All posts in “On Atonement”

7 Theories of the Atonement Summarized

Atonement theoriesThe nature of the Atonement has been a study for me over the last few years. After having my world turned upside by Dr. C. Baxter Kruger in his book, Jesus and the Undoing of AdamI have not been able to shake this fascination with rediscovering the cross of Jesus Christ. Today I wanted to share seven of the major theories for the Atonement. These theories attempt to explain the nature of Jesus’ death on the cross. Why did Jesus die? What does this death mean for the world today? These theories are historically the most dominant, and I hope you enjoy learning some of them today!

#1 The Moral Influence Theory

One of the earliest theories for the atonement is the Moral Influence theory, which simply taught that Jesus Christ came and died in order to bring about a positive change to humanity. This moral change comes through the teachings of Jesus alongside His example and actions. The most notable name here is that of Augustine from the 4th century, whose influence has almost single-handedly had the greatest impact upon Western Christianity. He affirmed the Moral Influence theory as the main theory of the Atonement (alongside the Ransom theory as well).

Within this theory the death of Christ is understood as a catalyst to reform society, inspiring men and women to follow His example and live good moral lives of love. In this theory the Holy Spirit comes to help Christians produce this moral change. Logically, in this theory the Eschatological development too becomes about morality, where it is taught that after death the human race will be judged by their conduct in life. This in turn creates a strong emphasis on free will as the human response to follow Jesus’ example. Although Augustine himself differs here in that he did not teach free will, but instead that human beings are incapable of change themselves, and require God to radically alter their lives sovereignly through the Holy Spirit.

This theory focuses on not just the death of Jesus Christ, but on His entire life. This sees the saving work of Jesus not only in the event of the crucifixion, but also in all the words He has spoken, and the example He has set. In this theory the cross is merely a ramification of the moral life of Jesus. He is crucified as a martyr due to the radical nature of His moral example. In this way the Moral Influence theory emphasizes Jesus Christ as our teacher, our example, our founder and leader, and ultimately, as a result, our first martyr.

#2 The Ransom Theory

The Ransom Theory of the Atonement is one of the first major theories for the Atonement. It is often held alongside the Moral Influence Theory, and usually deals more with the actual death of Jesus Christ, what it actually means and the effect it has upon humanity. This theory finds its roots in the Early Church, particularly in Origen from the 3rd century. This theory essentially teaches that Jesus Christ died as a ransom sacrifice, paid either to Satan (the most dominate view), or to God the Father. Jesus’ death then acts as a payment to satisfy the debt on the souls of the human race, the same debt we inherited from Adam’s original sin.

The Ransom view could be summarized like this:

“Essentially, this theory claimed that Adam and Eve sold humanity over to the Devil at the time of the Fall’ hence, justice required that God pay the Devil a ransom, for the Devil did not realize that Christ could not be held in the bonds of death. Once the Devil accepted Christ’s death as a ransom, this theory concluded, justice was satisfied and God was able to free us from Satan’s grip.” 1

Redemption in this theory means to buy back, and purchase the human race from the clutches of the Devil. The main controversy here with this theory is the act of paying off the Devil. Some have written that this is not a fair statement to say that all Ransom Theorists believe that the Devil is paid, but rather in this act of Ransom Christ frees humanity from the bondage of sin and death. In this way Ransom relates the Christus Victor theory. But it’s worth differentiating here because in one way these views are similar, but in another way they are drastically different.

#3 Christus Victor

Classically, the Christus Victor theory of Atonement is widely considered to be the dominant theory for most of the historical Christian Church. In this theory, Jesus Christ dies in order to defeat the powers of evil (such as sin, death, and the devil) in order to free mankind from their bondage. This is related to the Ransom view with the difference being that there is no payment to the devil or to God. Within the Christus Victor framework, the cross did not pay off anyone, but defeated evil thereby setting the human race free.

Gustaf Aulen argued that this theory of the Atonement is the most consistently held theory for church history, especially in the early church up until the 12th century before Anslem’s satisfaction theory came along. He writes that “the work of Christ is first and foremost a victory over the powers which hold mankind in bondage: sin, death, and the devil.” 2 He calls this theory the “classic” theory of the Atonement. While some will say that Christus Victor is compatible with other theories of the Atonement, others argue that it is not. Though I have found that most theologians believe that Christus Victor is true, even if it is not for them the primary theory of Christ’s death.

#4 The Satisfaction Theory (Anselm)

In the 12th century Anselm of of Canterbury proposed a satisfaction theory for the Atonement. In this theory Jesus Christ’s death is understood as a death to satisfy the justice of God. Satisfaction here means restitution, the mending of what was broken, and the paying back of a debt. In this theory, Anselm emphasizes the justice of God, and claims that sin is an injustice that must be balanced. Anselm’s satisfaction theory says essentially that Jesus Christ died in order to pay back the injustice of human sin, and to satisfy the justice of God.

This theory was developed in reaction to the historical dominance of the Ransom theory, that God paid the devil with Christ’s death. Anselm saw that this theory was logically flawed, because what does God owe satan? Therefore, in contrast with the Ransom theory, Anselm taught that it is humanity who owes a debt to God, not God to satan. Our debt, in this theory, is that of injustice. Our injustices have stolen from the justice of God and therefore must be paid back. Satisfaction theory then postulates that Jesus Christ pays pack God in His death on the cross to God. This is the first Atonement theory to bring up the notion that God is acted upon by the Atonement (i.e. that Jesus satisfies God).

#5 The Penal Substitutionary Theory

Penal Substitutionary Atonement is a development of the Reformation. The Reformers, Specifically Calvin and Luther, took Anselm’s Satisfaction theory and modified it slightly. They added a more legal (or forensic) framework into this notion of the cross as satisfaction. The result is that within Penal Substitution, Jesus Christ dies to satisfy God’s wrath against human sin. Jesus is punished (penal) in the place of sinners (substitution) in order to satisfy the justice of God and the legal demand of God to punish sin. In the light of Jesus’ death God can now forgive the sinner because Jesus Christ has been punished in the place of sinner, in this way meeting the retributive requirements of God’s justice. This legal balancing of the ledgers is at the heart of this theory, which claims that Jesus died for legal satisfaction. It’s also worth mentioning that in this theory the notion of inputed righteousness is postulated.

