Sunday, September 26, 2010
Monday, September 6, 2010
"Mainly, I see Jesus as "activist," if you will. Sage, prophet, commentator, charismatic leader. Social and political turmoil was high during the Roman occupation of the Palestinian coast. Without going in to much detail, I think that Jesus' life, as touched by and in tune with God, stands as a demonstration of what every person's life can be, and his death (reasonably inevitable though it was) became the proof that we must be willing to sacrifice everything for what is right (don't confuse this with sacrificing everything for what we think God wants!). Most of us would be willing to sacrifice most of what we have for a few people; Jesus was willing to sacrifice everything he had for all people (even those who hated him), because it was the only "righteous" conclusion to his life to that point (to run away from death would have made him simply another fleeting character in a history book, full of a sense of fairness but unwilling to fulfill what was necessary to plumb the depths of unfairness). In that sense, the atonement doesn't have anything to do with judgement or sin or debt, but is instead a beacon of what is attainable at the limits of human nature. Atonement is being willing to lose everything for nothing; the natural outcome of utter sacrifice."
Both John and nuclear.kelly's view are really meaningful to me and could lead to a lot of great discussion!
The version I will offer here is still one of substitutionary atonement. It maintains that Christ still takes the place of sinners in a sense. But it removes the "penal" part, which is the idea that Christ's sacrifice was to appease God.
This interpretation is one along the lines of Ghandi's hunger strikes. By taking this physical burden on himself to protest potential combat between Muslims and Hindus, he convicted the hearts of both sides and, at least for a while, led them to avoid conflict. His was a substitutionary atonement.
I accidentally posted a blog that I was working on (Justice part four). Sorry about that if you saw it! I will edit it and have it up for real in a few days. Oops. But here is part three:
I am going theological with this post, so what out! Hopefully the meaning will translate even if you are not particularly religious.
Remember the Penal Substitution idea of some brands of Christianity? It says that because mankind has sinned against God, we deserve punishment, and Christ bore that punishment (for some at least) on the cross. God could not merely forgive, but rather He required an appeasement, a punishment, which was carried out on the innocent but willing person of Jesus.
First of all, it is questionable as to whether punishing an innocent person in a guilty person's place would really satisfy any version justice, retributive or utilitarian. Exploring this idea is not my intention here, but Ken Pulliam has written extensively on this subject, analyzing the views of many, many historical theologians, over on his blog located here.
The bigger problem with Penal Substitutionary Theory, and with the conservative Christian idea of God, is that it makes justice fundamental to His character and love secondary. Love, through Christ, is only what creates a possible escape from the foundational, unavoidable reality of God’s justice. Love becomes the servant of justice.
And in this context - what IS justice? In the traditional "retributive justice" view of Scripture, it is an "evening out" of things. An eye for an eye.
So in conservative Christianity, the foundational aspect of God’s character is that he requires revenge.
Surely revenge is an outdated idea and one unworthy of God.
But here is a different idea. I think (or hope) that love is foundational to reality. And love is identifying ourselves with others. This is the metaphysical good of the universe. According to this idea, justice as revenge does not serve much purpose. Instead, justice becomes a tool to bring about greater Love. And what exactly is this tool? It is action with a focus on bringing about correction, safety and deterrence.
Justice is now the servant of love!
Friday, September 3, 2010
Design arguments for God do not interest me too much. When someone says, "God must exist because how else do we explain life? Natural processes could not have created it on their own." I tend to hear "God created a naturalistic system that failed to accomplish its highest goal without subsequent tweaking."