Tag Archives: christus victor

biblical manhood or the fruits of the Spirit?


There’s a certain kind of rhetoric in some corners of contemporary Christianity (mostly in the US I think) about how the church is effeminate and men need to save the church by taking the lead again and being more manly and violent and dangerous and all that jazz…

The story, which has been sold in many books and preached by good solid manly preachers, goes a bit like this: Men are created to be men and should therefore be,-unlike women who want safety and security-, wild and dangerous and violent and take risks and wrestle and strangle adult dragons with their bare hands and other everyday stuff like that… And it also seems like the biggest enemy here is men becoming like women. And oh, sometimes it’s also very important that God is a man. (Really?)

If you don’t know what I’m speaking about, just ignore me and consider yourself lucky… You’re not missing anything and reading me getting defensive about something that isn’t a problem in your world might be counterproductive, so you better read something else then. I recommend this NT Wright interview done by Frank Viola for example, or this transcript of an interview with a man who learnt a lot from Mother Theresa

I’m an alien?
So what’s the problem? The problem for me is when people tell me what a man is, and they paint a picture that excludes me. Like those books about Mars and Venus, where I felt like I was from Jupiter, or maybe Nibiru. But it’s even more irritating when it’s Christians who use the bible, through the lens of their own culture and with a lot of conclusions that I’d never find in the verses they quote, to say that a man is created to be something that might be some (sub)cultural idea of manhood, but that will never be remotely me.

I’m sorry, I might be a straight white married male, I don’t care about fancy cars, or about machines that make noise, I don’t care about competitive sports, I don’t even care about porn, or things all men should struggle with (I have other struggles though) and I think killing things or people is just a sign of evil, not of manhood. I like beer, but not to get drunk, and we just have good tasty beers brewed by monks in Belgium… I like wine and self-made elderflower lemonade too anyway, or gunpowder tea… Playing brave-heart (like a famous evangelical writer wrote about in a book about manliness that I won’t name but which I’ve written about earlier) doesn’t look manly to me, just childish and immature….

I’m sorry, I’m 100% man, and I suppose the puppy-smashing, binge-drinking, porn-watching machos are men too, just as the book reading, coffee-slurping intellectuals… There are different kinds of people, different kinds of personalities, who all have their strong and weak sides, and their struggles and gifts. But to elevate one certain type of man above the others (mostly by people who either are or otherwise want to be that kind of man) is not constructive. And in this case it can be quite misandric in a bullying kind of way, excluding all who don’t reach your holy standard of manliness. And if this kind of thing happens with bible-verses to back it up harm may be done to the body of Christ. (Others have said enough about how the roles that are pushed unto women, or even the word effeminate itself are quite misogynist, so I won’t go into that now)

I don’t care if you are a man and like to lead, but don’t make it a rule. I don’t care if your wife likes you to lead, fine, but not every woman is like that. Me and my wife both are mutualist/democratic people, who get irritated by both having to serve as a slave or to lead alone… Hierarchy is impossible in our marriage. And I’m not a person who likes to be leading everything, the responsibility gets heavy when I contemplate it, and I like to share it with other people…  I hate to be counted on to be ‘in control’ in most situations and I want to be together with people when things are hard… All people are different, but there are other lines to be drawn than between men and women…

not just men, but people are alienated
But, some say, the church is effeminate, and we need to man up. We need to be dangerous and violent and whatever otherwise we are not like God created man, look at **insert person from the bible killing bears or insulting kings or doing whatever kind of crazy things** Look, I don’t care what kind of examples you find in the bible. If they inspire you and you want to be like them. Fine, except when they lead you astray from the teachings of Christ and the fruits of the Spirit (we’ll get to that later) but there are also examples of men who liked to stay at home with their mother in the kitchen, like Jacob… And there are strong women, like Deborah who lead whole nations. Gender does not say much, in both genders there are a lot of different people, and 2 men can be more different in character than a man and a woman sometimes. (I’m much more like my wife in character than I am like people like Mark Driscoll… It’s just a difference, not a judgement of value…)

The rhetoric would say that we men have been tamed, and need to be wild again and take risks and stop being safe and blah blah blah. Now, I completely agree that we are alienated of our nature in this modern safe society in which we are like canaries in a golden cage. We are trapped in jobs that make no sense at all to make sure we can provide for our families. We have to follow a lot of petty rules and conform to a lot of nonsense.

