The first blog post on the implications of kenarchy for our understanding of God (three posts back) culminated with a statement about what was happening at the cross.
Phoebe’s recent comment on that post got to the heart of the matter as follows:
“I like it, but I’m struggling to understand your point 4 – ‘If Jesus is fully revealing God, then God is the lamb carrying in himself the cost of intimacy with sinful human beings, rather than the traditional idea that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb providing access to the intimate side of a powerful sovereign God who has been offended by our rebellious behaviour and rejected us accordingly.’ I’ve always understood it that Jesus was standing in for us and I’ve read your comments about kenotic pouring out love, but don’t quite understand how you understand forgiveness/redemption etc – and also how we can interpret the scriptures in this way?”
What follows is an attempt to answer Phoebe’s two concerns, (i) “how we understand forgiveness/ redemption etc” and (ii) “how we can interpret the scriptures in this way.”
(i) “how we understand forgiveness/ redemption etc”
The cross and resurrection is at the heart of kenarchy. They are the culmination of the incarnation, the manifestation of a totally different kind of power to sovereignty. They reveal a power that instead of insisting on its own way, takes on and sucks up the power of domination to the death and triumphs over it. The consequent resurrection is the proof of the triumph of love and mercy. The cross demonstrates the kenosis that is the heart of kenarchy, where domination and control are met by the power of life-laid-down loving. The resurrection proves the power of kenarchy, demonstrates that it works, is “the first fruits of those who believe.”
Seen in this way, the cross and resurrection is where God demonstrated the heart of his character to be a totally different kind of power to domination, independence and control. This doesn’t undermine forgiveness or redemption in any way. Rather it places them at the heart of God. So whatever sin is committed and whatever evil comes into being as a result, it is God’s nature to take the responsibility for it, suck up the effects of it into himself and forgive the perpetrator of it, whatever the cost to himself. Words like redeem and ransom are metaphors to describe what it cost Jesus, and therefore God, to give themself to stem the evil flow of personal and corporate domination and control, and carry it away in their own being.
(ii) “how we can interpret the scriptures in this way.”
Interpreting the scriptures like this is very straightforward. It is based on the principle that the gospels provide us with the essential hermeneutic for interpretation, and that hermeneutic is the testimony of Jesus. God seen in Jesus is not a sovereign ruler insisting on his own way. As earlier posts on this blog have emphasised he is positioned as a poor and illegitimate migrant, in direct contrast to the Roman emperor and his representatives. He is introduced prophetically as putting down the mighty from their thrones (Lk 1:51) and describes his kingdom as the reverse of hierarchical sovereignty (Lk 22:25-27). He describes his ransom in terms of kenotic service (Mk 10:45) and demonstrates his divinity in the same terms (Jn 13:1-5). If Jesus rules in this upside down way then so does God. If he rejects sovereign power, then so does God.
God chooses to put his creatures first, even when they choose the opposite of what he is like. He comes and takes the consequences of their domination system, and freely invites them to sit with him on his inverted throne. Paul saw this very clearly as did the writer of Revelation (Eph 2:6; Rev 1:6). So everyone is a king and all are on the throne. This is egalitarian grace. So a gospel worked out as only God has the right to dominate and we should all bow the knee, is not the biblical gospel. It’s the gospel of empire where a ghastly theological reversal takes place and God becomes the devil. So a doctrine of the cross as where God sent his son to take the punishment for our failure to submit to a dominating God is a travesty of the gospel. Rather the cross and resurrection is the time and place where Father, Son and Holy Spirit upended empire forever.