At the bottom of it all

I was listening to an Andy Stanley podcast yesterday in which Stanley presented the bedrock of Christian faith as resting on an event – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

His point was that if you were going to start from scratch to build a Christian faith — throwing out everything you’ve learned or been taught up to now — you would start with this one event and build from there.

I’ve been wondering a bit about that.

I think if John Wesley were to go back to a single bedrock, it would not be Easter but Calvary. Wesley often taught that faith itself is the belief that Jesus Christ died for our sins so we might be pardoned. This is not surprising. That kind of focus on the cross is the hallmark of evangelicalism of the Great Awakenings that influenced Wesley and were influenced by him.

I think Wesley would say Easter confirmed who Jesus was but that the cross is the foundation upon which our faith is built.

I’m not sure what the implications of this contrast are.

When I put the focus on Easter — maybe this is just me — I am tempted to start talking about hope. Easter is God’s way of telling us that death does not win. It is a sign to us that whatever darkness we are in, dawn is coming. And so on.

When I turn my gaze upon the cross, I am moved more to talk about Jesus and what would compel him to suffer that way. I want to speak more about love than hope, I suppose.

Perhaps this mental exercise illustrates that Stanley is on to something important but also leaving something out. Perhaps we cannot reduce it all to one single event, because the work of Christ is more than any one of those things.

Perhaps when you reduce it all down to its foundation, we are not called to believe in an event but a person.

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7 thoughts on “At the bottom of it all

  1. “Perhaps when you reduce it all down to its foundation, we are not called to believe in an event but a person.”

    “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 Jn 4:15).

    “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. ” (1 Jn 5:1).

    John, I believe we are called to believe in a Person. The events in which we must also believe, which are the means of our salvation, not only have no meaning but could not have happened if it were not for the Person of Jesus Christ, The eternal Son of God come to earth in human form.

    The Passion of The Christ is critical to our faith, and the reason why is The Person of Jesus Christ.

  2. If the focus of understanding were the crucified Christ shouldn’t your symbolic representation be the Crucifix, not the naked cross?

    1. I am not an expert on the history here. I believe the empty cross is a nod to the commandment about images. I think I’ve read as well that it speaks in its emptiness of the victory over sin. I think I read somewhere that the empty cross is a more ancient representation than the crucifix.

      I’m no expert on this particular area of Catholic-Protestant disagreement, though.

  3. T.F. Torrance says the Cross and Resurrection and Ascension are three acts of one event of revelation (Philippians 2:6-11). Pulling these strands apart inevitably distorts our understanding of the wholeness of reality.

  4. While I was removing my undershirt for a Doctor’s appointment, his nurse quipped, upon spying the crucifix previously hidden by my shirt: “He’s not on the cross, anymore, you know.” She no doubt most likely thought me to be a Catholic. The crucifix reminds me of the fact that the cross is outside of time. Every time a sinner repents, the blood is applied, nunc pro tunc (now for then.)

    I have a friend in the Holiness tradition who once told me: Jim Lung! Do you know if you could put God in a pot and boil him down to His essence, Holiness would be the only thing left.!! My response at the time was inadequate: “Nope, you’d just get a lot more of Him!!” A better answer would probably have been: “Nope, He’d still be there, ’cause He’s immutable!! An even better answer would have been: ‘Don’t be silly.!!”

    John, I believe you are correct. Wesley’s breakthrough at Aldersgate centered on his personal experience of the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross. Gary is also correct, but I would add to Torrance’s three acts a fourth — Jesus saving life — both pre- and post- resurrection. Romans 5:10

    When God began to build His house, He began at Genesis 1:1. It’s the Good News, Bad News, Good News that Robert Tuttle, Jr., and others write about. It’s ALL good.

  5. I agree with the commenter above that mentioned it is a 3 part story that can’t be separated. For me at least, I think the one directly leads to the other. The cross leads me to think about the actual physical suffering which leads to wondering about the purpose which is resurrection. Starting with the resurrection leads me back to the cross because obviously he died and something killed him. I hope that makes sense. This is also why I’ve gotten into celebrating the Christian calendar (wasn’t raised doing so) as it forces us to remember the entire story.

    Thanks for the post.

  6. Both/And…..not Either/Or.

    Truth be told, the story of Jesus, God incarnate as human, come to give us a repentance option, and the whole concept of forgiveness of sin, is more radical and fantastic than any new age or popular construct of extraterrestrial planet seeding, Annunaki, or Pagan thealogy. Yes thealogy…, with an “a”.
    The creed is the most remarkable and non-materialist affirmation. We are so used to reciting it, it goes right over our heads.

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