I am excited to share my review of “Did God Kill Jesus?: Searching for Love in History’s Most Famous Execution” by Tony Jones. Tony is a theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis, and teaches theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Tony serves as a senior acquisitions editor at Fortress Press, curating the Theology for the People line of books. He’s developed an iPhone app called Ordain Thyself. Learn more about Tony at TonyJones.net.
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“Across the theological spectrum, Christians struggle to explain how Jesus’ death worked on our behalf.” What really happened on the cross? Tony reminds us that it is not necessarily one united voice. “What I mean is that the Bible and the Christian tradition are not unanimous about the reason that Jesus had to die and what his death accomplished.”
Tony begins the book with a discussion of sacrifice, the Gospels’ views on the death of Jesus and Paul’s theology. In subsequent chapters, models that explain what happened on the cross are laid out: The Payment Model, The Victory Model, The Magnet Model, The Divinity Model to name a few.
The last few chapters of the book were of particular interest to me. Tony shares his views and what his faith journey has revealed to him.
The Divinity model resonated with me. I am a centering prayer practitioner. I believe that each one of us is a divine being with a little “d”. I believe that our humanity is best expressed when we connect to our inner divinity.
For now, I have concluded that I am a blend of the Divinity model and the below key points from Tony’s views.
Father and Son Love Us
“And the main message of both Father and Son is that they love us and want to be united with us.” This ultimately is what the cross accomplishes. We are united with God and Jesus!
“While we can only guess as to God’s motivation for creating us, we can conclude that God’s act of creation was an act of self-limiting love. God’s very first act was an act of humble love, an act in which God retreated and gave us room to live.” This makes much sense for us as it does for Jesus. “God the Father withdrew enough to let Jesus follow his own fate.” God withdraws and lets us live our life. I do this with my children. I best love them when I withdraw and let them live too.
God Experiences Absence of God
“And when Jesus cried out from the cross in despair and anguish, God experienced something that God had never before experienced: God experienced the absence of God. God experienced atheism.” As Tony mentions, God became fully human. God’s Divinity took a backseat to His humanity. Note this in no way diminished God’s humanity.
“God chose not to stop the execution, as we have seen, because God’s chosen deportment is one of self-limitation and humility.” This is the ultimate act of love.
I have to be honest. I never thought God could change. I never thought God learned. I now believe God does both. “In Jesus, God moved from sympathy with the human condition to empathy. And God changed as a result.” “We can say that in Jesus, God was experiencing something that God had not experienced before. To take it one step further, we can surmise that in Jesus, God was learning.”
The Gift of the Holy Spirit
“The beauty and power of the resurrection is that our friend didn’t just die on that cross. He lives on, offering us ongoing friendship. Even death couldn’t kill this friendship between God and humanity.” Yes, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit continues to be present with us and within us. As Tony says, “God’s power is presence, quiet presence.”
Meditate on the cross. Continue to ask questions. Why did Jesus die? Did God kill Jesus? These are important questions that need to be asked and explored. Read Tony’s book. It will challenge you to reconsider your views on what happened on the cross.
Brad Jersak, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel
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