The theologia crucis of George Grant, John Oman and Dostoevsky by Brad Jersak
George Grant on Oman’s theologia crucis
George P. Grant’s PhD dissertation focused on John Oman. And Grant’s theology of the Cross actually bears many of the marks of Oman’s theologia crucis. Both men held the Cross as central to all Christian theology, that faith (not reason) is essential to one’s knowledge of God’s love and forgiveness, and that God’s providence must ultimately remain a mystery. Both believed redemption was accomplished—consummated1—in Gethsemane and Golgotha. They believed that Christ is risen, but that Easter Sunday did not reverse a Good Friday defeat. The Resurrection was not a fulfillment, but a consequence of the Cross.2 Sheila illustrates Oman’s lingering impact on Grant by comparing an analogy common to each.
Oman: “The theologia gloriae sees on the cross ‘the King in rags, who will soon tear off his disguise and show himself in triumph.”
Grant (1976 lectures at McMasters): “There is a ghastly way of speaking about the Resurrection in the modern world which I call the fairy-tale way. A prince is dressed in rags, and everybody scorns him. Suddenly the clothes are pulled off and he appears in his prince’s costume, and everybody treats him well.”3
But Grant also critiques Oman’s theology as insufficient—too simple, triumphant, and voluntaristic for moderns whose faith is shattered by despair. Oman’s vision is beautiful as far as it goes: Grant acknowledges Oman’s Cross as a prophetic revelation of the Father’s love, the Son’s forgiveness, and the call to “find joy in the world by the knowledge that all can be redeemed.”4 It also reveals God’s call to an ethic of forgiveness: “Oman’s faith is that Our Lord on the Cross reveals the Father as Love, Who demands from men that they take up their crosses in forgiveness. The Father’s Love and man’s freedom to partake of it are the essence of Christianity.”5 But something is missing. By resisting Oman, Grant tells us his own story—how this simplicity is marred by the reality of doubt and despair that comes with extreme affliction.
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