This theory of the Atonement contrasts with Anselm’s Satisfaction Theory in that God is not satisfied with a debt of justice being paid by Jesus, but that God is satisfied with punishing Jesus in the place of mankind. The notion that the cross acts upon God, conditioning Him to forgiveness, originates from Anslems theory, but here in Penal Substitution the means are different. This theory of the Atonement is perhaps the most dominant today, especially among the Reformed, and the evangelical.

#6 The Governmental Theory

The Governmental Theory of the Atonement is a slight variation upon the Penal Substitutionary theory, which is notably held in Methodism. The main difference here is the extent to which Christ suffered. In the Governmental Theory, Jesus Christ suffers the punishment of our sin and propitiates God’s wrath. In this way it is similar to Penal Substitution. However, in the Governmental Theory, Jesus Christ does not take the exact punishment we deserve, He takes a punishment. Jesus dies on the cross therefore to demonstrate the displeasure of God towards sin. He died to display God’s wrath against sin and the high price which must be paid, but not to specifically satisfy that particular wrath. The Governmental Theory also teaches that Jesus died only for the church, and if you by faith are part of the church, you can take part in God’s salvation. The church then acts as the sort of hiding place from God’s punishment. This view contrasts both the Penal and Satisfaction models, but retains the fundamental belief that God cannot forgive if Jesus does not die a propitiating death.

#7 The Scapegoat Theory

The Scapegoat Theory is a modern Atonement theory rooted in the philosophical concept of the Scapegoat. Here the key figures Rene Girard and James Allison. Within this theory of the Atonement Jesus Christ dies as the Scapegoat of humanity. This theory moves away from the idea that Jesus died in order to act upon God (as in PSA, Satisfaction, or Governmental), or as payment to the devil (as in Ransom). Scapegoating therefore is considered to be a form of non-violent atonement, in that Jesus is not a sacrifice but a victim. There are many Philosophical concepts that come up within this model, but in a general sense we can say that Jesus Christ as the Scapegoat means the following. 1) Jesus is killed by a violent crowd. 2) The violent crowd kills Him believing that He is guilty. 3) Jesus is proven innocent, as the true Son of God. 4) The crowd is therefore deemed guilty.

James Allison summarizes the Scapegoating Theory like this, “Christianity is a priestly religion which understands that it is God’s overcoming of our violence by substituting himself for the victim of our typical sacrifices that opens up our being able to enjoy the fullness of creation as if death were not.”

Conclusions

Each theory presented here is dense and complex, but I hope you can learn from the overall focus of each. I personally believe that we need to move beyond some of these theories and progress into a more robust theory of the atonement. But thankfully, at the end of the day we aren’t saved by theories. We’re saved by Jesus! How that happens may be fun to discuss and theorized about, but only in sight of the fact that it’s the who that matters far more!

What do you think of all these theories? Does a certain one appeal to you more than the rest? Let me know in a comment!

Recommended reading

The following books are some of the best studies on the atonement I know and recommend for further reading:

Atonement, Justice, and Peace by Darrin W. Snyder Belousek (the best argument against penal substitution I’ve read)

The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge (excellent study on the cross for today’s world)

Christus Victor by Gustaf Aulén (a classic study of traditional atonement models)

Atonement: Person and Work of Christ by Thomas F. Torrance (great study by the renowned 20th century theologian)

The Nature of the Atonement by John McLeod Campbell (difficult reading, but historically an important text)

On the Incarnation by Athanasius (don’t let the title fool you: this is a profound text for the atonement in the early church)

Curs Deus Homo: Why God Became Man by Anselm (classic for the “satisfaction” atonement theory)

Against Heresies by Ireneaus (a great example of the atonement in the early church)

Things Hidden Since the Foundations of the World by Rene Girard (for the scapegoat theory)

The Crucified God by Jürgen Moltmann (one of the best modern works on the atonement)

Church Dogmatics IV/1 by Karl Barth (another modern classic on the atonement, famous for Barth’s notion of the “Judge judged in our place”)

The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views (a decent collection of essays to give you a feel for various atonement theories)

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Notes:

  1. Robin Collins, Understanding Atonement: A New and Orthodox Theory 1995
  2. Christus Victor P. 20

Who Killed Jesus?

Who Killed?Jesus was not murdered. He offered up His life freely for the sake of humanity. No one took His life, He gave it away. 1 But the question remains, even if Jesus did offer up His life, to whom did He offer it up to? Who actually killed Jesus?

The Atonement, that is, the death of Christ, is something I’ve written on a few times before. 2 In my upcoming book I’ve chosen to spend a lot of time on this subject. 3 Today I thought it’d be fun to look at an aspect of the atonement that is often overlooked (or not taken seriously enough).

Within the classical understanding of Penal Substitutionary Atonement 4, the answer is God. God killed Jesus. Within this model Jesus offers up His life for the appeasement of His Father’s anger. But as I’ve written before, this understanding of the cross is highly problematic. It over legalizes this Gospel, undermines the unity of the Trinity, and paints a horrific picture of the Father.

Additionally, it blatantly ignores the bible.

Many who defend the classical doctrine of PSA will point to the bible as its origin, but in my understanding of scripture I don’t see how that’s possible. While there may be a few verses that in some ways appear to present PSA as true, there are far more verses that destroy it entirely. Take for example, our basic question: who killed Jesus? Within the Penal model of atonement, where the Son is punished by the Father for our sake, the answer must be that God killed Jesus. But the bible never once says that this is the case. In fact, it says the opposite. The bible clearly tells us that someone else killed Jesus, and it was not His Father.

Consider the following:

“For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out.” 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15 NIV Emphasis mine. 

“After Jesus finished saying all these things, he said to his followers, ‘You know that the day after tomorrow is Passover. On that day the Son of Man will be handed over to his enemies to be killed on a cross.'” Matthew 26:1-2 ERV Emphasis mine.