But there’s no need at all to make this a gendered thing. All human beings in our current societies are alienated and cut off from their roots, and robbed of their connection with their selves, with nature, and with people in a community. And playing brave-heart, of having fantasies about being a biblical man who kills a lot of philistines, insults a dangerous king or slays wild animals with his bare hands is not at all helpful. Nor is it manly… It’s more immature, and the whole ‘be a biblical caveman’ approach is just an adventure in missing the point, a distraction. We see that there is a problem, but we come with a solution that isn’t relevant at all. Being more violent, making more noise, and watching fight club with a cheap beer will not bring you closer to God, nor will it make you more man…

The problem runs deeper, and is connected to the core problem of humanity, which is not at all gendered, even though different personalities (and men and women often have different personalities) might experience it differently. We are separated from God, from ourselves, from each other. And modern society has even alienated us even more from creation, which is part of the problem. We are all tamed by our own systems, which are in the end leading to suicide (as Jacques Ellul writes somewhere) and out of which we are called to live a new life, a new story… This is what the gospel is all about, and the gospel should not be watered-down with self-help ‘be a good American male’ therapy’!

Jesus said ‘follow me’, and gave us an example. He, who was God incarnate, followed the path of love until its final consequence at the cross, where the powers of the world killed Him. But those powers could not hold Him, and He defeated death, sin, bondage, evil and Satan in the resurrection! And we can share in that new life, the Way, which shatters the suicidal powers of the world, which brings life and renewal, and is a foreshadowing of the New earth and Heaven, when all evil will be erased, and we will be exactly what we were created to be, in everlasting union with the tri-une God and each other without any trace of darkness… This is what we men and women who feel caged are yearning for. And trying to fill that void with playing William Wallace the killer is just irrelevant as best, and harmful to the gospel at worst…

the spirit of the flesh…
I once almost threw a book across the room (if it would’ve been mine I would’ve really done it!) by the guy whom I already paraphrased who seemed to thing William Wallace from the brave-heart movie the best example of biblical manhood. The reason was that (after writing a lot of stuff about ‘biblical’ manhood according to him, which to me looked liked baptised American machismo and which quite bored me) he made a condescending remark about men who had learned to be nice and take mother Theresa as an example. And then it was enough… You can do what you want, but some things are going to far, like being so ignorant about Mother Theresa….

I don’t see why men, and women could not learn a lot from Mommy T (like Shane Claiborne calls her) She is one of the best examples there is of an untamed soul. She was an example of a person changed by the Way of Christ, and someone who exhibits the fruits of the Spirit. No, she wasn’t noisy, and not even drawing attention to herself, but that’s the whole point… Giving up yourself in love for others is more manly in the Kingdom than all warriors with shiny swords of all the videogames and movies together…

Let’s go to Galations 5, where the fruits of the Spirit are summed up:

5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 5:23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit.

This is the character of a Christian, and living in these characteristics as the Spirit enables them to grow in us will make us do things that go against the grain, things that are wild and untamed. But in a very different way than the ‘men are violent’ proponent preach. Violence and being rude and cultivating our ego aren’t fruits of the Spirit, but fruits of the flesh, and thinking that they’ll solve anything in our problems as Christians is misguided. As misguided as some other stereotypes that are pushed upon women too… If we live in the Spirit, the fruits will grow, and where the Spirit is, there is freedom, or liberation as Kurt just tweeted might be a better translation. Freedom from worldly expectations, cultural standards of manhood and womanhood, and liberation from the suicidal tendencies of the World and the Flesh…

Let’s not push ourselves and each other under a new slave-yoke

Let’s change our ways, for the Kingdom is here.

