Saturday, July 9, 2011


Hi Edward(Edward's essays are below), I can  recall and fully identify with your litany of thanksgiving and security  expressed here. I do not begrudge one for being 'lifted up' by this theological perspective of Jesus. I want nothing less for myself and  others than to feel strong, safe and secure about now and the future. Yet, I think the 'why' questions you ask are good ones and may show  your awareness of the weakness and incompleteness of this interpretation of 'salvation.' We don't 'do  more', 'feel more intensely '  or 'more wish to share our story with others'  because this is an intellectual construct based nearly entirely on 'having been told' , 'instructed' and 'given permission' to believe this way about Jesus. It does not , usually I think, come out of actual personal human experience. That is why one has to remind him/herself continuously or they forget what they  have been told and how they should feel. We do not  however forget our  actual  personal  religious(numinous) experiences, whether positive or negative, for it is a part of us through and through. That is where, I think,  the answer to your questions and concerns is to be found.

I've come to see the ingrained Christian idea of  Atonement, summarized as that we are saved (from what we should ask) 'by  Jesus' BLOOD and righteousness' is not what Jesus taught or the experience  he personally had or helped others to have. Our 'salvation', like Jesus', is not about his brutal murder but the kind of love and courage  he demonstrated in his life. It is about the mutuality he envisioned possible among humans  and yes his willingness to die for such love and such a vision. I do not believe he would have ever said  he was suffering, shedding his blood and obeying a god who saw the rest of us needing for Jesus to be crucified   in order that  we may be made OK and accepted by God. Tying the violence, the blood from being murdered, hostility, abuse and cruelty  he experienced to the meaning and possibility of our own salvation only makes violence a central disposition and pillar of  our religion. It sanctions violence, not just that done to Jesus but also in all human life. Much  history of Christianity  shows that consistently  Jesus' 'need' to suffer violence  and be 'obedient' to it  is used to sanction and/or accept  our own  encounters with violence and hostility  when  we are caught in the crunch of  life and  its dark side.
Atonement- Jesus 'paying' the cost of our sins.

This  construct of Atonement  has nothing about  it that  consistently and lovingly  keeps us mindful and living in mutual  love for self and others. It just doesn't do that for  humans. It easily does the opposite. Atonement as many Christians think of it today  was not clearly a Christian doctrine until  formulated by Anslem in the 11th century.  A book regarding these issues I recommend is Proverbs Of Ashes. Through their personal experiences of violence and abuse, good  theological reasoning and taking the Bible as it is; the authors have found and interpreted their own experience of  a Sacred Salvation, salvation they believe is more in harmony with how Jesus lived his life. They conclude that salvation which brings healing and right relationship cannot possibly be based on the acceptance and honoring of violence and abuse. I feel in harmony with the concerns and proposals of these authors; Rita  Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker.

Edward, You say, "The sad thing is that a lot of people who think they’re Christians, who think they’re following Jesus Christ, who think they’ve learned the Gospel, live that kind of life of uncertainty. And at age 85, after a very long Christian life full of sacrifice, service, and good works, they come to their death bed and say, “Well, I hope I have done enough that I might squeeze in and be saved.” ....
I understand what a great change it is from from this kind of belief  to accepting that it is 'by grace through faith' that we are OK. But I am now strongly aware that unless grace covers all, if there is still that 'group' of humans who will hear, as you say, 'scram' from God then something, I fear, is horribly wrong with our theology. Jesus would never have related that way to any individual is my strong belief. The intellectual construct that Jesus did everything perfectly coupled with the idea that an all holy male god, who had done everything right in his interactions with humanity, was 'able' to accept our ' uncleanness' and 'disobedience' only with the purposed tortuous death of Jesus is a disservice to the central story of Jesus. It just does not ring solid with our actual human experiences of love or the overwhelming nature of Jesus presented in the gospels. To put God in that kind of box strikes me as mechanical and distant and shows there to be a deep flaw in God's capacity to love God's own creation. It fails to place a fullness of value on either God or Human, and on each of their efforts to learn and practice the kind of love demonstrated well by Jesus' life. Also, to fully place our actual sins(however we come to define sin) all on Jesus must definitely keep us from taking adequate responsibility for our moral errors which is so needed in the world today. We need to do some work on just what sin is so we are not confused also about what it means to experience salvation. 
You may sometimes be too  much the  lawyer Edward, exceedingly rational and
 logical  in your grasp of the 'good news.' The way you use a kind of 
humor to describe this  'Christian' way of  interpreting the  pain of 
sin for both human and Sacred  I think says something about the 
deficiency of the whole  construct. This is a deep concern and sadness  I
 have about  the larger part of  Christianity's  interpretation of Jesus
 for at least the last millennia .    

Just think, until some 45 years ago I, and likely you, fit perfectly  the description you give(in blue)above. Edward, I encourage you to not stop with what you received then which set you free from what you rightly saw as a 'works' salvation. Don't stop until you see a way of a mutual relationship between each of us and the Sacred. Until such mutuality is our natural interpretation of the Jesus story and of understanding the God-Human relation we can expect continued non-mutual, violence honoring, demeaning, abusive relationships between man and woman and among humans in general. Such a world is not the Kingdom of God Jesus is pictured as dying for. 

