Sunday, March 22, 2009

What is atonement?


The definition of this word in the Westminster Dictionary of Theology (Westminster Press, 1983) begins:

The English word "atonement" originally signified the condition of being "at-one" after two parties had been estranged from one another. Soon a secondary meaning emerged: "atonement" denoted the means, an act or a payment, through which harmony was restored." (p. 50).


The author of this definition notes that the word for atonement -- katallage -- is translated in the KJV as atonement only once (Romans 5:11), and elsewhere is translated as reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18ff). The author notes too that in the OT the Hebrew word translated atonement "frequently occurs in a ceremonial context" and speaks of actions taken to remove guilt (Leviticus 23:26ff) -- a ceremony that is reflected upon in Hebrews 9. The issue here is removal of guilt -- perhaps by satisfying a divine requirement. The question before us, however, has to do with the way in which the cross brings reconciliation between God and humanity.

The traditional Reformed position -- penal substitution -- suggests that Christ died to satisfy God's penalty for sin. As Paul puts it -- "the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). That free gift, is defined further in Romans 3:24ff, where Jesus is described as being the sacrifice of atonement, so as to demonstrate his righteousness.

I want to quote from Daniel Bell, who attempts to redefine this traditional doctrine in a way that removes the sense of blood sacrifice to appease God.

The word of atonement is God in Christ bearing human rejection and extending the offer of grace again, thereby opening a path for humanity to recover blessedness. In this sense, Christ's faithfulness even to the point of death on the cross marks not a divine demand for retribution, but a divine refusal to hold our rebellion against us. God offers us life and we reject it. God continues to offer it, in the form of love incarnate, and we crucify him. Yet even now, God will not lash out against us but instead raises Jesus up and sends him back with the same offer of life. Christ is God bearing offense, even the offense of the cross, without holding it against us, without giving up on us, without exacting compensation or inflicting retribution, instead continuing to extend the offer of communion. Christ's work of atonement, including the cross, is nothing less than God refusing our refusal; Christi is God rejecting our rejection and instead continuing to offer us the gift of life and love. Even after we crucified him. (Daniel Bell, "God Does Not Demand Blood," in God Does Not . . . Edited by D. Brent Laytham, Brazos, 2009, p. 55).


Perhaps this is where the Parable of the Prodigal Son comes in -- God continuing to hold out hope for the son's return, even as the son treats the father with derision -- but in time the son discerns the reality of his situation and returns to God, who is standing there ready to welcome the son back into the community. But, no matter what the son does, the Father continues to love the son. God is reconciling us in the one whom we continually reject, the one who demonstrates to us God's love for humanity (John 3:16).

38 comments:

botwinick said...

"In this sense, Christ's faithfulness even to the point of death on the cross marks not a divine demand for retribution, but a divine refusal to hold our rebellion against us. "

This is only partially correct. It is not an either / or proposition. Christs' death on the cross marked both the divine demand for retribution and a divine refusal to hold our rebellion against us, his elect. as it is stated in Scripture:

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
The Ministry of Reconciliation
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.
12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.
13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;
15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:10-21

To be sure, those who die in their sin, will face the wrath of the Holy, Sovereign and Almighty God in Hell.

Anonymous said...

So, did God screw up somehow about free will, and now it's on our heads to "reconcile" ourselves and our fellows? Why doesn't/ hasn't God phoned us with advise? How many million, trillion+ of us our there in the universe(s) anyway?

Why the need for judgment if forgiveness is an option? Does being out of the loop, or not having faith in the loop, but being pure in heart not count?

Are the sins of my father going
to count? If yes, I'm screwed?
Do things cancel/ balance out?

What should we "specifically" fear in the Lord? If it's fearfull, isn't he/she just a real big snot?
Just asking.

These questions are key. Yes?

Don't get me wrong. Whatever the deal is. I'm in, in a big way.

Oh, and the big one. In spite of the recent disruptions and corrections etc.
Why are we so blessed?

David Mc

John said...

I note that Jesus says in Mark:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
and in Luke:
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.

These two quotes suggest to me that the ultimate perfection of God is in the mercy of God. To the best of my knowledge this is the only place in th Gospels where Jesus lifts up the quality of perfection of God, and it is in the context not of punishment, fear, sacrifice, or judgment, but in mercy and compassion.

