Further reflections on Tom McCall’s Forsaken: The Trinity and the Cross, and Why it Matters, as Sanders and Jenson do a conversational review-but-not-a-review type blog thing. Our offices are right down the hall from each other, so you’d think we’d just talk about good books in person…
Sanders: Chapter 3, and in the title McCall raises another big question: “Was the Death of Jesus a Meaningless Tragedy?” But he also immediately raises the question, “Should we say that God killed Jesus?” He says no to both, and I think the gist of this chapter is to talk about the cross in a way that avoids both errors: on the one hand, Jesus wasn’t an accidental casualty of world events (“What a promising young man, so sad that he was cut short in mid-career, I wonder what he would have gone on to accomplish if he hadn’t been martyred”), and on the other hand, God the Father did not execute him through political surrogates.
Now the first view is easy to defeat: As soon as you say the words “the cross was meaningless,” you should find yourself choking on the implications. And McCall is on fire to preach the meaning of the cross straight from the scriptures. He presents the death of Christ as a victory, a sin-offering, the fulfillment of God’s plan, and more more more. (More more more on that in a bit.)
But the second view, that God did it himself, that the Father killed the incarnate Son, is one that takes more parsing, and McCall decides to go for it. As a result, this chapter (sub-title: “Foreknowledge, Fulfillment and the Plan of the Triune God”) turns a tight corner and McCall refutes a position called divine determinism. The section on determinism, compatibilism, and foreknowledge (esp. pp. 99-104) seems like a digression, even if you agree with it. And there’s the rub: almost all readers of a reformed persuasion are bound (determined?) to disagree. I hope the section doesn’t make Forsaken unusable for that sector of evangelicalism. Paul Manata wrote out a 22-page refutation of the book’s “McCallvinism,” and Luke Stamps at TGC wrote a review that was appreciative and even warm, but devoted a lot of space to registering serious objections of a recognizably reformed type.
Matt, you’re some kind of friendly neighborhood Calvinist; did this chapter tempt you to any book-tossing?