God consents to be pushed out of the world and onto the cross; God is weak and powerless in the world and in precisely this way, and only so, is at our side and helps us. Matthew 8:17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us not by virtue of his omnipotence but rather by virtue of his weakness and suffering! This is the crucial distinction between Christianity and all religions. Human religiosity directs people in need to the power of God in the world, God as deus ex machina. The Bible directs people toward the powerlessness and the suffering of God; only the suffering God can help. – DBWE 8, p. 479
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote much related to the cross, and I have constantly found his reflections to be enlightening for devotional and reflective reading, particularly during seasons like Lent. The words presented here are from a passage he wrote while imprisoned by the Nazis, and it is in the middle of his own musics on a “worldly” or “religionless” Christianity, a theme that one may find throughout his career, despite some limiting it only to the latter part of his life.
Here, we see Bonhoeffer pointing to the cross in the midst of a discussion in which he says God comes to us when we are without God, and that God comes against us to be for us. What do all of these confusing things mean?
In the midst of Holy Week, as I watched Notre Dame burn and its spire collapse, I could not help but think about the suffering God in Christ. Then, I opened the works of Bonhoeffer during a devotional time and came upon the passage above. “Only the suffering God can help,” says Bonhoeffer, writing from prison in the midst of a horrific, terrifying war. These words spoke to me in the midst of my own recent sorrows as I dealt with a few fellow Christians condemning me for disagreeing with their beliefs.
Bonhoeffer here points us towards the cross. It is on the cross that God suffered and enters into the world most fully. God does not wave a hand and end suffering; instead, God takes suffering upon Christ, enduring the cross for our sake.
When we endure suffering due to our beliefs.
Only the suffering God can help.
When we seek to end the injustice in the world.
Only the suffering God can help.
When we come to God in times of sorrow.
Only the suffering God can help.
When we see the world in all of its horror, wishing for beauty.
Only the suffering God can help.
When we realize that it was our own sin that condemned us; our own grievous faults.
Only the suffering God can help.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer– browse all of my writings on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and related works (keep scrolling through for more links).
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.
Another week, another set of posts for you, dear readers! I think you’ll find the post on marriage to be particularly thought-provoking. Pastor Matt’s discussion of re-thinking everything is advice we should all take. Some reflections on Martin Luther King Jr.’s peaceful resistance are well-taken in this time. A video on a conversion experience will be found deeply interesting. Finally, we wrap up with an apologetics comic! Let me know your thoughts here, and be sure to let the others know what you think as well!
The Continuance of Marriage- Luke 20:27-40– The notion that there is no marriage in the New Creation is drawn from this passage. Here, Tony Arsenal analyzes the passage to see if this is indeed what it teaches.
The Benefit of Re-Thinking Everything– What does it mean to re-think things? Can it be a helpful endeavor? Check out Pastor Matt’s thoughts on the topic.
thoughts on waiting– Here, Elizabeth Wartick shares some thoughts on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s peaceful resistance to racism. They are timely and thought-provoking.
Why I am a Christian (David Wood)– [ADULTS only]- This video is a sometimes-disturbing look into David Wood’s thoughts and life as an atheist and how Christ called him to Himself.
The Cross is a Crutch Indeed– [COMIC]- What does it mean to say that religion is a crutch? This comic offers some thoughts and reflection upon the notion.
I’m pretty excited about this latest round-up of posts which I have gathered for your reading pleasure. Let me know what you think in the comments. If you liked someone else’s article, be sure to drop a comment, because those keep we bloggers going! Thanks for reading.
The Bad Boys, The Secret, and Apologetics Teams in Churches– A post that combines NBA with apologetics? One which encourages specialization of apologetics-oriented sites? Sign me up! This is a fantastic post and well worth your time to read. Check it out.
“What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You”: Is this book telling the truth about men?-A review and critique of a book which alleges some pretty heinous things about men and women.
Was the crucifixion a matter of child abuse?– It has been alleged more than once that the crucifixion was a kind of divine child abuse. Was it? Check out this brief post showing that this allegation is a farce.
“Best Evidences for a Young Earth” – Andrew Snelling and the Salty Seas– Does the amount of salt in the oceans provide evidence for a young earth? Check out this analysis of Andrew Snelling’s–of Answers in Genesis–argument that it is.
A Response to James White on “Defining Inerrancy”– An interesting post showing that maybe we, as Christians, should desire a place at the table such that we can offer an internal critique of non-Christian thought. Check out this thought-provoking read!
