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Tuesday, August 08, 2006 

James Dunn on the Cross and the Resurrection

"If the cross of Jesus stands at the centre of Paul's theology, so also does the resurrection of Jesus. Christ crucified is also he whom God raised from the dead. More to the point, the significance of the one cannot be grasped in isolation from that of the other. Without the resurrection, the cross would be a cause for despair. Without the cross, the resurrection would be an escape from reality. " James Dunn, Theology of the Apostle Paul, p. 235

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Great quote, Chris. Gotta love Jimmy Dunn!


It sounds pretty with the parallelism and all, but I don't get the force of the final sentence. "Without the rez the cross would lead to despair." Clear. But why does the cross keep us from escaping reality? What does that mean about reality? I would think the rez redefines what 'reality' is.

So I would rather say "Without the Spirit(i.e. the experience of the rez'd Christ), the proclamation of the rez would be an escape from reality." It all rests on the Spirit for legitimation, right?. And it redefines reality. It is what gets us to see our "present sufferings as nothing" or ourselves as "reigning with Christ". That's living according to "reality" and I don't think it refers to the cross.

The confidence that we are even presently delivered from this suffering is what Paul seems to preach to his churches. Where is confidence, boldness, and new life because of the Ascension and sharing in that by Spirit? That's the reality check we need. I guess I'm asking, does Paul use the cross specifically as a reminder of reality to keep us from over-realizing the rez (I take it that is what Dunn is implying)?

We need a message that shows us reality has been redefined, suffering has been overcome not embraced as part of 'reality'.

This is not prosperity gospel necessarily or still less a call to avoid suffering. Gaunilo's had some interesting stuff recently on cruciformity, patripassionism, Moltmann etc. that may be relevant here.

Of course there is a vein in Paul's teaching of sharing in suffering, but it strikes me that he often pictures himself and fellow teachers suffering and his churches in support of him while he suffers. In other words he gives them the victory of the rez while he endures the cross. He must think he himself is the suffering Servant. His churches might incidentally suffer and should endure it well but he doesn't call them to cruciformity or am I wrong here?.

Just stirring up some trouble on a sleepy summer day. Also see comment on post below for related critique on the lack of a 'Spirit' hermeneutic. You need some 'charismatic' balance around here, but you'll just have to accept Methodist for now.

Actually, my background is charismatic so I understand why you wish to emphasize the Spirit aspect of Christianity. Still, I find myself perplexed the way you elevate the experience of the Spirit as the center of Christianity. Simply from a historical vantage point the resurrection permeates every layer of the tradition. Yes, yes, I know that you don't think the empty tomb traditions go back to the earliest believers and that for Paul in 1 Cor 15 the 'appearances' are really what is important and not an empty tomb. Perhaps someday, David, in a future post I will take issue with where we differ but till then keep the comments coming.

Great quote, great scholar! Good to hear Jimmy sound so Moltmannian - means he's not far from the kingdom! LOL! I assume, David, that "reality" is the sense in which Jesus' death is the end of everything - the total failure of his mission, the rejection of the kingdom by his hearers and the final "No!" to God from humanity. If we rush to resurrection without "doing" the cross (as many people do liturgically who miss Holy Week), we get the equivalent of Triumphal Entry leading directly to Triumphal Resurrection. Then we sing songs like David Kendrick's "Possess the Land" stuff and miss the darkness of reality and the glory of resurrection.

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