‘Six: What God Experienced on the Cross’

Part 6 of our reading through ‘Did God Kill Jesus’ by Tony Jones

Read Part 6 ‘What God Experienced on the Cross’’ of ‘Did God Kill Jesus’. Read the short reflection below, then comment about either Part 6 or the reflection!

Putting it all together

After going through all the major models and some current models of the atonement, Jones moves toward putting it all together. Here, he takes a very traditional stance, arguing

if there’s no good reason for the crucifixion, then there’s no good reason to be a Christian.

While this feels a bit all-or-nothing for a concept upon which there has never been common agreement, he is arguing that the crucifixion really does need to make sense if we are to have a thing called Christianity at all. So the first and most important reason is this:

the crucifixion must show the love of God, and it must provoke us to greater love for one another.

From here, Jones explores freedom and self-limitation in the atonement and in God’s nature. And therefore, in Jesus’s nature, too.

Jesus and Divinity

The implications for atonement are predicated on the role Jesus plays in the nature of God, and for the first Christians, there was no doubt that Jesus was divine. The implications of God, present in Jesus, however, are staggering based on classic understandings of who God must be.

The reverse is also necessary. For Jesus to be divine, then the divine must also be Jesus. Here, the experience of Jesus, in anguish and ecstasy, is an opportunity for God to know the human condition and be changed by it. To move from sympathy to empathy.

And at the end of that logic train is an important realization: that for God to be fully human in Jesus, then God learns what it means to be godforsaken.

What Jesus Does to God

To maintain an impossible God, we have to forward a set of impossible scenarios onto the Trinity: a complex web of articulations and suppositions. The very definition of “if this therefore that”.

But if we start from the Jesus/God relationship and a predicate of love, then a far less complex reality emerges. It just has one significant difference: God has to be willing to change.

The idea that God changes isn’t new. Nor that God grows and learns and becomes. This is all found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and is present in the person of Jesus. For many Western Christians, however, such an argument is anathema. But I think because it violates the presupposition upon which many complex theological systems depend.

But as Jesus leaves the disciples in all four gospels with a charge to serve and gather and be together while caring for the poor and disadvantaged, we’re reminded of the relational character of God and of our faith.

This means that if we understand God and the Trinity as relationship, our participation in a life of faith as relationship with God and with one another, and recognize the holy is found in precisely those connections, we are bound to see the challenge of our faith isn’t that God killed Jesus, but that the entire equation is built around our mutual participation in the violence which afflicts our world.