Human/divine dilemma in church and culture
Christ at the Crux: The Mediation of God and Creation in Christological Perspective
Wipf and Stock Publishers
“How can theology say that God is other than the universe and also present within it?” Pemberton (B.C.) Community Church pastor Paul Cumin opens Christ at the Crux with this question. The mediation of God – the way Christ is somehow both divine and human – is a crucial mystery at the heart of the Christian faith and Cumin’s book.
This dilemma opens up related questions that Cumin explores in this slender but dense volume: Just how does Christ reconcile humanity with God? How can Christ be eternal and exist in time? If Christ is fully God, what does that say about the difference between creation and redemption?
Christ at the Crux is a lively exploration of Christ’s role as mediator. Cumin contends that since the 19th century, theology has developed (or perhaps rediscovered) a new appreciation for trinitarian theology that had been lost in modern history.
This renewed interest has resulted in fresh ways of seeing how God can be intimately close and yet far above our ways. This balance is especially pertinent in a society that has become increasingly content to either domesticate God as an affirming spiritual friend, or to dismiss God as having nothing to do with this world.
Before contributing his own perspective, Cumin selects from Christianity’s diverse history eight conversation partners ranging from third-century bishop Irenaeus and the Gnostics, to Reformers John Calvin and Martin Luther, to British systematic theologian Colin Gunton. This array shows some of the different ways mediation has been understood and demonstrates the breadth of complexity on the topic.
Cumin’s analysis grapples with many philosophical and ethical factors at play. Because he engages figures from disparate eras and cultural settings, Cumin also demonstrates how history, personality, scientific developments, ecclesial concerns and societal interests change the way the church understands Christ and Christ’s role.
The work is rigorous, academic and technical. But we cannot forget that this topic is also pastoral and shapes the way worshipping communities understand and interact with themselves and the world.
If God is thought to be only above and beyond our ways, we are forced to be skeptical about personal experiences of God and our ability to know God’s will for our lives.
On the other hand, if God is only considered intimately close, we may find ourselves with a God who is always “on our side,” thinking, feeling and acting just like us: a God in our image.
This book will be fruitful for the reader interested in exploring the diverse ways Jesus’ role has been conceived historically and the consequences of these theologies. “Jesus took on human nature to redeem this fallen world,” declares the MB Confession of Faith. But what does that taking-on of nature mean for the way we conceptualize time? The way we understand the new humanity? The way we handle the existential questions of freedom, duty and love? The integrity of nature?
Though Cumin frames his insights in theological jargon, they are relevant in some surprising circles. Lately, movies such as Interstellar, Inception and Mr. Nobody have started to popularize some of the same philosophical questions that Cumin’s work unearths. What is reality, what is time? How does love somehow endure through it all?
Theology has an enormous amount to contribute to these cultural curiosities, and it is vital for the church to remain conversant and curious. The astute reader will find that Cumin adds valuable insights into these adventurous, ongoing questions.
—David Thiessen is a graduate of Canadian Mennonite University and an apprentice with MB Mission Central Canada. He is a member of McIvor Avenue MB Church, Winnipeg.