“And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!'” Matthew 27:25 ESV Emphasis mine.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Acts 2:22-23 ESV Emphasis mine.

“let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.” Acts 4:10 ESV Emphasis mine.

The cross was not divine child abuse. The Father did not beat up His Son so that He could love you. God gave up His life for the sake of the human race, at the hands of the human race. In a stunning display of self-sacrifical love, Jesus hung on the cross, crying out to those who had crucified Him: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” 5

What outrageous grace! What stunning love!

That is good news. Divine child abuse, is not good news. Jesus saves us from sin, not from His Father’s fury. Jesus gives His life for our life, not as a pagan appeasement sacrifice, but as a stunning display of unconditional grace. The cross was the beautiful act of love in which the man Jesus Christ died our death in order to undo death itself, thereby freeing us from sin. Who killed Jesus? Certainly not the Father.

Jesus died at the hands of man, to free man from the hands of sin.

What do  you think? Can you find any scriptures that prove me wrong here? Comment below!

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Notes:

  1. See John 10:18
  2. See On Atonement
  3. Tentatively entitled We Belong: Trinitarian Good News – coming this fall
  4. The view that Jesus was punished from the Father (penal) in our place (substitutionary) for the sake of our redemption, reconciliation and justification (atonement).
  5. Luke 23:34

On Eastern Orthodoxy

Small

I’ll be honest, I’ve been looking for an excuse to use this picture in a post here since I took it. It’s a stunning vertical panorama shot with my iPhone, which I admit is far from professional, but I love it. It was taken inside the Church of the Spilt Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia while I was there on a trip with the church plant I’m a part of here in Tallinn, Estonia. I found this church stunningly beautiful and awe inspiring. (Click on the photo for an enlarged version.)

Recently I’ve been intrigued by Eastern Orthodoxy, and not just their beautiful church buildings, but also their theology. I’ve found that many of the things I have come to learn in my own journey have an echo in much of the theology of the Eastern Orthodox church. For me, that’s encouraging. It means that I’m not just another “heretic” loosing his mind after reading a few books, but that faith is a 2,000 year old conversation that I get to be a part of. Theology is a fluid thing, not a stagnant study.

One of the biggest areas of theological change for me has been in rediscovering the Atonement (the death of Christ). In my denial of the classical theories of atonement that are common in the west, I have found myself working against the norm. But the more my intrigue led me to study Eastern Orthodoxy, the more I’ve begun to see how truly “unorthodox”, in a technical sense, the west really is, especially in regards to Atonement. Our (Protestant) theology is only 500 years old, give or take a few years. That may seem like a lot, but when you compare it to the 2,000 year old legacy of the Eastern Church (with the Roman Catholics) you get a sense that Protestantism is the new player in town. Which in my experience with discussing theology, this seems like the opposite attitude of Protestants. 1

As soon as I began to question the Western understanding of Atonement, I received backlash from Protestants who felt like I was questioning an age old belief that has existed since the early church. I myself thought I had stumbled upon something new, but as I’ve explored Eastern Orthodoxy I’ve realized this is not the case. I had not stumbled upon something new to theology, but something very old. I began to read the Patristic (church fathers) greats like Athanasius, Gregory, Irenaeus, Hilary, and others. 2 As I read their writings, some of which go back as early as the second century, I felt like I was reading my own thoughts back to myself. Someone else has already said what I have felt compelled to say.

That awful westernized doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement? It’s a new idea. Calvin and Luther turned it into what it is today in the west. The Eastern Orthodox won’t even touch that doctrine. PSA did exist in some ways before the reformation, but only subtly in the Catholic church. They adopted Thomas of Aquinas’ satisfaction model along with that of Anselm. Luther and Calvin took these theories and hyper-legalized them into what we know today in the West. But it’s worth noting that the Eastern Orthodox Church has never held to these beliefs. They have always been highly Incarnational and Christus Victor based in their model of Atonement. 3

The point here is that maybe this conversation we’re having about theology, the bible, and the gospel is really much more diverse and intricate than we make it out to be. Denying Penal Substitutionally Atonement is not heresy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that. But most days I just smile and think to myself: “I have 2,000 years of the most undivided church in our Christian history on my side.” Which isn’t to imply that that settles the issue, but it is to imply that it should change the way we approach atonement.

We’re all on a journey. History is a conversation. Theology is not a perfect science, it is an art. We must learn from one another and from our history as Christian brothers and sisters. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, I guess, is all I’m saying here. We should be able to have conversations about theology, the bible, and the Gospel with an open mind. Theology is not a stagnant thing, it is not about strict dogmatics. We’re having a conversation here, not a debate. Tell me what you think, not just what you’ve been told to think.

Of course it goes without saying that there are problems within Eastern Orthodoxy too, just as there are problems within Protestantism and Catholicism. But that is just all the more a reason for us to let down or name calling, closed-minded thinking and just have a conversation with one another. We can learn from each other, and I think we should.

(Oh and by the way: I’m planning on attending a Russian Orthodox church here in town for my last sunday in Estonia. Maybe I’ll write a follow up about my experience later.)

But enough about my thoughts, what are your thoughts? Let me know in a comment.

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Notes:

  1. e.g. we have the right doctrines, the pope is the antichrist, etc. etc. Little of our theology is willing to humbly admit that the 2,000 year old church may be right in some areas where the 500 year old church is not.
  2. Many of which I have made available for download here. (free)
  3. Incarnational is in reference to Christ’s healing assumption of our fallen humanity. Christus Victor is in reference to Christ’s triumph over sin and death.

10 Accomplishments of the Cross

Candy Cross 10 AccomplishmentsThursday I began a series of articles (and a video) on Easter. I began by expressing what I feel are the ten ways we should rethink Easter. Today, on Easter sunday, in order to conclude this series here are 10 accomplishments of the cross.

Enjoy meditating on the success of the cross as we celebrate the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ today!

