Christ as victor or sufferer?

Perhaps it is because of my own Christian experience, I think the suffering and death of Christ is the most profound event in the Bible, and that the resurrection is the equally important. There is no resurrection without death, and hence it does not make sense to desire the benefit of the resurrection without accepting the fact that the Scripture invites us to take up the cross and follow Jesus. In light of this, I have always found it difficult to accept any teaching that overemphasises the blessings of God and avoids talking about the cost of discipleship.

Recently, Brandon J. O’Brien made the following observations in an article in Christianity Today (22nd October 2013). I think it’s helpful.

If non-Western critics are right, American Christians have a skewed view of Jesus. Asian and African American theologians have consistently emphasized the suffering, compassion, and humiliation of Jesus—not just on the cross but in all stages of his earthly life and ministry. Most Americans, on the other hand, like our Jesus triumphant and our Christianity muscular.

Since the “muscular Christianity” movement of the 19th century, preachers from Billy Sunday to modern pulpiteers have favored a Jesus with (in Mark Driscoll’s phrasing) “callused hands and big biceps.” Sure, we acknowledge that Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins. But we struggle to express how Christ stands in solidarity with the destitute, diseased, and disenfranchised because we fixate on the glorified Lord and forget the suffering Savior.

Because of this, claims one Japanese theologian, “Christianity in the West has become an anomaly.” But perhaps it’s no wonder. Theological traditions in the Protestant West have plenty to say about Christus victor—the triumphant Christ—but little to say about Christus dolor—the grief-stricken Christ. Is the American theological tradition deficient in its view of Jesus?

The article is actually a review of a book by Richard J. Mouw and Douglas A. Sweeney. The article is entitled “Jesus Feels Your Pain,” and can be found here.

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