In this week’s free email newsletter from Relevant Magazine, web editor Jesse Carey asks why Christian iconography puts so much emphasis on the cross, a symbol of death, when our faith is about new life. Carey suggests that understanding sin and punishment comes naturally to us, whereas God’s grace exceeds the bounds of logic and human control:
[I]n a way, the crucifixion makes sense. For most people, judgment is logical. Death is inescapable. Witnessing a man die only takes observation. Believing He rose from a tomb requires faith. Maybe the reason many Christians seem to embrace the crucifixion and put little emphasis on the resurrection is because Jesus dying on the cross makes more sense than Him coming out of the grave.
G.K. Chesterton said in Orthodoxy, “Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom…Such is the madman of experience; he is commonly a reasoner, frequently a successful reasoner.” Chesterton makes it clear earlier in this work that he is not attacking reason, but a reliance on logic can counter the idea of faith. In other words, it is easy to make sense of the crucifixion; it is something that we can feel guilty for. Our sin put Christ on the cross. We are responsible for His death. But the gift of eternal life (which is represented by the resurrection) defies logic.
Christ rising after death grants believers the gift of eternal life, eternal life that we don’t deserve, that we didn’t earn. It is only granted by God’s grace. Trying to logically reason through the idea of grace is what would turn Chesterton’s mathematician into a madman. There is no formula for grace; we did nothing to earn it. God loved us, so Christ died and rose so we could live. After we accept His sacrifice, we owe Him nothing in return. It is poetic; it is a loving Father’s gift that can’t be figured out. Christianity is not based on works; it is based on grace, and it’s that grace that takes faith.
Starting tomorrow, I’ll be enjoying four blessed computer-free days at Wheaton College’s “Ancient Faith for the Church’s Future” conference on the early church fathers. Coming up next: quotes from Mark Galli’s Jesus Mean and Wild; more favorite poems; “Saving Jesus” Episode 11 (and why there won’t be an Episode 12). Meanwhile, in the tradition of the sitcom “clips episode”, enjoy these posts from the recent past: