The latest issue of Christianity Today has an article by Scot McKnight called “McLaren Emerging”. The whole article is worth reading, including this comment by McKnight on the cross as the unmasking of evil:
Yes, I believe this unmasking role of the Cross is not only true, but also vital to a political reworking and revitalizing of the Cross. Given the sociopolitical focus of these two books, perhaps McLaren didn’t think any more needed to be said.
But I feel obliged to ask, “Can we have more?”…
The most stable location for the earliest understandings of the Cross, from Jesus all the way through the New Testament writings, is the Last Supper – and not a word is said there about violence and systemic injustice. Other words are given to explain the event: covenant, forgiveness of sins, and blood “poured out for many.” In fact, I question whether a cross that only undoes violence is enough to create liberation, peace, and a kingdom vision.
I know that Brian McLaren has come under attack from critics, but Scot McKnight is a friend, and this is a very significant issue. It’s hard to think of one that’s more significant than this.
This came to mind as I read Michael Krahn this morning (found via Challies). Krahn attended the Everything Must Change conference in Oakville this weekend. McLaren answered a question about what the gospel is:
…the good news isn’t the good news of Christianity, it’s the good news of the Kingdom of God. And I think that Fatmire [Muslim peace activist also present at conference and sitting next to him on the panel] working for peace, is an agent for peace, and I’d much rather her be working for peace being who she is than… becoming a person in a church worrying about the list over there on that wall. [on “the list” are things non-essentials like speaking in tongues, etc.)
So, to me there’s something we really have to grapple with about whether the border of a religion is the border of the kingdom of God. And I think that’s a question we’d be wise to raise. I liked what you said about there not being despair when you’re among the extremely needy people. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we found out that God is present wherever there’s suffering because God is there bringing healing and God is really present wherever people are working against injustice because that’s the work of God, wherever people are working for peace. And then the we find that the place that God isn’t is where you have a bunch of affluent people who are self-absorbed… and that wouldn’t surprise me why they would get depressed, because, in some way, it’s not that God isn’t present but they’re snoring through the presence of God.
The last thing I want to do is join a pile-on, but this statement concerns me. I agree that the gospel includes news of the Kingdom, and that it trumps secondary issues. I believe that the gospel contains good news for the poor, and that it has cosmic implications. I realize that a brief statement can’t say everything. I won’t even get into his statements on the borders of religion – some other time. But here’s the thing: I want to hear about the cross. I echo McKnight: “I feel obliged to ask, ‘Can we have more?'”
In A Quest for More, Paul David Tripp writes:
Focus on Christ will always result in focus on the cross. You cannot be Christ-centered without becoming cross-centered. The crucified Christ is to be the center of everything I know about myself and my world. You cannot have any real hope for flawed people in a fallen world unless there is a Redeemer to rescue us from the evil that resides both inside and outside of us. Real restoration to God’s created design requires the cross. It is the cross of Christ that alone will restore my allegiance to Christ and his rightful place at the center of everything in my life. (via)
If we lose our focus on the cross – even if we don’t deny it – we lose everything. Yet it’s so easy to lose, if not the cross, then our focus on the cross.
So in the end, this isn’t just an issue for Brian McLaren. It’s an issue for all of us. It’s not just an issue for his critics; it’s an issue for his friends, and for anyone who claims to be Christian. And it’s a serious one. About the cross: can we have more? More of all of its significance, including forgiveness of sins as well as its wider implications? Not just from McLaren, but from all of us? Please?