Friday, May 27, 2011

The Cross and the "Question Mark" of Evil

In his masterful book The Cross of Christ John Stott has a comment regarding the problem of evil and the cross.  It is brief but profound.  Stott writes:
I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross.  The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as 'God on the cross'.  In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?  I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world.  But each time after a while I have had to turn away.  And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness.  That is the God for me!  He laid aside his immunity to pain.  He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.  He suffered for us.  Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.  There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross, which symbolizes divine suffering.  'The cross of God's only self-justification in such a world' as ours.  (pp. 335-336)
 The message and reality of the cross of Christ Jesus does not "solve" the problem of evil if a solution is conceptualized in some sort of philosophical argument with a tidy bow on top.  The cross does give us a new narrative within which the struggle against evil finds new contextualization.  There may not be an "answer" but there is hope because our God has chosen not to remain immune from the evil.  He has come close and stays close.