Theologian provides insight, sparks debate at annual Staley Lecture

Cynthia Rigby, professor of theology at Austin (Texas) Presbyterian Theological Seminary described by the Dallas Morning News as “one of the great theologians of our time,” spoke on “alternative ways to understand the importance of the cross of Jesus Christ” during the Christian Studies annual Staley Lecture at Campbell University on Feb. 4. 

Rigby, also an author and ordained minister in the Presbyterian church, asked questions like, “What does the manger tell us about the cross?” “What does the cross tell us about the resurrection?” “How does the cross save not only the perpetrators of sin, but also the victims?” and “What does Scripture mean when it says to ‘take up our cross and follow Christ?” 

Rigby spoke twice on Feb. 4 in 2 and 7 p.m. sessions and spent time with Campbell students during a “coffee hour,” where she welcomed challenging theological questions. In all, more than 250 students, faculty and staff were on hand for Rigby’s lectures. The students were “deeply appreciative of her insight and friendly collegiality,” according to Thomas Dixon, assistant professor of New Testament. 

“Dr. Rigby’s lectures encouraged listeners to think beyond Jesus’ death to capture a fuller appreciation of the atonement,” Dixon said. “She explored the resonance between the incarnation and the cross as well as the integral part that the resurrection should play in our understanding of the atonement.”

Kenneth Vandergriff, adjunct professor of Christian studies, said Rigby demonstrated an animation not typical of previous Staley lectures, “crouching low to the floor on multiple occasions — almost as if she were being swallowed into the floor — as she explained Christ’s descent into hell, while reassuring the audience that if Christ went to hell for us, that proves he will go anywhere with us.”

“I have too often heard Christians say that ‘Jesus came to die,’ as if the entirety of his significance was focused on that single moment,” Vandergriff said. “In two presentations, Dr. Rigby dispelled that notion, arguing that Jesus was God for us from manger to resurrection.  While certainly not denigrating the importance of his crucifixion, Rigby explained that the entire life of Jesus has significance for his saving work: God became one of us to experience human nature, a human nature that remains with him.”

Photo: YouTube