So if Jesus is to be believed, then I think we must accept that the highest and most important aspect of God has to do with God's capacity for mercy.

Whatever I could imagine as far as mercy, God's mercy must exceed my image. Therefore, the mercy I could imagine, (for example, forgiveness and grace without the need for blood sacrifice or atonement) I have to believe God's mercy, in its perfection, must transcend even that.

Does God judge? I can only hope God's judgment is even more compassionate than the judgment I exercise with regard to my children! I can only hope that the model of divine compassion and forgiveness which Jesus described in the Prodigal Son parable is as accurate as Jesus could render.

John

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

My job is to throw out the ideas and let you all wrestle with them! Keep going!

botwinick said...

"So, did God screw up somehow about free will, and now it's on our heads to "reconcile" ourselves and our fellows? Why doesn't/ hasn't God phoned us with advise? How many million, trillion+ of us our there in the universe(s) anyway?"

I am not quite sure I understand your question. Might you please elaborate?

"Why the need for judgment if forgiveness is an option?"

Because God is Holy and the Holiness of God will not have anything to do with the sinfulness of mankind except to punish it.

"Does being out of the loop, or not having faith in the loop, but being pure in heart not count?"

Nobody is pure in heart on their own. It is only because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us that we have any righteousness at all in the eyes of God. Please see Romans 3:1-20.

"Are the sins of my father going
to count? If yes, I'm screwed?
Do things cancel/ balance out?"

1. Romans 5:12-14: Through the sin of one man as the federal representative of mankind, all were born with the sin nature and condemned. Yes, you are screwed and without hope to save yourself and change your condition on your own. But look at the rest of the story: Romans 5:15-21.

2. The only event that cancels out the sin of man is the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

"What should we "specifically" fear in the Lord? If it's fearfull, isn't he/she just a real big snot?
Just asking."

1. We should fear his Holy, Righteous and Sovereign Wrath. Because he is Holy and Righteous in all of His Judgments, no, he is not just a big snot. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom and life. As quoted above in Romans 3, a lack of the fear of the Lord is what results in all of the evil within the world. If there is no fear of the Holy God, there is also no fear of his Holy Wrath and all are guided by their own desires, which are, by nature, evil.

"These questions are key. Yes?"

These questions are key to understanding the nature of man and the extent of the consequences of their sinfulness, and Holiness, Justice and Mercy of God. But the really key question would be: Are you now going to scorn the Wisdom of God, or will you submit your reason to the Word of God. I am reminded of the words of Jonathon Edwards:

"When Christ came into the world, learning greatly prevailed; and yet wickedness never prevailed more than then ... So now, learning is at a great height in the world, far beyond what it was in the age when Christ appeared; and now the world, by learning and wisdom, do not know God ... Learned men ... scorn to submit their reason to divine revelation, to believe any thing is above their comprehension; and so being wise in their own eyes they became fools."

"Don't get me wrong. Whatever the deal is. I'm in, in a big way."

Perhaps, we have the answer to what I have stated is the real key question. I hope so.

"Oh, and the big one. In spite of the recent disruptions and corrections etc.
Why are we so blessed?"

Because our blessings are not, contrary to popular opinion on TBN, related to our earthly comfort. Our treasure is not on Earth, it is in Heaven.

botwinick said...

John,

What is the basis for mercy?

Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

What is the basis of mercy?

Is it not God's steadfast love that endures for ever?

In the prodigal son parable the father asks nothing of the son, just welcomes him back into the family. Yes, he suffered the consequences of his actions, but the father's wondrous love is undiluted -- though the older brother wants some retribution.

In the Good Samaritan parable eternal life is based on loving God and loving neighbor.

Again, nothing is said by Jesus about the need for retribution and repayment.

I think that John would follow me here and wonder if we shouldn't interpret Paul in the light of Jesus, rather than the reverse. We assume that Paul is clearer and thus the proper interpreter -- but is he? Remember context here.
To botwinck,

John said...

Treasures are not just in heaven, but, like grace, are all around - it is up to each of God's children to notice and be thankful - in all circumstances. There are special treasures for us as we enter into God's Kingdom. But God makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust. One need only open their eyes.

