Friday, December 12, 2008

The Dark Side of Christ

Surely darkness is a poor metaphor for the Light of the World. And yet most of Jesus' forward looking parables are arrayed in sinister linings. Like chiaroscuro, his ominous shades of horror add a third dimension to our Savior. The One who would bruise no reed and smolder no wick invited hearers to peer into ghastly scenes of One who will account for every offense in bitter weeping and anguished gnashing.

These parables of tenants, wedding feasts, and minas tell a different story than the soft gospel of a God who punishes begrudgingly, caught in the awkward position of conjuring up wrath to prove his justice. No, he comes as an insulted father, a deceived debt reliever, a pained vineyard owner, and a king whose rule has been jeapardized. He comes enraged to "put those wretches to a miserable death", to "destroy those murderers and burn their city", to "bring them here and slaughter them before me". And all the beseeching, begging, pleading falls on deaf ears. He is merciless.

If Jesus is able to grant "joy inexpressible" to his beloved, who can put words to the grisliness that awaits his enemies? If he is the Creator of our bodies and the intricacies of our nervous system, he is able to inflict pain beyond our wildest nightmares. And if he sustains vast complex galaxies by his word, he is able to uphold this place of torment forever and ever.

We do no favors when we fumble the doctrine of hell - when we feign the complications of Gehenna, bemoan more loudly the present plight of the oppressed, take torture out of the gospel, and make Jesus appear squeamish around blood.

But if we come to grips with such terror, we will find in it something worthy of the brutality of the cross.


Paul-David Young said...

this is from my dad...
I agree.....however, maybe you said it, but our forgiveness and grace are all the more incredible in light of His wrath/justice and Holiness. I have been reading RC Sproul's The Holiness of God and he does a great job of bringing home God's Holiness and wrath because of His holiness.

Paul-David Young said...

what would you say would be an implication of this dark side of Christ? Is it just a "clever" way of thinking about the incarnation and atonement? Does it reformulate the way in which we think about sanctification? evangelism? conflict resolution amongst Christians?

david gentino said...

I'm reading through the NT and had just finished the Synoptics on the heels of discussing Wright and Claiborne - men who adamantly affirm Jesus hardly says anything about hell. I was struck not just by how much he does speak of hell but the nuance the parables bring.

If I'm to worship Jesus rightly and speak truly about him, I've got to reckon with all of him, even the terrifying. Its the only thing that makes any sense of the cross.