Sunday, August 23, 2009

Musing on the Atonement ...

Let me confess right up-front: I am mid-shift regarding the Atonement. I no longer embrace what I was taught (I'll get to that in a minute), and yet I'm not fully settled on what it is that I now embrace ... (& I'll get to that in a minute, too).

I was taught that because we humans had blown in in the Garden, had fallen, had caused the earth to be cursed, and had rendered ourselves totally depraved, alienated/separated from God, and hopeless in our fallen condition ... we can only be reconciled to God if we accept the penal-substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus (who is God), on the cross, who died in our place, to appease God (that remote-God in heaven), because somebody had to pay the price for our sin, which is eternal separation and/or torment in hell.

So, if we boil it all down, we have: God killing God to appease God..?!?

That's no longer makes the intuitive-sense to me - I mean, it doesn't pass the straight-face test, even though I unquestioningly accepted it as "absolute truth" for decades.

First, I no longer believe that we were ever separated from God (how can we be separated from Omnipresence? And even scripture affirms that even in Sheol, the abode of the dead, He is there). I do acknowledge that we can *think* we are separated from God, and our own shame/guilt can cause us to *feel* what we perceive to be a separation from God, but since when do our thoughts and feelings dictate God's reality...? Apparently, despite what the sermons declare, we *DO* create our own sense of reality, based on what we think and feel.

I also see that while God declared all of creation (including us!) to be good, indeed very good, He never took back that assessment. He never said, "OK, now you've blown it -- you ruined my perfect creation, and made it less-than-perfect!" Actually, I don't see where HE ever declared it to be perfect -- just "very good."

Part of that "very good" was the serpent in the garden ... and the likelihood of encountering "him", and the probability of the temptation, and the certaintude of giving in to that temptation (given that God had created the fruit to be pleasing to the eye, and had created humans to be drawn to beauty, and to be drawn to the concept of being like God, knowing good from evil). Part of the "very good" thus seems to be the value of learning from our choices, and from the resulting consequences ... as if the fall was a set-up, and even necessary ... a falling out of the womb into the world of duality (a worldview wherein we judge all we see as either "good" or "evil", which only God can accurately do). It's in this very setting in which we learn who we are not, and thus who we are ...

And along the way, due to how we've believed our skewy and duality-based perspectives, we've had many, many adventures in missing the point...!

We were (individually and collectively) under the illusion of separation, and believing that God had required sacrifice (this goes back to pagan concepts of those angry volcano gods, who seemed to demand virgin daughters and first-born sons in order to be appeased, and thus stop spewing lava and ash all over those fields and villages!). While we have endlessly meticulous details about "how/when/why/where to sacrifice" in the minutiae of the Law (language which doesn't even sound like God to me, but does sound a lot like detail-oriented religious leaders!), we later have God declaring, through the prophets, that He never wanted sacrifice, but instead wanted mercy... He even told us He didn't want to be our Master, but our Husband. Woah. How'd we miss that one?!?

Our dualistic mentality had/has enslaved us ... so, God met/meets us where we were/are. Sorta like, "You want sacrifice? I'll show you sacrifice -- I'll come down there and BE the sacrifice for you, so that you will finally KNOW that I'm the God who loves you, and not the wrathful, vengeful God you keep creating in your own image (& stop doing that - it's so annoying)! This will put an end to all sacrifice, and then we can have the intimate relationship I've been trying to have with you since the very beginning ... I've longed to gather you under my wings, but you wouldn't let Me...!"

And ... sadly, because we created the system of Christianity, which makes a lousy counterfeit for Relationship, we STILL don't let Him...! We continue to believe and promote the man-made doctrine of God being "up there" and us being "way down here" with a huge chasm in between ... even though God was in Christ, reconciling the world (who's that leave out?) to Himself ... even though the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world. Even though there is NO life except for God's life, and in Him we live and move and have our being. STILL we defend (to the death!) our "absolute" (yet skewy) belief that we are separate from Omnipresence.

What if we need to repent (change our minds) about what we think and believe...?

What if we need to let go of what we think we know, and let the Spirit lead us into all truth..?

What if we need fewer "absolutes" (& fewer disputes) and more irresolutes (for it seems clear to me that we don't allow God to get through our closed mind ... preferring the god we've made in our own image)...?

Shalom, Dena


Deanna said...

Simply awesome!

Dena said...

Thanks for that encouragement, Deanna ... 'course you realize that only inspires me to a-muse a-more...!

graham old said...

Hey, Dena.

I wrote a piece a few years back, before I really began the journey that we are on, that captured an anabaptist view of the atonement.

You might enjoy it:

It won't be up for long, as my blog has breathed its last.

Dena said...

Perfect timing, Graham...!

I was having a conversation elsewhere with someone who was questioning personal vs. creation-wide salvation (of course, it's both, but we've hyper-focused on the personal, and imagined that the rest of creation was defiled and destined for destruction).

I shared your article with him ... speaking of destruction, *must* your blog be destroyed...? Can't it remain to continue to inspire others...?

I did indeed enjoy it...! And yes, it's what I'm also seeng (surprise, surprise!).

(still looking forward to your blog-expertise ... how to get more "connected out there")

MysticBrit said...

Jesus is the At-One-Ment, or rather the proclamation that there never was any separation anyway, except in our immature, incomplete understanding. He is also the invitation to Grow Up and Be Who We Really Are.

Just my thoughts:)

And thanks for your historical perspective, Graham. It's so enlightening to read how we've Grown Up over the years. And encouraging!