Tony Jones: God "learned" something on the cross


Yesterday, I published an interview with theologian Tony Jones on his view of the atonement and the cross. But his book, "Did God Kill Jesus?," speaks to much more than just these doctrines. One of the more scandalous assertions in the book is that God "learned" something on the cross. As a bonus for readers, I'm posting this portion of our conversation below: JM: You propose that God actually learned something on the cross that God had not previously known. Explain what you mean by this

TJ: Although the book is in seven parts, it can roughly be seen in three sections. In the first, I lay out the problem and investigate the biblical witness. In the second, I look at the various views of the cross in the history of the church. And in the third, I offer my own, new reading of the crucifixion of Jesus. It's that third part that's the most speculative, but also the most intriguing.

I combine a very traditional view of Christ — that he was fully human and fully God — with a somewhat unorthodox view of God. God's history is a story of self-limitation, of humility, and this reaches its apogee in Jesus. Then, on the cross, I suggest that God experiences the existential loneliness that is common to all human beings. Jesus cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" In that moment, God experiences the absence of God.

GodKillJesusJM: What do you say to readers who believe in God's omniscience who feel uncomfortable with the notion that God can learn?

TJ: To them I would say that the age-old dilemma for Christians is the problem of evil: If God is omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent, why do bad things happen? People have solved this in various ways. But our problems persist if we insist on a Platonic God who is unchanging, outside of time, and basically unaffected by struggles of humanity.

When I asked my friend, Rabbi Edelheit, if God changes, he laughed. "Of course God changes!" he said, "God loves us, and love requires two dynamic parties. There is no love without change!" So I have come to love this dynamic God, the God who loves us enough to process through time and space with us.