Let’s follow the Way, the Truth and the Light, into Life eternal,

Let’s shine a light so people might see who God is

let’s bring liberation in this dark world,

and let’s shine light where darkness reigns

Veni, Spiritus!

shalom

Bram

When death dies, all things live


The new gungor record is really good. If you read dutch, I have written a review here for cultuurshock.net. Not only the music, but also the lyrics and the stories behind them are impressive…

And last but not least, Michael Gungor is one of those musicians who can make a brilliant album, and yet play even better live versions. This version of ‘when death dies is just beyond incredible…

[Yes, that black guy is playing cello solo's and beatboxing at the same time...!]

When death dies (Gungor)

Like the waters flooding the desert
Like the sunrise showing all things
Where it comes flowers grow
Lions sleep, gravestones roll
Where death dies all things live

Where it comes poor men feast
Kings fall down to their knees
When death dies all things live
All things live

Like a woman searching and finding love
Like an ocean buried and bursting forth
Where it comes flowers grow
Lions sleep, gravestones roll
Where death dies all things come alive

Where it comes water’s clean
Children fed
All believe
When death dies all things live
All things live

Beautiful, isn’t it, the idea of the final defeat of death? Why aren’t we more excited about this idea as evangelicals? Especially when even Harry Potter is…

But to get back to the point of this post: Yes, Christian music with roots in the worship scene can be artistic, and lyrically and theologically challenging!

shalom

Bram

the death of Jesus is our death


When doing some reading on the incarnation, I came to this quote by Athanasius, one of the church fathers from the time of the Nicene creed, regarded by some as one of the most important thinkers of the early church:

The Saviour came to accomplish not His own death, but the death of men; whence He did not lay aside His body by a death of His own — for He was Life and had none — but received that death which came from men, in order perfectly to do away with this when it met Him in His own body.

St. Athanasius, on the incarnation of the Word

I never thought of it this way, but it fist perfectly with my intuitive view on atonement and the cross, in which Jesus took on Himself not like some would say the punishment of sin, but sin itself, and death, and evil. The powers of evil overtook Him but could not hold Him down, the darkness wasn’t able to extinguish the Light itself, death was not able to take Him, since He was Life itself!

So He who was Life took our death, and did away with it…
He who was Light took our darkness, and did away with it…
He who was without any sin, took our sin…
He who was Love, took our hate…
All powers of evil overpowerd Him, who was Goodness Himself. And it could not do a thing against Him!

Jesus conquered all the powers!

The mystery of Christus Victor is bigger than we could understand, or than my words could ever describe… And there’s much more to say about this quote than this incoherent rant…

shalom

Bram

Does the gospel require the doctrine of ‘the fall’?


And we’re back after a blogging hiatus with more thoughts that might disturb some people.

I was participating in a discussion about evolutionary creationism on the blog of Rachel Held Evans, (look out for the actual article when it’s ready, it will probably very interesting)  and one of the subjects that always comes up in such discussions is that of the fall. The line of reasoning is that without the litteral story of Adam, Eve and the apple there would be no gospel at all, but I’m affraid that I don’t get the problem here…

Let me sayfirst that I myself have no problem at all with 6-day creation, nor do I have any problem with the idea of evolutionary creation. I do think that the scientific evidence points towards the latter, but by no means does that mean that one of those options is right and the other wrong. Au contraire, I don’t believe that modern science is capable of telling us how the world was created at all, since the visible world comes from the invisible. Investigating the traces left in the material world will never give us a complete view, but if the traces lead us to an old earth and universe, and biological evolution, it’s okay to me. But it will never be the whole story, and the whole story is outside the scope of science, and bigger than we can comprehend…

So I’m inclined to see the first chapters of genesis as a symbolic story to tell us in a poetic way about something that cannot be said in straight and exact ways and modern scientific discours. I would say the same about the story of the fall. The whole forbidden fruit story kinda seems symbolic, but still it says something real: man has at some point rebelled against God, and now we live in the reality described.

