O man, thy grievous sin bemoan,
For which Christ left His Father’s throne,
From highest heaven descending.
Of Virgin pure and undefiled
He here was born, our Saviour mild,
For sin to make atonement.
The dead He raised to life again.
The sick He freed from grief and pain.
Until the time appointed
That He for us should give His Blood,
Should bear our sins’ o’erwhelming load,
The shameful Cross enduring.
Translation by Catherine Winkworth
• • •
The space thus opened up for irreligion at the very heart of the Christian message clears the way for all kinds of people in a way that the various forms of gnosticism simply cannot do. In gnosticism (including Christian gnosticism such as that in Corinth) there is always an inner circle, there is always a spiritual elite. Gnosticism promises mysteries that only the illuminati can fathom. It subtly or not so subtly suggests that “the capacity for being redeemed” is a condition for redemption. By contrast, the Christian gospel — when proclaimed in its radical New Testament form — is more truly “inclusive” of every human being, spiritually proficient or not, than any of the world’s religious systems have ever been, precisely because of the godlessness of Jesus’ death. In fact, the “word of the cross” is far more sweeping in its nullification of distinctions than many by-the-book conservative Christians are willing to admit. The Christian gospel, in slicing away all distinctions between “godly” and “ungodly” (Rom. 4:5), spiritual and unspiritual, offers a vision of God’s purpose for the whole human race, believers and unbelievers alike, so comprehensive and staggering that even the apostle Paul is reduced to temporary speechlessness (Rom. 11:36).
• Fleming Rutledge. The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ (p. 54)