the Creator’s cross

My project in this and the coming posts is to trace the contours of how the achievement of God in the cross intersects with who Jesus is — particularly as he’s included in the unique divine identity of YHWH.

So I’ll be travelling along the kinds of the axes isolated by scholars like Richard Bauckham when they argue that Jesus is presented in the earliest texts of the NT in terms reserved exclusively for YHWH in OT/Jewish monotheism (ie. as Creator, Sustainer, Ruler, Judge and Redeemer of everything that is).

The point I want to make in this post is, at one level quite simple and (hopefully) uncontroversial: According to the New Testament, it is the Creator who was crucified on Calvary

In the so-called ‘Christ hymn’ of Colossians 1.15-20, for example, Jesus is spoken of as supreme — not least because of the share he has in creation: ‘he is before all things’ and ‘all things were created through him and for him’. Assuming Paul (or whoever wrote the hymn) hasn’t ditched the basic framework of OT/Jewish monotheism, this kind of talk puts Jesus very firmly on the ‘God the Creator’ side of the line.

However, he is also the one by whom all things are reconciled, ‘by means of the blood of his cross’. Paul refuses to drive a wedge between creation and redemption. Instead, he insists that they cohere in the cross — or rather, in the crucified one who is both Creator and Reconciler.

Wolfhart Pannenberg draws what I think is a profound conclusion from this connection (Systematic Theology, Volume 2: p 144):

The love with which God loved the world in sending his Son (John 3:16) does not differ in kind from the fatherly love of the Creator for his creatures. The sending of the Son proclaims the radical resoluteness of God’s love as Creator for his creatures. Instead of separating God’s covenant history from creation, the sending of the Son, from the incarnation to the resurrection, ascension, and glorious return, is to be seen as the fulfillment of God’s creative work.

The cross ushers in the new creation, which does not so much represent the replacement of God’s original good world — implying that he’s somehow abandoned or failed to achieve his purposes for it — as its perfection and renewal.

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4 comments

    1. That’s a great question, Jenny — and not unrelated to your recent post, right?

      My gut reaction is to say that we’ll probably end up with quite a narrow, ‘sin-management’ view of the Christian life: it’s all about not sinning, maybe evangelising, but otherwise sticking to quite an individualistic lifestyle that’s expecting an eventual escape from this world (rather than to participate in its redemption).

      I’m sure there’s more — much more — to be said. And I have a hunch it has a lot to do with underwriting the kinds of suggestions about how to engage the world people like e.g. Andrew Cameron and Tim Keller make.

  1. Will have a look at those posts later… I also think that the sin- management view happens a lot with us detaching salvation from god’s cov with Israel. Do u think this is the same issue as detaching Salvation from creation?

    1. I’m not sure how much the issues overlap. Maybe it has to do with what’s meant by ‘salvation’. If salvation = ‘getting over the line so you’re in relationship with God and get to go to heaven when you die’ then I’d say that doesn’t really seem to fit with the expansive vision of the saved life in Israel’s faith, let alone with a renewal of creation type framework.

      PS. While you’re following links, you might also want to check out Tim’s review of Tom Wright’s new book (it has a different title here), which says things like ‘Worship and stewardship, generating justice and beauty: these are the primary vocations of God’s redeemed people’. Nice.

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