John Smulo, a friend of mine, gave me a copy of a recently released book titled, “The Cross Is Not Enough: Living as Witnesses to the Resurrection” written by his friends Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson. I have to admit that the title caught my attention, and I started reading it that day. I am not finished with the book yet, but it is so jam-packed with information that I had to write down some of my thoughts before I forgot them.
Premise of the book
The book starts with the following quote:
“If the Church had contemplated the Empty Tomb as much as the Cross of its Lord, its life would have been more exhilarating and its contribution to the world more positive than has been the case.” – George Beasley-Murray
My critical-thinking mind quickly asked the question “Is this true and if so, what are the implications?”
Here are a few quick quotes to sum up their thesis:
“This book will argue, however, that the church needs to step away from the smaller pieces of the puzzle and take time to recognize and focus upon Christianity’s lynchpin.”
“We intend to demonstrate in this book how the micro-pictures – morality, repentance, discipleship, apologetics, mission – although valid, only have full meaning when they have the resurrection as their fountainhead.”
“We are not calling just for a refocus on the resurrection; we are calling for an understanding of the resurrection as the lynchpin of Christianity.”
After reading the first chapter, I quickly realized my bias toward their view. My walk with God took a dramatic change in 1992 when I, too, realized that Christianity is more than the forgiveness of the Cross. I realized that He came to give us a new life; just as He was raised, we too shall be raised. However, it is more than a future hope. He also comes to fill our lives now. Some call this the neglected half of the Gospel. I think this book would pair nicely with books by Ian Thomas, Bob George and Steve McVey.
Symbols and focus
One of the interesting points they bring up is how to tell if people focus more on the cross or the resurrection by the symbols used in church, music and other things. I then wondered, if the resurrection was central to my faith, wouldn’t I lean more toward music and symbols that reflect the resurrection? A quick impromptu experiment might shed some light on this. If the resurrection was central to my belief, the songs I listen to should focus more on the resurrection.
I listen to my music on my iPod, I rate my favorite music, and iTunes counts the number of times I listen to a song. So, I opened up iTunes to see what my most-listened-to favorite songs were. Based on the authors’ premise, I found some interesting and predictable results. According to my non-scientific, impromptu experiment, my music listening habits are in line with a resurrection central mindset.
My number-one-listened-to song was Blessed Redeemer by Casting Crowns. With lyrics like “Seems now I see Him on Calvary's tree” it definitely seems like the focus is on the cross. However, looking at my other top listened-to songs with lyrics like:
“Jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed, the victory is won He is risen from the dead, and I will rise when, He calls my name, no more sorrow, no more pain, I will rise on eagles' wings, before my God fall on my knees, and rise I will rise.” - I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin
“You called and you shouted, broke through my deafness, now I’m breathing in, and breathing out, I’m alive again!” - Alive Again by Matt Meher
“He rose & conquered the grave, Jesus conquered the grave” “We're singing for the glory of the risen King” - Mighty to Save
And the most obvious song:
“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death, come awake come awake, come and rise up from the grave, Christ is risen from the dead, we are one with Him again, come awake come awake, come and rise up from the grave” - Christ Is Risen by Matt Maher
The book does cover the resurrection from an apologetic approach as well. Given their premise, it is obvious that their apologetic approach is to focus on the resurrection. They do have some innovative ways of engaging with culture and non-believers and this flows into their apologetic approach.
As for a defense of the resurrection, they summarize Gary Habermas’ ‘’commonly agreed facts” approach and N. T. Wright’s “six essential detail” approach. In addition, they address four of the top questions raised about the resurrection.
Also, their contextualizing approach to apologetics is also covered but not to a great degree.
I highly recommend this book for its fresh view on the resurrection. I think for many people it will be a fresh approach with deep insights.