The source of mercy, divine and human, as Bob said, is God's love. What more can be said?

John

John said...

You said:

"Because God is Holy and the Holiness of God will not have anything to do with the sinfulness of mankind except to punish it."

This notion is contradicted by the Incarnation. The 2nd person of the Trinity came and dwelt among us, and dined with sinners - not as a punishment but as an invitation to them to come home to the father, not to be punished but to be forgiven and to be healed.

The 3rd person was sent to earth and now dwells within us (even though we are still sinners) inspiring our words and our conduct - not as a punishment, but to guide and help us in our journey to the father, so that we may be forgiven and healed.

If the Holy God of Israel would have nothing to do with sins and sinners, we would all surely be lost.

John

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
botwinick said...

Hello everyone,

I guess I should note that the very definition of mercy starts with the presupposition that we are judged and condemned to God's wrath. Therefore, the basis of God's mercy and love stems from his righteous judgment and wrath.

I guess that I should also state that I would not pit Paul against Jesus as I don't think they disagree one bit. All Scripture is God Breathed and is the inerrant, infallible Word of God as is affirmed in the Together for the Gospel Statement and in the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy.

botwinick said...

"Treasures are not just in heaven, but, like grace, are all around - it is up to each of God's children to notice and be thankful - in all circumstances."

I would agree that there are earthly treasures and heavenly treasures. I would only caution you not to store up earthly treasures which are temporary, but to seek the Kingdom of God and store up treasures in Heaven which are eternal.

botwinick said...

"If the Holy God of Israel would have nothing to do with sins and sinners, we would all surely be lost."

The Holy God of the Universe punished sin on the Cross. He treated Christ as though he were the worse sinner in the universe so that the worse sinner in the universe could be treated as though he were as sinless and holy as Christ himself. The Sovereign and Holy God of the Universe poured out his wrath and righteous indignation of sin on Jesus, his only begotten son so that we might, through, him be justified and reconciled with him. He also raised Christ from the dead through his Holy Spirit, and with that same ressurection power, has breathed new life into the spiritual corpses of our own sould and raised us from the dead as well. This is the love and mercy of God. But there is no love and mercy without there first being judgment, condemnation and wrath to atone for our sin.

John said...

You said:

"We should fear his Holy, Righteous and Sovereign Wrath. Because he is Holy and Righteous in all of His Judgments, no, he is not just a big snot. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom and life."

We should not fear the wrath of God. We should live in awe of the power of God and of God's loving kindness, the grace with which God wields that power We should be in awe of our God who says: "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."

I don't think that one should define God as a God of Judgment. God has much bigger things to be concerned with than punishing me for my untoward thoughts and actions. Besides, if punishment were sure and certain, there would be no genuine free will - there would only be those who obeyed - in fear or love - and those who disobeyed - to their self destruction. Mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and second chances would play no part in God's reign nor in our lives.

If the Kingdom of God was all about judgment and punishment, then we should follow the example of the third servant in the parable of the talents, saying, "Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours."

This servant's "fear" was the beginning of the most awful kind of wisdom - the wisdom of the terrorized - prone to fear the worst from his tormentor.

Jesus final commandment was not 'be afraid, be very afraid,' but instead "Love one another as I have loved you." The command is to live and love in the manner that God loves - without condition, without requirement and without restraint.

I presume that God will judge me, but I understand from the Gospels that God will judge me as a beloved son, one who is prone to mistakes, and even to repeating mistakes, but no less beloved.

John

John said...

I am God-breathed. I am not inerrant.

Scripture is undefined in the 2 Timothy reading, and in fact was not subject to any consensus whatsoever during Paul's lifetime. (If it were subject to any consensus, then it would not have included anything in the New Testament!) Nor does the reading indicate that all "s"cripture is inerrant. And if inerrant, then which is the Truth being conveyed inerrantly and which is the "t"ruth being inferred in error? Even the Apostles debated the merits of competing scriptural truths.

Finally, if read carefully, the reading asserts that the utility of God-breathed Scripture is to aid in equipping the "man of God" to do good works.

It is not for the purpose of terrorizing people, or making God out to be a monster, nor is it for the purpose of freeing people to follow their own desires, no matter how perverse they may be.

John

botwinick said...