#1 Reconciliation

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” – 2 Corinthians 5:19

Reconciliation involves God reaching us in the midst of our darkness and alienation. In the incarnation Jesus came and lived within our fallen existence and from that place He reconciled our fallen humanity back to God. As C. Baxter Kruger says, reconciliation involves giving us eyes to see and ears to hear. Jesus came to undo our fallen alienation and to reconcile us into fellowship with God.

#2 Freedom From Sin

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” – Romans 6:6

On the cross Jesus freed us once and for all from the sin nature by crucifying it. The fallen sinful man died on the cross with Jesus and was left buried in the grave. On Holy Saturday we talked about our inclusion into the dead of Christ, and our being buried with Him. In the tomb, our sin and shame was forgotten for good. We are entirely free from sin.

#3 Dead Defeated

“Death swallowed by triumphant Life!

Who got the last word, oh, Death?

Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?”

-1 Corinthians 15:55 MSG

The death of the One who is Life Himself, means to undoing of the very fabric of death. Death has been robbed its power in the death of our Eternal Lord. Jesus reigns triumphant over death. The incorruptible Son of God, meets us in our death, and undoes that death. O death, where is your victory?

#4 New Life

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20 NKJV

Mario FreedomResurrection means new life. Resurrection means new creation. Resurrection means our old life is dead and gone, our new life has begun. We are new, sharing in the resurrection of Christ. Our new life is the very Life of the Son of God. We participate in the Life of the Son. He is our Life. New Life is Christ Jesus!

#5 Forgiveness

“Then said Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.'” – Luke 23:34

Forgiveness is a life giving pronouncement. Forgiveness imparts life. God forgives us out of sheer Grace and love. Jesus did not earn forgiveness for us. Jesus proclaimed forgiveness! The Father’s forgiveness is not wishful thinking, it is the reality that Jesus came to announce. We are forgiven by the sheer goodness and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

#6 Adoption

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” – Romans 8:15-17

The eternal love-dream of God is to have us as His beloved children, adopted and included in His life. The Gospel announces our adoption into the very family of God. We have been included into the Trinitarian life of God, the inner relation between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No longer are we orphans, but sons and daughters of God.

#7 The Fall Undone

“But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” – Romans 5:15

Through one man, Adam, death and sin entered into the world. Through another man, Christ, the last Adam, grace and life overcame the world. The death of Christ undid the fall of Adam and restored the human race back from the pit of darkness and corruption.

#8 Seated in Heavenly Places

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace inkindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 2:4-7

We have been included in Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. When He died, we died. When He raised, God quickened us to life with Him. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of His Father in heaven we too were seated in heavenly places, and given participation in the very Triune life of God Himself. The stunning news of the Gospel is not just that Jesus died to forgive us, but that Jesus died to include us in His life.

#9  Healing

“…by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

#StuffJesusNeverSaid

#StuffJesusNeverSaid

Our brokenness is healed by His brokenness. When Christ entered into our fallen existence He healed it. By taking part in our suffering, He imparted healing to our humanity. As St. Gregory of Nazianzus said, “The unassumed is the unhealed.” It is through the perfect union of Christ with out fallen humanity that our fallen humanity takes part in His healing and wholeness.

#10 Sanctification

“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.” – 1 Corinthians 1:30

Sanctification is not a process we embark on, it is a gift. Actually, more accurately, sanctification is a person. It is Christ Himself, and our participation in His holiness and righteousness, that is our sanctification. Through the cross and our union with Christ we have received a perfect sanctification. We have been made righteous and new! No longer sinners, we are saints!

As we celebrate Easter, may we humbly and reverently praise God for His infinite goodness.

It is finished!

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10 Ways We Should Rethink Easter

10 ways easterTomorrow we celebrate Good Friday, and with it the very heart of the Gospel: the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. I want to present ten ways that we should think differently about Easter this year. In doing so may you rediscover the beauty of the cross, and the stunning message of the Gospel.

#1 It’s Good Friday, Not Bad Friday

The cross is not a dark event. The cross is the center of our joy and celebration. Far from being a defeat, the cross is a victory!

While from a humanistic perspective, the cross is weakness and failure. But from the Christian perspective, the cross is the greatest moment of triumph in all of history. As Athanasius says, “the death of all was consummated in the Lord’s body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished.” 1 That’s good news! Jesus fully defeated death, in His death.

#2 Resurrection Isn’t the End

The story of Jesus doesn’t end at resurrection. While the resurrection is important, it’s not the end. The Scottish theologian T.F. Torrance help me see that the resurrection, while staggering in itself, is not complete apart from the ascension.

Robert Walker, in his introduction to Torrance’s book atonement, says “The ascension is Jesus’ taking of our humanity in His person into the presence of God into the union and communion of the love of the Trinity.” 2 Or as C.S. Lewis says, “In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend.” 3 Jesus ascended, taking us up with Him; seating us in heavenly places! 4

#3 God Didn’t Kill Jesus

crucifixionWe know for a fact in Christianity that the cross accomplished our salvation. Theories of how this happened however, are vast and wide. One of the worst, in my mind, is that of Penal Substitutionary Atonement 5 which essentially teaches that Jesus saved us from God. Meaning that Jesus was actually killed by His Father.

Did Jesus save us from God? Absolutely not! Here’s a few reasons why. 1) Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5 that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself.” 2) This notion divides the Trinity and undermines the goodness of God by creating a dark side hidden behind the back of God—which ultimately goes against Jesus’ own words, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” 6 We aren’t saved from God, we’re saved from sin. 

#4 The Cross Wasn’t a Pagan Ritual

The cross isn’t a form of paganism where Jesus is sacrificed up to an angry god in the hope of appease his terrible wrath. If this is true, then paganism is true. Which would be disastrous to the Gospel: making it not a Christian Gospel, but a pagan gospel.

Jesus didn’t die in order to condition God into being gracious. T.F. Torrance writes that within the Old Testament paradigm of sacrifice and atonement, we must see that the cross is not a pagan offering for the sake of forgiveness, but rather a witness to the merciful will of God. 7 The priestly system was never pagan—in the sense that it was an offering to earn forgiveness or mercy—rather, it was and is a system to manifest and give witness to the mercy of God.

