A funny thing happened on the way to our publisher

The Cross Is Not Enough started life with one great US publishing company but  ended up with our new friends at Baker. Here’s a sneek peek at our back-story to the book. This is not a short post because there’s lots to tell and for this one time we beg our blog-readers to indulge us. We would like you to better appreciate the contexts in which our book was birthed and written.

We co-wrote several books that were published in Australia and England from 1993-2001. After that time we then pursued separate projects. In 2008 Mike Frost casually said that maybe it was time for another collaborative work.

We had previously written in 1998 a popular theology of the resurrection in Riding the Rollercoaster: How the Risen Christ Empowers Life. So we did not want to rehash that book ten years hence.

Our ideas began taking shape in rough notes and we asked trusted colleagues, including John Drane, for their impressions. Their feedback was encouraging. Mike thought that maybe Hendrickson Publishers would be interested in our project.  We submitted a proposal, Hendrickson loved it, and in January 2010 we  signed a book-contract.

The Cross Is Not Enough is the culmination of experiences, reflections and reading that spans several decades. Ross’ primary church life has been as a Baptist, while Philip’s began in childhood in the Assemblies of God, and then in adult life he participated in para-church organisations, and in Baptist and Presbyterian contexts.

In the mid-1980s Ross lived for a year and a half in southern California where he did some post-graduate study, and then returned to Australia in a pastoral role in a large Sydney congregation. His apologetic work on the resurrection spawned a book in Russian and led to two ministry tours there in the early 1990s.

In the 1980s Philip concentrated on meeting people in various new religions, and carried on a part-time ministry on campus as a university student. Philip’s undergraduate studies double-majored in history and religious studies and minored in Islamic studies, and then followed on with a divinity degree majoring in the history and thought of Christianity. Beyond the classroom, the resurrection was an issue of repeated dialogue and discussion when Philip encountered Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, and alternate spirituality seekers, as well as among sceptics.

In the 1990s we collaborated on pioneering exhibitor’s booths for dialogue in alternative spirituality festivals in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and in rural areas of NSW. Ross also began a radio ministry that over thirteen years exposed him to people both inside and outside the church. Ross started the 1990s with his legal apologetics book Leading Lawyers’ Case for the Resurrection, and years afterwards in another book redeveloped the legal paradigm in the context of interacting with alternate spiritualities.

At the start of the twenty-first century, we had separate experiences of teaching and reflection in New Zealand, Thailand, and the USA; Ross also spent time in France, and Philip in Hong Kong. Philip went to Utah where of course the Mormon culture is dominant but it also is host to several discrete sub-cultures of alternate spiritualities.

During the decade Philip was drawn into both oral and literary conversations with Wiccans and Neo-Pagans. Philip was also an audit-only student in 2005 at UNSW in Australia’s inaugural Animal Law course. That study, believe it or not, directly intersects with the theology of resurrection. Indeed Philip is currently working on a theology and ethics book about understanding animals through the paradigm of the resurrection.

We have tried to cultivate a listening ear to hear what people beyond the church find significant in their respective journies be they in Australia or in the northern hemisphere.

In the middle of writing The Cross Is Not Enough Ross participated in the Lausanne World Forum in South Africa. There the case we make about the resurrection as the lynchpin of Christianity was discussed among some delegates (see pages 26-27 of our book).

Again when the manuscript was almost finished Ross “road-tested” some of our fresh material as he taught two intensive courses at Carson-Newman College in Tennessee. Ross took his class out of the college for a missions-training visit to Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville is a town that is host to a vibrant alternate spirituality community and Ross wanted students to meet devotees first-hand and to engage in reflections afterwards. One of the spiritual ironies is that Asheville is also host for the Billy Graham Training Center.

In each of these different geographic and biographical contexts we were both being attuned to the broad cultural shifts, and wider spiritual trends among those beyond the church. We faced the never-ending challenge to embrace and embody the effects of Christ’s resurrection in mission.

Even though we both live in Sydney, our experiences have not been confined to our home city. Nor have we written the book based on our local church experiences that might seem to be sandwiched in-between two very different prevailing theological paradigms: Anglicans and Hillsong. While neither of us are theologically identical to Hillsong or Sydney Anglicans we appreciate strengths and limitations in both those networks.

In fact, our readers might be surprised to see that we find some positive signs about the importance of the resurrection in both the Sydney Anglicans and in Hillsong. Our very first diagram (page 20) is derived from an article by a Sydney Anglican, while we point to another positive sign about the importance of resurrection theology in another Sydney Anglican publication (check our footnote 3, chapter 2, page 282). We also mention the emphasis of the resurrection in songs composed by Rueben Morgan at Hillsong (page 98).

In our recent interview with the journalist Leigh Hatcher, Ross spoke of a catalysing moment of reflection after conversing with a lady in his radio-listening audience. That radio chat was for Ross part of the “light-bulb” moment. It was when the literary idea for The Cross Is Not Enough began to shine. Many of Ross’ accumulated thoughts about the centrality of the resurrection suddenly converged.

Meanwhile, as Ross was having the very important “light-bulb” moment of inspiration, Philip was simultaneously delving into literature concerning animals and theology and ethics. He amassed more than 1,300 texts. Several are forgotten works from church history that calls into doubt, or at the very least warrants the modification of a common negative portrait of Christianity as the scourge of animal oppression. Philip saw that in some current works of animal theology that the centrality of Christ’s resurrection is notoriously and curiously absent. Without Christ’s resurrection as the lynchpin it is difficult to see how theological reflections about eschatology and animals makes sense. One of the important effects of Christ’s resurrection is the transformation of all creation, and that includes (contra a “we don’t know, we wish we knew” outlook that was recently presented by some contributors to Christianity Today) the resurrection of animals.

As we prepared to write The Cross Is Not Enough, Philip spent several weeks in early 2010 in the labyrinths of various libraries checking on past and recent publications about Christ’s resurrection. We could see from what we had amassed that basically every chapter we had planned could each become books in their own right.

So there could be a book just on finding resurrection analogies in pop culture, another on signs of death-refusing hope, a third book just on the resurrection and non-Christian faiths, yet another about resurrection and myth, and more than one book on the resurrection and ethics. Exploring the resurrection through church history could keep several authors happily occupied writing for decades yet to come. It goes without saying that the conversational horizons for the resurrection, pastoral care/pastoral theology and preaching are immense.

Between April 2010 and June 2011 the manuscript came together and was delivered to Hendrickson Publishers. About a fortnight elapsed after we had delivered the manuscript, and then came a nervous bombshell — Hendrickson publishers was reorganizing itself and adjusting directions in light of the global financial meltdown. They were not reneging on our contract but rather had negotiated something new on behalf of many of their authors. Three hundred titles, including our freshly delivered manuscript, were handed on to Baker.

We were not sure what was going to happen to our book as we had slanted it toward an audience who are fans of Hendrickson’s catalogue. Some eighteen months of work had been lovingly poured into the manuscript. We were suddenly speculating that some substantial rewriting would have to be done.

The last half of 2011 witnessed quite a scramble for us as Baker worked tirelessly to bring the manuscript into its final form. We were elated by their professional standards and quality of work. Sadly, we had to trim the text (about 25,000 words of content were cut), and we dropped a rather massive bibliography just to ensure the work was a 100,000 words. So if you’re wondering “why didn’t they say this or more on that point”, it is probably because our manuscript went through a rapid weight-loss programme!

We love the end-product and are very grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with Baker. We really hope that all the literary sweat was worth the effort for our readers!