Monday, April 14, 2008

[Xanga] the best 8 bars ever

I feel as though these eight lines from In Christ Alone are perhaps the eight lines that best describe the fullness of seemingly contradictory emotion that I see in the loving, just, and perfect God of Christianity:

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save
il on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

This entire hymn, written in 2002 by two English songwriters, is one of great (and rare) theological and emotional depth, but, most importantly, it is fully centred on and supporting of the titular phrase. Often when we sing this song in church - or I'm contemplating it alone, silently or otherwise - I'm actually moved to tears by the idea of Christianity - of the Gospel itself - not being a revelation of literary or religious doctrine, but being a person.

What amazes me when contemplating these lines is that "This gift of love and righteousness" is not a state of mind or a way of being, but rather a sacrificial atonement of God by God for God. This fantastic non sequitur (by which I mean, the idea of God himself being our gift is unprecedented and seemingly unwarranted from previous religious tradition) is so unbelievable - that God would not only be the agent for redemption of sins, but moreover be himself the vehicle of this atonement.

These eight lines seem to me to encapsulate the whole of the emotional story of the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, who was with God, and who was God." " though he was in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form". He was "the way, the truth, and the life," but "he was despised, and we took no account of Him." Until, on the cross, he was able to say, "It is finished," so that "the wrath of God was poured out on him; and by his stripes we were saved."

I think it might have been William James, the 19th-century philosopher and psychologist, who wrote that the mystical experience might be something strongly akin to a musical euphoria, a transcendent feeling of the Other. If that is the case - and I feel strongly that the statement may be true, at least in part - then I'd offer up this song as a great example of such a case.

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