Monthly Archives: November 2010

What do we want? (reflecting on a sufi prayer)



Sufi Comics: Imam Ali's Prayer

I was reading a blog by a sufi muslim, and found this prayer which made me think:

O My Lord,
if I worship You from fear of Hell, burn me in Hell;
and if I worship You from hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your own sake,
do not withhold from me Your Eternal Beauty.

~ Rabia

I have no intent to convert myself or anyone to sufi islam, but I think we all need to reflect upon this prayer, and we all should investigate our heart. For this is a serious matter!

We should also question the way we communicatie Christ to the world. Like the saying says ‘what we win them with, we win them to’. If we ‘win people to Christ’ with flashy videos and rock’n roll, will they stay in our church if we cut down on the electricity?

If we win people to Christ because He is the way to not go to hell, do we really bring them to Christ? Or would they pragmatically choose any other way to get out of hell?? Would we bring animal sacrifices or buy indulgences if they were convinced that was the way out of hell, or do we follow Jesus for who He is?

It’s not up to me to judge anyones intentions or faith, but we all know God sees the heart… Accepting Jesus to get something (like a free ‘get out of hell’ card) and not because of Jesus Himself. If we don’t really love God but just want to ‘get out of hell’ we still won’t have much fun in heaven, because it’s being with God for all eternity. There’s no point in believing in God if what we want is not God, we cannot use God to get something else. There’s no point in following Jesus if what we want is not Jesus, and there’s no Christianity without Him at all.

Christianity revolves around Christ. God incarnate who became one of us and shared in our humanity, even til death, and who conquered death and evil in the resurrection. And he calls us to follow, to bring His Kingdom, and says the gates of hell will not prevail against us, His Church.

So what do we want?
Do we want Jesus?
Let’s go for it then, brothers and sisters!

Let us pray

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
Your Kingdom come
Your will be done
on earth as in heaven

Amen

Bram

musical interlude


This is so beautiful. Psalm 117/118 in the orthodox liturgy. I can’t stop listening to this!

enjoy

Bram

Reclaiming supernaturalism III: Andrew Jones and exorcism


I’ve been writing about the problems some postmodern expressions of Christianity seem to have with the supernatural earlier (see reclaiming supernaturalism 1 and 2) and I’m reminded of the topic now Andrew Jones, the tall skinny kiwi, is blogging about exorcism.

On the lighter side, I must confess that I at first misread the title of his post, and thought it would be about exorcising baptist and catholic demons, which would’ve been a bit surreal and even more freaky I guess… [I once had a muslim tell me that djinns can have the same religions as humans, so you have muslim and christian and jewish djinns, so why not baptist and catholic demons...]

Andrew, who has been travelling around the world meeting all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, has seen way too much of supernatural activity to ever deny the existence of ‘demons’ who influence people. It’s a luxury of our sleepy Western church that’s lulled into materialistic oblivion to be able to deny such a thing I guess, and it’s very comfortable, since it feels very safe to have a worldview without all of these complications.

But my limited experience with those things, about which I won’t elaborate here, has taught me 2 things:

  1. the standard evangelical demonology might not be completely accurate, but there is something that can’t be denied and that is affraid of the name of Jesus, how weird such a thing may sound even to the more modern materialistic liberal part of myself that feels comfortable in not having to think outside of the boxes of this world.
  2. I’m not at all prepared to have such an encounter.

I know that this kind of things will be easily explained away as psychological disease, and whatever more, but there’s more than meets the eye, and it is not at all either/or, it can be very well an both/and situation. There is the danger to over-spiritualise everything and see demons and devils where they are not, like some Christians tend to do, but we have to be open and not explain it away if we bump on it.

I also tend to think that some ‘powers’ are less personal than others, but that doesn’t mean they’re less dangerous. Even if ‘mammon’ would be totally not personal, it’s still a strong power that enslaves people, and destroys the planet.

(I still need to read Walter Wink, anyone who wants to buy me his powers trilogy? And anyone has some amount of time in a box to share?)

