‘Thought for the Day’ on the Today programme this morning was by the Revd Giles Fraser developing ideas he partially explores here about Easter, the crucifixion and the resurrection.
Giles’s thesis is an interesting, and conscious, example of the clash I explored in my Good Friday talks between a ‘cross centred’ and ‘resurrection centred’ theology.
As he puts it, until recently (or in his words, “For too long”), the most widely accepted view of salvation amongst Christians, “has at its core the idea that God requires the sacrifice of his own son so that human sin can be cancelled,” adducing, as an example, the words from There is a Green Hill Far Away: “There was no other good enough to pay the price of sin.”
Giles is, however, quite clear in his rejection of this. It is “a disgusting idea, and morally degenerate.”
Now apart from the fact that this must put a question mark over a great deal of Christianity, past and present, it leaves the question, “What, then, should be at the core of our belief?”
For Giles, the answer lies ready to hand: it is the resurrection (though you’ll have to listen to his Thought for the Day to hear that explored in its fullness). The resurrection is the triumph over darkness and death and (according to him) is the heart of the message we proclaim.
I mention this basically to illustrate that the problem I highlighted is not imaginary. There is a genuine, and significant, tension between these two concepts of the gospel — the one ‘cross centred’, the other ‘resurrection centred’.
The question I would put to those who follow Giles’s thesis, however, is simply this: why, for the past two thousand years, has the universal symbol of Christian faith been what it is — the cross? Isn’t this a clue?
Revd John Richardson
13 April 2009