2 replies
  1. Ying Yee says:

    Dear Matt
    I read your blog with great interest. While I can understand what you are trying to say I have a number of major issues with your blog

    a. I think there is a danger of overplaying the difference between the ancient world and the modern world. i think it is true to say that it is hard for our young people to grow up without coming across some news about death, blood and dying. Indeed I would say that the young people are more exposed to death and dying than the ancient world. Sure they buy their food from supermarkets etc but our young people also have TV and Facebook and Twitter etc. This has brought the terrible slaughters of the world into our living worlds. The young people in my church have heard about the Praise bombing, the Mali Hostages situation, they have heard about the shootings in many American Universities. They have heard about shootings in our own neck of the woods. I’m even more surprised by your comments. Being an American many of your young people would be exposed to the daily news of shootings and death etc etc

    b. This brings me to my second point. Yes it has always a challenge to help people understand the death of Jesus however this is not solved simply by avoiding the term. If Jesus’ death is so central to our faith, as you say, then we need to speak about it and work out how to explain it more clearly. The constant danger facing the church throughout her history has been the way people have misunderstood the death of Jesus or marginalised it. It needs to be said that the death of Jesus lies at the heart of the gospel without which there is no gospel. For this reason no matter how difficult it is we need to keep helping people to understand the significance of his death. I am reminded of Paul’s aim in his preaching

    Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
    but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
    (1Co 1:22,23).

    As well as this Paul berated the Galatians for devaluing the death of Jesus

    You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
    (Ga 3:1).

    May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
    (Ga 6:14).

    It’s also worth remembering that all the 4 gospels focus on the death of Christ as the centre piece of their message. And Mark gives more than half of his work to the last few days of Jesus life

    We need to remember the book of Hebrews which labours so much on talking about the death of Christ on our behalf.

    c. Instead of talking about his death you believe that talking about his life will connect better with the young people. That maybe so but I wonder if you fall into the common trap of trying to get to God without the cross. This was the danger that many of Paul’s letters tried to address. e.g. Galatians, Hebrews, the gospels, John’s epistles, the book of Revelation etc etc

    Thankfully you said that you believe in the centrality of Jesus’ death for redemption yet when I read your blog I would have to say “I don’t get it!” It seems that you have unconsciously by passed the centrality of Jesus’ death despite what you say.

    Of course this is just a blog and not a theological dissertation so I guess these are merely reflections and opinions. But that being said the blog does raise concerns in my mind.

    Some reflections

  2. Matthew Laidlaw says:

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments and response. You’re right, it is a blog post and not a theological dissertation. I’m mostly interested in stirring helpful and creative conversations rather than answering every possible question. However, I would never want that to be an excuse for not being thorough or clear.

    I want to challenge the assertion you make in your first point. I think you’re correct in stating that young people are exposed to death through the local and global tragedies constantly being reported by the media. In a general sense, they are very “aware” of the reality of death. However, death is not a part of everyday life in the same way that it was in the ancient world. To put it more crudely, most of the young people we work with haven’t scrubbed blood from their finger nails, helped dig a grave or prepare the body of a loved one, or slaughtered an animal. There is a fundamental difference between this experience and seeing news of death and dying reported reported online or on television. Also, ritual sacrifice and blood atonement were common practices in most religious cults in the Ancient Near East. This was already a part of the religious consciousness of the folks who were reading/hearing Leviticus, Mark, Hebrews, etc. for the first time. Ancient people already had a cultural and religious context for this aspect of the Good News. This is a significant obstacle in trying to talk about the death of Jesus with young people in North America. They simply don’t have this cultural or religious context. If I have limited time and interactions with young people, I want to choose the path of least resistance toward the mystery of God – which may not be the path that involves me saying, “Ok 17 year old Joe, before I try and explain to you the best news you’ve ever heard, first I need to explain to you the role of blood sacrifice in the religious consciousness of the Jewish people during the Second Temple Period.” I’m exaggerating a bit to make my point, but I think we must re-examine what really we’re staying to our young people, and what they’re hearing, when we talk about the Good News.

    And while I would never want to “minimize” the centrality of the death of Jesus, I also want to point to the possibility that Western Christianity has emphasized Jesus’ death at the expense of exploring and emphasizing the roles of the Incarnation, Resurrection, and Ascension as part of God’s redemptive story.

    Again, I’m so grateful for your thoughtful response. Let’s keep the conversation going. Best wishes to you and in your work with young people.


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