It is well known, though, that Roman Catholicism has also focused on the sufferings and death of Christ. Where does it differ then from the Evangelical witness to and glorying in the cross? Mel Gibson’s lavishly produced The Passion of the Christ with its intense concentration on the physical sufferings of the Lord Jesus well reveals the stance of traditional Catholicism. Yet it fails to enunciate clearly why Christ died and the importance of his spiritual sufferings. And here is seen the crucial difference between the Evangelical and Roman Catholic approaches to the cross.
Historically, Evangelical glorying in the cross has also meant an emphasis on a certain type of living. To truly glory in the cross is to no longer live for self and one’s ambitions and plans. It means to give all for Jesus and his glory. The eighteenth-century Baptist hymnwriter Anne Steele (1717-1778) put this truth in this way:
Dear Lord, what heavenly wonders dwell
In thy atoning blood!
By this are sinners snatch’d from hell,
And rebels brought to God.
Jesus, my soul, adoring bends
To love so full, so free;
And may I hope that love extends
Its sacred power to me?
What glad return can I impart,
For favours so divine?
O take my all, this worthless heart...
(1) Thus Philip E. Hughes and Frank Colquhoun, “Introduction” to Leon Morris, Glory in the Cross. A Study in the Atonement (1966 ed; repr. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 6.
(2) See, for example, L.H. Marshall’s view of Christ’s death as cited by W. J. H. Brown, [“Modernism”] (Unpublished ms., W. Gordon Brown Papers, McMaster Divinity College Archives, McMaster University, Ontario), [p.4].