That ‘fallen’ reality is clear to everyone: this world in in the hands of the powers of sin, death and distruction. We see it everywhere if we open our eyes, and experience it every day. The power of sin is working inside of us, and also from the outside against us. This is so clear that I don’t believe anyone can deny this. So I’m always surprised that people need to use genesis to explain why we need salvation, just point to anywhere and you’ll see why…

Now we could have a discussion about Augustinian original sin, or ancestral sin. The first says that the sin of Adam is in some way transferred to all his descendants, the second one says that Adam had in his sin polluted the world, which brings all people born into this world under the influence and power of sin. I tend to the second, which makes me probably a bad protestant, but I don’t even see a problem for Augustinian Christianity without the story of the apple being litteral history, let alone non-Augustinian theology which does not place such an emphasis on the idea of ‘the fall’. Wheter or not we know what happened, we see the state the world is in and it’s not a good one, and Jesus came to solve that, and did solve it. Do we really believe that?? Or do we think Jesus came to solve some abstract ideas and man-made theological problems?

Jesus did defeat death, evil, sin and Satan in his death and resurrection, so the problem solved is bigger than the one the apple story explains anyway!

Wait here!

Did I just say that the problem solved is bigger than the story of the apple and the fall?

Yes I did. The hope we have as Christians is the New Heavens and the New Earth, in which all evil will be eliminated. So no more sin, no more death, etc… The whole problem of evil being undone by the work of Jesus; like I said earlier. That is the whole story of Christian salvation. The source of evil here is in a way irrelevant, if we look to explain it in a historical analytical way like we Westerners like to do it; but what we can say is that it defenitely lies outside of God. The whole story of redemprion, culminating in the incarnation, life, teaching, example, sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus is about God doing something against evil, and in the end eradicating it.

So evil is NOT from God, but what God is fighting against. And this evil has something to do not only with the fall of men, and the whole apple story, but with evil powers of which the origin isn’t explained in genesis either (the ‘snake’ is just called a snake, not even identified with satan except by the writer of revelation, and why he is evil is explained nowhere)

There’s more going on about evil than the fall of man anyway, and we don’t know that much about it… There are speculations about the fall of Satan, but we don’t have anything really clear about it in the bible.

So what are my shocking conclusions? The first one is that we don’t need a litteral story about the fall of man to see that this world is burdened by sin and evil and in need of the salvation Jesus brought, but we just have to open our eyes, and the second one is that the problem solved by the salvation Jesus brings is a lot bigger than what the apple story explains… The apple story might explain how those forces of evil infiltrated mankind, but not where they came from.

Any additional ideas anyone?

Shalom

Bram

hiding the Resurrection life like a candle under a bucket?


(This post was written for the April Synchroblog. It’s one of the most important subjects possible by the way!! )

Like those who read some of my recent posts will know, I’m still struggling with the question ‘what is the good news of the gospel?’ I know there is more to the gospel than ‘we are all evil and deserve hell, but Jesus got killed in our place by God so we can avoid hell if we accept that and pray the sinners prayer. The good news is probably bigger and better news than any scheme I or some smarter guy could come up with anyway.

There is more to the gospel than forgiveness and substitution. (read those 2 posts by 2 guys who are able to explain it much better than I am.) The gospel Jesus preached was about the Kingdom come, Gods reign that’s breaking in into this broken world. And then I’m not even spreaking about the resurrection, something incredible: death has been reversed. Something bigger than we can understand. Jesus, God-who-became-man, died and shared in our suffering, and surrendered Himself to be taken by the powers that hold us humans captive: death, evil and sin. But even though they killed Him, they didn’t have the last word. Death, evil and sin got defeated by Christ. This is why I think the idea of Christus Victor is very important.

