What if there was no Christ and no cross?

With Christ I mean the Second Person in the eternal Trinity, the Promised Messiah, physically born as a human being in Bethlehem to fulfil the Scriptures, yet who never sinned because He was/is God.  He died substitutionally for sinners to be their righteousness, justification, sanctification and glorification. He rose again on the third day, and appeared to many people to show that he was indeed alive.  Then after 40 days He ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will return at God’s appointed time to judge the living and the dead.  He will fully restore what sin has broken and through Him the Father will give a new heaven and a new earth, and Triune God will reign over/in it eternally.

This is of course not a full account of the doctrine of Christology, but in essence it seems what Jack Spong has in mind when He declares “Christology of the ages is bankrupt”.

Spong argues from the point that what the Bible says about the deity of God is “meaningless”.  He does not say there is no God, and apparently he does not deny Christ.  He can therefore say, “… Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day.”  His problem lies with the deity or theism of the Father and Christ, therefore he dismisses the Biblical teaching of the cross which is “a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God”, whilst also rejecting Christ’s resurrection and ascension.  In fact, he rejects the Bible, because “there is no external, objective, revealed standard writ in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behaviour for all time”.

One wonders where he gets the notion from to serve Christ and appreciate the mystery and wonder of God.  Why does he bother doing it? Should his wonder of God and service of Christ have any binding on anyone else’s mind?  If he rejects the “historical” teaching of the Bible, why call for a contemporary “new way to speak of God” and expect anyone to take it serious.  For how long will the “new way” by valid and why? Why bother looking at the Bible for such an interpretation?

Now, if the Bible is neither infallible nor inerrant, neither God-breathed or immutable, it speaks for itself that other forms of truth must be found to speak about God (which god, and why him only?).  It implies that those who are part of this process will have to be tolerant to the ideas of others, who in turn cannot be intolerant about the ideas of others. Compromise and middle-ground will have to be found.  Expect no-one to really believe you, because there is no “objective revealed standard” that should “govern our ethical behaviour”.

Nothing can be really right, and nothing can be really wrong because there is no external standard that could govern our ethical behaviour for all time.  It also implies there cannot be such a thing as sin, and therefore there is no need for forgiveness, righteousness or justification.

I read John 12 this morning.  Verse 25 reads,

The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this word will keep it for eternal life.”

Taken out of the context Buddha, Gandhi, Mohammed and most New Agers will agree that this is very good moral teaching.  Just give your life up for the good of other people, the environment, cockroaches and trees (but not unborn babies!).  Deny yourself now, you might get something back one day.

The context of the verses in John 12 gives us the right perspective:

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds … [N]ow my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your Name!” (John 12:23-24, 27-28)

The eternal God, who send his eternal Son into this sinful world to die and become the righteousness, justification and sanctification of those who believe in Him, brought this Jesus back to life to “produce many seeds”.  The Father glorified the Son and will do it again (John 12:28), and the Son will glorify those who believed in Him on the last day.

This I believe, because it makes perfect sense:  God is holy; I am a unrighteous, therefore I cannot please Him;  I cannot fathom why He for some reason loves me; nothing in me can satisfy His justice; He provides his Son who came into this world to take my punishment on Him and became my righteousness; God accepted his sacrifice and justifies me because his death was the punishment of my sin; He rose bodily and made me a witness of his grace in everything I do;  He went back to God as Victor over evil; He promised to come back again and make everything new. This is God’s free gift to me.

Faith is more than understanding, it is trust too.  I believe, “for the Bible tells me so.”  God has spoken, not the wise of this world.  Anything else is non-sense, the language of fools.

The alternative is: there is no god, there is no evil neither good, life has no meaning, therefore morality is nonsensical.  (Of course, this alternative calls for proof.)  I can’t really work out where Bishop Spong fits into this scheme.  Why should he?  On what grounds?

– Rudi Schwartz

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