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May 26, 2009
Martin Luther got it right when he said, “No theology is genuinely Christian which does not arise from and focus on the cross.” The cross of Christ is the very center point of the Christian faith; indeed, it is the very focal point of all of history. No event will or can be more significant than this. Little wonder, then, that so many books have been written that teach the cross, reflect on the cross, draw the Christian’s gaze to the cross.
In Outrageous Mercy: Rediscovering the Radical Nature of the Cross William Farley writes, “The cross teaches us everything we need to know about life, death, God, humanity, eternity, and host of other issues.” And it does so in a unique way. “The cross is God’s ‘show, don’t tell.’ Systematic theologies catalog and systematize the Bible’s doctrines, and their work is important—but they ‘tell’ us the truth. The cross shows us.” The cross displays God’s mercy and grace and justice and does so with startling clarity. It does the Christian well to turn continually to the cross, to devote time to gazing upon it, searching out its deepest meanings. “There is nothing deeper. It is a bottomless well, a fountain of vibrant truth, a pinnacle of wisdom and knowledge. In it lie the depths of the mysteries of God. The first sign of spiritual maturity is when one increasingly thinks about, ponders, marvels, and wonders at the mystery of the cross.”
“The cross has two dimensions. It is something God has done for us, but it is also a revelation of vital truths communicated to us.” Books such as John Stott’s The Cross of Christ and, a personal favorite, The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy focus on the former. In Outrageous Mercy, William Farley chooses a different path and focuses on the latter. As Christ did what he did on the cross for the world, he also spoke to the world. In this book, Farley examines some of the key messages communicated to us through the death of Jesus. And, of course, it can only be “some” of these since an exhaustive treatment would be impossible. Says Farley, “My work will be worthwhile, and I will be satisfied, if you finish this volume longing to plunge more deeply into the implications of the cross for everyday life. You will never reach the end of its lessons and ramifications in this life or eternity.”
In each of the book’s eleven chapters, Farley looks to a different implication of the cross in the life of the believer. So instead of describing the suffering of Christ on the cross, he looks to the implications of the cross, the meaning of the cross, in the Christian’s life. He shows that at the cross we truly do learn all we need to know about God, man, eternity, wisdom, worship, suffering, and a host of other subjects. As much as I enjoyed each of the chapters, I also enjoyed isolated sentences that are eminently quotable. Here is just a sampling:
- “One important way we can measure the depth of the Holy Spirit’s work is by the extent of our mourning for sin and fear of God.”
- “It is idolatry to serve others without reference to the glory of God.”
- “We become helpful to this world to the degree that we die to it and live for the glory of God.”
- “The cross message synthesizes the Bible’s divergent statements about God into one consistent message that satisfies even the most demanding intellect.”
- “If you have never been deeply scandalized and offended by the cross, you may have never really heard its message.”
I hope you do not feel that you’ve already read enough books on the cross. And even if you’ve read hundreds, I suspect that this one will open your eyes to new aspects of the meaning, the implications, of all that happened there. While Outrageous Mercy is a book that deals with a subject that has filled the pages of many books, Farley gives a unique take on it and thus offers a unique perspective. There is little overlap, I think, with the works of Leahy or Stott or Mahaney or others. Their books are valuable and have their place; this book has a niche all its own. I give it my highest recommendation.
byWilliam P. Farley