Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Why Hell Instead of House Arrest?

My favorite question - WHY? - was asked by fellow blogger Slapdash, who uses it to challenge my previous post:
Why does evil deserve eternal punishment? How on earth does it square with Jesus' commands for us to forgive others 70x7 times, and to turn the other cheek? Why does God insist that we forgive others for their sin/evil, but he doesn't actually have to forgive us for our sin/evil, and in fact will infinitely punish those who committed finite crimes here on earth?

Answering these questions is a bit tricky, not because there are no answers, but because I need to make sure I don't come across as though I have a right to do any more than recount them. I also don't want to give the impression that hell and eternal punishment is something I can talk about glibly. The reality of hell and the lake of fire is something that would shut every mouth, were we to grasp even an edge of it.
Nonetheless, I am going to foray into this minefield of a topic because the questions Slapdash asks are vital ones, and the answers even more so.
I think there are three aspects to what we are calling "punishment". One is just that - punishment, or moral retribution; a fair return for an evil act. When we talk about justice, we are talking about morality - not values, but rather those deep "rightnesses" that underlay our knowledge and on which the universe is hinged. Another aspect is destruction. The third is separation. (For ease' sake, I'll refer to the final dealing with evil, or "punishment", as simply "hell", although those of you familiar with the Biblical use of the word will know that I am not technically correct in doing that. Notwithstanding, I press on...)
Hell does involve a punishment - the just reward for evil. It is a punishment that all who choose evil will share, but it was not created for human beings. It was created for the Devil (Satan) and his angels. (Matthew 25:41) Humans were tricked into choosing self over God and allowing Satan to have a moral power over them, even though they were warned that doing so meant death. Hell is not our punishment, it is Satan's, but we will share it with him if we allow him to choose for us. Satan is more powerful than we are. We cannot resist him, except with God's help, who is stronger. The death of Jesus means that the torments of the lake of fire are not the just desserts of one who has stumbled and fallen, but rather the ultimate destination of one who has ultimately chosen the road of selfish pleasure (sin) over the Source of all goodness. If we choose self, we have no power against such an enemy as Satan, and he will overtake and choose for us. It is he who longs for us to be in hell.
God, knowing that we are born into a world that is already under Satan's power, demonstrated his nature- Love- when he took responsibility for our sin and took on himself the sentence of death that Evil, with the inarguable sanction of humanity's choice of self over God, had every moral right to impose. This is what both logic and our moral sense of things tells us a God who is good should do, but not one of us has the faintest inkling what it cost him, who is Light and Life and Love; who is all powerful, all knowing, and whose presence reaches throughout the expanses of all the universes - to subject himself to life as a created being and bow in submission to death, that great bastion of Evil. In any case, he took on death in recognition of two things: the moral rights of Evil over the human race, who had chosen it over him; and his own moral responsibility to them whom he had created in love. Evil no longer has the right to hang a death sentence over humanity, because God came in flesh as Jesus Christ and satisfied its claim to our lives with his own.
Thus God becomes both the enforcer of the moral laws and the one bent beneath them. He doesn't lighten the blow as he accepts sin's consequences. He forgives freely, but he hasn't forgiven us cheaply or easily. He allowed himself, for a period of about thirty years, to be mocked and ignored and thought a fool. He placed himself in a world ruled by Satan, and made himself subject to the indignities that Evil had wrought amongst his magnificent creation - hunger and thirst and tiredness and fear and pain. Then he, creator of heaven and earth, bowed himself and accepted death.
He who is God accepted such humiliation because there was no other way to satisfy the claims of sin. As Jesus comes face to face with his choice, alone in the garden at Gethsemane, he pleads with his Father, "If there is any other way..."
But there is no other way for God to be God.
A God who is unchanging AND good AND all-powerful cannot, even for a second, being good, become amoral; nor can he, being all-powerful, refuse to exert his power for good. Evil is what sets itself against good. It is not that God chooses to destroy evil, but rather that, being both good and all-powerful, it is his nature and his responsibility to destroy evil. Hell is the place where evil is kept continually in the state of destruction.
The third aspect of hell is, as I have mentioned, separation. The lake of fire takes its nature from the absence of God. God will have turned his back on such as fill its depths.
When the grandfatherly God of popular imagination is rejected, no such horrors as those of an eternal state of dying are necessitated. But when the God who is Love, Light, Truth, be rejected, what comfort can exist where he is not? I am no scientist, but I have a rudimentary understanding of what is necessitated by a vacuum. When God withdraws, there is only evil and its torments left to go rushing into the void.

