Chapters four and five of Looking Through the Cross focus on the topics of 'identity' and 'suffering' - two really good topics, and two that I pondered to some degree as part of preparing the conference paper I wrote. Once again, the book neither surprises nor challenges me.
Our identity is defined by our relationship to Chirst, and him crucified, ergo we cannot define ourselves over against any other... basic enough conceptually but missing, in my view the key 'so what does that look like in real life' question.
The chapter on suffering seemed to me to involve a deal of contortion to explain that God-the-son suffers but God-the-father doesn't otherwise God is not 'bigger' or 'stronger' than suffering. So, if God-the-father doesn't do suffering, why does God-the-father need to forsake God-the-son on the cross, as the author argues a few chapters earlier? Or is that the point - God-the-father refuses to do suffering? And, if God is one in three 'personae', not three godlets (my word) then isn't the distinction pretty much moot? It needs a better theologian than me to offer an alternative, but it doesn't work for me. Pace, Tomlin, but I think God suffers but is still 'bigger and stronger' than suffering or evil.
I think what I am starting to realise is that it is the seemingly abstract/theoretical nature of the thoughts that is bugging me.... there really isn't much to disagree with, except in semantics or theological nuance, but it doesn't really seem to get itself grounded in real life.
So, identity, humanly defined is far for fluid than it was a generation ago, but how does our identity in Christ through the cross impact that day to day, at grass roots level? If, as Galatians says, and Tomlin cites, in Christ race, status and gender are meaningless, and if, as he asserts, our identity in Christ demands the giving of self for the other which is like and not like us, what does that mean?
Must be the (somewhat ratty) practical theologian in me, but systematics without application is, well, systematics without application!