Why the Cross?

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll

The Cross. No doctrine is more central to the Christian faith and, yet, more of an offense to our human sensibilities. For the unbeliever, it represents everything that is wrong with Christianity. A wrathful God who must be appeased by the brutal murder of his own son is deserving of contempt, not worship; any religion he inspires can’t help but promote violence and bloodshed. Remember the Crusades, Inquisition, and witch hunts.

Even people inclined to Jesus and his teachings have difficulties with the Cross. In his book, Death on a Friday Afternoon, the late Richard John Neuhaus wrote of one person’s halt, just short of the cross,

“I have no doubts about God, and I completely agree with the Church’s moral teachings… I am a little embarrassed to say it, but my problem is with the cross. Why Jesus had to die, this whole business of blood and sacrifice, I just don’t get it. Since the cross is the main symbol of Christianity…I suppose that’s a pretty big problem, right?”

Yes, and it has been ever since Good Friday. As Paul put it, the Cross is both foolishness and a stumbling block: foolishness to our intellect and a stumbling block to our faith. The root of our difficulty is our failure to understand what actually happened on Golgotha 2000 years ago.

God and his nature

The Bible tells us that God is love. That is no mawkish sentiment. It is an ontological statement about God that is unique to him. But love requires an object, at minimum, the fellowship of two. Of all the deities in all the religions throughout time, only the Christian God exists in a co-eternal fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Joined in a perfect union of intimacy and interdependence, the triune Godhead is the source of shalom, a Jewish concept for universal wholeness, peace, harmony, and flourishing.

Philosophy tells us that God is necessary. Not that the God of the Bible is necessary, but that a pre-existent, non-contingent being is necessary to avoid the absurdity of infinite regression when peeling back the onion of where we came from.

Finally, logic tells us that if A equals B, and A equals C, then B equals C.

Putting these truths together in syllogism: If God is love, and God is necessary, then love is necessary. Give that a moment to sink in.

For creation to fulfill its created purpose as shalom-saturated, shalom-sustaining work, it must be infused with love. Yet, as is evident from the shalom deficit in our sin-stained world, universal love is not a present reality. With the fall of Lucifer, and later Adam, the fellowship between creature and Creator was broken, disrupting the shalom of the pre-fall creation.

It is a cosmic-sized problem that the creature, while culpable, is incapable of fixing, lacking the ability, resources, and even knowledge of what to do. The only one up to the task is he “who fills the cosmos.” But how? ...Continue reading here.

Continue reading here.


Originally published April 22, 2011.

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