What then of Jesus' commands to forgive? How is it that we may let evil go its way, when he cannot?
God's command to those who have been freed by Jesus' death is to recognize that they have not liberated themselves. Just as we who have been forgiven were in need of God's goodness and mercy, so we are to offer goodness and mercy to those who will accept it from us. Just as we did not deserve what God gave, so we are commanded not to put constraints on whom we offer goodness and forgiveness. It is the same moral law that both allows us to be forgiven and makes it necessary for us to forgive. If we refuse to recognize our responsibility to forgive others, we at the same time reject God's forgiveness by denying his responsibility to forgive US.
We must forgive because he has died to offer us forgiveness. He cannot overlook evil, but, having dealt with evil on a moral level, he can set us free from its grasp. He must judge and may only forgive at his own cost.
As God, it is not only his right, but his responsibility to judge. We cannot judge each other for numerous reasons. We are fallible; God is perfect. We cannot see hearts and motives; God reads the meanings behind our thoughts. It can never be the right of one sinner to judge another sinner. What can we do, morally, except forgive?
And yet, how much it has cost God to forgive? He has paid the price with his own blood, and he longs to forgive! It is not sin that will stop him, nor evil, but only the choice to reject him, which is the natural and inalienable right of an eternal soul.

24 comments:

Slapdash said...

Hi Jennypo,

I appreciate you taking the time to write so thoughtfully on this topic. It's definitely a complex one, and I hope you don't mind my questions.

***Hell is not our punishment, it is Satan's, but we will share it with him if we allow him to choose for us.***

What does it look like, practically speaking, for Satan to "choose for us"? Are you equating sin to Satan? Are they the same thing? Would we sin at all if Satan weren't in the picture?

***Satan is more powerful than we are. We cannot resist him, except with God's help, who is stronger.***

Why didn't God send Satan and his angels to hell right away? Why does Satan get free rein in the world today? Is Satan a required character in the free will doctrine? Would we always choose God if Satan weren't trying to lure us away at every moment? And so is Satan required for God's "gift" of free will to work? If so, I gotta say that's some gift! "I love you so much, my beloved creatures, that I will give you the choice of following Satan straight into the lake of fire, or choosing me! Which is it, precious?" It's a funny way of casting choice, when there is only one right answer.

Heather said...

Hi, Jenny.

I also have thoughts, and I know that we'll eventually just ending up disagreing. :) But I've also found that discussing these matters with you has been beneficial for me, and I think you've found benefits from them, as well. So. Here we go.

Based on this post, and previous ones, it sounds as though you’re going with the penal substitution theory in terms of the atonement? Or are you going with the Ransom theory, because there seem to be strains of both here.

I think it’s important here to distinguish between the sin and the sinner. The two are not the same. Sin can be perpetually punished, but it is the sin that is punished, only. Consequently, the person who clings to the sin experiences that punishment. But when the person lets go of the sin, the punishment ceases. Otherwise, we’re left equating the sin and the sinner as equal, and this doesn’t work. There has to be some good aspect to a person, in order for God to redeem. If people were 100% sin, then when God removed that sin, there would be nothing left. But there is goodness there, otherwise part of us wouldn’t be attracted to the Truth or to light. We wouldn’t even love each other. So do I think sin has punishments? Absolutely. Do I think that means the sinner is punished eternally? No, because sin is something that can be separated from the sinner, to unearth God’s original creation.

**When we talk about justice, we are talking about morality - not values, but rather those deep "rightnesses" that underlay our knowledge and on which the universe is hinged.** Yes. Often, when we refer to someone acting unjustly, or refer to an unjust system, we are speaking of a system that oppresses others. Slavery was unjust, because it stripped people of their rights. So when speaking of God’s justice, it often goes hand-in-hand with fighting oppression. Which is another reason why I don’t believe in the eternal punishment, because can we say that those who choose the darkness are in fact making a rational choice? I don’t think we can. Rather, they are too blinded by sin to reach for that light. Sin clouds their judgment. In which case, is the choice then a valid choice, made between two equal options? Or does one option – sin— hold the advantage? If so, can God hold the person accountable? You made mention earlier that people can only fight off sin by asking for God’s help, because we are, in our natural state, under the control of Satan. But then that leaves people under the influence of an outside source, and if that source is too strong, how can the person then be held accountable for rejecting God? My brother had a tumultuous childhood, and there were periods when he’d just fly into a rage. Later, when he was calm, he would apologize to us, and say that he didn’t know why he did that – it wasn’t a conscious choice, but like he was almost watching himself, unable to step in. Yet his words and behavior would qualify as sin.

