This post follows on from the last post about Rob Bell and also a kind of reply to a few questions raised by Steffan in his comment on the last post. I do appreciate Steffan and others’ comments which help me keep my feet to the ground and my eyes towards the Cross.
I said that the conservative evangelical scene I was bought up in (and which I still consider my self a part of) was strong on sin management theology (which is of the upmost importance, I’m not arguing otherwise) but weak on going on to seek a deeper understanding of the Cross, a deeper understanding of the restoration through Jesus, and deeper understanding of His Kingdom. Steffan mentions Don Carson, John Piper and Tim Keller, and here in Wales Gwynn Williams as reformed evangelicals who do address the issues I seem to think that have been largely neglected by that very tradition. First of all, I must admit that I am not familiar with the work of John Piper and Tim Keller and I’ll come on to Don Carson in a bit so let me address Gwynn Williams first.
Gwynn’s address to the Aberystwyth conference in 2007 (which is now published as a book called Croes fy Arglwydd) had a profound effect on me and I still regularly listen to the sermons in the car. What Gwynn did was to give an in-depth explanation and defense of the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement based on and exegesis of Romans 3:21-31. But although Gwynn’s addresses were majestic I don’t think even Gwynn himself would claim that he covered the full meaning of the Cross, the full implications of the restoration through Jesus and then it’s outworking through his Kingdom. Gwynn’s emphasis was important, perhaps the most important angle to get right but it was only half the story, the half I had been over fed with in the tradition I was bought up. Carrots and peas are good for you but eating only carrots and peas and nothing else is not good!
It’s not that I find the reformed evangelical account wrong; only that it tells half the story. There is another half to the story of the Cross and to the story of redemption and restoration. Perhaps Rob Bell and Brian McLaren over compensate a little at times (in the same way as some reformed evangelicals over compensate the other way) so let me put out four other names that get the balance better to bring this discussion back to the centre: in the States one could look towards Tony Campolo and Jim Wallis and here in England and Wales one could turn to the work of Tim Chester and Dewi Arwel Hughes.
I didn’t get round to talk about Carson, next time it must be.
I write this on the eve of Good Friday. Jesus died on the Cross for our sins, for my sins but Christ dying on the Cross was so much more than that. It was the crux of his restoring plan and the setting groundwork for the future establishment of a new heaven and new earth – the forgiveness of our sins was an important part of this but it wasn’t only that.