Another problem is the unbalanced way some charismatics and other weird people seem to handle all of the supernatural, which has done a lot of work to discredit all of it, and makes it look all fake.

But it’s a subject we need to take serious, like Andrew Jones says in his post:

I think that a vigorous study of the Scriptures on how to deal with the demonic should be an integral part of any ministerial training, especially cross-cultural and global missions training. Otherwise we might sending out an army of spiritual wimps into an arena where they will get their ass kicked.

Right now I don’t have much ‘demonology’, except that I know there is something, and that we better take it serious, but that we need to take even more serious the fact that Christ is stronger. Christus Victor!!!

And then there’s the discussion -mainly semantic- about if Christians can be possesed or not. Possesed may be too strong a word, but surely they can be influenced. A theology about such things is not a question of theory we can make out of vague bible verse interpretations, we also have to look at the real world. And it’s true that Christians can be totally distracted by some kind of ‘religious spirit’, and that there can be an active oppressive power present in that. Or, like Mike Morell says in the comments on andrews blog, if you do consider ‘Religion’ one of the oppressive Powers, and Christendom as a particularly nasty manifestation of said Power…well, it makes sense.

It’s a topic I don’t know much about, and that I’m affraid of, also because it’s very ridicule to even believe in it in this world. And still….

shalom

Bram

 

cD klaT: suseJ kaerF


When I posted this video on facebook, with a christian rock classic played backwards, several people liked it much better than the original song:

I must say, you get a totally brandnew song in this way, a very interesting composition even, and a cool atmosphere and it sounds like if it’s been sung in  a mixture of swedish and japanese.

I didn’t find any satanic messages though, so it’s no real rock’n roll!!!

peace

Bram

(and to those who don’t know the song Jesus Freak by DC Talk, if you really want to know how it sounds it’s also somewhere on youtube…)

bible/qur’an and minority/majority positions of our religion


Matt Stone on glocal Christianity has quoted me on his blog as saying the following  on facebook:

I have read the entire Qur’an and can find no guidance in it on how Muslims should live as a minority in a society. I have read the entire New Testament and can find no guidance in it on how Christians should live as a majority.

Now this is not at all something I said myself, but something I quoted from an article I had just posted from Philip Yancey on Christianity today that can be found here. So these weren’t not my own words, but actually the quote is not from Philip Yancey either, but these words were told him by  a not further identified  muslim who told him this.

Which makes it a lot more interesting, in my opinion, if these are the words not of a Christian, like me or Mr. Yancey, but by a muslim.

I must say that I didn’t read the whole qor’an myself (and I guess wouldn’t understand itat all like a muslim would if I did, since I do not understand the old arabic langguage with its related concepts and paradigm) but what I know from Islam is indeed that they do not separate ‘mosque and state’ and their perspective of ‘Dar-el-Islaam’ seems to strive towards a dominant islamic society. We can also see in the history of Islam that they did take over the Arabian peninsula and the surrounding world to make them dominantly islamic, where (even if examples of the opposite and Christian domination indeed do abound) it’s much more common for Christians to just ‘infiltrate’ a culture and bring the good news, sometimes to the poorest and most downtrodden who don’t mean anything in a society. Like the garbage Christians in egypt or like Jacky Pullinger going to the dirtiets criminal city to bring the good news to the most hopeless of all…

what I did read is the NT, and some bits of the oldest church fathers, and they start from a minority position, and instead of wanting everybody to become Christians the christians of the first centuries actually made it very hard to join them.(Which changed around the time of Constantine, and the rest is history…) But that’s not how we do know Christianity from our history lessons, we do know it from the empires and Christian abuse of power, which goes straight against the words of the New testament itself, even of Christ Himself…

If a muslim is able to see this in the NT, why aren’t so much christians able to see the evident?

shalom

Bram

 

Rethinking my childhood atonement theory


When I was thinking about the whole discussion about the ‘how’ of the atonement Jesus brings the cross (I’ve written about the subject earlier in this recent post, and here, and here) I suddenly realised at last that my first basic understanding of it, like I had from my childhood on, was neither penal substitution -Jesus took the punishment for our sins in our place- nor exactly the Christus Victor/ramsom version -Jesus handing himself over to evil/death, which could not take Him, and thereby having victory over it-. It was something even simpler, and now I wonder how I could have not seen that in all these theological discussions my basic version that I have found evindent from my childhood on is rarely adressed.

