Cross-Shattered Christ: Meditations on the Seven Last Words by Stanley Hauerwas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stanley Hauerwas is a theologian and professor at Duke Divinity. He is also a brilliant voice in the dense theological waters of our day. What strikes me most about Hauerwas, in the things I’ve read by him (which, truthfully is limited) and in the lectures and talks I’ve been able to find online, is his dedication to speaking about the Bible and Christianity with a remarkable level of confidence (without being arrogant) in what he believes to be true. He is a needed contributor to the Christian conversation in our times. His perspective on his own role is perfectly stated in the Introduction of this book,
“Theology is a servant discipline in the church…[and] is the delicate art necessary for the Christian community to keep its story straight.”
This book, “Cross-Shattered Christ”, offers a straight forward, yet surprisingly unique, story of who Jesus was/is, why He did what He did, and what that means for the rest of us. It accomplishes these ends through briefly addressing each of the seven statements that Jesus made from the Cross.
This is by no means a lengthy work, nor is the language or logic very dense. But, while I could have easily read it all in a day, I found myself wanting to stop after each chapter and meditate on what he said. Like an enjoyable meal, I had no desire to woof down everything on the plate as fast as possible, but I lingered and tasted and savored.
Hauerwas makes the case that Jesus’ death on the Cross must first be seen as more than what it wrought for people. It must be looked at for what it is: God dying. He draws the significance of this throughout the book. Though he does draw resulting application for our lives from the work of Christ, the focus remains on Jesus, not on us. It was this that I appreciated most as I read this book. There certainly is a place for books about how we are benefited and affected by the Cross, but there is a need for us to simply gaze upon the wonder and horrific majesty of that event and see it for what it is. This aspect of the book, among other things, stirred me to worship.
“Our salvation is no more or no less than being made part of God’s body, God’s enfleshed memory, so that the world may know that we are redeemed from our fevered and desperate desire to insure we will not be forgotten.”
This is just a sample of the point. We must see what Jesus did on the Cross for what it is because we enter into His life when we are saved. If we don’t ponder Him uniquely then we can easily slip into seeing Christianity as a movement about who we are, when it is actually built around who Christ is and how we become a part of Him.
I highly recommend this book. It is accessible, very readable, and illuminates a perspective that, for me at least, was often unique.