TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, April 21, 2019

'The Glory And Joy Of Easter Sunday Is Only Made Possible By The Anguish And Suffering Of Good Friday'

CrossNew York Times op-ed:  What It Means to Worship a Man Crucified as a Criminal, by Peter Wehner (Ethics & Public Policy Center):

A God who allows suffering is a mystery, but so is a God who suffered. ...

The Episcopal priest Fleming Rutledge has written that until the accounts of Jesus’ death burst upon the Mediterranean world, “no one in the history of human imagination had conceived of such a thing as the worship of a crucified man.” And yet the crucifixion — an emblem of agony and one of the cruelest methods of execution ever practiced — became a historical pivot point and eventually the most compelling symbol of the most popular faith on earth.

As a non-Christian friend of mine put it to me recently, the idea that people would worship a God who is compassionate toward us is one thing, but to worship a God who suffers and dies — as a condemned criminal, no less — is distinct to Christianity. In my friend’s understated words, “When you think about it, it is a little strange.”

Perhaps the aspect of the crucifixion that is easiest to understand is that according to Christian theology, atonement is the means through which human beings — broken, fallen, sinful — are reconciled to God. The ideal needed to be sacrificed for the non-ideal, the worthy for the unworthy.

But the cross is more than simply a gateway to the City of God. “I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross,” John Stott, one of the most important Christian evangelists of the last century, wrote in The Cross of Christ. “The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?” From the perspective of Christianity, one can question why God allows suffering, but one cannot say God doesn’t understand it. He is not remote, indifferent, untouched or unscarred. ...

[T]here’s no good answer to the question, “Why is there suffering?” Jesus never answers that question, and even if we had the theological answer, it would not ease our burdens in any significant way. What God offers instead is the promise that he is with us in our suffering; that he can bring good out of it (life out of death, forgiveness out of sin); and that one day he will put a stop to it and redeem it. God, Revelation tells us, will make “all things new.” For now, though, we are part of a drama unfolding in a broken world, one in which God chose to become a protagonist.

One other significant consequence the crucifixion had was to “introduce a new plot to history: The victim became a hero by offering himself as a willing victim,” in the words of the Christian author Philip Yancey. Citing the works of the French philosopher René Girard and Mr. Girard’s student Gil Bailie, Mr. Yancey argues that a radiating effect of the cross was to undermine abusive power and injustice; that care for the disenfranchised and those living in the shadows of society came about as a direct result of Jesus’ crucifixion. ...

Worshiping a God of wounds is a little strange, as my friend said. For some, it is grotesque and contemptible, a bizarre myth, an offense. But for others of us, what happened to Jesus on the cross is profoundly moving and life-altering — not just a historical inflection point, but something that won and keeps winning our hearts. As individuals with wounds, flawed and fallen, we cannot help but return to the foot of the cross.

The most important moment in my faith pilgrimage was when the cross became my interpretive prism. What I mean by this is that I was and remain a person with a skeptical mind and countless questions. There are parts of the Bible I still find puzzling, difficult and troubling. (That is true of many more Christians than you might imagine, and of many more Christians than are willing to admit.)

But I did arrive at a settled belief that whatever the answer to those questions were — answers I’m unlikely to ever discover — I would understand them in the context of the cross, where God showed his enduring love for people in every circumstance and in every season of life. ...

Where some see the cross as superstitious foolery or a stumbling block, others see grace and sublime love. For us, the glory and joy of Easter Sunday is only made possible by the anguish of Good Friday.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2019/04/the-glory-and-joy-of-easter-sunday-is-only-made-possible-by-the-anguish-and-suffering-of-good-friday.html

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Comments

A very nice piece in a very unlikely place. (Maybe if there were more of this, there'd be less tax evasion?)

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | Apr 21, 2019 10:50:12 AM

As John Paul II stated: Could God have justified Himself before human history, so full of suffering, without placing Christ's Cross at the center of that history?

I love this. In the passion, God justifies himself to Man! In response to our aversion to human suffering and existential doubt about its salvific value and compatibility with God's love, God answers that question , and justifies himself to man, by submitting himself to that very suffering. "Crossing the Threshold of Hope"

Posted by: Edo | Apr 22, 2019 8:25:09 AM