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Labor of God
The Agony of the Cross as the Birth of the Church

By Thomas Andrew Bennett

Labor of God
Hardback, 155 pages $34.95
Published: 1st August 2017
ISBN: 9781481306492
Format: 9in x 6in

Subjects: All Theology

It is hard to imagine just how startling the Christian message must have sounded to those who first heard it. The story of a crucified messiah was absurd. The death of Jesus as a ransom, a punishment, or a sacrifice was an offense and an affront. Yet, by making the death of Jesus central to its preaching and worship, Christianity took a scandal, the cross, and called it a gospel.  

In Labor of God, author Tom Bennett revisits the church’s speech about the cross. He recovers an equally shocking, but often overlooked, metaphor from Scripture and tradition: the cross as an act of divine labor, the travail through which God gives birth to the church. This ancient understanding of the cross enables a fresh theology of Christian atonement, one better able to answer questions of sin, suffering, and divine violence. As Bennett argues, this understanding of the cross can also reshape the classical systematic doctrines of creation, election, soteriology, and the church.  

Developed through close readings of biblical texts and interaction with voices from theology and the sciences, Labor of God shows how the Christian message of the cross can once again prick the ears and trouble the hearts of those who hear it. To a church immune to the radical character of its own message, Bennett resists the temptation to sanitize and relishes the offense—an offense that gives birth to a scandalous gospel for a secular age.

"In this wonderfully creative and astute work Tom Bennett recovers and extends a minority strand of Christian tradition in which the cross of Christ is understood as the labor of God. Bennett’s account of the metaphor of divine labor offers rich insight into what it means to confess that Christ’s death is a death for us and will surely help to reinvigorate the Church’s proclamation of the atonement and of the new life it brings."

—Murray Rae, Professor of Theology, University of Otago

"In this insightful, eloquent work, Thomas Bennett expounds a significant but often overlooked interpretation of the atonement as divine labor: the violent cross paradoxically births children of God who together share the divine DNA. Bennett enriches our appreciation of the ultimate telos of the cross and its wonderfully shocking generativity. An important contribution in its own right, this volume will also engender ongoing conversation as well as new but faithful ways of proclaiming the gospel."

—Michael J. Gorman, Raymond E. Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, St. Mary’s Seminary & University

"It has been a long time since a book on atonement theology has surprised me. In an area where much of our thinking has become stale, Bennett offers us a fresh image of the ‘work’ of Christ as the ‘labor’ of childbirth. More familiar themes then fell into a provocative new shape around it."

—Michael J. Gorman, Professor Emeritus at the University of St Andrews, Scotland

"In the end, Bennett proffers a provocative argument. Its focus on a maternal metaphor definitely has possibilities to reinvigorate the stale arguments of much of contemporary atonement theologies...I strongly recommend this book for upper-level undergraduate and graduate level theology courses."

—Mark S. Medley, Reading Religion

Thomas Andrew Bennett is Affiliate Assistant Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 155 pages
 9in x 6in

  REL067000, REL067050, REL067100
 Baylor University Press

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