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Posts Tagged ‘Cross’

So stimulating.  Read in full here.

Nietzsche claims, humanism won’t plug the gap [left by the “death of God”]. All humanism does is substitute one useless form of transcendence (Man) for another (God). The death of God therefore has to herald the death of Man as well. You can’t just swap one fetish for another. This is why the Übermensch signifies the kind of transformed humanity which would flow from genuinely accepting the death of God. It’s the reckless, exuberant, self-delighting existence of those who are able to celebrate a life without foundations – the cavalier insouciance of those spiritual aristocrats who have the courage to risk a life without guarantees. The Overman or Meta-Man is the one who can peer into the fathomless pit of the nothingness of God without being turned to stone.  He (never a she, for Nietzsche) is the ecstatic creature who sings and dances at the very thought that his existence is every bit as mortal, fragile, ungrounded, arbitrary and contingent as a modernist work of art.

The only problem is that all this sounds rather like Christianity, which isn’t quite what Nietzsche had in mind. For the New Testament, as for Also sprach Zarathustra, the only good God is a dead one. For Christianity as for Nietzsche, the death of God in the figure of a tortured political criminal known as Jesus means not replacing God with humanity, but the advent of a transfigured humanity. For Christianity too, God is an abyss of sheer nothingness, absolutely no kind of entity at all, a groundless ground; and to say that we are created is to say that our existence is absolutely non-essential, that we might perfectly well have never been. Such existence is pure gift, sheer gratuity and contingency, a radical end in itself, a supreme acte gratuite – self-founding, self-grounding and self-delighting. Just as God exists for absolutely no purpose beyond himself, so human beings are fashioned to live in this way too, to be at their best when they are as gloriously pointless as a work of art. A just social order is one which would allow men and women to be in this sense ends in themselves, not means to another’s power or profit. God, as Aquinas sees, is the power that allows us to be autonomous. Thinking that faith in God puts firm foundations beneath your feet, rather than shattering them, is the delusion of fundamentalists…

So Nietzsche and Christianity, those supposedly sworn antagonists, actually agree on an embarrassing amount. (Embarrassing for Nietzsche, anyway). Nietzsche believes that we can’t be free unless we can get out from under the patriarchal Nobodaddy (as William Blake calls him) known as God. But of course the New Testament believes just the same. Seeing God as judge, patriarch and accuser is what is meant in scripture by Satan – the Satanic image of God, the God who will beat the shit out of us. And since we’re all inveterate masochists, cravenly in thrall to the Law, or to what Freud knows as the death drive, this is exactly what we secretly hanker for. We’ll gladly tear ourselves apart as long as there’s enough gratification in it for us. This is the terrible, lethal nexus of law and desire – which is also, as it happens, the chief subjectmatter of psychoanalysis. Those who are eternally trapped in this closed circuit, in which law and desire feed endlessly, fruitlessly off one another, are traditionally said to be in hell. The figure of the tortured and executed Jesus is the overthrowing of the Satanic image of God, for God as friend, lover, victim, counsel for the defence, fellow accused and flayed flesh and blood. It replaces the Satanic God not with humanity at its most triumphant, as rationalist humanism does, but with humanity at its most torn and vulnerable.

And this is what Nietzsche can’t stomach. It’s here, not over the death of God, that he and the Gospel part company most decisively. Because weakness, suffering and mortality for him are simply part of a ghoulish, morbid religious conspiracy to bring low the noble, heroic and life-affirming. He forgets that Jesus never once counsels the sick to reconcile themselves to their afflictions. On the contrary, he seems to regard such suffering as evil, and is out to abolish it. Nietzsche forgets, too, that any power which is not rooted in a solidarity with human creatureliness and fragility, with the raw fact of our bodily finitude, will never prove durable or effective enough. That this is so is one of the lessons of tragedy, an art-form which fascinated Nietzsche himself for quite different reasons.

