Why a Crucifixion? A #progGOD Challenge (with Prizes!!!)

I conceived of the #progGOD challenges at Patheos because 1) I think that progressives have a better version of the gospel than conservatives, and 2) I think progressives often struggle to speak forthrightly about God. We get caught up in prolegomena and methodology and qualifying every statement about God or Jesus or the Bible ten ways before we say anything. And by the time we say something, no one’s listening anymore.

Thus far, there have been two #progGOD Challenges:

Who Is God?

Why an Incarnation?

Those two generated dozens of thoughtful responses. And now it’s time for a third:

Why a Crucifixion?

This is a question that, literally, lies at the very center of Christianity. I’ve even written a short ebook about it (which is free today only), and I’m planning to blow that up into a full-length book. It’s a crucial question, and one that becomes more difficult when we move away from the penal substitutionary understanding of the atonement.

So, throughout Lent we’re going to be collecting responses to the question Why a Crucifixion? Share your answer by linking in the comment section below, tweet with the hashtag #progGOD, and email the link to progressivechristian@patheos.com.

As a bonus this time, I’m going to send a collection of 10 books to the post that gets the most shares and likes. So have at it, and be sure and share your post far and wide. I’ll be giving weekly updates with some of the best posts I read.

  • Sven

    Are you going for the broader question “Why did the son of God have to be brutally executed?” Or the narrower question “Why crucifixion, as opposed to other available brutal forms of execution?”

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      You decide.

  • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com kjpyoungblood

    Sigh. I never even finished writing my post for “Why the Incarnation?” Now a new challenge?

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      A blog post, Kelly, not a book. :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/revjoshuaserrano Joshua Serrano

    Two quotes that say it better than I can.

    theology of the cross, which may be stimulated by a certain kind of
    anthropological pre-understanding, is nevertheless first of all a
    statement about God, and what it says about God is not that God thinks
    humankind so wretched that it deserves death and hell, but that God
    thinks humankind and the whole creation so good, so beautiful, so
    precious in its intentions and its potentiality, that its actualization,
    its fulfillment, its redemption is worth dying for.”

    divine love that is ready to suffer birth in human form ‘must’ follow
    through, if it is really love for creatures, for us. It ‘must’ suffer
    life, not only birth; it ‘must’ suffer death, too.”

    Douglas John Hall, “The Cross in our Context” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003), pgs. 24, 28.

    • alsace47

      Hi Josh, we just migrated all WordPress comments for this blog to Disqus, you may have gotten caught up just as we were doing the move, but all comments will be in Disqus now…

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  • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan Wilkinson
  • http://liminalpreacher.blogspot.com/ Mark

    Why a Crucifixion? Following the line of argument from Ted Jenning’s “Transforming Atonement,” Jesus was crucified because that was the gruesome punishment that the Roman powers dealt to revolutionaries who challenged imperial rule. Jesus consistently called into question the legitimacy of the Roman empire, not least by proclaiming and enacting a “kingdom of God” that took priority over the kingdom of Caesar. Jesus identified with the powerless and excluded rather than the powerful and elite, and the people’s movement that coalesced around him resembled other revolutionary movements of the time enough that the powers that be punished him like they did other bandits and revolutionaries. The major difference being, of course, that Jesus’ movement was nonviolent. Ghandi and Martin Luther King counseled their followers to resist violent aggression with militant nonviolence, even if it meant putting their bodies on the line and suffering. Jesus did the same: rather than mount a violent attack on Jerusalem, Jesus died by the Roman death penalty. In this way, the suffering of an innocent, nonviolent victim shows how distorted the power and violence of the Empire is, or, as Colossians 2:15 puts it, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/revjoshuaserrano Joshua Serrano
  • Pingback: Why the Crucifixion? #proggod | Joshua Serrano

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  • http://twitter.com/DenikaAnderson Denika Anderson

    I forsook doing homework because this happened. So please read it. wp.me/p1PI4X-96

  • http://twitter.com/Eric_Pettersson Eric Pettersson

    I don’t have the sort of blog where I can contribute to this discussion, but I wanted to add a few thoughts here.

