In his book The Cross in Our Context, Douglas John Hall makes the claim that the God that Western Christianity has envisioned and worship for centuries is the one who has more to do with power, triumphalism, omnipotence, glory, strength, while the crucified God we see in Jesus is one of weakness, love, humility, relationship. The former has done much better due to its ability to fuel empires, political and social powers, and hierarchy. The latter has not done as well because of it’s incompatibility with the ethos of the dominant consciousness of the western world.
The God of power sustains a very low anthropology – one in which humans are wretched beings. The gap between the divine and humanity is one that cannot be traversed without grace. The chasm is great and the powerful God must be willing to reach into history to connect with humanity. There is little to no ongoing relationship between Creator and creation. The crucified God, however, identifies with the farthest reach of human divine relationship by even entering death. It’s one thing to talk about the incarnate God and something even more to talk about the incarnate God crucified. Not only does God stand in solidarity with human life, but also the deepest, darkest part of our reality: death.
For some reason, western Christianity has preferred a powerful God with a depraved anthropology (sometimes taken to it’s extreme that there is nothing good that can come of humanity without grace reaching in). We’ve clung to the bad news that humans are wretched. D.J. Hall says the Good News is that our ontic state as humans is actually asserted as “good” in the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis 1:27). That does not leave sin by the wayside, but reminds us that a broken state means (theologically) that we started whole. Our reality is that we are creatures of goodness. The goodness of humanity is asserted by God moving to solidarity with us. A crucified God actually affirms a pretty strong (high) anthropology.
For the state of western Christianity, a crucified God is “good news for people who love bad news.” (Modest Mouse)
So if the powerful God has helped to uphold and create the empires, powers, societal structures, and hierarchy that the western world prefers, what does it look like for a weak God to enter into this world hear and now? What does it look like for the Christian to bear the image of a crucified God (to practice weakness over power)? These two questions have me thinking as we move toward Lent – the 40 day journey moving toward this God of weakness and love.