Surely, the ransom motif in the narnia story has always impressed and inspired me, already as a child. And I must have picked up penal substitution somewhere, maybe in my teenage years, but none of those has actually been my primary understanding of the atonement Jesus brought on the cross, though it’s much closer to Christus victor. It might be more a form of scapegoating though, but I’m not that familiar with that methaphor.

The explanation of how I understood the atonement, as a kid in the pentecostel church, is very simple: Jesus just took all the sins of the whole world on the cross, and also all sickness, curse and death, all our guilt and shame, and carried it for us on the cross, he just took it all in our place. And ‘our’ here is all the people in history, before Jesus, in His time, and after Him. It’s that simple. He just took all of it on Himself, and got killed by it and so destroyed it, but resurrected…

I still kinda like this idea when I think of it. Technically it’s a very primitive form of substitutionary atonement, but not penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) at all. Jesus, the lamb of God, carries the sins of the world himself, not a punisment for them. It differs from the Christus victor and Ransom idea because evil is not explicitly personal here, though it’s much closer to it than PSA. For me it’s very basic and logical, but since I’ve not seen the atonement explained like this in most discussions, I wonder if I’m missing something…

The dangers that can come with this way of thinking are clearly manifested in some pentecostel and charismatic circles: Jesus did that for us, and now we just can claim to be free from sin, pain, sickness, whatever, because Jesus fixed that for us by dying. So you get the whole health and wealth stuff, and the ‘name it an claim it’ nonsense.

Now I know thos story is way too incomplete, so I want to propose some additions/correctives to add to this basic understanding, borrowed from different traditions:

  1. The resurrection, or maybe even the eastern orthodox emphasis on The resurrected Christ: This whole story does not make sense unless we make sense of the resurrection, in which we as christians do share… We do share in the resurrection, and as Paul says, without the resurrection our whole faith is meaningless…
  2. the whole narrative of the bible, starting from genesis 1 to revelation 21-22, and not just from genesis 3 to some assorted romans verses… Humans as ‘imago dei’, or cracked eikon in popular postmodern evangelical lingo, and Jesus who takes all the cracks to deal with them himself in our place so we can be restored as imago dei…
  3. The trinitarian emphasis. The atonement on the cross cannot be only Jesus and the Father… The outpouring of the Spirit of all flesh, as prophecied by Joel and actualised on the day of pentecost, has to be part of this story somehow.
  4. Perichoresis, or the trinitarian dance of the Father, Son and Spirit, in which we as humans get our place again, which we lost in the Eden story is also part of the atonement…
  5. The Kingdom narrative which Jesus Himself called the gospel or good news, the reinforecement of the Reign of God… This is not completed yet, so we also need the vineyard emphasis on ‘already and not yet’: If we look at reality, it is not true that once we become a Christian we stop experiencing sin, sickness, evil, and death. So we have to think of it in ‘already and not yet’ terms. We could also use the D-day/V-day motif from a more cosmic warfare model here.
  6. The discipleship emphasis: We are to follow Jesus; also in this aspect. We are to carry the evil of the world for others, even to death. His example is one of a reconciled life, or how one looks in this fallen world… We don’t have 4 books called the gospels without a reason…

So what do you think? What do I miss here? Is it helpful in any way? Are there terms in technical lingo that I should know to work this out further?

