The Cross and the Greco-Roman narrative

A reader writes …

I’ve been tracking with your last couple of books and was shocked (in a good way) to read your thoughts on the greco-roman influences on Western Christianity. It is something I have been pondering and questioning for some time, so I’m glad to see the amount of thought and effort you are putting into tackling it.
I think I’m late in the game here with that particular discussion, as it seems a point of exhaustion feels to be at hand, by some people at least. However, I just want to pose some comments: It seems to me that Paul (in 1 Corinthians 10) is chastizing all of us who debate and divide over interpretation of scripture – not that what you are doing is wrong – I think it’s necessary for all of us to process scripture on a much deeper level than ‘literally’. I just think that people need to move past interpretation into action, out of theology and into practice, out of conversation and into friendship, out of division and into unity – at all cost. Perhaps we need a third voice beyond evangelical and emergent encouraging us to be radically united with even those whom we disagree, and find ways around theology we don’t agree with by working out what it means to act on that theology. I do see the problem with the greco-roman narrative though. If we take that narrative as the thing that God has ordained (that is, perfection/fall/savation or eternal tormet), then our action becomes “tell everyeone how sinful they are, and get them saved by the blood of Jesus so that they can convert others and save them also”. The end result is that we fixate on the wonder of the cross, and refuse to mature beyond this into the world of being post-resurrection, post-giving of the spirit people who live in eternal ways and make conciously eternal descisions, and repent when necessary. We do need to be reminded of the cross – which is why we were given the eucharist. I would propose that we take time to reflect on the cross, but that we also must take time to reflect critically and thoughfully on how the cross impacts our daily descisions and routines and interactions. I dont think this means that the narrative is wrong, I just think it means we aren’t seeing the entire scope of it – which includes a whole lot of things happening on earth. If we are saved, then we are in a prime position with the power of the living God at our sides to help the poor with their poverty, care for the widow and orphan and be radically generous with our finances, resources, knowledge and time.

Thanks for these comments. It isn’t super helpful when one group says, “We are the ones who value the cross, and you don’t,” and the other group says, “Your view of the cross is narrow and one-dimensional. We are the ones who value the cross more fully.” This quickly degenerates into the same-old same-old of “We’re better than you,” which then degenerates into “We’re good/right; you’re bad/wrong,” which can then degenerate even further.
Far better, I think, for us to try to see the deeper concerns of the “other side.” Some of those concerns are “purely” theological (which view makes more sense in relation to all the Scriptural witness?), but some are social (won’t these new ideas divide my beloved community?), political (won’t those old ideas lead to continuing oppression?), practical (if I fail to uphold “our” view, won’t I lose friends – or my job?), and emotional (how could I ever differ from my parents, grandparents, and other authority figures – or my peers?).
In the end, many of us may simply have to differ – but I hope we can even then come together, as you say,

to help the poor with their poverty, care for the widow and orphan and be radically generous with our finances, resources, knowledge and time.