And so in the end Nietzsche is less revolutionary than the New Testament. Like some demented health-club proprietor, he can’t stop worshipping vigour, robustness and virility, or seeing failure as sickly and shameful. Like those Americans who hate a loser, he doesn’t see that what matters is failure, not success – that Jesus is a sick joke of a Saviour, that in every human sense his mission is an embarrassing, abysmal failure, that the notion of a crucified Messiah would have been a horrendous, unspeakable scandal and blasphemy to the pious Jews of his day. In the end, Nietzsche disowns the deepest insight of tragedy – that, as W.B. Yeats puts it, ‘nothing can be sole or whole that has not been rent’.

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The glory of the triune God is other-centred love.  The Father pours Himself into His Son by the Spirit (John 3:35).  The Son offers Himself up to the Father by the Spirit (Hebrews 9:14).  The intra-trinitarian life is a cross-shaped life of self-giving.

Julian of Norwich said: “When I see the cross I see the Trinity”.  This is true for many reasons, chief among them is the fact that life poured out is the essence of both.

If this is so, triune glory cannot be understood via a theology of glory.  Triune glory is understood as a theology of the cross.  When this God acts for His glory it’s not because He or His glory are self-centred.  No He is other-centred and His glory is His grace.  Yet just because this is so, when God acts for the sake of His glorious grace He is simply determining to be Giver.

From eternity the nature of the triune God has been deference and other-centred praise.  When faced by creatures – even creatures who would ignore and spurn such love – this God determines to love with an almighty ‘nevertheless’.

It’s like my friend Craig who opened the door for a feminist.  She scowled, saying “I hope you’re not opening the door because I’m a lady!”  He replied, “No, I’m opening the door because I’m a gentleman.”  He acts not for her sake but for the sake of being the other-centred gentleman he truly is.  He acts for his own glory, but his glory is self-giving service.

Put it another way, it’s like the mother who is faced by a naughty and manipulative child.  She could cave in to the tantrum or she could withdraw and ignore the child altogether.  But she condescends in love, not because the child is good (he’s not) and not because she’s weak (she’s not).  She acts in accordance with her gracious motherliness, to love the child in spite of himself and in this way to lift him from his misbehaviour.

Put it another way, it’s like the man who is struck on the right cheek by an aggressor.  By nature his instincts are fight or flight – strike back or withdraw.  But instead he stands his ground and offers his left cheek also.  He opens himself out in grace and continues the offer of relationship.  This is God-like glory.   (More on cheek turning herehere and here).

Put it another way, it’s like Christ crucified.  He might have remained in heaven or merely sent us to hell.  Instead He acted for the sake of His glory.  He absorbed our blow and rather than retaliate He offered reconciling love.

The cross was the triune love laid bare.  And this is not simply because the Persons demonstrated how much they love each other.  More than this, they demonstrate how the glory of grace encounters what is outside this love.  In costly sacrifice the triune glory suffers what is outside in order to draw it in.

The triune glory is cruciform glory.

Among other things, this means that the mystical and the ethical elements of the New Testament are profoundly related.  Think of verses about participation in the triune God – adoption, union with Christ, filling with the Spirit.  Now think of verses regarding bearing our cross and following Christ’s way of sacrifice.  It’s so common to think of these as very different teachings.  On the one hand we imagine warm fuzzy mystical feelings, on the other it’s about the blood, sweat and tears of discipleship.  But no, essentially it’s the same thing.  Participation in God is participation in this life of self-emptying love.  That’s not the costly draw-back to life with God – that’s the very way of life.  Eternal life has always had a shape to it – arms-wide sacrifice.  When Jesus calls us to Himself He can do nothing else but invite us into His life.  Again, this is not an unfortunate counter-balance to the groovy-vibes of life in Christ.  This is life in Christ – it’s the glorious true life of loving service.

The glory of the cross lived out is the glory of the triune God applied.  Because the triune glory is the cruciform glory.

It’s a wonderful thing to participate in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).  And its daily application is the privilege of taking up our cross and following Christ (Mark 8:34).  That’s the life. That’s God’s eternal life, and we’re invited.

