The meaning of the Cross-profound but not intricate

It has become accepted in evangelicalism that all theological statements are only perspectival and open. There is decreased confidence that our theological statements can meet the demands of the rational or even that we can have confidence in rationality itself. I feel in the air of the church a nihilism of a sort, a death wish, a desire to take the whole thing down and to build up again we know not what. Brian Maclaren’s book Everything Must Change is an outcropping of this spirit. By the time one has read enough books of this genre there are no declarative sentences left. We are left with a Jesus who in some way or other saves in some way or other. Salvation begins to look strangely like suburban progressivism. Surely there is mystery in our religion, but when we read the New Testament we find ourselves breathing the air of certitude and clarity.  The following words by J Gresham Machen are timely.

“I do not think that what the New Testament says about the cross of Christ is particularly intricate.  It is, indeed, profound, but it can be put in simple language.  We deserved eternal death; the Lord Jesus, because he loved us, died in our stead upon the cross.  It is a mystery, but it is not intricate.  What is really intricate and subtle is the manifold modern attempt to get rid of the simple doctrine of the cross of Christ in the interests of human pride.  Of course there are objections to the cross of Christ, and men in the pulpits of the present day pour out upon that blessed doctrine the vials of their scorn; but when a man has come under the consciousness of sin, then as he comes into the presence of the cross, he says with tears of gratitude and joy, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me.”

I must be careful here, because I am intrigued by paradox, irony and puzzle. It is intellectually more appealing and admits of a certain kind of academic adrenaline. Theology that bows to my need to get a “mind buzz” can end up leaving me without a real Christ, a real cross, a real death, a real resurrection, a real kingdom and a real message to shout from the rooftops. The man lying on the hospital bed is in need of real medicine and the curing of a real disease. Medicine has as its end the health of the patient. And so does theology.

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