Q & R: The Cross and Violence

A reader writes …

Q: I wanted to personally thank you for your book, A New Kind of Christian. It came at a point in my walk when I most needed to hear it’s message of Christ’s transcending love. Having grown up within a pretty narrow concept of what ‘being’ a Christian meant it opened the doors for me to continue my walk with Christ from a more honest and hopeful place. The journey I am on has taken me to seminary (at XXX) where I am exploring leadership from a missional perspective.
I have recently been working out my understanding of salvation (and in how our view of salvation correlates in our acceptance of violence). To that end I find that most classical soteriological theories are still largely living within the law/sin narrative of the old testament rather than accepting the cross as God’s repentance of that system and the violence it breeds in favor of an agape(shalom)/kingdom narrative.
I haven’t gotten to read your newest book yet (as a seminarian I have way more books than I know what to do with). But from the reviews and conversation (along with your blog) it seems this is the same trajectory in which you are headed. I see a lot of Christians spending time to either justify or explain away the violence of the Old Testament, I think though that the work of the cross makes those efforts somewhat frivolous. The work of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection was nothing less than the abolishment of the law/sin narrative. Instead we now have the, “you have heard it said, but what I say is…” narrative which is agape and kingdom founded. I think we should acknowledge that violence was and is part of the law/sin narrative and how God needed to work then; however that has been replaced and it is not part of this new narrative found in Christ.
I am not looking to divorce God from his Old Testament roots and way of working within that narrative; rather I am saying that in the cross God repented (turned away) from that system and the violence that perpetuated it’s existence in favor of the Love of a self-sacrifical Lamb in Christ to end that violence once and for all. In essence on the cross God killed himself to save us from the law/sin narrative.
This is still in the working-out stage but I would greatly appreciate any thoughts you might have.

R:I have been on a similar path of rethinking. At some point, if you get a chance to read just the first four or five chapters of the new book, I think you’ll find both some confirmation of your line of thought and some fine tuning. I think that you’re on the right track (I hope folks who read your question/comment will see how you define “repent” and not assume you mean something else). But I don’t think you can rethink salvation fully without also rethinking how the Bible is supposed to have authority for us and what the basic narratives of the Bible are … and how Jesus is “the Word of God” for us. So many of these questions are deeply interrelated, which is why I tackled ten together in one book … If you try to fix one element of a defective paradigm, the rest of the system will blunt the effect of your repair work. That’s why I think we need to deal with the paradigm as a whole, to the degree that we’re able. To me, that paradigm is a narrative … an assumption about what the big story is. Thank God for people like you who are plunging into this needed work. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future!