…Based on an earlier post from 2010…

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Jesus:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  (Matthew 5:46-48)

The life of God is a life of loving that which is other than God.  Pagans love in a conditional way.  Pagans simply value what is valuable.  God’s perfection is like light shining into darkness – it goes beyond itself to bless that which is other.  Divine perfection is about creating value, by valuing the unworthy.

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Luther:

[The theologian of glory] learns from Aristotle that the object of the will is the good and the good is worthy to be loved, while the evil, on the other hand, is worthy of hate….

The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it…

[Yet] rather than seeking its own good, the love of God flows forth and bestows good. Therefore sinners are attractive because they are loved; they are not loved because they are attractive… This is the love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the direction where it does not find good which it may enjoy, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person.  (Heidelberg Disputation)

The philosopher’s god is just like pagans – responding to value.  The God of the Cross flows forth, bestowing value.

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Piper:

[God] loves His glory infinitely. This is the same as saying: He loves himself infinitely. Or: He Himself is uppermost in His own affections. A moment’s reflection reveals the inexorable justice of this fact. God would be unrighteous (just as we would) if He valued anything more than what is supremely valuable. But He Himself is supremely valuable. If He did not take infinite delight in the worth of His own glory, He would be unrighteous. For it is right to take delight in a person in proportion to the excellence of that person’s glory…

…If God should turn away from Himself as the Source of infinite joy, He would cease to be God. He would deny the infinite worth of His own glory. He would imply that there is something more valuable outside Himself. He would commit idolatry. (Desiring God, p42, 47)

Nope.  If He really is a “Source” then turning outside Himself to the other would be the very expression of His deity.

Piper defends the self-absorbed God on the grounds that our rules don’t apply to God.  It’s wrong for us to seek ourselves, it’s only right for God to seek himself.  The trouble is Piper has already applied our rules to God at the decisive point.  He has defined God’s glory the way the pagans do (valuing what is valuable).

But that is the point at which “our rules don’t apply”.  Our love responds to value. His cruciform love (“love to the loveless shown”) creates value.  God differs from us not in displaying a justified self-absorption.  He differs from us in that He alone is truly self-giving!  His grace is His divine glory.

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At which point, surely Piper is on the wrong side of Luther’s “theology of glory / theology of the cross” divide?

 

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I’ve been thinking about suffering recently.

Easter tells you everything you need to know. Meditate on each of these truths for 5 minutes and it will revolutionize your thinking about God, yourself and the world.

1) The Cross shows us God’s perfection…

Therefore suffering can never be incompatible with the all-wise, all-powerful, all-good God (1 Corinthians 1-2)

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2) The Resurrection shows us God’s purpose…

Therefore His plan has never been to pretty up this old creation but to raise it anew (1 Corinthians 15:36-50)

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3) The Son of Man must suffer and be glorified…

If that’s the route for The Man how could man tread any other path.

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4) On the Day of Man (6th day), Jesus puts us to death. On the Day of Rest (7th day), He finishes the old creation. On the Day of New Creation (8th day), He rises into a whole new week, a whole new world.

Christ’s purpose is not simply to restore Paradise but to bring us into a reality greater than anything we’ve seen. 

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Today is definitely the day to dust off Alan Lewis’s wonderful Between Cross and Resurrection: A Theology of Easter Saturday.  As he meditates on Eberhard Jungel’s theology, Lewis writes

[Jungel] in effect identifies Easter Saturday, the day of the burial of God, as theology’s foundational, defining moment.  For it is this occurrence, as recorded in the Christian narrative, which maximizes the dispute between faith and non-faith.  While the flesh of God’s Son lies immured in death, the sharpest controversy divides those who see only that God is gone and finished and those who know that in this palpable absence nonetheless God is yet more present, with life-giving resurrecting power.  Even so, the God who is present in this absence, whose creative power is at work through the powerlessness of this defeat and death, is no more recognizable to the theist than to the atheist.  Faith in God on the day when God is dead is faith of a very different order from the certainties expressed in metaphysics; and it is faith in another God then the distant, immutable, omnipotent deity of theism, that supreme stranger to suffering and death.