#5 Jesus’ Death Was Real

The death of Jesus is the action of God to meet us in the pit of our human existence. What do we fear more than death? In order for salvation to be complete, God must meet us in the depths of our humanity. I feel like sometimes we pass over Jesus’ death as a real event, as if His being God made Him less human. He was God as a human, and in His humanity He fully felt the bitterness of death.

This is important to remember. The death of Jesus was a very real event. He actually felt the fear and abandonment that we feel. He entered into our Adamic fear and calamity and from that place He brought redemption. In His death, death itself is undone!

#6 Jesus Was Not Forsaken by His Father

The-Holy-Trinity-xx-Nicoletto-Semitecolo“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is not a prayer of Jesus. Every prayer that Jesus ever prayed began with “Abba, Father!” Here Jesus is not saying that the Trinity was deconstructed and destroyed. The Trinitarian relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit remained intact on the cross!

Jesus is quoting the old testament. 8 He is fulfilling prophecy. He quotes Psalms 22, the Messianic Psalm. This Psalm, more than any other, is a clear prophecy foretelling the death of Jesus, the Messiah.

#7 The Cross Wasn’t Pretty

The cross was a horrific and terrifying event. It wasn’t pretty. While it is important to see the celebratory reality of the cross (see #1), it is also important to remember how expensive the party cost God.

God paid a high price for our redemption. We celebrate joyously that sacrifice, but at the same time keeping in mind, with reverence, the enormous price that was paid. Jesus died a real death, feeling the full weigh of our sin and guilt. He suffered in our place, so that we might have life. Celebrate that, but just don’t forget the price.

#8 The Cross Reveals Love, Not Wrath

The cross reveals the love of God, it does not primarily reveal His wrath. When you think of the cross, do you see the wrath of God or His love? If wrath, you need to take another look. The cross is not about wrath, it is about love.

T.F. Torrance writes that, “The cross is a window opened into the very heart of God.” 9 We understand God through Jesus: in His life, and especially in His self-giving death. The cross reveals a God who is madly in love with the world, not a God who is furiously angry at it. “For God so loved the world…” 10

#9 The Life of Jesus > The Death of Jesus

INRIPaul writes that we are “saved by His life.” 11 The life of Jesus, and the work of Jesus should be inseparable. It’s not the cross that saves us, it’s Jesus. He embodies our salvation, and reconciliation back to God.

The cross matters, but the Christ of the cross matters even more. God did not use Jesus as a tool to fix humanity. Jesus Himself is the salvation of the human race. It is in His very person, in His hypostatic union: the joining of God and man in one body that we find salvation, reconciliation, and redemption. The new covenant is a person, not a transaction!

#10 The Cross is a Mystery

We know what the cross accomplished. We know that because of Christ we are forgiven, reconciled, redeemed, freed from sin, in union with Christ, and participants in the eternal life of God. How it all happens is a mystery.

While there are many theories as to how the cross accomplishes all these things, we cannot get to hung up on theories. It’s the person of Jesus that saves us, not our theology. We don’t have to understand the cross to benefit from it’s blessings. The bible doesn’t give us a clear formula for exactly what happened at calvary, but it does inspire us to worship God because of it.

Let’s keep the cross mysterious. We may not understand it fully, but that’s okay. No one is asking us to.

“Trust Jesus, then. After that, theologize all you want.” 12

He has done it! It is finished!

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Notes:

  1. On the Incarnation, section 20.
  2. Editor’s introduction to T.F. Torrance Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ, page lii.
  3. The Grand Miracle, page 111
  4. See Ephesians 2:6 and Colossians 3.
  5. I’ve written much about this view of atonement. You can find these articles here.
  6. John 14:9
  7. See Atonement: The Person and Work of Christ, pages 38-39.
  8. I’ve written more about this here.
  9. The Mediation of Christ
  10. John 3:16
  11. Romans 5:10
  12. Robert Farrar Capon, Kingdom, Grace, and Judgement.

Holy Week Meditation: The Love Dream of God

photoWhat drove Jesus to the cross?

In the stunning words of St. Catherine:

You, high eternal Trinity, acted as if You were drunk with love, infatuated with Your creature.. 1

Love.

Jesus became a man, lived a life within our fallen existence, fought back against the Adamic nature, bearing the totality of our sin, death, and corruption on the cross in one seamless movement of a Trinitarian passion.

Jesus was driven by reckless abandonment, an unwavering commitment to the infinite love of God.

The eternal Godhead, the Triune Being, the Uncreated Light, became one with our fallen humanity, and in one movement of ecstatic love, defeated death.

The cross echoes the eternal love dream of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This love-dream is that we may be One with God, that we may belong in His heart; that we may be included in the very life of God.

In essence, adoption. We were “predestined for adoption.” 2 Before the world was made, God had a dream: you, me, and the whole human race. Predestined to belong.

This passionate drive within the heart of our Triune God is the driving force behind the life of Jesus. Jesus died because the Father loves you. Jesus died because the Trinity has a dream for the human race, and nothing, not even death itself, will separate us from that dream.

Jesus died because we are loved, because we belong; because God is good.

What a stunning reality.

What a beautiful Gospel.

God became a man, dwelt among us, and died our death. The eternal dream of God is made fully manifest in the act of the Son. He loves us, and in that love, He cannot leave us to our corruption. He must, with reckless abandonment, save.

It’s a mockery of the cross to say that Jesus died because the Father needed blood on His hands to forgive us. It’s a shame that what is meant to be the most beautiful message the world has ever known, has been transformed into a highly pagan message that insults the very nature of God.

Jesus died because the Father hates the world, and needed to be appeased? Jesus died to satisfy some legal requirement within the heart of God?

Absolutely not.

Jesus died for love.

Jesus died because the Triune God has an unbreakable dream for the human race. This dream didn’t change when Adam fell. This dream burns on without diminishing for a second.

God’s mind is made up. It always has been.

His love is eternally set on the human race.

Jesus died because of an infinite love-dream of the Trinity to have us, to include us, and to adopt us into the Life of God.

His passionate pursuit is set on the human race. He is wildly in love with us, and it is because of this reckless love that He came, lived in our world, and died our death.