There is also the matter of justice in terms of punishing evil. And I agree. Evil does need to be punished, in order to show evil for what it is. But we also don’t want to become just like evil while on the road to punishing evil. Otherwise, we are no better than the evil person. Which is also why I have a problem with an eternal lake of fire. It doesn’t accomplish anything, other than repaying the evil tenfold. How does that serve justice? Or truth? To me, I don’t see how that would make God any better than Satan. (There’s also the fact that if Satan even gets to keep one person eternally in hell, even through the person’s choice, then Satan still has a claim on the victory).

**The third aspect of hell is, as I have mentioned, separation. The lake of fire takes its nature from the absence of God. God will have turned his back on such as fill its depths. ** This, I disagree with. The lake of fire is referenced in Revelations, yes. But it is outside the New Jerusalem, which never has its gates shut. The only thing preventing those people from getting into New Jerusalem is the impurity – what is to prevent them from eventually letting the lake of fire burn away that impurity, and stepping into New Jerusalem? If God truly turns His back, then the gates of New Jerusalem should be shut. But there are lines mentioned that the kings of the earth will be in New Jerusalem – these same kings who had earlier served evil.

In the end, I also don’t think there will be a vacuum. First, Psalms 139 gives an indication that God is everywhere, and cannot be absent. There is the line in Romans that where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. There is also a line in 1 Corinthians 5, that says eventually Christ will subjugate everything that opposes God, for as in Adam all die, so shall all be made alive in Christ. True subjugation of a person only works if the person is 100% truly following God. If there’s even an iota of resistance, or sin, then the person is not truly subjugated. The line then goes onto to say that God will be all-in-all, which implies 100% filled with God.

**And yet, how much it has cost God to forgive? He has paid the price with his own blood, and he longs to forgive! It is not sin that will stop him, nor evil, but only the choice to reject him, which is the natural and inalienable right of an eternal soul.** The phrase here, though, is that it cost God to forgive, which does go against the Prodigal son story, and other things that Jesus shared (I know we've discussed this aspect earlier). Forgiveness is simply given – there isn’t someone standing there, saying I can only forgive you if this happens. It wasn’t a ‘free’ forgiveness, because it required the death of Jesus, and it required a price.

patrick said...

jenny,
i'm sorry to say, but your post has left me rather confused. i found it long and hard to follow. also, it was, in places, convoluted and came out mixed up in my head. i would have liked to have seen it broken into sub-topics or something like that.
also, i'm looking forward to your reply to heather's reply.

jennypo said...

Whoa! This is a hot topic, eh?

Slapdash, I do not mind your questions. I love them! Our ideas about God MUST be challenged, and must be up for review because we humans are reasoning creatures, but not perfect ones. Forgive me if I am complicating things here, I'll try again:

I am not equating sin with Satan, but rather I am making the argument that sin is of Satan's realm. Having rejected the authority of God, he is left only evil. His goal is to influence as many others to join with him as possible. Choosing sin blinds a human, weakens our ability to choose, and eventually places us on Satan's "home turf", so to speak. We are not out of God's reach, if we choose him, but in choosing against him, we may box ourselves in so that we won't want to choose him.
Choice is a complicated thing. It is a different thing from desire. I may desire to become a doctor, but unless I desire it more than I desire spending all my time watching TV reruns and do what is required, I do not choose to be a doctor, and i cannot become one. Choice is an act of the will. It is marked by action. Sin gains power over us as we choose it with our will. It cripples our desires, and so affects our will.
Addiction works the same way the sin does. In the beginning, it's a choice. We are led by our wants. As the addiction progresses, those wants become needs and it becomes MUCH harder to choose against those needs, even if, on some level, we desire to. Eventually, we need the help of someone who is not subject to the pull of the addiction to help us out. But as any addiction counsellor will attest, the help they are able to offer is is very limited if we don't choose it.

