Labor of God // Thomas Andrew Bennett.


In this dissertation-turned-book Thomas Andrew Bennett rediscovers a palpable yet scandalous metaphor for a fresh understanding of the crucifixion: God in labor; Mother Jesus birthing the Church. In many ways, this is a pregnant metaphor, full of exciting new meanings. It can reinterpret the excruciating and horrendous pain of the cross, a low-hanging fruit for atonement critics, to be analogous to the near-unbearable pain of labor. Unlike murder or abuse, the pain of labor is nonviolent; likewise, Mother Jesus' crucifixion is nonviolent pain to birth the Church. 

To be sure, this is an unfamiliar and provocative interpretation, almost wanting repudiation. Yet, there is something about its provocativeness that is warranted. Nowadays, the cross has been watered down and domesticated; it is no longer a thing of scandal. This is unlike Greco-Roman times. The cross then was the epitome of horror, shame, godlessness, utter humiliation, and abandonment. Facing the provocativeness of God in labor on the cross might just be what is needed to reawaken the crucifixion's grotesqueness. What is provocative is not labor but the idea of God (most often imagined masculine but is nonetheless genderless) in motherly labor. So, God in labor is additionally a helpful corrective for an over-masculinized God.

God in labor can also readily connect atonement to, say, creation, ecclesiology, and pneumatology. The Genesis creation is birthing material life; resurrection creation after atonement is birthing the family of God; the family of God is the Church; the life of the Church is the Spirit or Pneuma. 

Labor of God is, albeit, short. Its limited purpose was to offer a forgotten but fruitful metaphor for atonement theology. Thus, Bennett focuses on the possible productivity of the metaphor. Hopefully, a fuller and more in-depth treatment will come.