This series is by RJS
We have taken a hiatus in the series on Tim Kellers’ book The Reason for God, not out of lack of interest, but out of pressing time constraints and travel. The last several chapters are well worth discussion however, and we resume today with Chapter 13: The (True) Story of the Cross.
The Gospel of Christ ??? the good news ??? is wrapped up in the story of the cross. This story however causes a great deal of consternation in our western world. Why was sacrifice required? Why did Jesus die? Isn???t the appeasement of the wrath of God best classed as divine child abuse — a remnant of an older more primitive society?
To be fair, Keller never uses the term “wrath of God” in this chapter, and he casts the story of the atonement in terms that bear little resemblance to typical presentations of penal substitution. So what does he say?
First: Forgiveness always requires sacrifice. When we forgive we bear the consequence, the suffering, ourselves rather than demanding retribution. No one “just forgives” any grievous wrong. How much more then for God? God did not, then, inflict pain on someone else, but rather on the Cross absorbed the pain, violence, and evil of the world into himself. This was not just an example ??? but an ultimate act of forgiveness. Of course Keller does go a bit beyond this as well: ???this is a God who becomes human and offers his own lifeblood in order to honor moral justice and merciful love so that some day he can destroy all evil without destroying us.p. 192
Second: Real love involves a personal exchange. More than this, genuine life-changing love requires substitutional sacrifice, benefiting the other at the expense (large or small) of ourselves. When the needs of the other are large the sacrificial cost ??? the expense ??? is also large. ???how can God be a God of love if he does not become personally involved in suffering the same violence, oppression, grief, weakness, and pain that we experience? p. 195 The answer is that God can’t ??? and the Christian story is that the God of love does become personally involved. God, in the place of ultimate power, reverses places with the marginalized, the poor, and the oppressed. p. 196
According to Keller the story of the cross involves forgiveness, sacrifice, substitution, justice, mercy, reversal, and identification. God for us. The act ??? the historical event ??? is the turning point in human history.
Of course this is not a popular view in our world today. Keller opens this chapter with a quote from Ghandi in An Autobiography
I could accept Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice, and a divine teacher. His death on the cross was a great example to the world, but that there was anything like a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it, my heart could not accept.
This leads to the key question from this chapter ??? what is the Story of the Cross? How would you describe the importance of the cross? Is the importance in example? in story? or is it more? What do you think of Keller’s view of forgiveness and love involving exchange?