The Cross as Punctuation

The Cross as Punctuation September 19, 2014

Jonathan Bernier wrote an interesting blog post entitled “The Last Word.” Here’s the part that struck me most:

The problem lies not simply in how scriptures are being read but in how it is thought to function in church and Christian life. The entire premise is that if the scriptures are to be authoritative they must be the last word. They must be what settles the discussion, once and for all. Yet revisions of what scripture means to the faith community demonstrate that they do not settle discussions once and for all. So, let me offer a bold suggestion: the scriptures are authoritative not because they contain the last words for faith and practice but because they contain the first. They initiate the discussion, and as such they establish certain ways of thinking that will forever guide the discussion, but they are not a law book or criminal code that lays out in codified form all that one should do and think.

Under such an understanding Christian thought would look to the scriptures not so much for answers but for questions. And the Christian who looks at the scriptures thus will discover that a oddly-shaped question mark: not a squiggle and a dot, but rather a cross, for the cross is the punctuation mark next to any and all Christian reasoning. Not the cross as a metaphysical concept of atonement, etc., but rather the sign of a broken body, of the weak trampled by the strong. Christianity’s bold proclamation is that God sides not with the great and powerful but with the lowly and weak, and that those who are murdered will in the fullness of time be vindicated over those who killed them.

Click through to read the rest.

cross with question mark shadow


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  • Jonathan Bernier

    Thanks for the shout-out, Prof. McGrath. I would hasten to add a point, found in the body of the full post, that the Hebrew Bible and Judaism also demonstrate this preferential option for the weak. It is schematized in Christianity through the cross, but that does not mean that it is unique to Christianity. I add it here only because it cannot be strongly enough emphasized that the very act of siding with the weak and powerless precludes any sort of Christian triumphalism.

    • Tim

      Yes, and God is ALWAYS on the side of the weak and oppressed.

  • Tim

    Absolutely. For more on why this is true, I recommend Peter Enns’ “The Bible Tells Me So”.
    After having read the article, let me add: Amen. The protestant church (particularly the American evangelical variety) needs to repent of this bibliolatry. Even Jesus spoke against the use of scripture this way, though it is often missed.

  • Ian

    A minister I knew used to say that the bible should be a colon, not a period. It is there to be expounded, it cannot stand alone.