Cosmos Reborn by John Crowder
At the outset I was impressed by John’s Trinitarian focus, his insistence on the love of God, and his interaction with such theologians as Barth, Torrance, and C. Robert Capon. There is true sense that John is seeking to focus our attention on the who (Jesus Christ) rather than the explaining the “how,” or how it all works out in a nice an neat theological system. I also appreciate John’s insistence, though somewhat misguided due to his criticism on law, that God’s love is what compelled him to send his Son to the Cross for us.
Yet, there are some major problems with this book regarding the areas of penal substitution, hell, and God’s love.
One, John excoriates and hates the idea of penal substitution, something that he calls theological garbage (52). Why? Because he does not believe that God the Father abandoned the Son on the cross and that sin has deafened our ears and hearts to God but not separated us from him, rather separation from God is just an illusion (58). John then goes on to set up this torturous relationship between Jesus and the angry, legalistic Father as portraying penal substitution. I don’t know of a single evangelical author who sees this dualistic relationship between God the Father and the Son as portraying penal substitution. Rather, the main problem with this chapter on penal substitution is John’s scant references to the OT and his failure to understand Leviticus as providing the background to this teaching. Also, most evangelical authors would agree that God’s wrath is an extension of his love and yet there is room to understand this being wrath being poured out on the Son.
Further, John sees the Old Covenant, particularly the law as a system of sin management (210). There are rules and prescriptions for life, worship, and family, but the main emphasis was on holiness that was to be followed out of praise for what God had done. Look at the Ten Commandments, before God ever gets into the nitty gritty of their prescriptions he declares first that, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Exodus 20.2).” The redemption is mentioned, the saving work of God is noted and then he gives commandments on how to live. John is right in pointing out that Christ is the substance and fulfillment of the OT laws but goes too far in labeling the legal system a sin management system.
I was lifted up by John’s view of Jesus but overall I think the book is a reimagining of the faith that leaves out too much faithful teaching.
Thanks to Speak Easy and Sons of Thunder Ministries and Publication for the review copy of this book.