This non-mutuality in relating is closer to an accurate meaning of sin in our day. It 'misses the mark' of moral sensibilities. It is what is wrong in the world. Sin, in Christianity and Western culture is seen primarily as 'disobedience' to a formalized rule and a 'too independent spirit.' This all begins with the interpretation given to the Eden Story. The moral failure of humans , and the non-mutuality of man and woman, is defined this way in the Genesis 2 account of man and woman. (Fortunately, the separate Genesis 1 account simply describes a mutual relationship between Adam and Eve. ) So it follows that 'lack of obedience and too independent a Spirit' has become how, in male dominant cultures, the social/moral failure of women, slaves, children and other 'inferior' or 'lower' human positions is also defined. Some NT writers had picked up on such patriarchy as they remind readers that it is was 'woman who first sinned' and thus she must be viewed as less responsible than the man and more inclined to sin. She is the 'weaker sex.'(I Tim 2:12-14, I Pet 3:7.) This is how Non-mutuality between man and woman is made firm in Historic Christian Theology. Can anyone even imagine the abuse, violence and broken-heartedness this interpretation has spawned over the centuries?  

Only in mutual, non violent/hostile relationships can there be the opportunity for 'loving of one another' to fully happen. That must begin in the God-Human relationship as the primary model. Carl Jung's views on a Quarternity transcending the Trinity and the responsible Cooperative Suffering of God and Human are key ways of visioning , then hopefully practicing a mutual relationship between God and Human. Sin then becomes primarily the 'broken-heartedness', a deep and real damage to the Self of each, experienced by both God and Human. This kind of theology provides the way for healing and restoring in all imaginable relationships. This is something that the patronizing, non-mutual, violence-centered atonement construct has not and cannot do by its very nature.  

The block buster success of Mel Gibson's movie The Passion Of Christ is a strong demonstration that violence is a dominant Western view and attraction to Christian Theology. Violence and Love cannot work together as a program or theology if healing and restoration of human and Sacred relationships is the goal. When mutuality is the standard seen in all spiritual relationships we will have moved from a childish irresponsible way of thinking of God and Us which is upheld in most any version of Christian Atonement. Sin is still the problem, as much now as when Jesus was here. (The 'view of the gospel' you give with tongue in cheek humor has changed little of the results of sin in the world and in our lives. )This kind of re-understanding of Sin and the need for mutual relationship, thus right relationship, between God and Human is the next big spiritual evolutionary step in getting to where Jesus was and no doubt others have been. Until that time some kind of legalistic, contractual, paternal, non-mutual explanation will continue as the accepted view of how God and Humans are connected. This is not what I see in Jesus or what I see as capable of healing the broken-heartedness, of saving, both God and Man.
Respectfully, Jim

On Fri, 17 Jun 2011 01:54:48 -0400 "Edward Fudge" <> writes:

Edward Fudge

The author of Hebrews exhorts us: “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
There’s no reason for us to come short in our journey. There’s no reason for us to fall short of the reward. There’s no reason for us ever to be discouraged overmuch. There’s no reason for us to give up, give out, or give in. We have a priest at the right hand of God who's one of us, who's done it right. He's done it perfectly. Now he lives forever, he saves forever, and God says, “Come up and see me anytime you want to. Call on me when you need something. I'm here for you. And my son is here. And he's one of you. He's your brother. He's been where you've been. He's lived your life. He's suffered your suffering. He's been tempted with your temptations. He's died your death. He's been judged your judgment. It's all straight between me and him, and if you come in his name, you can come right in without even knocking.”
That's the kind of priest we have. That's the kind of savior we have. That's the kind of salvation we have. The question is: Why don’t we do more about it? Why don’t we respond better? Why don’t we tell more people so they can share in it? Why don’t come to him more often in our times of need? My hope is not a hope based on knowing Greek. It’s not a hope built on going to school twenty-something years. It’s not a hope that rests on having godly parents. It’s not a hope of being a righteous man. It’s the hope of Jesus Christ, for my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness! On Christ, the solid rock, I stand. All other ground is shifting sand! And we can all say the same thing--who know and trust in Him. Praise the Lord!

Edward Fudge

Jesus is high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek, based on the character of his life. Because he lives forever, he saves forever. And so we are saved by Jesus and we are perfected forever--those whom he sanctified. We’re sanctified and we're perfected forever because we are given to God on the basis of the perfect obedience of Jesus. If it depended on our human record, if it was up to our faithfulness to determine whether we were saved or not, then it would be a matter of God having to re-examine the record every day, or several times through the day, and saying “Well, you're okay right now . . . Oops! sorry, you just slipped. Well, now you're back in . . . Oops, you’re out again. Today was a good day . . . tomorrow could be better . . . but it could be worse." There's no certainty, there's no assurance. There's not much hope.
The sad thing is that a lot of people who think they’re Christians, who think they’re following Jesus Christ, who think they’ve learned the Gospel, live that kind of life of uncertainty. And at age 85, after a very long Christian life full of sacrifice, service, and good works, they come to their death bed and say, “Well, I hope I have done enough that I might squeeze in and be saved.” Folks, we don't squeeze in. Jude says God will give you an abundant entrance--because it doesn't depend on out little lives. If it depended on our ability and our record and our history we wouldn't even squeeze in. God would just say: "There’s not even a close call. SCRAM! The other place with you!”
We will have an abundant entrance because we come on the basis of the life and the faithfulness and the obedience of Jesus Christ--all of which Jesus offered to the Father as the one sacrifice that can ever take away sins. Jesus did it right and he did it perfectly. Because he did it perfectly, he only needed to do it one time. And when he ha done it one time, God raised Jesus from the dead and made him priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. God is pleased with his life. He's pleased with his priesthood. He's pleased with his intercession. Because Jesus represents his people and because his obedience and his suffering were done by him in their name, God is also pleased with Jesus' people. And Jesus lives forever and he saves forever and he intercedes forever and we can come to him--and to God through him--forever.

No comments: