Oppressors and the Cross

As patterns of oppression become embedded in the ecclesial traditions, those traditions and leaders that are responsible for conveying Christian theology embed their own self-justifying domination in this theology. The cross undermines all of this. Moltmann writes, “The crucified Christ himself is a challenge to Christian theology and the Christian church, which dare to call themselves by his name.”

This is not a theoretical issue nor one related to preferences, as a discussion about contemporary choruses versus traditional hymns might be. This is not, likewise, merely an issue of church growth. This is a question of the very identity of the church and indeed its survival. A critical theology of the cross makes criticism of the church a radical venture, as each church must be established on the basis of the crucified Christ in order for it to be, indeed, a Christian church. The cross is “the criterion of their truth and therefore the criticism of their untruth.” In this way, then, the church is a microcosm of humanity in general, given identity by this particular Christ and only in this identity finding substantive identity for continuing life. The life of the church is oriented by the reality of this man Jesus, the man who died in a particular way with a particular mission.

Those in the church cannot appropriate this mission for their own benefit or to further their own goals, which would be to distance themselves from Christ in the process and thus establishing their own markers for the knowledge of good and evil. The original sin makes its presence known in every church that confesses Christ but dismisses the cross in word or in practice. And as with the human condition in general, churches that establish their identity elsewhere are oriented towards death.

Thus, an ecclesiology that embeds oppression is not merely unfortunate, it is anti-Christ, orienting itself in contrast to the mission of Christ, representing Christ in name but opposing this mission in practice. The cross confronts such oppression and in its absurdity offers a constant challenge to attempts to develop theology for the sake of the dominant.

Moltmann writes that it is “the cross alone, and nothing else” that is the test of Christian theology, “since the cross refutes everything, and excludes the syncretistic elements in Christianity.” Only a theology that takes the cross seriously, with all its challenges and confrontations, can be established firmly in the mission of Christ as Christ himself initiated it. This does not negate the ability for theological development or reflection, but rather continually re-centers it, examining it for substantive contribution rather than distracting accretion.

This entry was posted in academia, dissertation musings, Jesus, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *