Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

God, The Cross, and the Problem of Evil (Jeff Cook)

 This is a first of three posts by pastor and philosopher, Jeff Cook, on philosophical reflections of the cross.

I have long believed that without pain, love is impossible.

Real love requires sacrifice. The love I have for my boys is manifest in my persistent back pain from lifting them up over and again. I see it on hands covered in morning filth, a depleted bank account, and the recent massacre of my DVD collection (which we really shouldn’t talk about). My love for my boys is shown in the fact that they can hit me, and yell at me, and even say desperately mean things to me—and I will still pick them up after they hurt themselves or wrap them in my shirt when their skin is cold.

Love isn’t having a picture on the refrigerator or pleasant thoughts from time to time. To be known, love must be tangible, and love makes itself known through self-sacrifice. Without such self-giving, “love” does not exist.

Sacrifice is essential to love and this is disturbing. In its fullest expression, love gains its beauty from the potency of pain and death. When the martyr dies she gives all of herself away. Her love for others and God has depth and beauty because death wins. There’s no other way to showcase love in its most complete and beautiful form.

If our world lacked pain, we would lose what is most essential to the human experience—the love of our friends, the love of our spouses and children, the love of strangers, but even more so a real display of the love of God.

There is no sidestepping this truth. Pain is required for God to display his love, and this truth makes Jesus absolutely unique in the pantheon of potential deities.

Jesus is not a God who is absent from our pain, who sits high on Mount Olympus watching while the world destroys itself. Jesus’ crucifixion-colored life is vibrant display of God’s love. We can all imagine the agony and shame of hanging to death, body nailed to beams next to a highway. Apparently when Christ says, “I love you”—he holds nothing back.

The portrait of God known as Christianity is extraordinary, for this God pays us not only the complement of creating us—beings who would collectively work to assault his world, each other and ourselves—but has declared in the most self-giving way possible that we are his beloveds. We are the ones for whom he would gladly endure torture and alienation and doubt. Though we are dead, he would do all it takes to make us alive.

This is love.

One New Testament writer said, “For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross.”

And you and I are that “joy.”

No other philosophy, no other religious tradition has a story that I find as compelling—that gives form to so much I instinctively value. This is one of the many reasons I am drawn to the Jesus story. The cross speaks to me in a way nothing else does, for there I not only see the kind of God who made our world. On the cross I see God’s character and his aggressively self-giving choices.

 …

JEFF COOK teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado and pastors Atlas Church in Greeley, Colorado. This is an excerpt from his book Everything New: Reimagining Heaven and Hell. He will release his third book, Small Batch Church, in 2017. Connect with him @jeffvcook or www.everythingnew.org.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

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It's not the end of the world, but it's pretty #@&% close. Trump's America & Franklin Graham's Christianity must be resisted.

Join the resistance: Subscribe for posts and updates from BLC!

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  • Why i stick to Christianity is the fact that the claims Jesus made and the things he thought that i can relate with today are just surprisingly true if you can Prove me wrong on this then i will become an atheist right now,
    Jesus name is above every other name as claimed True or False ? Which other name is more influencial ?
    The gospel is spread around the world all through, the feat judaism cant even accomplish and strangely done without sword but love True or False ?
    I have applied the principle laid out in the teachings of jesus and it filled the space, atheism cant fill and this is the story of millions upon millions of people
    Lets argue base on things we can relate with today and prove today and stop fooling around trying to prove or disprove things we are already told we can only take by faith, imagine buying a product and later complained that it didn’t work later to find out it was not used as prescribed for usage, that will be a plain folly and yet we go headlong trying to prove or disprove The virgin birth, resurrection etc. You either leave it or take it, nobody is pointing a knife in your through to accept it, if you are not fine here, then go visit atheist blogs and feed your appetite, nobody will suddenly become an atheist just because you try to disprove the source of the bible, it will only put you in bad light, besides everybody believe what they believe for their own unique reasons, even atheist, forget what they tell you on the internet, my whole point is lets discus what is of value to us today and not try to rewrite history for those who have lived it and passed on, its too late to determine who lived and who didn’t, what happened and what didn’t, imagine how stupid it will be for some people to start arguing if truly i existed or not let say in the next 200 years, if i can i will laugh at them and imagine why they cant just pick the good stuff from what they heard of me and discard the rest… selah

  • An interesting view of Love as a kind of conceptual/spiritual thing. The more I learn about psychology and the brain, and how love can increasingly be found as a function of certain chemical reactions and increased connections in certain centers in the brain and hence physical world, the more I wonder if it is really appropriate to apply concepts of love as we understand them to God at all. It is a hopeful thing to believe God has ‘love’ in a way similar to our understanding of the word, but I fear sometimes we are applying our own wishes, based on our material experiences, onto God. But then perhaps an incarnation can tie our physical/chemically based love to something more spiritual.

  • Jeff:
    Jesus is not a God who is absent from our pain, who sits high on Mount Olympus watching while the world destroys itself. Jesus’ crucifixion-colored life is vibrant display of God’s love. We can all imagine the agony and shame of hanging to death, body nailed to beams next to a highway. Apparently when Christ says, “I love you”—he holds nothing back.

    Ronny to Jeff:
    Amen to that! 🙂

    Jeff:
    The portrait of God known as Christianity is extraordinary, for this God pays us not only the complement of creating us—beings who would collectively work to assault his world, each other and ourselves—but has declared in the most self-giving way possible that we are his beloveds. We are the ones for whom he would gladly endure torture and alienation and doubt. Though we are dead, he would do all it takes to make us alive.

    This is love.

    Ronny to Jeff:
    🙂 Indeed! 🙂 And it is so true, that God/Jesus Christ is love! That proven by the cross, that we all are loved of God/Jesus Christ. And there is coming a day, when all people, from Adam on down, will know that. All will know, how greatly God/Jesus Christ loves them. And when that time comes for each person, then they will just naturally love God/Jesus Christ in return! 🙂

    Or as it’s so well expressed in this song. When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory! 🙂

  • What I found fascinating about the post was the writer’s deliberate eschewal of the empty term CHRISTIAN — which as C.S. Lewis reminds us has come to mean in contemporary culture only ‘a good (intentioned?) person’ — and NOT someone who follows some phoned-IN propositional creed, but one who proclaims to the waiting world (in your holy words), “The cross speaks to me in a way nothing else does, for there I not only see the kind of God who made our world.” … SELAH!!!

  • The portrait of God known as Christianity is extraordinary…

    That is for sure! “Our planet is a fragile speck in an uncaring universe,” say astrophysicists. Billions of galaxies, trillions of stars. Violent supernovae, thirsty black holes, massive amounts of gamma radiation and absolute zero temperatures elsewhere.

    The portrait of God known as Christianity is extraordinary.

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