But what do we do with the resurrection? Do we believe Jesus died and came back from the death? Do we live like it’s real? Does it change something in the way we live? Should it change sometjing about what we are?

I am here reminded of emergent theolgian Peter Rollins, who famously denies the resurrection with the following reasoning:

Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.

There’s a lot to say about Pete’s reasoning here. I am indeed affraid that I deny the resurrection most of the time if we take it the way he does in this piece, but I wouldn’t make a either/or of it anyway. We can proclaim the resurrection by just believing that Christ did indeed rise from the death, speaking historically. But what will it help us then? Why is it important to believe in the resurrection? I know that some supposed conservative evangelicals like something like a cross-only gospel, based on Jesus death for us as the most important thing in the universe, which makes good friday more important than good friday, and who find the cross mainly important as an impossibility to be believed in as fact, as if there is any magically saving power in just believing that something happened that goes against our common sense…

No, the resurrection is at least as important as the cross. It’s a new beginning, and without it our faith is worthless, as Paul says. Not because believing the impossible has any power of saving us, but because the resurrection has enormous power, and if we don’t have faith in it we won’t see that in our lives.

As a Charismatic I believe there’s more to believing and living out the resurrection than just the radical love for the poor and downtrodden, but neither the supernatural reality nor the radical love for the least should be minimised in favor of the other, and most of the time I don’t see neither in my own life. So I guess something is wrong with me. Not with the gospel or with the resurrection, but with me, and maybe the christianity I’m part of, but who am I to judge?

To quote Bono:

I believe in the kingdom come,
Then all the colors will bleed into one, Bleed into one
Well yes I’m still running

You broke the bonds and you Loosed the chains
Carried the cross, and all my shame, all my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for


The bonds are broken, the chains are gone, the powers of death, evil and sin are defeated and Love and Life will win and have the last word in the end, when heaven and earth meet and God will be all in all. But Christianity is more than looking forward to heaven.

It is also about the inbreaking of the Kingdom in the here and now, about the power of the resurrection becoming manifest in this groaning creation!

And still I’m like a singing bird who’s walking rounds in an open cage. Probably I’m just blinded by the gods of this world, distracted by the life of everyday, but I don’t proclaim the resurrection, I don’t bring it to the world around me who needs it. Maybe some splinters of it from time to time, but I don’t feel like this is it. There is more.

Why am I so distracted? Why is my faith so small. Why am I occupied by the irellevant wasting all my time on things that don’t matter? If time is an indicator of what’ s important to me, then I’m not at all giving much op for the ‘pearl of greath worth’ for which some sell all they have to obtain it. Following Christ is not just a hobby! No greater news can there be…

Then why am I just wasting most my time?

Lord Jesus Christ, Living son of God, have mercy!!

shalom

Bram

Here are the other contributions to the synchroblog:
Phil Wyman at Square No More –  Apocalyptic fervor spurs benevolent giving
Marta Layton at Marta’s Mathoms – Getting Out From Behind The Rock
Mike Victorino at  Simply A Night Owl – Crawling Out From Under A Rock
John Paul Todd at E4Unity - Still Asleep In the Light
Patrick Oden at Ravens – A Resurrection
Brambonius at Brambonius’ blog in english - hiding the Resurrection life like a candle under a bucket?
George Elerick at The Love Revolution – (for)getting the resurrection
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – I Will Answer That Question In A Minute, But First, I Want To Talk About Jesus
Jeff Goins at Jeff Goins Writer – Resurrection
Tammy Carter at Blessing the Beloved – Rock and a Hard Place
Kathy Escobar at the carnival in my head – little miracles
Christen Hansel at Greener Grass – Resurrection Rhythm
Alan Knox at the assembling of the church – Living The Resurrected Life
Christine Sine at Godspace – Palm Sunday Is Coming But What Does It Mean
Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity – Living The Resurrection
Steve Hayes at Khanya – Descent into Hell and penal substitution
Bill Sahlman at Creative Reflections – Do We Live Under a Rock of Belief?