"I presume that God will judge me, but I understand from the Gospels that God will judge me as a beloved son, one who is prone to mistakes, and even to repeating mistakes, but no less beloved."

I agree with what you state here as being Scriptural. We even find examples of this in the life of the apostle Paul, specifically in Romans 7 and 8. What, however, is the basis of God judging you as a beloved son? How is it that you went from being an enemy of God with no fear of God in your eyes to becoming a beloved son who is sealed with the promise of the Holy Spirit until the day of Glorification? Why do you only focus on those parts of Scripture that talk about God's love and mercy and discard the large portions of scripture that talk about God's holiness, Righteous Judgment and Wrath as if the two were at odds with each other? They are not. I believe that God is Holy, full of righteous wrath against sin and those who commit sin, but also is the God of mercy, grace and compassion who punished Christ for our sin so that we might have eternal life. Without the atonement for sin, you truly have no hope. This is what Scripture teaches and I affirm that by faith alone. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom in the New Testament as well as the Old Testament. The thief on the cross who went to paradise with Christ talked about the fear of the Lord in a positive manner (Luke 23:39-40). It was the arrogance of the other theif who had no fear of God that led the him to mock Christ. When scripture tells us that there is no fear of God in their eyes in Romans 3, it is not saying that in a positive manner. Take a look at it and either accept or reject what Scripture says. But, don't say it isn't there, because clearly, it is.

John said...

You said: "The Sovereign and Holy God of the Universe poured out his wrath and righteous indignation of sin on Jesus, his only begotten son so that we might, through, him be justified and reconciled with him."

If this god you describe were human we would agree that he needed anger management therapy.

The God which has been revealed to me through Scripture, old and new, is not human, but divine and transcendent, and perfect in mercy and love.

In fact God has rejected with derision those who would rely on sacrifice and ritual atonement:

"Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"

Saying instead: "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

We (me and you) are called upon to accept and to share the love of God. No threats, no terror. How often does Jesus say: "Be not afraid." Should our evangelical task not include the same words?

John

botwinick said...

John,

Considering your last post, it would be futile to continue the discussion on this issue with you since we cannot come to even the least bit of unity about the Scripture being inerrant and infallible. Without that agreement, there is no true faith in the veracity of what it says and Christianity becomes whatever you or I want to interpret it to be. I cannot go down that road. My prayers are with you and I wish you a good day.

John said...

You said: "How is it that you went from being an enemy of God with no fear of God in your eyes to becoming a beloved son...."

I was never an enemy of God. God loved me from the beginning, before I was conceived, and loved me in the womb, and after breathing life into me, God has loved me in every breath I have taken since. Even when I was away from God, I was not God's enemy, I was just lost and confused. And God knew this, as God knew that I would one day come home, where I would be welcomed with a warm embrace and tears of joy.

And....God can have no enemies. God is too great and we are too small to be seriously opposed to God - we are less than gnats. Those who would oppose God are merely pathetic - they are not significant enough to be counted as enemies.

John

botwinick said...

"If this god you describe were human we would agree that he needed anger management therapy."

God, however, is not human and is not subject to the judgment or condemnation of any sinful man.

"The God which has been revealed to me through Scripture, old and new, is not human, but divine and transcendent, and perfect in mercy and love."

I agree there.

"In fact God has rejected with derision those who would rely on sacrifice and ritual atonement:

"Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"

Saying instead: "He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

It is not the atonement that God derided, but the hearts of man who think they can worship and please God through the sacrifices and then live like the devil the rest of the time. As a matter of fact, we find in the book of Hebrews that Christ was the once for atoning sacrifice and because of his atonement, there is no longer any further atonement that could be added to it for his was more perfect and complete in every manner.

"We (me and you) are called upon to accept and to share the love of God. No threats, no terror. How often does Jesus say: "Be not afraid." Should our evangelical task not include the same words?"

The love of God begins with the reality of the condition of man. What did God do through his love and mercy? He saved us. From what? The righteous and holy wrath of God. When he says to be not afraid, he is mostly talking about of the world and the trials we will face in this life. If there is no fear of God, there is no respect for God and every man will simply live as they see fit. Think about that in light of our sin nature and what Romans 3 says.

botwinick said...