Shalom

Bram

notes

  1. I don’t believe that the gospel can be reduced to any atonement theory at all, not PSA, nor Christus Victor nor the story that I’ve laid out here… So I’m affraid I have to disagree with all those who claim that the penal substitution is the heart of the gospel. Since that theory did not even exist for the first one and a half or so millenium (read the interesting article by Derek Flood in reaction to those who claim to read PSA into the writings of the church fathers)
  2. this is just a basic draft, made in some hours, it’s not comprehensive in any way. I’m just trying to sort out the atonement starting from what I believed as a kid, and not from the theology books…

Slavoj Žižek, the philosopher and cultural critic, on the collapse of society and the failure of capitalism.


See a very interesting interview with philosopher Slavoj Žižek on the English Al-Jazeera on the end of the world as we know it, the end of capitalism and democracy, and bio-genetics:

http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/rizkhan/2010/11/201011111191189923.html

I think the subjects he’s bringing up are not te be avoided. But it’s all so hard to look those monsters in the eyes when they are ready to devour them while we deny their very existence.

what do you think?

shalom

Bram

Why fear non-violence as a christian?


Scot McKnight, who himself self-identifies as an anabaptist, links on his blog to an article from the American spectator that poses the question if a ‘mennonite take-over’ is going on.

Now i’m still a european who doesn’t understand much of American politics, but after reading the American Spectator I sense a bit of fear of what they percieve as ‘mennonite’, even though most of the names they give are in fact not at all mennonites. What they seem to be affraid of is the growing influence of peace church thought and pacifism in christianity, which they for some reason see as agressive.

(I guess they are affraid of the other side of the american 2-party system, and of the ‘socialism’ monster of the cold war indoctrination, but what I see in both Shane Claibornes ‘Jesus for president’ and Greg Boyds ‘the myth of a Christian nation’ is rejecting both parties alike, and not putting much faith in governments at all, and it shows more a down-top grass-roots anarchism which does not wait on the State to do things…)

Most of the names they give, like Greg boyd and Shane Claiborne, are in fact not mennonites, but it surely can not be denied that they are gravely influenced by postmodern neo-anabaptist christian non-violence. Which is why I like them by the way. One of the things I like most about certain parts of the post-evangelical christianity and the emerging church dialogue is exactly that: a commitment to Jesus and His words, the sermon on the mount and to radical discipleship, even to enemy-love.

I do think this ‘neo-anabaptist’ emphasis in post(modern) evangelicalism is not only very important, but also a move of the Holy Spirit and a call to go back to the core of our faith. A call to first be a citizen of the Kingdom of God before being part of the systems of this world (or ‘empire’) I’m not only thinking of Shane Claiborne, and Greg Boyd, but of Scot McKnight himself, and Rob Bell or even Brian McLaren.

Like Derek Webb sings:

my first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
my first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
it’s to a king & a kingdom

We as Christians need to be serious that our first commitment is not to any nation, but to Jesus, and to the ‘transnational church that transcends all artificial borders’, like Shane Claiborne says in his ‘litany of resistance‘, which the reporter of the American spectator finds “angry and defamatory“. The first Christians were known to be willing to die for their faith, but not to kill. This is a serious way of following Christ, even into a possible death, but it’s also very powerful. It trancends the so-called myth of redemptive violence.

Like Bonhoeffer said, “…when evil meets no opposition and encounters no obstacle but only patient endurance, its sting is drawn, and at last it meets an opponent which is more than its match.” (thanks to JoeyS) Or like Walter Wink says “Violent revolution fails because it is not revolutionary enough.”

These are the things that make me want to be a christian. But it seems that exactly these things scare some people, even some Christians… They are too far from our natural human way of thinking. But isn’t that exactly what Christianity is supposed to be. Jesus nor the Holy Spirit can be boxed or put before our cart, and neither can any genuine follower.

No we should not completely withdraw from the world, as some anabaptists tend to do (think about the Amish) Neither should we take over all the values of the world, we belong to Christ. We are to be in the world, but not of the world, like light and salt… We are not to take over with violence, but to love the hell out of this world…

Not by might,
Not by power
by my spirit
says the Lord

Shalom

Bram

on the difference between Belgian and American politics, by James Coder.


