Review of Rowan Williams' "God With Us" - by Alex Rayment
Book Review - Rowan Williams ‘God with Us’
Reading Rowan Williams is a true privilege. His words lead the reader down familiar paths and into fresh, new plains. Recently the former Archbishop has had a few smaller works published of sermons surrounding a particular topic: the life and challenge of a Christian, discipleship in its many guises and this time, the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the first half of the book, Williams take the three predominant views of atonement theory and weaves them together in a three-braided cord of deep theology presented simply. As we first encounter 'The Sign' of the cross, Williams explores not only the obvious sign of sacrifice, the beauty and the horror of Jesus' love for us, but we also encounter a sign of God's freedom and his forgiveness. Here we see an example of theology's proper task - Seemingly complex, overlapping themes become simple in Williams’ presentation of a most important doctrine.
Rowan Williams' concludes Part 1 by writing: 'the meaning of the cross of Jesus is something that constantly moves between different poles.' This conclusion is not only a challenge but an invitation. One can be tempted to choose a favourite atonement theory. One that fits. But here we are asked to stretch ourselves. Think outside our own theological frameworks and explore what God may be communicating through these differing modes of understanding the moment history changed forever. Once again our lives may be changed afresh as we observe the cross from a different angle, through a different lens and with a different posture.
The second half of the book explores the resurrection. Investigating the 'then' and 'now' of the resurrection leads us to explore more fully the impact of this defining moment in the life and work of God. Beginning with the end allows us to see in true N.T Wright fashion that these 'final days' instituted by the resurrection means that 'God had brought in a new age, but a new age that was still historical and earthy.' This then leads us to a most important factor in much of Williams' work. The resurrection is yet another event, possibly the primary event, in the life of Christ where God shouts loud and clear 'Human beings matter'. As Jesus appears in human form in the resurrection, walking, eating, and touchable we are allowed to believe that humanity does in fact matter in the eternal life of God. No longer is religion escapism from the world but an immersion into a fuller humanity, shining as we embrace who we are rather than finding money, possession, habit, or technology shaped fig leaves to cover ourselves with; creating a mirage that everything is OK.
This form of writing theology, also undertaken by N.T Wright, is a most welcome resource for the church. Both these scholars tackle doctrine that is often overlooked due to complexity and confidence. Yet, here is another example of theology aiding the church in its understanding, inviting it on a journey long-forgotten. This book is perfect for small group reading or a lenten devotional. The major problem with this book is it leaves the reader desiring more and to that end I would highly recommend Scot Mcknight’s work, following a very similar theme: ‘A Community Called Atonement: Living Theology”.