I have been reviewing Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, with a particular interest in his theological views and how he argues for those views. I have not read the book before, so each review is fresh: I am writing these having just completed the chapter the post is on. This week, I look at Chapter 5: Dying to Live.
Rob Bell begins by noting the ubiquity of the cross. Crosses are everywhere. But we can “inoculate. Familiarity leads to unfamiliarity… ‘Jesus died on the cross for your sins.’ Yes, we know. We’ve seen that… countless times. Anything else?” (122). Of course, there is so much more to the cross! Bell argues that we have missed much of the message of the cross by our cultural apathy towards it.
Bell then turns to the notion of sacrifice. He outlines very generally what cultures believed about sacrifice and then focuses in upon Christ. “Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice that thoroughly pleased the only God who ever mattered” (125).
He then uses this as a backdrop for discussing the work of Christ. Jesus’ death on the cross is ultimately the fulfillment of a number of expectations including reconciliation, winning the battle, etc. (127). Jesus is “where life is” (129). The cross and resurrection were understood as “an event as wide as the world, extending to all creation” (132).
Bell asserts that we need to think of the Gospel as a big deal:
A gospel that leaves out its cosmic scope will always feel small. A gospel that has as its chief message avoiding hell or not sinning will never be the full story. A gospel that repeatedly, narrowly affirms and bolsters the “in-ness” of one group at the expense of the “out-ness” of another group will not be true to the story that includes “all things and people in heaven and on earth.” (135)
Jesus is the “source, the strength, the example, and the assurance” to us that death and resurrection lead us into life (136).
There is much to commend in this chapter. Bell has masterfully highlighted the problems with trivializing the cross. It is easy in our culture to see a cross and react with complete indifference. Why is that? Bell rightly yearns to snap free from this apathy and see the cross for what it is: a symbol of hope, the truth of death defeated.
Furthermore, Bell is spot-on when he critiques the notion that the gospel is about living the right way or being “in” or “out.” The Gospel is more than any of the things he mentioned. A generous reading of bell in the passage block-quoted above shows his commitment to seeing the Gospel as applicable to all people: everyone is called to Christ.
Thus, I am left with only two very minor critiques. First, I am a bit concerned with the over-generalization on sacrifice, which I think has a deeper Biblical meaning than Bell outlined and also has a much broader spectrum of belief than he touched upon.
Second, Bell at one point mentioned the number seven and related it back to Genesis. He describes the creation account as: “In the poem that begins the Bible…” (133). Again, this is a very minor critique and well beyond the scope of his book, but I’d be very curious to see what Bell means by “Poem” here to refer to Genesis 1-2 (and beyond?). The Hebrew does not seem to reflect a poetic style, though it has a pattern with Days 1-3 relating to days 4-6. So yes, minor issue, but I found it interesting that he included this sentence with no real context when discussing numbers through the Bible.
Bell has done very well to highlight the importance of the Gospel message. He is rightly saddened by the fact that people have become disillusioned with the cross and its truth. Next week, we’ll look at Chapter 6.
The book: Rob Bell, Love Wins (New York: HarperCollins, 2011).
Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell: Preface and Chapter 1– I discuss the preface and chapter 1 of Love Wins.
Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell: Chapter 2– I review chapter 2.
Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell: Chapter 3– I look at Chapter 3: Hell.
Review of “Love Wins” by Rob Bell: Chapter 4– I look at Chapter 4: Does God Get what God Wants?
Rob Bell, Love Wins (New York: HarperCollins, 2011).
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.
Reasons to Believe is a science-faith think tank that seeks to show that Christianity is a profound source of knowledge. They come out with a number of resources from podcasts to articles to books. One such resource is their “RTB Live!” video series which explores a number of topics on science and Christianity by varied lecturers. I recently had the opportunity to watch “Beyond the Cosmos” which is the third in the series.
Hugh Ross presents this lecture which largely focuses on integrating science and Christian doctrine. He prefaces his comments by letting the audience know that he’s not necessarily suggesting that the ideas he presents are the way things happened, but rather that they show that certain Christian doctrines are possible in light of scientific findings.
God, according to Christianity, is “transcendental.” Ross refers to this as “transdimensional.” He begins his presentation by saying that given that God is beyond the dimensions, a number of interesting scientific findings about dimensions can show how God could bring about certain actions.