This is an excerpt from a Facebook discussion That I found worth sharing. James Coder is an American living in Belgium, and he is better positioned than me to see the differences between my country and the old US of A, who can seem pretty alien to me from time to time.

I’m sort of “in both camps” being an American who has lived in Belgium for 20 years.

Mr. Brambonius points out something very interesting: in politics, here the word “liberals” means something more akin to the “libertarians” in the… U.S. – and then, the agnostic/atheist variety. They believe that just about everything should be controlled by the market, with very little that’s set aside as “not for sale” – including some things which conservatives tend to think shouldn’t be for sale – like sexual intercourse and “recreational” drugs. Yes, socialism is much more significant here than in the U.S., but many Americans don’t understand how it works. Unfortunately, Americans tend to be so centered on “civil rights” and their own rights that they lose sight of the notion of obligations. One of the main reasons that health care in the United States is so expensive is because of our focus on civil rights, and that any citizen should be allowed to easily bring his doctor to court for malpractice. The problem is that it’s always possible to suggest that, in tragic cases where someone dies or is paralyzed, that the doctor could have done something differently which may have averted the tragedy, and millions of dollars are sometimes awarded in such cases, even when doctors do their best – it’s that “alternative” out there that sometimes swings juries to award people who are crippled, or grieving relatives, millions of dollars, assuming that the doctor or insurance company can afford it. In reality, medical insurance is thus being used to cover the expenses of human tragedy. This is something which can’t be measured economically, so the “system” will always be economically paralyzed and unaffordable to many Americans. In Europe, there is not so much incentive to sue doctors, and not so much of a feeling in cases of tragedy that one has “the right” to sue one’s doctor (unless there is real clear evidence of actual malpractice). Nor is it usually a trial by jury, which means that the European medical system isn’t paying so much to people who have tragic results even though they have had medical attention. It’s the social welfare system which is meant for these cases, and not the “lottery” system of the American medical malpractice courts.

Americans tend to think of almost all ethical issues in terms of “civil rights,” partly because of our history. Europeans think of civil rights more as limit cases, but apply other values when thinking about ethics (which I think is much healthier).

The European social systems simply wouldn’t work for the United States because of Americans’ focus on civil rights – i.e., if one person has something, then everyone needs to have it. Europeans are better, in my opinion, of asking the question: “do we really need this, will this actually help the group we intend to help?” Americans will say: “even if we don’t need it, we SHOULD have it because it’s our RIGHT, and if we don’t get it, then it means that we are second-class citizens and discriminated against and our human dignity violated and likely to commit suicide etc. etc..” We tend to make more of a “drama” out of such things. If we tempered our thoughts on civil rights with thoughts of obligation and sacrifice for the greater good, it would be more likely that European-type social programs would work for us. As it stands, though, imitating the European medical system will just make healthcare much more expensive for most citizens, and decent healthcare will be unavailable to an even larger group of Americans than is the case now; and imitating other European social programs is likely to have a similar effect in the U.S..

A nice example here is abortion. In the U.S., partial-birth abortion – abortion at the very last moment of pregnancy, when labor is artificially induced resulting in part of the fetus leaving the mother’s body, to facilitate the termination of the pregnancy, is legal (though curtailed in some areas), and is regarded by most Belgians as barbarous and hideous. And Belgium women in general don’t feel that they are second-class citizens, or are being withheld the rights over their own bodies by men, simply because they aren’t allowed to have partial-birth abortions. This kind of thinking is particularly “American.” Belgians also have other things on their ethical radars than the simple question of rights: i.e., obligation, and some notion of coherence with the greater good.

