to us alone.
This chapter, as you may see, has less discussion of mystery and more discussion of the “what” and the “why.” Next chapter will take on some more of the mystery by exploring the “how” of the cross–how it could have such cosmic impact.