I am reading Douglas John Hall’s The Cross in Our Context: Jesus and the Suffering World. While a re-contextualized theology of the cross may not be sufficient to return Christianity to relevance in the 21st century, it is certainly a necessary part of such a return. Hall’s thinking is a gift for those of us who find most expressions of today’s Christianity to be either limp or reactionary– and therefore unhelpful and irrelevant.
A heading in an early chapter of the book defines discipleship as “the church’s journey toward the world.” The object of discipleship, according to Hall, is “solidarity”: a “greater and ever greater solidarity with the creation that God loves and, in Jesus Christ, seeks to redeem from within.” In a world that rejects daily– out of a largely unconscious fear– any intimations of its own vulnerability and death, suffering comes to all who love the world not despite, but in all its brokenness and pain. Hall’s theology of the cross is about a God who plumbs the depths of self-giving love– a love that the world, in its delusions of mastery and control, rejects.
In a post-Christian age, in which the Christian religion has been either sidelined by a largely indifferent consumer materialistic/imperial militaristic culture– or serves as the legitimizing cult of that culture– Hall helps us rethink the cross. In such rethinking is the possibility of a renewed Christianity, in which a renewed Church– no longer triumphant, and therefore able to be its faithful, counter-cultural self– re-visions God as primarily the God of Love (rather than primarily the God of Power). Then, as disciples, we can journey with Christ (never an easy or unambiguous journey) to “greater and ever greater solidarity” with the creation that God loves, and seeks to redeem.