Another example is pornography. There is less of a feeling here, “it’s my right, so I can do it, and anyone who expresses disfavour at what I am doing is violating my civil rights.” So there isn’t much porn made here (compared to the U.S.). Prostitution is legal here, but it’s not “mediatized” the way sex things are in the States – and we don’t have the same weird mediatization of prostitutes here, the way porn stars in the U.S. are being mediatized. There’s more of an attitude here: “If I’m doing this, I don’t have to be way out-and-proud about it;” and amongst the public: “this may be a social problem; but we still need to care for the people involved, and if we object, we needn’t yell about it.” So in general, there’s just a lot less polarity, less yelling. I think it comes from an attitude toward ethics which is not based almost exclusively on the notion of “civil rights” and “offense,” but pays more attention to obligations and other values.

I never thought of it this way. I never have been in the US, so I am not able to compare… And James had one more addition about the ‘civil rights’ idea, that’s experienced very differently here than in the USA…

I should add – we have good reason for being obsessed with civil rights.

A profound emphasis on civil rights helped “save” us from some of the effects of one of the worst types of slavery history has seen. We needed to dwell on these civil …rights issues for a few generations, in order to free ourselves of attitudes and systematic forces present which were profoundly unjust toward African American people, and blighted our whole society.

However, since this focus on civil rights was so important in helping us recover from the awful legacy of slavery, we tend to have a rather “knee-jerk” type reaction with regards to ethical problems in general, with the question “how does this relate to civil rights? Is someone’s rights being violated here?” being one of the first things which comes to mind – rather than, e.g., “is there anyone here we can help? Are there any societal bridges which we can build? Are there important values here that we should be considering?”

As a result, it ends up too often being a debate about the “rights” of one group compared to another group. In actuality, in my opinion, civil rights should be more like a last-point defense – it’s more like the “heavy artillery” in an ethics debate. A society should first ask about obligations and the general good. Only when a group feels that its interests are being threatened in an essential manner, should it take recourse in the language of civil rights. E.g., women, by focusing on a “right over my own body,” end up losing sight of the value of mutual respect, and respect for the place of sexuality within society.

The rights of African Americans were seriously in jeopardy for many decades after the abolition of slavery. But in my opinion, many interest groups invoke rights (a kind of ethical “trump card”) when they would do better to recognize conflicting values, and instead search to find resolutions which seek to honor the values present, instead of focusing on a single “right” which theoretically “trumps” the other values in question. This is, after all, the whole point of civil rights which are “inalienable.” It is a line which the state, and individuals, must never cross – that line where civil rights are violated. But when we are always referring to our civil rights – we become a society of individuals who continually insist: “that’s my space, you can’t touch that!” And persons who are too insistent in such a manner – never learn to cooperate. Europeans didn’t have to wrestle with the evil of slavery as Americans did, they did not have this “trauma” – as a result, their ethical discourse itself is less traumatized – and is not so entrenched in the language of the victim whose rights have been violated. Europeans do well to realize that Americans are still somewhat traumatized by slavery – and that we see the effects of this in the way that we talk about ethics (which, like effects of trauma in general, should not be emulated, but rather avoided).

[From this facebook discussion, but I'm affraid you have to be a friend of a friend there to read it through...]

I’ve never realised the depth of these differences. I’ve always kinda noticed that Americans are affraid of something called ‘socialism’ that has nothing to do with our socialist party, and that they project weird fears of their president or on the healthcare isuue… Maybe one day I’ll be able to understand them more… Much thanks to James for this explanation!!

shalom

Bram

Rob Bell on atonement or the bible versus (reformed) tradition


I was reading this article on Mike Morrells blog, about some preaching on aworship conference hosted by David Crowder. Looks like they had a very interesting and diverse worship conference over there, with not only Mr. Crowder, but also people like Matt Redman, Gungor,  the Welcome wagon, Derek Webb, and Rob Bell. Especially this last name still is very controversial for some people I think, and it seems that his talk about ‘the use of words’ has stirred something up in some people. Now when I read the article by Bob Kauflin @ worship matters, I get the impression that Mr. Bell has been on the more extreme side of his creative self, doing a vague talk about contextualisation and finding new ways as a poet to express the truth of the bible in new words.