The cross…

This isn’t paganism. This is the Gospel.

Jesus didn’t die to appease an angry God. Jesus died to reveal a God of infinite love.

Jesus recklessly ran to the cross, for love.

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Notes:

  1. Full quote
  2. Ephesians 1:5

“Jesus Was Forsaken by God” – Disgrace to Grace #3

Jesus Forsaken?Disgrace To Grace is a series of articles written to debunk doctrines that I believe have hijacked the Good News of God’s outrageous grace. Here’s #3, enjoy!

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Last week we talked about Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA), and several of the reasons why I disagree with it. Today I want to debunk another aspect of what PSA teaches.

Growing up I often heard Matthew 27:46 1 quoted in presenting the Gospel. The preacher would say something along these lines:

“God is to holy to look at sin. When Jesus died on the cross, the Father turned His back on Him. He abandoned Jesus, and forsake Him to die…”

But did the Father really forsake His Son on the cross?

Absolutely not!

Let me tell you some good news: Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit remained inseparable on the cross. Jesus was not abandoned by His Father!

But how can I come to such a conclusion? Doesn’t Matthew 27:46 clearly say the opposite?

Here’s the deal. This is exactly why holding the bible in its proper context is extremely important. Yes, this verse does say this, but it should not be taken at face value apart from the right context.

Without the right context  for this verse you could easily (but wrongly) assume that Matthew 27:46 are Jesus’ words. They are not!

Jesus is quoting David from the Psalms.

Psalms 22 to be specific. Psalm 22 is a prophetic Psalm foretelling the death of Jesus. 2 Psalms 22 starts with “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”

Essentially Jesus here is quoting the first line of a famous song that every good Jew would have known by heart. Jesus wasn’t making a statement about how His Father left Him. Jesus is declaring the He is the Messiah.

And this is ultimately how I know that the Father did not forsake Jesus on the cross: Psalms 22 clearly says so!

Check out verse 24: “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

Jesus was not forsaken by God! The perfect union of Father, Son, and Spirit remained unbroken!

God did not forsake His Son on the cross. As Paul writes, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” 3

Where was God on the cross? He was in Christ. He did not forsake His Son, nor did He abandon Him! He was right there with Him! The cross was the seamless act of an undivided Trinity.

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is not a prayer of Jesus. Every single prayer of Jesus starts with “Abba! Father!” The Trinity remains undivided!

What do you think? Leave me a comment below!

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Notes:

  1. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
  2. I encourage you to read all of Psalms 22 in order to fully grasp onto what Jesus really meant to say. Specifically check out the later verses, including verse 27 (a favorite verse of mine).
  3. 2 Corinthians 5:19

Legal Gospel – C. Baxter Kruger

Baxter-Kruger-Photo-1aThe gospel typically preached by modern evangelicals begins with the statement that God is holy (holy in the legal sense). The human race has fallen into sin and is guilty before God. Since God is holy, He cannot allow sin to go unpunished—justice requires punishment. But since God is also loving, He sends Jesus Christ to take our place. On the cross, the guilt of the human race is placed upon Jesus Christ, and Jesus suffers the just punishment for our guilt. The cry of Jesus, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” is interpreted as the moment of moments when the Father, being too holy to look upon evil, turns His back upon His Son in utter abandonment. The Father forsakes His Son. That forsakenness, that abandonment and its unsearchable agony, is then interpreted as the punishment for our sins that satisfies God’s justice—in this legal or Evangelical model. The first disaster of this interpretation is that the work of Jesus Christ is turned on its head. The New Testament nowhere says that God was being reconciled in the work of Jesus; it says that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 COR 5:18-19). As Paul insists, it was while we were utterly helpless, while we were sinners who had sold ourselves irretrievably into bondage and unwittingly set ourselves in opposition to God, that God acted to save us (ROM 5:6-10). But here, in the legal model, the order has been reversed, such that Jesus has come to save us not from ourselves and the catastrophe of Adam, but from God. Changing God has become the object of Christ’s work. If we ask the question, “Why did Jesus die?” then the answer that flows out of the legal framework is that he died so that God the Father would be different. Whereas the Trinitarian understanding sees Jesus sent by the Father to convert fallen Adamic existence to Himself, the legal model leaves us with a Jesus who comes to convert God!

Taken from Jesus and the Undoing of Adam  by Dr. C. Baxter Kruger.

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“Jesus Saves! …From God?” – Disgrace To Grace #2

Disgrace To Grace is a series of articles written to debunk doctrines that I believe have hijacked the Good News of God’s outrageous grace. Here’s #2, enjoy!

Saves From GOD?Saved.. From God?

I want to talk about Penal Substitutionary Atonement today (PSA for short). Chances are you’ve probably never heard that term, but I’m sure you’ve been influenced by it.

PSA sounds like this: “God is a judge, and you are on trial. You’re guilty. You’ve sinned; God sentences you to death. He’s about to slam down the hammer, sending you off to eternal punishment, when suddenly Jesus steps in and offers his life in your place. He suffers the wrath of the judge, and you are forgiven your debt.”

PSA is Penal (to punish) Substitution (in our place) Atonement (to bring about redemption). It is a theory 1 of atonement, held popularly in Christianity, that claims Jesus died in order to appease the wrath of God.

Now, I have several issues with this theory of atonement. I don’t plan to address every issue I see here, but I hope to show you, at the very least, a few of the fundamental flaws in this theory.

I do plan on writing much more about this (both articles and eventually books), so this is definitely not the full scope of what I wish to say. But this will serve as a good introduction to why I have called Penal Substitutionary Atonement a “Disgrace to Grace.”

Problems With PSA

Undermining the Trinity:

This view of atonement, I believe, undermines the Trinity. PSA is a theory that is fundamentally anti-Trinitarian.

The Trinity should be central to our way of thinking about God. At no other place is this more vital then the cross, because the cross is essential to the Gospel story.

Within this model you get a very dualistic vision of the Trinity. On one side there is a holy judge demanding punishment, while on the other side there is a loving Jesus appeasing him.