**"Why didn't God send Satan and his angels to hell right away? Why does Satan get free rein in the world today?" (slapdash)
If God dealt with every challenge simply using military force, what kind of a God would he be? He didn't crush Satan. In his realm, it is not "might" that makes "right". Instead, he demonstrated the superiority of love over selfishness.
Satan wanted to exalt himself over God. He chose power and self-exaltation over Love, Light, Truth. He wasn't given free rein in the world by God; he is given power in the world by those who were given charge of it by God: humans. As we choose against God, we put ourselves in an unprotected position, which Satan is able to take advantage of. God has made us the stewards of the earth. As such, we have allowed Satan to further his goals through us. Is Satan the one creating landfills and smog? Not hardly, but by choosing to act selfishly, we are (perhaps unconsciously) fulfilling his goals for him. Can God "zap" them? Well, if he did, what would the universe learn? - Only that God is more powerful, not that he is infinitely better than Evil, Satan, and sin. There are greater things at stake here than our little world, as important as that is.
**Would we always choose God if Satan weren't trying to lure us away at every moment? And so is Satan required for God's "gift" of free will to work? (slapdash)
Nope, Satan is not necessary for "free will" to work. "Free will" is necessary for love to operate, though. Let's face it, free will is a huge responsibility. Most of us wonder why we have it. Without it, not only could we not be like God, but we could not Love.
Our choice is not between heaven and hell, it is between love and self. Heaven and hell are simply the results of that choice. A choice for self CANNOT end in heaven because heaven is where love reigns, not where self reigns. I cannot choose to sit on the couch 7 days a week AND become a doctor at the same time. Being a doctor involves serving others. Lolling about involves serving myself.
Our choice is not about US, and saving US. It is about Love, and demonstrating that love. Without choice, we are incapable of loving.
We can't have safety AND choice, and we can't have love WITHOUT choice, so love wins. Yes, God says that Love and its sovereignty in the universe is more important than my safety.
Hell is not God's way of "punishing" us for making the wrong choice. Hell already was before we came along. God knows that selfishness will align us with his enemy. When his enemy is finally destroyed, we will share in that destruction unless we choose goodness and God, who is Love, Light, Truth. He is not saying "do this or I'll crush you"; he is saying, "don't get in the way of something that is bigger than you."

jennypo said...

Heather, I know that there are a number of areas in which we disagree, but I do really enjoy discussing these things with you. Thanks for all of your challenges and insights. Double thanks for your lovely attitude.
Sorry, I don't know what my "atonement theory" is here. I studied in a secular university and have never taken a theology class.
**But when the person lets go of the sin, the punishment ceases. (Heather)
Am I understanding you if I assume that you believe someone who repents after going to hell will then be released? Why wouldn't anyone faced with hell immediately repent? In order to hold this belief, you have to deny the absolute truth of the Bible, as you do, but for me it raises the question of why Abraham told the rich man in torments that there is a "great gulf" in place that prevents people going between them (Luke 16:26)
I absolutely agree with you that we are not sin. We may choose sin; we may allow sin control of us, but we are made in God's image, capable of giving and receiving Love.
**You made mention earlier that people can only fight off sin by asking for God’s help, because we are, in our natural state, under the control of Satan. (Heather)
Sorry if that is what I said. What i meant is not that we are automatically and completely under the control of Satan, but that by choosing sin (selfishness) we PUT ourselves under the control of Satan. We are born subject to sin, but that doesn't mean we can't choose. It means that we must use the resources God has given us in the measure that he has given them (intellect, artistic sensitivity, imagination, sensory abilities, logic) as a means to discover which is better - Love or Self. One will be enthroned by us. When we know which is better, we are responsible for the choice that we make based on our knowledge. If we choose to satisfy the desires of self despite our knowledge, then every choice we make for self will further blind us and allow us to lose that knowledge. One who has known Love and Truth little may do the same sins as I do, who have known much of Love and Truth, but I will be much more blinded because of what I have rejected. The blindness is the result of the choice, not vice versa - but it does narrow the options for further choice.
As you point out, the kings of earth will bring their glory into the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:24) However, nowhere does the Bible offer any indication that there will be any kings who have chosen evil in the New Jerusalem. Interestingly though,it is certainly evident from this passage, contrary to what may be inferred from many so-called Christian attitudes, that the Holy City will be filled with glory from all the cultures of the earth, not only western ones! For this, I can't wait!
I am interested in your point that the gates are always open. I confess that I have always considered this to be evidence that there is no threat of enemy attack, but it deserves more thought.
**Forgiveness is simply given – there isn’t someone standing there, saying I can only forgive you if this happens. (Heather)
Absolutely true, Heather, it is not forgiveness that makes any condition, it is justice. Trouble is, God is immutable, so he has to have both. That's why Jesus had to die. The father laid no conditions on the Prodigal Son, but there was one anyway: his coming home. His father didn't forbid him to go, nor did he run out and haul his son's partying butt home. He knew his son was in for some hard knocks, but he also knew he couldn't choose for him, and so he waited and watched, day by day, and the minute his son came into view, then he RAN. Notice the forgiveness was there long before the son decided to come back, but he couldn't have it until he came home. God forgave us long ago. He's not waiting until we repent - we are.

On this we agree: forgiveness was not cheap for God to give, but he does offer it freely to us.

jennypo said...

Patrick,
Sorry, I struggle to communicate sometimes. It takes real discipline and often more skill than I have to translate what is perfectly clear to me into language that is perfectly clear to somebody else! I know that it can come out mixed-up and upside-down. That's why I so appreciate the discussion - it shows up the lazy parts of my thinking and the areas that are too vague to be subjected to reasoned thought. This stuff needs to be exposed and examined!
Thanks for hanging around anyway while we work out the tangles. If you have any pointers or questions to help me clarify things, I'll be happy to take them!

Heather said...

Hi, Jenny.

** Double thanks for your lovely attitude.** And thank you for yours. :)

**Am I understanding you if I assume that you believe someone who repents after going to hell will then be released? Why wouldn't anyone faced with hell immediately repent?** It depends on how one defines hell. There are many today who live in a hell, such as depression, or a horrible living condition. Granted, not alll are by choice, but for many, it is. They don't escape from that hell until they are willing to let a few things go. If we go back to the Prodigal Son, he was in hell, but eventually, the suffering and the pain was enough that he realized they were empty promises, and just let them go.

**In order to hold this belief, you have to deny the absolute truth of the Bible, as you do,** Well, in many ways, it doesn't go against the Bible. There are a lot of universalistic themes in it.

**but for me it raises the question of why Abraham told the rich man in torments that there is a "great gulf" in place that prevents people going between them (Luke 16:26)** I don't think the point of that parable was to explain what hell was. I think it was to explain how to treat the poor, and that our interactions with others matter.

**We are born subject to sin, but that doesn't mean we can't choose.** We can't always, though. We can choose our actions, but we can't always choose our sinful impulses. Those are often beyond our control.

**However, nowhere does the Bible offer any indication that there will be any kings who have chosen evil in the New Jerusalem.** I fully agree that those who cling to evil will not be in New Jerusalem. But after New Jerusalem is established, and the gates are open, I read it as the only thing that keeps those in the lake of fire out of New Jerusalem is the fact that they are impure. Considering that the function of fire is to burn things away, what if those in the lake of fire "drop" their impurities? Or let the fire burn them away? Nothing prevents those who previously clung to evil stepping into New Jerusalem.

**Absolutely true, Heather, it is not forgiveness that makes any condition, it is justice. Trouble is, God is immutable, so he has to have both.** This is where we're going to disagree. THis goes back to the atonement theories, but from what I understand, Jesus needing to die to satisfy God's justice isn't something the churches held to until the 11th century. That was when the 'satisfaction' theory was developed, which was also around feudal times, in which everything involved a lord's 'honor'. This concept was transferred to how one understood the atonement, in that all sins were an affront to God's honor. In the 16th century, it become more refined and said that God had to punish Jesus in our place to satisfy His justice.

I don't really see in the Gospels Jesus saying that he's taking someone else's punishment. He does make a mention of his blood being a ransom (which would tie into the Ransom theory started in the 3rd century, I believe, about how Satan had a claim on humanity, and Jesus's death was used to trick Satan out of that claim). I also don't see Jesus saying he's doing this to satisfy God's justice, in terms of taking a punishment (I do see it as satisfying God's justice in showing that sin is, in the end, powerless and can't stop God's glory or light or love). What I do see is that the crucifixtion was to lead to the resurrection, which was to demonstate the ultimate glory of God. But when the concept of justice is used, it is both in the sense that evil will have it's just rewards and ultimately be triumped over by good, and that all of creation will be redeemed, as God's justice was fully seen in liberating all those oppressed or in unjust conditions.

Plus, in Judaism, one could be reconciled with God without the shedding of blood. It was a method, but there was also prayer and repentence -- no punishment was required.

**The father laid no conditions on the Prodigal Son, but there was one anyway: his coming home.** Yes. But when the son came home, and repented, the son was fully forgiven. Repentence was all that was required.

joeyanne said...

Hi Heather: I hope you don't mind a question.
You said: "It depends on how one defines hell. There are many today who live in a hell, such as depression, or a horrible living condition. Granted, not alll are by choice, but for many, it is. They don't escape from that hell until they are willing to let a few things go."
What about those people living in the "hell" of depression who have not chosen it?..or chosen something that leads to it? If what you are saying is true, and hell is experience - here and now, how can we reconcile this idea with people who suffer debilitating depression that is caused by hormones and chemical inbalance - not just lifestyle? If, when we suffer, it is our own personal hell - our punishment for choosing self - what about those who suffer who have not chosen self - what are they being punished for?

Heather said...

Joeyanne,

I never mind questions. :)

**What about those people living in the "hell" of depression who have not chosen it?**

This wasn't an area I was going to go into, as I was focused on how choices can lead to a personal hell experienced here.

But for those who are victims of their depression, or victims of their circumstance -- I still see them as caught in a hell. It's a seperation of goodness. This is a big reason why I cannot believe that if one doesn't accept the right beliefs about Jesus, one is automatically assigned to hell. Those in Rwanda don't have the right beliefs, and they're living in hell every day. They already have that darkness, that weeping and gnashing of teeth, and the suffering.

But I was going for the example of how we can create our own hell here, and how it, in the long run, can have a benefit (this benefit is for a choice that leads to this, and doens't cover all areas, such as someone making a foolish choice that gets someone killed). It can help us to let go of that which produces the hell. It can help us let go of the inclination to choose 'self.' But this example woudln't cover those such as Holocaust victims, or suffering from clinical depression. It's still an experience of hell, but it was caused by outside sources, as opposed to internal sources. I would hope that those clinically depressed aren't being punished for anything.

It comes down to a matter of punishment. For those who have choosen an evil life, I do agree that punishment is warranted, but it should serve a purpose. Otherwise, it's useless punishment, done for the sake of punishment, and thus can too easily fall into the category of torture.

If I may use an example: we've all done wrong things that we've felt guilty for. Outside factors, such as parents or societal laws, have punished us. But for those who were aware of the wrong action, what was the worst punishment? What the parents inflicted, or the guilt/shame? Which one produced the 'hellish' experience? Which one helped the most in producing a change? Matters such as these help us to break out of self, and become re-connected with the whole. We can see how our actions hurt others.

jennypo said...

**In order to hold this belief, you have to deny the absolute truth of the Bible, as you do,** Well, in many ways, it doesn't go against the Bible. There are a lot of universalistic themes in it. (Heather)

True, but if it goes against the Bible in even ONE aspect, then absolute truth and inerrancy are sacrificed. If the Bible is not inerrant, then I may choose which aspects of it to hold to. I may not appeal to the Bible as proof of anything I say and remain consistent.

**We can choose our actions, but we can't always choose our sinful impulses. Those are often beyond our control. (Heather)

Yes, and you gave a very good example of this by referring to your brother's experience of rage. What I meant here is not that we may choose to become sinless. If that were necessary, I should have given up long ago, because the more I try not to sin, the more sin I become aware of! Rather, I see myself making moral choices beneath my actions. Ultimately, the actions add up to reveal my moral choices, but these are not always revealed to other humans. These choices are the ones we can all make, and they are the ones that have the power to blind us. Remember Jesus' experience with Simon and the woman of ill repute? Simon was a "good little boy", a Pharisee. He looked like he was making all the right choices, but God saw his motives and he revealed them in his response to Jesus. The woman, on the other hand, was likely a prostitute. We would say, "what a sinner!" but she revealed her moral choice in her response to Jesus. Life experiences and situations can so affect our choices that it may not be evident to others what we have chosen at all. But God knows. We divide people by their actions. He divides us by our motives. He knows the heart that is open to truth and love and the one that seeks self, regardless of whether we are gang members or church members. Thus, the agnostic who seeks truth is far closer to the God of the Bible than the minister who seeks only to develop his understanding of theology.