Not only, then, is Easter Saturday the day of mutual contradiction between those who believe in God and those who cannot; it is also the day of shared contradiction for those who believe in the absolute God and those who cannot, by the theology of the Crucified One: faith in the life and power of the God who is dead.  To the extent that both of these conflicts are occurring now, with great intensity, at the end of the modern era, means that today is a cultural “Easter Saturday.”  And that is the context, where faith hears and opposes both partners in the disputation between theism and atheism, in which theology must work today, and to which the gospel is to be addressed.

We have much in common with atheists.  We too proclaim the death of God.  We too take a long hard look at the world  and conclude there is no magical hope within the created order, nor any comfort in a power that remains outside it.  There is no help from the god who is shut out of the tomb – the god who is defined in opposition to our suffering and death; some power imprisoned by his own majesty.  Our only hope comes from the God who shuts Himself in the tomb.

Happy Saturday.

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The glory of the bloodied God
His fruitfulness in shame
Stooped lower than all men have trod
In torment in the flame

The writhing worm, disjointed dry
Rejected from His birth
Thrust groaning into Satan’s sky
Accursed by heaven and earth

Hell’s blackest cloak enfolds with death
From Pinnacle to pit
To choke the Source of Living Breath
Extinguish all that’s lit

The Mighty Man at war cries out
It echoes ‘gainst the sky
Resounding as a futile shout
Within a victory cry

Creation torn from Head to toe
His body out of joint
The Rock that splits is split in two
Creation to anoint

Our Jonah hurled as recompense
Into abysmal depths
The beast that swallows Innocence
Is swallowed by His death

Divine appeasing blood poured out
Divinely pleasing scent
While man appraises with his snout
Declares it death’s descent

Then crowned in curse, enthroned on wood
My God nailed to the tree
The reigning blood, that cleansing flood
Is opened up for me.

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Audio

Powerpoint

Text

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HAILSHAM LENT COURSE – The Outgoing God

Week 3: THE CROSS-SHAPED GOD

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RECAP:

Everyone has a god

Everyone turns to something as a source of meaning, purpose & satisfaction

The question for Christian and non-Christian is always “Which God?”

The Christian responds: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

Jesus is the Image of the invisible God.  (Colossians 1:15)

Jesus is God-sized

God is Jesus-shaped

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BUT WAIT… Is Jesus really THE Image of the invisible God?

Are there alternative routes to knowing God??

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Reason

Proverbs 3:5-7
Romans 8:7
1 Corinthians 1:18-25
2 Corinthians 4:4
Colossians 1:21
Colossians 2:8

The god of philosophy looks nothing like the God of the Cross!

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Religions

Numbers 33:50-53; Deut 7:1-6; 12:1-3; 29:16-18; 32:15-21; 1 Kings 18:21-40; Psalm 96:4-5; 106:35-40; Isaiah 41:21-24; 44:6-26; Jeremiah 16:19-21; Romans 1:23-25; 1 Corinthians 8:4-6; 10:20.

The gods of the religions look nothing like the God of the Cross!

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Old Testament

John 1:1
John 1:18
John 8:56-58
John 12:38-41
John 5:37-46

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Jesus has always been the Way to God

Abraham, Moses and Isaiah trusted Christ.

Jesus simply is the Lord God of Israel.

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Creation

Psalm 19:1-6
Romans 1:16-20
Romans 10:17ff
Colossians 1:23
John 12:24
Revelation 5:11-14

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Jesus is Lord – Creation’s Voice Proclaims It!

The creation reveals a very great deal about God

It does so by revealing Christ!

But our eyes must be opened thru the Spirit and by the Word.

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Martin Luther:  Theology of Glory vs Theology of the Cross

The Cross Alone is our Theology
The Cross Judges Everything

The cross reveals God’s glory, lordship, majesty, strength, wisdom and holiness

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Revelation 5; 7:17 – The Lord on the Cross is the Lamb on the Throne

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Next week we’ll study the triune God.  The Trinity is not a maths problem or an ancient riddle.  It’s the good news that God is love.  And we’re invited in!

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