Essentially, PSA teaches that one Member of the Trinity comes to save you from another Member of the Trinity.

This is not only an inconceivable flaw in logic, but a slap in the face to the early church who fought hard in defending the doctrine of the Trinity.

You can’t separate the inseparable Trinity!

PSA goes against Jesus’ union with His Father: “I and my Father are One.” 2 This union between Father, Son, and Spirit must remain central. The will of God is undivided. PSA splits the Trinity, making the will, and action of Jesus separate from that of His Father’s. Which I believe, is catastrophic.

The Dark Side of Jesus:

Did the fall of Adam change us, or did it change God?

trinity-knotObviously, the Garden changed us, not God. So who then did the cross seek to fix? Did the cross fix us, or did it fix God?

If PSA is correct, then the cross dealt with God, not us.

PSA flips the Gospel on its head. If Jesus died in order to meet a legal requirement within the heart of God, instead of fixing us, and our sin, the cross becomes about fixing God. 3

In other words, according to PSA, Jesus died in order to deal with the “dark side of God.” Jesus may be loving towards sinners, but His Father is furious and filled with wrath. When Jesus died, He died to appease the wrath of God. (To deal with His “dark side.”)

No wonder so many Christians love Jesus, but fear His Father! We’ve been taught that God has a dark side. Heck, even Martin Luther admitted that, while he loved Jesus, he wasn’t sure about His Father.

Again, Jesus said, “I and my Father are One.” There is no dark side of God for the cross to appease. Jesus came because of His great love for us, not because of His great wrath!

History, and The Church Fathers:

Additionally, this theory of atonement is actually relatively new. Not a single church father held to this belief. 4 It was first attributed to a man named Anselm in the 1100s. A whole century after the life of Christ!

Nicholas-Icon-Meme-2Early church father Athanasius, for example, seemed to have held primarily to the Christus Victor view. 5 Historically, PSA was only taken seriously after the 12th century. Which is not to say that new theories are automatically wrong, and old theories right. Rather, it is to say that there’s something wrong with a theory of atonement that is disconnected from the early church. (Those who witnessed first hand the life of Jesus.)

It’s not just the early church who reject this theory either. Do you like C.S. Lewis? He didn’t align with PSA. 6

Conclusions

Jesus did not come and die in order to appease the wrath of God. He didn’t come to save you from His angry Father.

Remember? Wasn’t it “For God so loved the world that He gave His Son..” not, “For God so hated the world..”?

The Cross is a revelation of love, not wrath! 

Jesus did not come to save you from the Father. He came to save you from sin, and undo the fall of Adam.

The Cross was the act of the whole Trinity: Father, Son, and Spirit. “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself..” 7

Now I know this may be a big stretch for some of you, and I understand that, it was for me too. But there are just too many errors in this theory of atonement, and it’s gone unchallenged for long enough. 8

Over the next few weeks I plan on coming back to this topic. Until then, please feel free to leave me any question you may have about this, as well as any objections.

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Notes:

  1. While many assert that this is not a theory, but rather a undeniable fact, there is not enough scripture written to adequately support this view. Many of the brightest minds in Theology consider this to be only a theory. Many hold that while it may be possibly what happened, there’s no certain way of knowing. Therefore, I insist that this is theory, not fact.
  2. John 10:30
  3. For more on this argument, check out Dr. C. Baxter Kruger’s book God is For Us.
  4. Some of Augustine’s writing seem to use similar language as PSA does, which has lead some to conclude that he is the origin for this theory of atonement. However, Anselm was the first to say that Jesus saved us from God. Augustine, and many church fathers, did say that we were saved from the guilt, and penalty of death. The distinction is that one believed to be sent from God through wrath, and another as the natural consequence of sin.
  5. In the next post, I will present some more of the alternate views of atonement for you. Specifically within Christus Victor, Athanasius, and other contemporary theories. So if you don’t know what that is, no worries, next week I’ll give you an overview.
  6. For a great video by Greg Boyd, explaining C.S. Lewis’ take on atonement (a more Christus Victor view as well) click here.
  7. 2 Corinthians 5:19
  8. I plan to write more next week on the scriptural refutes against PSA. (Not all of my arguments are just philosophical.)

Sorry, but Jesus Wasn’t a White Guy.

White Guy“The scholarly consensus is actually that Jesus was, like most first-century Jews, probably a dark-skinned man.” (Source)

Sorry Charlie, but Jesus wasn’t a white guy from Utah. He wasn’t an American individualist. He came from the middle eastern country of Israel, as a Jew. He most likely had brown skin, spoke Aramaic , and if you saw Him in the airport, you might take a second look.

Aramaic is a semitic language of Arabic, which means the two languages sound alike. Most Americans would feel slightly anxious if they heard it spoken on an airplane. (Which is not to say there’s anything wrong with Arabic, but that the American perspective of the language has been skewed due to 9/11.)

But does it really matter what color Jesus’ skin was? Not really. It’s irrelevant to be honest.

But it does matter when we westernize Jesus and create Him in our cultural image. When we divorce the person of Jesus from the historical backdrop of ancient Israel, we run the risk of misunderstanding the gospel entirely. Ancient Israel, the Jewish people, and the eastern culture that Jesus comes to is the only context in which we can properly understand the gospel.

As T.F. Torrance writes, “To detach Jesus from Israel or the Incarnation from its deep roots in the covenant partnership of God with Israel would be a fatal mistake.” (The Mediation of Christ, page 23.)

A Gentile Jesus

Gospel_of_Matthew_Chapter_19-10_(Bible_Illustrations_by_Sweet_Media)My fear, and Torrance’s fear, is that we have “gentilized” Jesus, and thus removed Him from the backdrop of Israel’s history with God. The proper context for who Jesus is, is the history of Israel, and the cultural mindset of the people. We can’t separate Jesus from the history and culture of Israel, because Israel is the context in which God’s self-revelation is actualized in the life of Jesus.

Think about it like this. When God decided to come to the earth, and when He decided to revel Himself to humanity as a whole, He didn’t come as a Greek, or a Roman, or as an American. He trusted the self-revelation of His nature in Jesus only to the Jewish people. He actualized His revelation within their mindset, and their culture.