Ross discusses the Biblical portrait of God as both transcendent and immanent. God is beyond the universe, but is “everywhere within the universe” and capable of interacting with God. He outlines a number of Bible verses to show these doctrinal truths.
He then moves on to general relativity. General relativity has been confirmed to an amazing degree by big bang cosmology as well as other evidence. Rather than going into detail on this section–which should be familiar to those interested in such a topic–the rest of this review will focus upon the theological implications Ross draws out from current cosmology.
One of the central questions people ask is “If God created the cosmos, who made God?” Ross notes “everybody asks that question!” However, he argues that “these spacetime theorems give us an answer to that question… What these theorems tell us is that there is cause and effect going on before the universe comes into existence.” Ross argues that these cause and effects are due to a causal agent which is itself outside of space and time.
Because God is not confined to linear time, Ross argues, God has access to “at least a plane of time.” It’s hard to convey Ross’ argument here because he utilizes a drawing to depict what he’s saying. But basically if one sees two timelines running independently, they are on the same plane. God could see this plane and therefore interact with all the timelines.
Ross goes on to use a very interesting illustration of “Mr. and Mrs. Flat.” He uses paper cutouts of a male and a female that are two dimensional figures. Now because they are 2D, they exist on a plane. But God, being transcendental, could, in a sense, “poke a finger” through that plane and God would be experienced as a circle (the finger). God could also poke three fingers through the plane and be experienced as three circles. Furthermore, God could see Mr. and Mrs. Flat in their entirety, even though they would appear as straight lines to each other.
This thought illustration was intended to show how God, having access to all dimensions–indeed, being beyond them–could interact with all of spacetime and know what’s happening.
Similarly, because God has access to limitless dimensionality, He could listen to every single prayer on earth by utilizing each point in a “timeline” as an infinite timeline running perpindicular to that moment of time. Thus, God could spend infinite time listening to each prayer.
The atonement is often raised as an objection to Christianity because some ask how God could pay for the sins of the whole world by just suffering for a few hours on a cross. Ross points out that, just as God can expand any single moment of time into an infinite timeline to listen to prayer, so too could Christ have suffered on the cross for a potentially infinite period of time.
Reasons to Believe, as an organization, strives to show that the Christian faith can be put to the test. Ross pointed out several testable predictions that their model brings to the table:
These 6 testable predictions are not strictly hypotheses that could be used in a lab and some criticism from skeptics could come at Ross from this angle. However, it seems clear in the context of the video that Ross was painting in broad strokes here. From his writings, one could see that he parses these 6 predictions into much more precise hypotheses.There are a number of other theological issues Ross touches upon, and as someone who is constantly involved in grappling with these questions, I couldn’t help but have my mind expanded and think on how some of these ideas could affect my perception of Christianity. There do seem to be a number of ways that science can provide possibilities for several Christian doctrines.
Finally, it would be remiss to review a resource like this without commenting on the visuals presented by Ross. There weren’t any extremely flashy slides or demonstrations. Rather, Ross used a whiteboard to illustrate a few things and brought a few objects (some balls, Mr. and Mrs. Flat, etc.) to demonstrate some points. What was interesting was the way he used them. In particular, the aforementioned Mr. and Mrs. Flat was very interesting.
The video was extremely thought-provoking and certainly would be a good watch for a study group on science and religion. As someone who specializes more in the realm of philosophy, I would say that a few of Ross’ ideas have larger implications than is illustrated in the video. For example, it seemed as though the way Ross described God’s interactions in time would entail something like William Lane Craig’s view that God is timeless sans creation and temporal subsequent to Creation. However, from some of Ross’ writings, I am fairly sure he holds that God is in fact “still” timeless (a view I share). Thus, one would have to take the views he puts forth here as perhaps more speculation than reality. Such a discussion over whether God is timeless or in time was beyond the scope of the video, but I think the video could be used to bring up discussions like it.
Overall I enjoyed the video very much. As usual, Hugh Ross was a thought-provoking speaker whose ability to combine his knowledge of astrophysics with theology is often startling. The video would be perfect for a small group and could go hand-in-hand with Ross’ book of the same name (Beyond the Cosmos). Furthermore, the video could be used for a higher-level apologetics group in order to discuss some implications for God and time or science and faith. It is highly recommended.
Disclaimer: I was given this DVD to review by Reasons to Believe. I was not asked for a positive review, nor was I asked to focus upon any particular content. My thanks go to RTB for the video.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.