Tag Archives: Cycle of Gospel Living

Death of Jesus

Beyond Crucifixion Violence

The violence of Jesus’ death makes me pause, queasy, weep, angry.  I wrestle with the killing of Jesus and its definitive place in our understanding of the Christ, God, and faith. This season of preparation is a good time to reconsider how we understand this violence. Because I recognize one of our deadliest sins is that we trust the power of violence over the power of God’s love, I am compelled to reject our traditional understanding of the violence of the crucifixion:  Jesus’ death doesn’t forgive our sins and violence is not redemptive!

Death of Jesus Evil is so destructive, our trust in the power of God’s love so little; we have bastardized God’s love and the redemptive life of Jesus.  We define them  by the world’s measure of power – violence!

Our death theology does not answer the problems of sin, evil, injustice, and suffering; rather it exasperates them by perpetuating the cycle of violence. Beyond affirming violence, our death theology cannot fully generate life, justice, or courage.

Life: Our death theology minimizes the relational nature of God.  It reduces God’s love for us to a transaction –  one that God exclusively executes.  Rather than mutual respect and love;  we are reduced to passive pawns.  A life theology would inspire us to act, to love, to live!

Justice: Our death theology is flawed because it treats evil, sin, and injustice in an individualistic and isolated way.  Andrew Sung Park highlights this deficient and provides a correction.{{1}}  He pairs the Asian concept of han with our traditional understanding of sin/forgiveness.  Han is the legacy of sin that remains when victims are denied justice. Because the forgiveness of sin is transacted between God and the perpetrator, the victim is not included in the redemptive calculus and justice is unaddressed.  This understanding of redemption colludes with perpetrators because they do not have to fully face the consequences of their sin.  Those who are powerless, are left without voice, without justice, and without a theology that gives them hope.

Courage: Both the passive and individualistic nature of our death theology contribute to our evasion of power.  Jesus has different messages:  to those who lack power – he offers words of hope and encourages them to resist; to those with power – he offers warning and encourages them to give up power.{{2}}  A life theology would help us understand how power is used in the crucifixion, where we are in the cycle of gospel living,  and encourage us to resist the power of evil and to stand in solidarity with those who are innocent and abused.

To move beyond our death theology, we can draw on the breadth of the biblical and theological understandings of Jesus’ death.  Theologian Ty Inbody identifies six{{3}}:

  • Jesus as a teacher of the true higher knowledge
  • Jesus as a moral example and influence
  • Jesus as the final scapegoat
  • Jesus as a victorious conqueror
  • Jesus as our satisfaction of God’s justice (death theology)
  • Jesus as our penal substitute (death theology)

To overcome the evil of violence, Jesus as the final scapegoat is the most promising understanding of Jesus’ death.  We can draw on Rene Girard’s anthropology to help us see that the resurrection is God’s NO! to our need for violence.

To be better lovers we must move beyond our death theology and discover a theology of life.

[[1]]Andrew Sung Park: Wound Heart of God: The Asian Concept of Han and the Christian Doctrine of Sin[[1]]

[[2]]Eric Law: The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb: A Spirituality for Leadership in a Multicultural Community[[2]]

[[3]]Tyron Inbody: Many Faces of Christology – Chapter 6[[3]]