The Christian Mind is a Crucified Mind

Gordon Smith Ambrose University President
The Christian Mind: In this blog series, President Gordon T. Smith explores the topic of the Christian Mind - Thinking Christianly. Dr. Smith offers insights and personal reflections on what vital place of the mind to the Christian faith calls us to a thoughtful and intentionally Christian approach to life and work. This series is published bi-monthly, on the 1st and 15th.

The Christian Mind is a Crucified Mind

Tomorrow is Good Friday and while it is possible to ask about every season in the Christian calendar and the implications for a Christian mind – what does Advent or Easter or Pentecost mean for how we think about the Christian mind? I am choosing here to focus on this day and ask: can we speak of the Christian mind as “crucified” – all as part of exploring what it means that the Christian mind is shaped and informed by the God story.

This way of speaking about the Christian mind recognizes and affirms that pain demarcates the human condition and that this pain touches the heart of God – that is, that God is not immune from how suffering intersects human life, work and relationships. Thus the Scriptures witness to the Holy Spirit who is powerfully present to us and to our world, sighing with groans too deep for words, as Paul states in Romans 8:26-27. And more, that Christ suffered with us and for us and invites us to be joint heirs with him, with Christ, in his suffering (Romans 8:17). The cross, then, is central to how we comprehend the ways of God in our world – that is, in our understanding of God and how God acts. The Scriptures speak of the cross, of Christ Jesus, as “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24). 

Years ago, when I lived in the Philippines I came to read the great Japanese theologian who at that time was active in ministry in Thailand: Kosuke Koyama – author of many publications but notably No Handle on the Cross: An Asian Meditation on the Crucified Mind (Orbis 1976). For Koyama, the Cross is the ultimate declaration of God that redemption and victory come not through the exercise of power, but through weakness and suffering – a way of thinking that flies in the face of the standard assumptions of the societies in which we live. Thus, a crucified mind is one that bears the cross, and serves the neighbour sacrificially and lives graciously and works graciously through times of difficulty, pain and suffering. A crucified mind does not view either the Cross or our suffering as an aberration. Yes, of course, we know that Easter is coming.  Thus Paul echoes the language of the cross in his own experience when he observes that “death is at work in us, but life is at work in you” 92 Cor 4:12). He knows that death and evil will not have the last word. Elsewhere he can observe that we do not suffer as those who have no hope (Romans 8:18-19). And yet the way to the triumph of Easter and the glory of the Ascension is through the Cross. And Christ does not merely do this for us and for the world; he urges us to take up the cross and Paul reminds us that when we do, we are joint heirs with Christ – we are with Christ and engaging our work with Christ—when we go to the cross with him.

Thus, the Christian mind is marked by a deep identification with the pain and suffering of our world – in our experience and in the work and relationships of others. We do not despair; but also, we do not grumble and complain. Rather, with patience and perseverance, we allow our own experience of pain and disappointment to draw us – not only, but especially on Good Friday – into the Passion of our Lord, so that increasingly we can see and respond with a Christian mind, that is a “crucified mind” to the life and work to which we are each called.