"I was never an enemy of God. God loved me from the beginning, before I was conceived, and loved me in the womb, and after breathing life into me, God has loved me in every breath I have taken since. Even when I was away from God, I was not God's enemy, I was just lost and confused. And God knew this, as God knew that I would one day come home, where I would be welcomed with a warm embrace and tears of joy.

And....God can have no enemies. God is too great and we are too small to be seriously opposed to God - we are less than gnats. Those who would oppose God are merely pathetic - they are not significant enough to be counted as enemies."


Romans 5:10 disagrees with you.

John said...

You said: "Why do you only focus on those parts of Scripture that talk about God's love and mercy and discard the large portions of scripture that talk about God's holiness, Righteous Judgment and Wrath as if the two were at odds with each other?"

Good Question. A basic premise of my theology is that Jesus came to correct the movement of Jewish theology in several ways, one of which was the failure of Jewish theology to appreciate the depth of God's compassion and love for all of humanity and for each human being.

There is much judgment and wrath in Jewish Scriptures and in some New Testament writings (written by newly converted Jews!!!) and I sincerely believe that Jesus' life and his teaching and parables of love, forgiveness and compassion as well as his Grand Commandment, were intended to overcome this problematic theme.

Our God is not a harsh master. Jesus said: "For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease them."

And he said: "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

These are not the words of a God who is determined to impress upon his subjects a fear of judgment.

John

botwinick said...

Was the Apostle John a new Jewish Convert when he spoke of the coming wrath of God in Revelation?

John said...

I believe that the Elder John was a convert from Judiasm, especially since he draws so heavily on Jewish Scriptures for his images of apocalyptic war, as well as the image of the New Jerusalem, with the river of the water of life, where grows the trees with leaves for the healing of the nations.

John

botwinick said...

How about Luke when he wote about the judgment that exacted against Annanias and Sapphira in the book of Acts and the resulting fear that spread through the Church? Was Paul a recent convert when he wrote abuot the condition of man in Romans 3? What about the many passages where Jesus himself talks about the Coming Day of the Lord when the wrath of God will be poured out on the wicked (most prominently among these would probably be the Olivet Discourse)? What about the grace of God that was continually poured out on God's people over and over again in the Old Testament? What about David? What about the remnant who was always saved when God poured out his wrath on mankind? I think you have a problem defending your argument based on the above. I think you have simply embraced those parts of Scripture which make you feel good and have discarded those things you don't like. You have your own little self made god who can please you all the time. The problem is, your manmade, self centered theology is not pleasing to God at all.

botwinick said...

Was John a new convert at this point, or had he been a Christian for a long time? Your original argument was that they were recent converts. Now, if you would like to argue that recent means 70 to 100 years, then you might as well throw out the entire New Testament for all inents and purposes and you are only left with the Old Testament. Do you accept anything in the Bible as being true, and if so, by what standard do you reach that conclusion?

John said...

The writer of Revelation was not the Apostle John, but the Elder John. As for the 'recentness" of his conversion, all I can say is that he was well versed in Jewish Scripture, and that suggests a life spent in the synagogue.

Paul too was a recent convert, having spent much of his life as a non-Christian Jew.

John, Paul, and all of the new Testament writers (except perhaps Luke) were Jews first, and as such were prone to see and communicate through a Jewish lense. Does this make their writings untruthful - no! But inasmuch as their writings are narrative in form, I am invited to reflect on their message and prayerfully draw out what the Spirit guides me to shear as truth.

John

botwinick said...

I believe that Jesus, as well, was well versed in Jewish Scripture, which would also suggest a life spent in the Synagogues. He seems to quote Jewish Scripture quite a bit. Do you accept his statements by faith or do you have to demythologize him as well? Do you accept anything in the Bible as being true and if so, by what standard do you determine that?

John said...

I have a very high regard for the truth of Scripture. When I read something in Scripture, including the apocalyptic sayings, I take it very seriously, and I discard nothing.

I may not reach the same conclusion as you do about its meaning or how it fits together with the rest of Scripture, but I cannot disregard it.

I think God is mysterious and way beyond my ability to describe or categorize or summarize. But I think it is fair of me to describe the picture of God which I draw from Scripture - acknowledging that my picture is inadequate, and filtered through my own lense.