    I think the most basic answer to “why a crucifixion” comes from the human side rather than God’s. I cannot say for sure whether the crucifixion was actually part of Jesus’ plan, but I can say that those people did it for a reason. It’s the same reason we all would have done it. Confronted face to face with the living God, humanity could not handle what it found. So why the crucifixion? Because we hated God so much that we had to kill him.

    But here is where it becomes theological. We humans are so full of anger, hate, and violence, and we are constantly looking for a way to release all this pent up frustration through dominating other people. Jesus looks our anger in the face and says, “I can take that. Pour your hatred on me. I will absorb it and conquer it once and for all, releasing you of that heavy burden.” Thus, Jesus dies for our sins, not as the victim of God, but as the victim of humanity. Yet in so doing, he also becomes our savior.

    In the coming weeks, many preachers will declare killing Jesus to be the greatest crime humanity ever committed. Let’s not add to it by trying to frame God for our crime.

  • Mich Barry

    Wilt thou love God as he thee ? then digest,
    My soul, this wholesome meditation,
    How God the Spirit, by angels waited on
    In heaven, doth make His temple in thy breast.
    The Father having begot a Son most blest,
    And still begetting—for he ne’er begun—
    Hath deign’d to choose thee by adoption,
    Co-heir to His glory, and Sabbath’ endless rest.
    And as a robb’d man, which by search doth find
    His stolen stuff sold, must lose or buy it again,
    The Sun of glory came down, and was slain,
    Us whom He had made, and Satan stole, to unbind.
    ‘Twas much, that man was made like God before,
    But, that God should be made like man, much more.

  • Pingback: Why the Cross: Tony Jones’ Challenge | Jason Micheli

  • Tim Webb

    As I read somewhere recently, “A God of their own invention brought people just like them into a kingdom without clear definition through the ministrations of a Christ who looks like an over-indulged American thirty-something.”

  • davidrhenson

    In a touch of irony, SNL answered this progGod question, too. Without it, you get DJesus. So I went with their answer. I had a whole different post planned, but then this happened.


  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
  • Pingback: Djesus Uncrossed vs. Christ Crucified #progGOD

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  • Pingback: Why A Crucifixion? — It is God’s Love for us #progGod | Hipstianity

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  • kevinwilliams07

    Here is my contribution to the question. Thanks for encouraging these posts Tony. https://hipstianity.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/why-a-crucifixion-it-is-gods-love-for-us-proggod/

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.paeth Scott Paeth
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  • http://gravatar.com/rollieb RollieB

    Jesus spoke truth to power – that’s always a dangerous activity. Those in power eliminated him, via, in essence, a political assassination. Crucifixion was the lethal injection of the day.

  • http://drewdowns.net Drew Downs

    Good challenge! Sorry I’m late, but I hope I can beat the deadline!

  • http://www.butnotyet.com Joel Rieves
  • http://ymjen.com Jen Bradbury

    Here’s my contribution to this great question. Thanks for encouraging & facilitating this dialogue, Tony. http://ymjen.com/blog/why-a-crucifixion

  • Bill Walker
  • http://deadheroesdontsave.com/ MikeB (@g1antfan)
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  • http://www.fidesquaerens.org Marta L.

    I wrote a post today talking about some ironies with how many Christians approach the Passion, and toward the end tried to touch on some ways we could understand the Passion other than as just a new way of sorting God’s frozen chosen from the rest of humanity.


    A sample, from near the end:

    Is there a way to believe Christ’s death is necessary, even central, without turning Christianity into a new chosen people, a separate tribe from the rest of humanity?

    I think so, if we keep in mind that Jesus’s ministry was so transformative to the culture he lived in. The widow with her two mites gave a greater gift than the rich and powerful who let their coins jangle as they dropped into the offering-box. [...] And perhaps the most countercultural message of all: God could not only be born in a stable but could die on a tree. Even if the Passion was metaphysically necessary, even if true forgiveness was impossible without it, I still don’t think Jesus would recognize the way we turn it into an entry-exam for heaven as what he was trying to get at in his ministry.

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