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Evil, Power and Love

The next two chapters of 'Looking through the Cross' and my sense of 'so what' is, I'm afraid, largely undiminished.  It seems to be pretty standard stuff not aimed at anyone who has studied theology or even been in the Church for more than a few minutes.  I do like very much that it is accessible, and the use of contemporary literature (including Harry Potter and Ian McEwen's 'Atonement') works well, but I am not finding many (any yet) new insights or even sentences that make me think.

The chapter on evil, or more properly on atonement, treads a well worn path and assumes that God the Father abandons God the Son, or that God abandons the man Jesus, whichever you prefer, as evidenced by the citation of Psalm 22:1.  I know this is received wisdom, but it has never worked for me, not at any stage of my understanding of what the cross might be about. 

I have minimal knowledge of biblical languages, but I do know that Hebrew lacks punctuation, so what we have is someone's best guess of where the commas etc. go.  This what is traditionally rendered

My God, my God, why have you foresaken me?

Could legitmiately (so far as I can tell) be rendered

My God, my God, why?  Have you foresaken me?

Anyone who has read my stuff over the years will have seen this before - it is an alternative that allows me another, more helpful, reading of the start of Psalm 22.  And it works, it makes sense in context... the double question sits as well as the single question in the flow of ths psalm.

Did God abandon Jesus?  Did "the father turn his face away" as the song puts it?  No.  I do not believe God did, any more than I believe God abandoned/abandons me in my own darkest and lowest moments.  Just because it feels like abandonment does not mean it is.  There are oodles of pslams and other texts that support my hypothesis!

Tomlinson has Jesus dying as 'one of us', dying as 'one for us' - a version of substitutionary atonement that neatly evades the pecuniary aspect of some models.  I think its a decent attempt but, for me, adds nothing new to think about.


The chapter on power/powerlessness again treads a very familiar path, though to be fair, there was historical stuff about Pilate of which I had managed not to be aware until now.  The subversive power of chosen weakness, of sacrificial love is an important theme, and again the examples, many rooted in the common experience of ordinary people, are helpful and accessible (you don't have to be a martyr to live sacrificially), but not exactly a new idea. 

So far, so not very inspiring then (sorry Graham Tomlin) but here are a couple of rather neat little sentences from page 77 (the best page of the book so far IMO!) worth pondering a little further...

"When a person grasps in a quite profound way, that neither their achievements nor their mistakes count before God, it leaves that person with nothing to lose."

"When we lose the love of power for its own sake, we discover the power to love."

Looking Through the Cross, Graham Tomlin, London, Bloomsbury, 2013 p.77



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