He seems to have been saying something about finding new ways to communicate the gospel, and more specifically the atonement:

The Friday morning speaker was Rob Bell. His premise was: Words can be used in lots of ways. He reminded us that the Bible is made up of different literary genres, which should be interpreted differently. But he went on to suggest that the metaphors Scripture uses to describe Christ’s work on the cross are varied and influenced by the understanding of a particular audience, and that we’re responsible to come up with other creative metaphors to describe the purposes of the atonement. While I appreciate relevance and clear communication, developing our own metaphors for the atonement potentially undermines and distorts the gospel. Yes, it’s important to recognize and communicate the vast and multiple effects of Christ’s death and the resurrection, and yes, Christians can overemphasize theological precision and definition at the expense of actually communicating the good news. But every description of Christ’s work on the cross is connected to our need to be forgiven by and reconciled to a holy God. If we fail to communicate this, we have failed to proclaim the biblical gospel. To better appreciate why all metaphors for the atonement are ultimately grounded in penal substitution (Christ taking the punishment we deserved as our substitute) I’d highly recommend Pierced for our Transgressions, In My Place Condemned He Stood, or the article by Mark Dever, “Nothing But the Blood.”

But ‘deveolping our own methaphors’ and vague contextualisation thoughts are not exactly the first thing that I find when I look up what other people write about Robs talk on the fantastic worship conference (see here and here for a summary) The part about atonement is deeply rooted in bible verses from Pauls letters (like mostly, but Rob is very good at hiding his biblical back-up behind poetry and creative explanations) Rob is pointing to the way Paul in the bible uses a lot of methaphors explaining the atonement, and Mr Kauflin is narrowing down to the penal substitution version, influenced by his own particular tradition.

I’m sorry, but whatever your tradition says, penal substitution still isn’t the only way the atonement Jesus acomplished at the cross could be explained. In fact this way of explaining the atonement is only half a millenium old. I know some Christians see the atonement in terms of Jesus taking our punishment and God pouring out His wrath on Him and not on us, but that’s not the way in which Jesus sacrifice has been explained by Christians before the reformation. Ransom or Christus Victor ways of explaining the atonement are much older, and still present in evangelical thought (or in the classic narnia story).

The difference is not unsubstantial. In the old view Jesus is giving himself over to evil/death in our place as a ransom, which can not hold him. In the penal view Jesus’ sacrifice is to God himself, who needs to punish in order to be able to forgive. There are other views too, but I’m not getting into that now. I only want to point out that there are different views in the church.

(For an interesting rebuttal of the quoted book’pierced for our transgressions’, read this interesting but very technical article by Derek Flood, that shows us a lot about the church fathers views on atonement, and the way they have been misquoted in that particular book. )

So while I got the idea that Rob was more into cultural recontextualisation in postmodern context stuff with his talk about atonement methaphors (which is fine by me, even our way of wording penal substitution originates from such a thing half a millenium ago) the thing Rob is doing is starting from how Paul speaks about atonement. Which is interesting, since all the theories built around it are from hunderds of years after the New Testament was written… even from after the apostles creed… so they cannot at all be the core of the gospel.

In fact you can’t be more biblical than this: looking at how Paul uses different methaphors for atonement… If you don’t like someone going back to the bible te come up with something that is a lot broader than your tradition might say, maybe it’s time to evaluate the place your tradition has. Especially if you have a tradition that doesn’t like tradition at all like all reformation churches do for obvious historical reasons. If you don’t like new ways of saying what the bible tries to communicate, let at least the bible say what it wants to say, instead of giving your tradition the last word over someone who reads things in the bible that don’t agree with it.

Those are different things. I can understand that some people don’t like finding new ways to communicate the Truth, but it’s a wholly different thing to censor the bible from the lens of your tradition. That would be even more dangerous than miscommunicating the Truth of the gospel out of clumsiness…

Shalom

Bram