Thursday, October 25, 2007

The cross from two angles

The Bible gives us two perspectives on the crucifixion of Christ, and the two perspectives teach us two very different lessons.

From one perspective, the cross of Christ represents a divine transaction. The Son of God, in full agreement with his Father and out of love for his people, goes to the cross willingly, bearing human sin on his shoulders. He endures the just consequences of that sin, is punished in the place of those who will trust in him. He willingly surrenders his life, tasting death for others so that those others might live.

From this angle, I learn this: Christ bore the cross for me, so that I need never bear it. My sin is paid for, and there can be no wrath for me.

From another perspective, the cross of Christ represents a human injustice. The innocent Christ is flogged and tortured, accused falsely and strung up by sinful people. He suffers because of the envy and fear of the priestly caste, the pride of the civic leaders, and the cowardice of the Roman governor. He is hated because of what he represents: the righteousness of God in a world full of unrighteousness. And he is killed, ultimately, because people living in the darkness hate the light.

From this angle, I learn this: Christ bore the cross for me, so that I might understand that I also have to bear it. In this world, the Christian will look foolish and weak. The Christian will represent something that the world finds repellent. If we try to get away from that, we refuse to take up the cross, and thus we refuse to follow Christ.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Just for fun

Barth on congregationalism:

Against the papal form, and also against the episcopal and presbyterian synodal forms of constitution, there is this basic objection, that they not only do not serve the readiness, openness and freedom of the congregation for the Word of God and therefore for the reformation of the church; they actually hinder it. They all rest on the remarkable contradiction that they entrust too little to men - namely to the men gathered as Christians to be the living congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ - yet, on the other hand, they entrust too much to men - namely, to those particular office bearers and representatives chosen and ordained by men, entrusted to be representatives within and without the congregation. In one place these forms cannot be too careful to guard against human arbitrariness, in order in the other place to carelessly give it a free hand. Where the former care and the latter carelessness are in effect, there can be no room for the renewal of the church... Why may not the constitution of the church be at last based on the knowledge that the church is wholly from God and must await everything from him? These other polities are all open to the charge that they smell a bit of unbelief.

God Here and Now, page 102

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Relatio-confessional unity

Just a brief post before I dump several thousand words about baptism on you...

I've been pondering some exciting things that have happening in my neck of the woods, mainly an increased and increasing sense of unity amongst various different churches and organisations involved in student ministry. My pondering has led me to realise something. I have always believed that unity should be (indeed, can only be, if it is to be Christian unity) confessional. I still believe that, and I still think that in an ideal world Christians who unite together should publish a common confession.

But I've realised that isn't nearly enough.

Really a brief reflection on salvation history should have taught me this: God never works in abstract truth. He works in people, and to be a person is to be a person-in-relationship. (The incarnation is the most obvious example: God did not send a Qu'ran-like text; he sent the Truth-as-a-man). And so Christian unity is not just about gathering around a set of abstract truths. It is about seeing those truths lived in relationships with one another as we set about our common goal of knowing the Truth and making the Truth known, because knowing the Truth is knowing the Lord Jesus and making the Truth known is making the Lord Jesus known.

Note to self: anything - anything - that abstracts from real, living persons in real life situations is at best a distraction, and at worst an idol.