I was having a chat with a couple of my friends at Uni this week about atonement. We were discussing the various things that happen on the cross as Jesus hangs on it, and the implications of those things on our lives. Then the subject came up about the terminology we use and whether or not our focus is sometimes on the wrong thing when thinking about our lives in relation to Christ, the Cross and how we are to follow Jesus in discipleship. This got me thinking.
Quite often, I hear people talking about ‘The Cross Centred Life’ (and of course, there’s a book with this title by C J Mahaney). They talk about the cross as the ultimate message of the Christian gospel. Because of this focus, the prayers of these people are indeed cross centred. We can go out and do mission because of the cross, we can live because of the cross, we have a hope because of the cross.
This all seems very good and it sounds completely orthodox. But I don’t know whether it is orthodox to say that we can do these things because of the cross as such. I think we might have simplified the gospel, and quite possibly even warped the orthodoxy that we, deep down, believe.
What am I talking about?
Well, I’ve commented before on how Evangelicals can have a nasty habit of only preaching half the gospel. And I think what I’m about to say is closely related to this.
The thing is that I don’t believe that our lives should be cross centred. I know, shock horror; heretic. But hear me out. The cross is an amazing thing – it’s through the cross that Jesus wins us back to God. Our freedom, liberty and forgiveness comes through it. It’s the means by which God’s wrath is satisfied. Yes and Amen to all those things! But rather than the cross being the ultimate feature of the Gospel, I believe that it is actually the penultimate feature.
There wouldn’t be any power in the cross if Christ didn’t rise from it only three days after the crucifixion. It’s not because of the cross that we can go out and do mission. It’s not because of the cross that we have a hope. NO! The hope we have and the power to go out and make disciples lies in the fact that we don’t worship a dead God, but a risen and glorified Saviour-King. It is Jesus at the centre here – not those two bits of wood and a suffering servant.
I’m in no way trying to take power away from the cross, by no means. And you know what – I might simply be wrong on this issue. But to be frank, I’m frustrated and annoyed that people have exchanged ‘It’s all about Jesus’ for ‘It’s all about the Cross’, because, to me, that’s heresy.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Am I right? Am I confused? I completely get that I might be! The doctrines and theologies that I’ve touched on are simple yet complicated, and it’s easy for us to go astray once we start getting creative with our slogans and catch phrases. Don’t buy into theology too easily! I’d love to know your thoughts on this issue – please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong!
Dean is a Minister in the Anglican Church. Currently he is Curate in the parishes of Bedwas, Machen, Michaelston-y-Fedw and Rudry in South Wales. He was born and bred in Wales, is married to Megan, and has two dogs called Taliesin and Melyn, and two cats named Sinsir and Hâf. He graduated from Cardiff University with a BA Hons. in Theology & Religious Studies, and has studied for an MA in Theology, Ministry & Mission at Trinity College Bristol. He also holds a Cert.RSCM from the Royal School of Church Music. He loves playing music, walking, reading, blogging and horse riding as well as going to the cinema and theatre.
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