The Cross of Christ
Reading Stott's The Cross of Christ has been a real blessing. Although I can possibly imagine a more thorough discussion of the meaning of the cross, I cannot imagine one that was both as thorough and at the same time as readable as this. Stott's prose is not only careful, methodical, and erudite, but also powerfully moving.
The cross of Christ is the crucial thing. My first church after a mid-life conversion (I was not raised in any faith at all) was a conservative Lutheran body in which I heard much about the cross. Other things, both personal and theological, led me eventually to seek a new church, but I am glad for some (though not all) of that Lutheran groundwork. A cross-centered theology, that's the part I still appreciate. One of the pleasures of Stott's book is to display the theology of the cross before our eyes in such a way that it seems almost like the unrolling of a beautiful Persian rug or something. Each new inch of fabric hushes the breath of all who look on. "When I survey the wonderous cross," wrote Isaac Watts. And that's exactly what Stott accomplishes here. He invites his readers into a survey of the cross.
I had hoped to blog more consistently about this book, chapter by chapter, but various circumstances have gotten in the way. I am reading a library edition, and need to be finished with it soon, so I'm beginning to read rather quickly I'm afraid (still a ways to go). What I think I'll do is purchase a copy of my own, and reread it later on, taking my time, outlining, and perhaps blogging about it.
But how about a taste of what awaits you, should you decide to read this book. I find quoting this book difficult, because it's like pulling a strand from that Persian rug in order to admire it more closely. It's beauty is best seen (and best honored) in its "woven-ness," its context (much like the Bible, eh?). Stott's section, for example, on "reconciliation" is simply a masterpiece in and of itself. But I want to quote from a passage I read last night about the love of God that is on display in the crucified Christ. Stott begins by referring to a work by Canon William Vanstone. Vanstone spoke of three marks of false love. Those marks are, "limitation (something is withheld), control (manipulating people), and detachment (we remain self-sufficient, unimpaired, unhurt)."
Now lets contrast that with the love of God. Here I will quote Stott, who is quoting Vanstone: "God's love is 'expended in self-giving, wholly expended, without residue or reserve, drained, exhausted, spent'. That is, in giving his Son, he gave himself. Next, God's love is 'expended in precarious endeavour, ever poised upon the brink of failure ...'. For he gave his Son to die, taking the risk of yielding up control over himself. Thirdly, God's love is seen 'waiting in the end, helpless before that which it loves, for the response which shall be its tragedy or triumph'. For in giving his Son to die for sinners, God made himself vulnerable to the possibility that they would snub him and turn away."
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride
Forbid it Lord that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ my God
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrificed them to His blood
See from Hid head His hands His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did ere such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown
Were the whole realm of nature mine
that were a present far too small
Love so amazing so divine
Demands my soul my life my all