Monday, April 09, 2012

“The Cross is not enough” book review – Chapter 1

As part of my post-resurrection Easter spiritual practice, I’m reading Cross Is Not Enough: Living as Witnesses to the Resurrection by Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson, Australian Baptist thinkers. I thought it would be a good discipline to blog as I read my way through the book.

Chapter one

This introduces the book. Their argument is simple – that Christianity has neglected the resurrection, to its detriment. The opening quote by George Beasley-Murray puts it well.

If the Church had contemplated the Empty Tomb as much as the Cross of its Lord, its life would have been more exhilarating and its contribution to the world more positive than has been the case.

Clifford and Johnson do this by exploring across the breadth of the Christian church

  • the gospel presentations in Acts which all focus on the resurrection
  • Luther, who is his writings urges the priority of the resurrection
  • the work of evangelicalism, including John Stott and the Lausanne movement, which they critique as being so focused on the cross that the resurrection is lost.

While this breadth is commendable, at times it felt too broad brush. Notably, the attempt to cover Roman Catholicism is done by noting a quote from two Roman Catholic theologians. Catholicism is such a large and broad part of the church, any attempt to engage them as dialogue partners needed more attention.

This chapter also introduces a second part of their argument, that the doctrine of the resurrection must be so much more than an intellectual agreement. If resurrection is central, then it must also be able to be integrated into “practical areas of theology and church life, such as in healing ministry, pastoral care, and spiritual development.” Which suggests an intriguing book, as the authors indicate they want to explore the resurrection in areas like popular culture, new forms of spirituality, inter-religious dialogue.

The writing style is accessible, with stories helpfully sprinkled through. These give the impression that Clifford and Johnson are no ivory tower academics, but are themselves deeply involved in mission and cross-cultural encounter.  Alongside the readability of the book is an impressive set of footnotes, suggesting a depth and quality of research.

From Chapter one, this looks like being a really rich post-Easter read, and I’m looking forward to chapter two – The resurrection effect.

Posted by steve at 11:16 PM


  1. […] […]

    Pingback by Review Of The Cross Over Tough — April 10, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

  2. Rich indeed, look forward to hearing more.
    The sermon I heard on Easter Sunday morning argued not for an empty tomb being the symbol/focus but the encounter of the risen Christ. That holding on to Jesus (John’s reading) binds us to time and space not allowing would be disciples to be transformed into resurrection life? Encountering the risen Jesus in the very ordinariness of breaking break and and sharing wine with our neighbour (or other encounter).
    I would agree the cross is not enough, if the Church is to move beyond substitutional atonement theology towards a theology of God’s incarnational encounter with the whole of creation the cross will never be enough.

    Comment by Geoff — April 10, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

  3. Thanks Geoff. The theologian in me starts to twitch at “not for an empty tomb being the symbol/focus but the encounter of the risen Christ” – sounds a bit like Bultmann and the dehistoricising. Equally I think we need to find ways to reclaim atonement, silence can simply reinforce the status quo. I was privileged to find one of my sermons in a book on this – Proclaiming the atonement, which offers ways into atonement for regular Sunday worship that are not substitutionary.

    But I’ll raise my glass to “Encountering the risen Jesus in the very ordinariness of breaking break and and sharing wine with our neighbour (or other encounter).”

    Easter richness to you and yours

    Comment by steve — April 11, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  4. […] […]

    Pingback by Easter’s ‘over’. “Now what?” | relligent — April 19, 2012 @ 12:40 am

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.