News scribes face the perennial task of devising features pegged to major dates on religious calendars.
Due to the somber and difficult theme, perhaps the most challenging is Good Friday -- Great and Holy Friday for Orthodoxy, whose date of April 14 coincides with other Christians’ in 2017. One rarely sees a fresh, first-class media article about the day Christ died.
Relief is on the way this year, thanks to “The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ” by Fleming Rutledge, proclaimed the “2017 Book of the Year” by Christianity Today magazine and newly reissued in paperback by Eerdmans. Sample chapter headings: “The Godlessness of the Cross.” “The Question of Justice.” “Condemned into Redemption.”
The Religion Guy has not, at this point, read this Episcopalian’s 696-pager and relies on those who have. Hosannas come from across the ecclesiastical spectrum. Robert Imbelli of Boston College deems the work “remarkable,” indeed “monumental.” “Wonderful,” exclaims Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary. Pastor Andrew Wilson of King’s Church, London, calls it “extraordinary,” and “full of imagery and pathos, illustration and contemporary application.”
England’s Bishop Peter Forster says Rutledge’s work is especially important for “American Christianity, which evades the cross” or repackages Good Friday as what Rutledge calls “inspirational uplift -- sunlit, backlit, or candlelit.” Virginia Seminary’s Katherine Sonderegger says “the whole world stands under her gaze -- literary examples, political folly and cruelty, horrendous evils of war and torment and torture, religious timidity and self-deception. ...”
Consider what Rutledge calls “the living significance” of this ancient execution: Why exactly did Christ die? Did the crucifixion display God’s wrath, or God’s love, or human depravity, or some combination thereof? How could a great injustice bring justice?