Harry Potter & Hermione on St-Paul and the defeat of death


(Yes, this is indeed a post about Harry Potter and Hermione discussing a bible verse!)

***warning: there could be spoilers following here about the end of ‘Harry Potter and the deathly hallows’. ***

I’ve been thinking lately about one of the 2 bible verses used in Harry Potter and the deathly hallows. Both of them are used on gravestones in Godrics Hollow, Harry and Hermione are running for Voldemorts death eaters and looking for a clue in  the village where both his parents and the family of Dumbledore have lived.

Those well versed in the bible will recognise the words on the grave of Harry’s parents as those of St-Paul in I Corinthians 15:26.

(the other bible verse is from Jesus in Matthew 6:21: ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ on the grave of dumbledore’s family)

So let’s go to the Harry Potter scene:

Harry read the words slowly, as though he would have only one chance to take in their meaning, and he read the last of them out aloud.
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” A horrible thought came to him, and with it a kind of panic.’Isn’ that a death eater idea? Why is that here?’
‘It doesn’t mean defeating death the way the death eaters mean it, Harry.’ said Hermione, het vioce gentle. ‘It means… you know, living beyond death, living after death.’ (HP&TDH, 268-269)

what’s so interesting here? The first thing Harry thinks of when reading these words is the philosophies of Voldemorts death eaters. It’s true thatVoldemort surely wants to destroy death. He uses all kinds of black magic, in which he himself even kills and destroys other people, to make sure that he’s not going to die, and it is clear that he does this because he is scared of death. (Something we see in our culture as well…) Trying to conquer death by all means possible, because we’re scared of it. Trying to master death, but it won’t work. It didn’t work with Voldemort and his black magic, and it doesn’t work at all with our science and technology either, whatever we try. Death is an inevitable part of life in this world, that we can not just ignore… Nor magic nor science and technology (two things closer to each other than we’d suspect, but that’s another subject) will help us to ‘destroy’ death in this way, and if they would, we’d be off much worse.

Hermione is more sensible. Why in the world would anyone write a slogan of dark wizzards on the grave of Harry’s parents anyway? ‘It’s about living beyong death, living after death.’ Now those are clearly 2 different things. Living after death is not only something that’s somewhere in the background assumed by Rowling in the Harry Potter books, but foremost something we as Christians do believe in. even though I’m not too sure about the ways some people talk about ‘heaven’, which are not at all compatible with the biblical idea of the resurrection of the death at the judgement and the new heaven and the new earth. But then we are talking about after this world, or at least after the renewal of this world.

But let’s go further with the first idea, and the r-word. Living beyond death, or resurrection. Even in the Harry Potter book we see such a thing, when Voldemort tries to kill Harry, which does not work, Harry does in some kind of way come back from the death he had accepted. The death he is willing to die to save his friends and the whole society of wizzards.

But here we see the paradox of Christus Victor. The grain of wheat has to die before the plant can grow and bear fruit. Jesus had to die, to give Himself up completely, to be able to resurrect in a new resurrection body and defeat the powers of evil. We even see this in all the Harry Potter books: Harry’s mothers sacrifice protects him against Voldemort. The one who wants to conquer death by killing even more, bringing even more death, the one who does not understand love, sacrifice and anything meaningful, which will be his end.

Our human ways of trying to not have to deal with death are in the end even more destructive. The way of Jesus is different: giving our lives, sacrificing ourselves, so death loses its power and we share in the life of the resurrection.

We are called to take up our own cross and follow Him. We are called to die to ourselves. The so-called prayer of St-Francis (which is most probably not from Francis of Assisi) says it like this:

For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

so what do you all think about death as the last enemy to be destroyed?

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