For whatever reason, God chose that Israel would be the backdrop for His self-revelation in Jesus. Israel is the canvas for the gospel. Therefore, to divorce the person of Jesus Christ, and His work on the cross from the backdrop of Israel is to ultimately misunderstand both.

I believe Christianity has been hijacked by Western ways of thinking, and Western perceptions of God. We have interpreted the nature of God on our terms instead of on His. His terms are the culture, and context of Israel, not any other culture or nation.

West vs. East

714px-Icone-jésus_christIsrael is an eastern nation, and Jesus was an eastern thinker. Therefore, Christianity, fundamentally, is an eastern belief. It’s not that there is anything wrong with western culture, but there is something wrong with understanding Jesus through Western ways of thinking instead of Eastern ways of thinking.

There is much that can be said about the differences in western and eastern culture and mindsets. However, here are three areas where I feel we often misunderstand God and the Gospel because of our western lens:

Western mindset: Focused on the individual, on intellect, and on legal structures.

Eastern mindset: Focused on the community, on mystery, and on priestly structures. (Especially in Jewish culture)

These cultural focus differences have, I believe, caused us to misinterpret the gospel.

Due to the influence of western thought, which is rooted in both Roman, and Greek cultures, our theology has been developed by these cultural distinctions. I believe that we have taken Christianity and made it far too individualistic, intellectualistic, and legalized.

Because this is such a massive topic, hardly one that I can fully express in a 1,500 word post, I will focus in on these three areas and on how I feel they have influenced our understanding of the Gospel.

Penal Substitution

One of the most striking effects that our western thinking has had on Christianity is the legalization of the Gospel. Due to Roman ideas of law and order, we have made the Gospel a message of judicial satisfaction instead of properly understanding the Gospel as a priestly and mediatory announcement.

Jesus did not come to fulfill some abstract legal requirement from God. He did not come to die in our place, standing before a justice-driven judge hell bent on punishing us. God the Father is not a blood thirsty deity that needed appeasing.

The Gospel is not a court case, it is a love affair! 

640px-3D_Judges_GavelWe have misunderstood the Apostle Paul, and we have turned the Gospel into a court case where God settles His legal issues with humanity. This idea is often referred to as Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Which is simply a theory of atonement that says Father God has wrath that must be satisfied, and therefore Jesus stands in and takes that wrath for us. Jesus get’s punished (Penal) in our place (Substitution) in order to satisfy a legal requirement of God.

But this is a disastrous error. The cross doesn’t condition God into being gracious towards us. That flips the whole gospel on it’s head! Making the cross change God, instead of changing us. If the Gospel is about satisfying God, then the reason for Jesus’ death was to fix God, not to fix us.

But the Gospel is not the news of how Jesus has fixed God. The Gospel is the announcement of how He has fixed us, and freed us from the slavery of sin! The cross changed us, not God. Jesus didn’t die in order to twist God’s arm, and make Him forgive you.

The cross is about love, not law!

We have failed to see that Jesus was acting not as a legal replacement for humanity, but rather as a priestly and mediatory substitute for humanity! The former is rooted in western law and order, while the later is rooted in the Jewish temple. Jesus came as the high priest, and the mediator between God and man. He did not come to fulfill some legal duty before an angry judge. He came to perform a priestly and mediatory work!

Penal Substitutionary Atonement is a western idea that has hijacked the Gospel. It is rooted in Roman ideas of law and order, instead of the Jewish concept of priest and mediator.

Mystery and Community

Additionally, another way in which the gospel has been hijacked by western thought is through the over-intellectualization of it’s mystery. Simply put, we haves sought to removed all traces of mystery, and unknowing from the Gospel. Due to the western focus on intellectual understanding, any gospel idea that is mystical or supernatural is often intellectualized out of mystery.

For example. The Gospel announces the absolutely beautiful reality and mystery of our union with Christ. Paul calls it “the mystery of the ages” which is “Christ in you.” (Colossians 1:25-27)

Andrej_Rublëv_001Our mystical union with Christ is one of my favorite gospel realities. The utter nearness of God, and oneness of our spirit with His, is what makes the Gospel good news! However, this reality is far to often underemphasized in western Christianity because it intellectually makes little sense. But this reality remains mysterious and supernatural. It can not be solely intellectually understood. Mystery belongs in the Gospel, and our western intellect should be held back from trying to remove it.

The final distinction that remains between western and eastern understandings of the Gospel, is that of community vs individual. In eastern societies, the community, the “we”, is greater than the individual “I.” We have taken our western lone-ranger ideas, and plastered them onto the Gospel. Making the emphasis on our individual decision, or our individual relationships with God. However, the Gospel is a corporate message. It is universal in it’s scope, effecting the whole world. Jesus died for the whole world, not just the individual.

Karl Barth once said that Theology is best worked out within community. We need one another’s perception and ways of thinking to understand God and life. My relationship with God is very personal, but it should also be corporate. We are all on a journey together, and I am on a journey personally. Both ideas are important to remember.

Perception

We need to see that the Gospel is not an eastern message, and God is not an American God. Our lens of perception should change from the American ways of thinking into the Jewish ways of thinking. Jesus came to the Jewish people. The Gospel is rooted in Jewish culture. Our perception needs to change to understand it, and Him, correctly.

798px-Reading_glassesJewish was a Jew, but does this mean that God is Jewish? No. Instead of defining God by our terms, we should see that God is expressing Himself through our terms. When Jesus came as a Jew, it wasn’t because God is a Jewish person. Rather, God chose Israel and entrusted it with His self-revelation. Jewish culture is the language God has chosen to express Himself in.

This is why we need to learn how to speak the language that God is speaking. We need to see that Jesus came within the context, the language so the speak, of the Jewish people. Instead of westernizing Jesus, we should learn how to understand Jesus on His terms by understanding the culture He came to.

Jesus was not a white guy. His culture, and His ways of thinking are foreign to us. In order to understand Him properly we must see Him through a Jewish mindset, not a western one.

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