I do think that Joanne is right - we have to be careful in ascribing earthly "hellish" experiences to God. If we do this, we are in danger of suggesting that either God is grossly unfair, or people in Burma and Darfur and the Sudan and Rwanda have somehow done something to warrant either a terrible punishment or a pretty drastic "sin cleansing". I do know this is not what you meant to say.

**This concept was transferred to how one understood the atonement, in that all sins were an affront to God's honor. In the 16th century, it become more refined and said that God had to punish Jesus in our place to satisfy His justice. (Heather)

I don't know much about church or theological history, but I want to clarify that I am not suggesting it is God's honor or some other thing that has been offended. Rather, I want to say that it is his very nature to fight against sin, and he cannot refuse to destroy sin without denying his nature.
If God is Love, as the Bible says he is, and sin is essentially what we more commonly call selfishness, then all sin is against Love, and denies Love's right to reign in the universe, which is why it must be dealt with.
I don't see Jesus as presented in the Gospels to be the Ghandi-esque figure that I think you believe him to be. He speaks little of his death, other than to assert its necessity, but he states things very unequivocally to Nicodemus:
"Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he have his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only son."

Paul's letter to the Romans is very clear on this:
"There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:22-26)

**Plus, in Judaism, one could be reconciled with God without the shedding of blood. It was a method, but there was also prayer and repentence -- no punishment was required. (Heather)
Where do you get this information? I don't see this in the Old Testament. The Jewish people were given a very complex system of laws that had to be satisfied continually to maintain their standing before God.
One of my History of Israel professors, who was Jewish himself, told us that Judaism is often misunderstood by Christians, who focus on beliefs. He said that Judaism is essentially a system of "orthopraxy" (right practice) rather than "orthodoxy" (right belief).
Ultimately, Heather, our differing viewpoints are hinged on the Bible and the limits of its trustworthiness in revealing God. Again and again we arrive at this place. If it is not completely inerrant, then whatever doesn't fit into our particular theories may be discarded and we are able only to hold out our "I believe"s and compare them.

Ah, it's a good exercise, anyway! Lucky you're so patient, and willing to sort things through with me. :^)

Slapdash said...

Hi jennypo :)

****Rather, I want to say that it is his very nature to fight against sin, and he cannot refuse to destroy sin without denying his nature.****

How is God fighting against the very clear sins that are happening occurring against Burma and Darfur and the Sudan and Rwanda? Why will he only 'destroy sin' when we die? or at the apocalypse?

Why don't we see God 'fighting against sin' today?

Oh, right, free will. Except then we're back to: well then, God is sitting back on his haunches watching unspeakable evils unfold all over the world. That is something that I am no longer comfortable glossing over or justifying with the free will argument.

I wanted to comment also on one other thing:

I hear in your writing a very strong desire for the Scriptures to be inerrant: you seem to suggest that it all falls apart unless you view the bible that way, because it then means you're picking and choosing what you want to believe.

I completely understand the desire for inerrancy in the Scriptures. But as I asked on a different post of yours, does that desire for inerrancy mean the Bible *is* inerrant? On what basis do you believe it to be so?

Heather said...

Jenny,

**True, but if it goes against the Bible in even ONE aspect, then absolute truth and inerrancy are sacrificed.** Herein lies the difficulty. What goes against the Bible is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. Catholicism interprets it somewhat differently than Protestantism, which interprets it differently than Eastern Orthodox. And even with inerrancy, it varies. Some inerrants don't take the Genesis account literally, while others no longer take what it says about women literally. Even atonement theories -- those, in many ways, were culturally determined. One took their culture and applied it to the Bible. Note: I'm not criticizing this, because we all do it. Our cultural context plays a big part in how we interpret anything.

**Thus, the agnostic who seeks truth is far closer to the God of the Bible than the minister who seeks only to develop his understanding of theology.** This, we would agree with. And it sounds like we're in agreement that those who are saved are not just those who go by the name Christian, but those who pursue truth and love, even if an atheist. Then we throw hell in the mix and it gets complicated. ;)

**I do know this is not what you meant to say.** It wasn't. I was focusing on choices that lead to hellish experiences, where people almost walk into them, through doing something foolish. Those experiences that victimize people weren't addressed in that comment, because that's in a totally different ballpark.

