Theologia Crusis

Theologia crusis is the theology of the cross. For centuries theologians have seen the cross as the locus and center of all theology. Everything must be filtered through it. In this, the crucifixion of Jesus has become the centerpiece of Christianity, and often has been the heralded message in every setting. For most, the cross is the Gospel itself. Therefore the Old Testament saints might have been able to “look forward” to the works of Jesus on the cross, and therefore have relationship with God, but they weren’t the beneficiaries of the same outpouring that we have, because that work was not complete.

Jesus’ crucifixion is quite possibly the one point of Christian theology that has been made into an idol. In such, it has not only warped our views of the way we read Scripture, it has warped our views of God, and it has effected the way we view the rest of humanity. Religiosity cannot take one to fullness. The result of religiosity is always idolatry. We’ve heralded a crucified Christ, having technically the correct words as far as that goes, but lacking the deep reality of this event. The cross is not about salvation, or the Gospel, or the whole of the Bible. When we caricature the Scriptures to only pointing to Jesus, and more specifically only pointing to one event in the life of Jesus, we rob God of His eternal glory.

To put it plainly, we shouldn’t be about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Instead, we need to recognize that Jesus is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The simple statement is more profound than originally considered. What I’m positing is not an evasion of the cross, nor a neglect of it, but rather that it be put in its proper context. There is 4000 years of history in the Bible before Jesus walks the earth. There are prophecies that say nothing of Jesus, and speak nothing of a crucified messiah. When we pick up the books of Obadiah, Zephaniah, or even Habakkuk, what message can we draw from this? There might be select passages or verses to glean from, but do these books actually have a whole lot to say to the crucified messiah? Do they actually speak deeply about Jesus?

For this reason I’ve read opinions that question why they’re even in the Scripture. Because they don’t talk enough about Jesus, and they don’t seem to give us enough description about things that pertain to “theologia crusis”, maybe they really don’t have anything to say at all. They were great for their day and age, but now that their prophecies have been “fulfilled” there is nothing left to gain. We’ve made merchandise of the holy words, and in this we’ve made an idol that reflects too much of our own ambition and desire. Why the fascination with the cross? Does it stem from an honest reflecting upon God and His goodness, or is it because we are the beneficiaries?

Revelation 13:8 calls Jesus Αρνιου του εσφαγμενου απο καταβολης κοσμου. Notice the Greek words. Καταβολης, which isn’t just “the foundation”, or “the creation”. It is from before, from everlasting. It carries connotation of something beyond from the first day, but even before the first day. This is the very character of the Lamb. This is the very expression of the Αρνιον. This “being slain” was not something that is being spoken of during a select time in history. Our author is expressing something much beyond that. From before the creation, when there was not even an “in the beginning”, this Lamb was slain. Any saint of the Old Testament that ate from the table of God, represented in the altar, feasting upon this eternal Lamb, received salvation and cleansing from sin that you and I also receive. This Lamb, this eternal slain Lamb, the one we call our Messiah and LORD, has ever and always shown Himself as the crucified God.

To limit it then to one point in history that all of Scripture must look forward to or backward to simply reveals that the one making the statement doesn’t know “Him who is from the beginning”. The statement of fathers, εγνωκατε τον απ αρχης, is a statement of knowledge deeper than what the Bible tells us. Micah 5:2 begins with statement of messiah, one who shall come and shepherd Israel, and yet claims that this one to rule shall be “from everlasting”. The Hebrew there is “motzaotaw miqqedem mime olam”. His “going forth” is from of old, the same kind of ancient ascribed to God Himself. He is the “ancient of days” “from of old”. Habakkuk 1:2 even asks, “Halow attah miqqedem Yaweh Elohay Qadoshi?” Are you not from of old Yahweh my God my Holy One? And parallel to “from of old” is olam – everlasting. This is another one of those words given to God. When we’re talking about someone “from of old” and “from everlasting”, we’re alluding to something very much with and alongside of God – if not God Himself.

This Jesus, the Shepherd of Israel, the one of old and of everlasting, the Lamb slain, has completed His word from the very beginning. The theology of the cross is not something to demand that all things converge there at that center, but rather should be about a God who has revealed Himself from heaven as the one who suffers on behalf of His creation. God has always been the one who suffers for the benefit of the creature. It is from the very beginning, for did not the Spirit hover over the waters? And does not that Hebrew word have connotation of intense relaxation – coming from the verb RKhF? This movement, or hovering, or vibrating (as some have pointed out), is one of relaxation. The movement comes from rest, and not the other way around. The difference between this rest and the Shabbat is that our sabbath day is an eternal moment, a “Today” that we can enter, according to the author of Hebrews.

God separated the light and darkness, He hovered over the waters, and He even bore the anguish of a creation that would be “formless and empty”. Indeed from the first couple verses we find that God has not been lax in revelation. He is indeed the Lamb slain from before the creation of the cosmos. Because of that we have a few hinges upon which we can base our understanding. Jesus’ death on the cross is one of those hinges, and is indubitably a pinnacle of the Bible. I’m not suggesting that Jesus’ crucifixion is somehow null or insignificant, but revealing that its significance is determined upon the God who has shown Himself as this quintessence.

For the rest of theology our question is not to be pinned against the cross of Jesus, but rather against the character of God. God has revealed Himself in a very specific manner, and we must keep that revelation intact. To suggest a theological conception that speaks against the very essence of God is altogether anathema. For myself, that has been the ground and foundation, the true “theologia crusis”.

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2 thoughts on “Theologia Crusis

  1. I agree that there is a great danger in making the cross the only focus of our theology-making. If Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God’s character, which I think is what is claimed in the gospel of John, and which is only logical if Jesus and God are one, then we need to accept that the understanding of God’s nature we ought to derive from Jesus must be founded on much more than the way he died. And we will only ever develop any understanding of the cross when we see it in the light of how he lived, what he taught – his ethics and his theology. If we interpret the cross in isolation, or apart from the theology Jesus lived, we are able to form very twisted pictures of God. But I do think the cross is vital. the fact that each of the gospel writers devote the bulk of their narratives to the Passion would suggest that what is happening at the cross is critical to the picture of God that we form, to developing a right picture of God. And I would maintain that so long as we fail to undertand the cross, so long as theologies of the cross are out of alignment with what Jesus taught and how he lived, we are bound to form pictures of God that legitimise un-Jesuslike ethics.

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