Archive for the ‘Cross’ Category

Ann Jervis on suffering

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

My friend and colleague in Pauline studies, the Rev’d Ann Jervis of Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, has recorded a very fine interview with an Australian journalist on the topic of her book on suffering in Pauline perspective entitled At the Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message ( She can be heard for a few weeks at, under the date of Nov 30, 2008. The program can also be downloaded; her interview is the first half of the 55-minute program.

A Summary of the Theology of 1 Corinthians

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

Having just finished teaching a course on 1 Corinthians, I want to propose the following synopsis of its theology.

1. The church is determined by Christ’s salvific cross and resurrection, which “bookend” the letter (1:18-25; chap. 15). Those who misunderstand either or both of these determining realities are inevitably headed for trouble.

2. The cross is the definitive revelation of God and of the divine attributes, and the paradigm of a life of others-regarding love, normative both for apostles and for all.

3. The past resurrection of Christ and the future resurrection of those in Christ constitute the basis of countercultural embodied existence in the present and hope for future embodied existence “face to face” with God, free of Sin and Death.

4. Thus life in Christ is one of “bifocality”: living in the overlap of the ages by looking back to Christ’s cross and resurrection and ahead to the parousia, general resurrection, judgment, and eternal life. Individual and corporate life and decision making are guided above all by this bifocal dynamic. The celebration of the Lord’s supper is the regular corporate expression of this dynamic.

5.  As the body of Christ and temple of the Holy Spirit on earth, the church is a diverse, countercultural community marked especially by others-regarding love, concern for the weaker and poorer members, interdependence, unity in diversity, and the active ministry of all members.

6. The church is part of the one people of God and the one story of God in human history to which the Scriptures of Israel bear witness.

7. Life in Christ takes the human body seriously as the temple of the Holy Spirit, too, honoring that reality through such activities as appropriate sexual conduct and concrete expressions of care for the less fortunate.


The Message of Revelation

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

I have just finished a course on the book of Revelation and its Interpreters. Here is the outline of my final class lecture, “The Message of Revelation” (in 7 points, naturellement):

1.    God the creator reigns! Jesus the redeemer, the slaughtered Lamb, is Lord! The reign of God is not merely future or past but present. God in Christ both demands all and offers all.

2.    Evil is real. Empire is now—not merely future or past but present. Empire, by nature, makes seductive blasphemous and immoral claims and engages in corollary practices that bring disorder to both vertical (people-God) and horizontal (people-people) human relations, promising life but delivering death—both physical and spiritual.

3.    The Christian church is easily seduced by Empire’s idolatry and immorality because these claims and practices are often invested with religious meaning and authority.

4.    In the midst of Empire, the church is called to resistance as the inevitable corollary of faithfulness to God, a call that requires prophetic spiritual discernment and may result in various kinds of suffering.

5.    The spiritual discernment required of the church, in turn, requires an alternative vision of God and of reality that unveils and challenges Empire, a vision in need of the Spirit’s wisdom to see and apply.

6.    Christian resistance to Empire conforms to the pattern of Jesus Christ and of his apostles and saints: faithful, true, courageous, just, and nonviolent. It is not passive but active, consisting of the formation of communities and individuals who pledge allegiance to God alone, who live in nonviolent love toward friends and enemies alike, who leave vengeance to God, and who, by God’s Spirit, create mini-cultures of life as alternatives to Empire’s culture of death.

7.    God the creator and Christ the redeemer take evil and injustice seriously and are about both to judge humanity and to renew the cosmos. The will of God is for all to follow the Lamb and participate in the life of God-with-us forever.

2007-07-04     19:38:40

The Crucified Christ or the Resurrected Christ?

Monday, May 7th, 2007

What/who was more significant for Paul? And what/who should be more important for us?–the crucified or the resurrected Christ?

An increasing number of people seem to be moving away from the cross and toward the resurrection in interpreting Paul, in part as a reaction to some interpretations (including mine) that strongly emphasize the cross. I think I would urge them to slow down just a bit. Not that the resurrection is bad, or someting to be soft-pedaled or footnoted as an appendix to the cross.

I have always stressed that the crucified Christ is the resurrected one and vice versa. In NT theology they are inseparable.  For Paul, we participate in both the cross and the resurrection, but the new life we experience–the resurrection life we have now–is always, paradoxically, imbued with the cross. It is cruciform. Because the resurrected Jesus is one with the crucified Jesus, when he inhabits us and we him, by his Spirit, we can expect the same kind of life-giving cruciformity in us that we see in him and that Paul wrote about (and experienced). Yes, we are empowered by the resurrection–or, better, by the resurrected One. But to separate the resurrection from the cross is an error with serious consequences.

As I hinted in my Palm/Passion Sunday post, this choice is a false (and potentially dangerous) one.

2007-05-07 20:59:20

Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Not everyone knows that some parts of the Christian tradition have renamed “Palm” Sunday, “Passion” Sunday, referring to the passion, or suffering, of our Lord in the week to come. Some churches and traditions currently use both names (“Palm/Passion Sunday”–a bit odd-looking), perhaps thinking of this time as a transition period between the old name and the new. Most of us probably have an intuitive preference for “Palm” over “Passion.” We like the palm-waving, the acclamations, maybe even a parade with a real donkey. It’s a festive occasion, a chance to celebrate a little Easter and Ascension before the doom and gloom of Holy Week–a brief respite from Lent before Lent hits one last time, hits like a ton of bricks.

That might be part of the problem, and the reason for a need to change the name. The “triumphal entry” is full of paradoxes, some of which are obvious (a king on a donkey), while others are not. It is too easy to forget that this king embodies a countercultural kind of royalty, a kingship not of traditional power and glory but one of self-giving and suffering. It is too easy to separate the Palm-Sunday Jesus from the Good-Friday Jesus and then to conclude that somehow the Good-Friday Jesus is only a temporary figure between the Palm-Sunday Jesus and the Easter Jesus. 

Nothing could be further from the truth about Jesus. He is king and lord, not in spite of Good Friday, but because of Good Friday. He reigns from the cross, as the Gospel-writers each tell us in their own way. We give him “all glory, laud, and honor” as our king and lord because his cross reveals the true nature of his kingship and of God: self-giving, forgiving, powerful-in-powerlessness love. Palm Sunday is Passion Sunday, and vice versa. The “Palm/Passion” people have it right, as odd as it may look. 2007-03-31 • 10:48:57