Frances M. Young
Cascade Books, 141 pages
One of the most brilliant living theologians – and least known to Americans – is British writer Frances M. Young. For decades she has been writing significant theology that explores how to understand and embrace the cross of Jesus without being locked into narrow atonement categories. In this book she continues that work, going deeply into biblical and patristic sources that pre-date “theories” of the atonement. The result is a construal of the cross that reveals life at the very heart of the instrument of death. Young describes her theological work here as theōria, “a kind of insight or spiritual discernment that comes through imaginative engagement or storytelling, rather than literalizing exegesis; through liturgy and living, rather than legal transaction; through poetry and preaching, rather than rationalistic system.” This method frees her to see the Passover meal as the original way early Christians understood the sacrifice of Jesus. It is a type of the cross. In similar fashion, drawing upon a stunning amount sources and history, she writes about the tree of life as a symbol of the cross. Rather than merely reject the traditional atonement theories, Young opens up new ways of construing the cross that remain grounded in tradition, Scripture and experience. As she puts it, “this project was conceived as a way of trying to learn from earlier Christian cultures by reconsidering ways in which they construed the cross before ‘atonement theories’ narrowed the categories.” A rich creative theology is unfolded here.