Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The place of the Cross

"A theology which treats the passages I am about to adduce as mere excrescences on the gospel, or even on the Pauline gospel, is utterly at variance with the New Testament. It is in passages like these that the Christian consciousness in all ages has found the very core of the Gospel, the inmost heart of God's redeeming love; they have been the refuge of despairing sinners from generation to generation; they are not 'faults', as a geologist would say, in the structure of Christian thought; they are not erratic boulders that have been carried over somehow from a pre-Christian - i.e. a Jewish or pagan - condition of mind, to a Christian one; they are themselves the most profoundly, purely, and completely Christian of all Scripture thoughts. The idea they contain is not an irrational or immoral something that we must eliminate by one device or another - by exegetical ingenuity, or philosophical interdict; it is the diamond pivot on which the whole system of Christian truth revolves, and to displace it or tamper with it is to reduce the New Testament to an intellectual chaos.
I have already quoted the passage in 1 Cor. xv., in which St. Paul makes Christ's death for our sins the foundation of the only Gospel known to the primitive church. The next in order in which he refers to the subject is in 2 Cor. v. 14. The words are: 'The love of Christ constraineth us, because this is our interpretation of it: one died for all: so then all died.' Battles have been fought here over the preposition 'for', which is huper, on behalf of, not anti, instead of. This, it has been said, excludes the idea of substitution. This is a hasty inference. Paul might very well wish to say that Christ died on our behalf, without, so far as the preposition goes, thinking how it was that Christ's death was to be an advantage to us. But observe the inference he draws: One died for all; so then all died. That is to say, His death was as good as theirs. That is why His death is an advantage to them; that is what rationally connects it with their benefit; it is a death which is really theirs; it is their death which has been died by Him."
(James Denney, Studies in Theology [London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1895] Pp. 109-10)

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