Atonement

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Now that it appears the discussion of Sandi’s excellent post has died down, I’m posting a link to a post by a blogger-pal of Al’s, which Al sent me from his plague-infested deathbed earlier today. (Funeral arrangements will be announced when available. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you make donations to the Juvenal Urbino Advancement Fund, because a juvenal is a terrible thing to waste. Queue video of Native American with tear running down one cheek.)

It’s a brief discussion of the Christian doctrine of atonement — of how we should think of what Jesus did, exactly. There’s the view pretty much everybody in Western Christendom holds (the sacrificial view, technically known as “penal substitutionary atonement”), but that’s not the only possible view. In fact, it’s not the dominant view in Eastern Christendom. The biblical materials themselves sometimes seem to reflect one view of atonement, sometimes another.

Anyway, read the post and discuss away!

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6 Responses to “Atonement”

  1. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Okay, I’ll comment.

    I’m of the belief that Christianity in general (and the nearer one gets to CsofC, the stronger I believe it) has been much, MUCH too fixated on Christ’s death. From what one hears in churches, one would almost think Jesus was born of a virgin, and later that same day had supper with his disciples, was crucified, buried, and three days later, resurrected.

    Any meaningful account of what Jesus did here — i.e., of atonement — must take at least as much notice of the specifics of the life he lived as it does of the way he died. Christianity should be a life-oriented religion; not one fixated on death.

  2. Whitney Says:

    Well, at least I’m gettint the point now. Sorry, but the post threw me…as I couldn’t tell what the “other view” was. And am still not really sure.

    I don’t disagree with you. I mean, I know your discussion on focusing on His life doesn’t take away from His death. Am I wrong in saying that we’ve skewed the focus too far in one direction?

    I don’t sense that (as much as you’ve seemed to) in my overall CofC experience, but have definitely seen what you’re talking about.

    I’m still not really sure what all this is talking about (perhaps I’m just brain-dead.) So, I’m sorry I don’t have anything real to contribute.

    I do agree that we don’t put enough focus on the spirit in which Jesus lived his life on earth and the spirit by which he accepted and loved others. We’re too selfish.

  3. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I know your discussion on focusing on His life doesn’t take away from His death.

    Well, in some sense it does. I’m saying we currently think of his death as his Death — a huge, history changing event — but his life as just his life. Nice. Perfect, even. But just his life. Not miraculous like his birth and resurrection. Not salvific like his death. Just sort of there, with some nice parables and whatnot along the way.

    To the extent that that’s our mindset, I am taking away from his death (actually, from the way we think of his death) to add to his life. I’m saying his death is in no way more important than his life. Is no deeper in meaning than his life. Is no more worthy of our contemplation than his life. Jesus’ death/burial/resurrection isn’t the Great Central Meaning of Christianity. Jesus is. The whole package, life incl.

    I don’t sense that (as much as you’ve seemed to) in my overall CofC experience

    It’s a matter of how much verbal and mental energy we expend on his death, and how little on his life. Look at the hymns and other worship music. I’d wager that if one went through those songs, tabulating the number of cross/death images or references and the number of images from or references to every other event in his life (except his birth), the sum total of the latter would be absolutely dwarfed by the number of death references. There is no “Feeding the Poor” or “Visiting the Prisoners” or “Making the Lepers Feel Human Again” equivalent to “The Old Rugged Cross.”

    (We do have a “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,” but even there those life-oriented actions are turned into mere metaphors for converting the unconverted.)

    The Lord’s Supper is another good example. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” What do we use it to memorialize? Not him, but his death. Which means every Sunday, in every service, at the very heart of the service is a deeply solemnized, stand-alone devotion centered exclusively on his death. There is no similar devotion centered on his life — in whole or on any single part. Jesus didn’t say to focus that memorial on his death, but that’s what we do. Why? Because we think his death is somehow more important. (And the way we’ve come to observe the Lord’s Supper reinforces that, every week.)

    Imagine the unrest that would occur in a congregation if its elders announced that, during 2007, it would be using the Lord’s Supper to focus exclusively on Jesus’ life; there would be no mention of his death, whatsoever. It would throw everybody for a really uncomfortable loop. But that procedure would be every bit as biblical as — and more life-affirming than — what CsofC currently do.

    I couldn’t tell what the “other view” was. And am still not really sure.

    There are several alternative views of atonement. This is a decent brief summary of them.

  4. Unicorn Says:

    JU:
    I’m am traveling have VERY SLOW connection, plus limited time. Hope this discussion hangs around until I have time to read it and comment.

    For now – YES, YES, YES – too much about the death, not enough about the life.

  5. Al Sturgeon Says:

    So Juvenal, is this where you tell us how much you appreciated Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ?” 🙂

    I think my buddy Jeff’s topic is a bit different than where this one’s heading (which is perfectly fine of course). He seems to be struggling with the assumption that God just had to have Jesus killed because he was so angry (yet loved us so). It is quite a stretch, don’t you think? The Christus Victor theory is a compelling alternative imho, but to head that direction we’ve got to be prepared to weaken our view of God & enhance the power of the side of evil (my unstudied opinion).

    Now as to the direction these comments are flowing, I think our emphasis on death vs. life is all too convenient. The death focus allows us to spend more time in pass/fail discussions as well as sticking with the “God as judge” metaphor. The life focus would force us to “become something” over a long period of time AND make us use more time/money demanding pictures of God, such as a teacher, or a doctor.

    I posted on my personal blog (alsturgeon.blogspot.com) a couple of weeks ago now an excerpt from Brian McLaren that shifts the major questions in life away from “if I died, would I go to heaven” type questions to “if I lived forever, what would I become” questions.

    That shift resonates with me.

  6. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I think my buddy Jeff’s topic is a bit different than where this one’s heading (which is perfectly fine of course). He seems to be struggling with the assumption that God just had to have Jesus killed because he was so angry (yet loved us so).

    I did stray from his original post a bit, but not really. He was talking about the theological cause of the spiritual effect (and series of subsequent effects on church and ethics) I was talking about.

    I’ll come back around to the beginning, sooner or later.

    As for the rest of your comment, I agree completely.

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