All that being said, I truly believe that principal lesson of Scripture is love, and the secondary and concomitant one is forgiveness. Divine Judgment and divine wrath are not among Jesus top 10 list of things to teach about.

If you count the references to love and forgiveness and compare them to the references to judgment and to the wrath of God you see the weighting very clearly. With that being the case do we fairly teach that God is a god of Judgment and wrath first and only then a God of Love and forgiveness?

If we just list the top 10 (or whatever number) of Jesus primary teaching topics and prioritize our own teaching to these items I don't think you even get to judgment or wrath except top say that we are not to judge, but to forgive, and to be angry with our brother is to commit murder in our hearts.

My top 10 list of referneces, without actually double checking would go something like this: love (especially for enemies), forgiveness, Kingdom of God, trusting in the Lord, compassion, justice for the oppressed, prayer, faith, servanthood, self-sacrifice, etc.

When I am done teaching about those things, then perhaps we can touch on the other topics such as judgment and wrath.

I think that your preoccupation with judgment and wrath stems from a fear that in the absence of the threat of judgment and wrath, God's people will not follow God's word. I don't think that is the case - it certainly isn't the case with me or my family.

John

John said...

You asked: "Do you accept anything in the Bible as being true?"

Of course I do.

I could ask whether you accept as truth only the parts of Scripture that say that God, in his holy wrath, is going to punish those who disagree with the truth of your beliefs? That is after all the thrust of your arguments here. But I can see that your understanding of Scripture is more complex than that, even though you place a great deal of importance on the need to be aware of God's wrath.

John

John said...

You asked: "do you have to demythologize him [Jesus] as well?"

I don't think I have mythologized anything in Scripture today - though I am not above interpreting some parts of scripture as poetical or metaphorical.

All I have said is that I think Jesus did not emphasize the "Holy Wrath of God" stuff on purpose - because it wasn't the message he wanted to bring. Not only that, it conflicted with his primary message, that of love and forgiveness.

John

botwinick said...

So, are you saying that Jesus was mistaken when he emphasized the wrath of God?

John said...

No, read carefully, I said he gave it a low priority. And because he must have had a reason for giving such a low priority, so do I.

Also, I can't figure out how to mesh together the teachings about the God of Wrath with the teachings about the God who offers unlimited forgiveness. When I do, perhaps I will pay greater attention to the wrath of God if I can see a theological reason for it.

Besides, even you say that with the ritual sacrifice of Jesus, the Holy Lamb of God, the Wrath of the Holy God of Israel has been propitiated, once and for all. Hence, teaching about the Wrath of God sounds to me like teaching about ancient history - it was eliminated as a concern 2000 years ago. Unless you are going to say that all is not yet forgiven, and that more must be done; that Jesus' salvific work was not completed on the cross.

Sure you want to go there?

Another problem is that all of this wrath stuff is so contrived and ritualistic, and the discussion presupposes that those who press the point have a working knowledge of it. Isn't it a mystery, after all.

John

botwinick said...

"No, read carefully, I said he gave it a low priority. And because he must have had a reason for giving such a low priority, so do I."

I did indeed read your comments very carefully...perhaps, a bit too carefully for what you intended to say:

"All I have said is that I think Jesus did not emphasize the "Holy Wrath of God" stuff ON PURPOSE "

Now perhaps, you might have mis-spoke here, but when you added the words "...on purpose..." to that statement, that changes the context from it not being important to Jesus to being that Jesus made it important by mistake. Is it the former or the latter?

John said...

Jesus did not make it a priority, on purpose, because for his purposes, it was not a priority.

Following Jesus, lead, as I read the Gospels, I too, do not make it a priority.


John

Anonymous said...

Botwinick and John

I read all of your posts and greatly appreciate the lessons. The gift of your time and honesty are touching.

I did have a knee jerk reaction to the first post. Especially the last line. I didn't mean to be disrespectful in any way.

I'm still pretty much in the darkness, but maybe on the border of understanding. Your thoughts are sure to be very helpful.

Thanks again- David Mc

botwinick said...

David,

No disrespect was taken on my part. I will pray for you that God will answer your every question through his Holy Spirit, and that you will be receptive to the answers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I'm listening.

David Mc