But if we focus on self-imposed hells. Sin, by it's nature, is punishment. Maybe it's not a punishment that occurs right away. If I cheat on a test and aren't caught, I might feel pretty good about the A I earned, which in turn could lead to a scholarship, which could lead to an excellent job that helps lots of people. But in time (for most. Some wouldn't be bothered by this), this sense of "Do I really deserve what I have?" would creep up on me, because I didn't earn any of that. I cheated. I might've even cheated someone else from a spot that s/he did earn. And often that type of punishment is more effective than any punishment an outside source could deliver.

**he cannot refuse to destroy sin without denying his nature. ** And I would agree with this. But what I'm saying is that everywhere that Jesus refers to his death, he's not saying that he's being punished for our sins. Rather, the death had to occur to lead to the resurrection, so that God's triumph over sin and glory could be manifested. Even in the verse he states to Nicodemus has nothing to do with punishment, but rather that the Son of Man has to be lifted up, in order to demonstrate.

Even the Romans verse -- it doens't read that Jesus was punished for the sins, but rather that everyone is justified. Justice and righteousness in Hebrew times had to do with being in the right relationship with God, not being acquitted from a crime. The fact that everyone is justified is that they are now in that right relationship. Romans goes on to say that the old self was crucified with Christ -- in taking on the sins, Christ destroys them on the cross. And thus God's justice is demonstrated, through the destruction of sin in everyone, for they shall go on to come to life with Christ.

Ultimately, if God didn't punish Jesus for our sins (as in, Jesus carrying the punishment we couldn't), I don't see that as going against God's nature, nor does that mean God didn't satisfy His justice. Rather, His justice is seen in the destruction of sin. That destruction of sin is evident in the cross, since even though Jesus carried every single sin there was and ever will be, death didn't have the final victory. Life did. God was stronger than sin.

**Where do you get this information? I don't see this in the Old Testament.** From a lot of websites that explain the Jewish religion, in contrast to Christianity. I've come across the statement that the three methods were set out for forgiveness: the sin sacrifice, repentence, and charity. And I *think* the sin sacrifice didn't always involve blood, but could involve other things, if the person couldn't afford an animal. The verse used in support for that only a blood sacrifice could appease God is Leviticus 17:11 by Christians. However, it was pointed out that looking at that verse in context, it is saying that is why you don't eat the blood, becaues the blood is used in sacrifice. But it doesn't say that the blood method is the only way to atone for a sin.

The other reason why they deny Jesus as a sacrifice is because nowhere does it say that a person can be the sin sacrifice, and that it's actually forbidden. It was forbideen because their neighbors were doing child sacrifices, and using children because they were innocent and thus unblemished.

**our differing viewpoints are hinged on the Bible and the limits of its trustworthiness in revealing God.** I think much of what we're discussing here involves how the Bible has been interpreted, not necessarily the Bible itself.

Anyway, I've enjoyed the discussion. :)

jennypo said...

Slapdash,

Part of our problem is the the very words and phrases I must use to explain my experience have been twisted and tainted with thousands of years of use to the ends of human greed and human power. The God we have been offered by those who claim to know him is at best incomprehensible and at worst unreasonable or unloving. Please understand that I am not trying to make excuses for such a God. The God I struggle to communicate is Love. Not the noun, "love", but a person who is the living source of all that the noun "love" refers to.
"Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him." (1 John 4:8-9)
It is easy for us to think, "if God loves, then he will to this or that," but when thinking about God, we have to consider all that he is.
My youngest brother has a love for "the edge" - risk, excitement, speed. Though my parents love him dearly, when he wanted to get a motorbike they did no more than voice their concerns. My brother drove that bike for two weeks at speeds upwards of 200 kms per hour. Then he had an accident. Did my parents know he would have an accident? Let me say that it was a pretty sure thing. If they loved him, and knew his choice would hurt him, why didn't they do everything they could to stop him? Why didn't they scream and cry and forbid him to buy a bike?
Sometimes love means letting go. Sometimes it means letting people make the wrong choices. My parents knew this, and God knows this. My brother almost severed his leg, and will live the rest of his life with the results of his injuries. But he has learned the results of his choice in a way that he never would have. And he knows that his parents love him. They never said, "I told you so."
God at times appears unloving in his failure to remove pain and suffering and sin from our world. If this were due to a lack of care, then why come and suffer himself?
Instead, may I suggest that the Creator of the Universe is offering our little world as a demonstration of the ultimate results of selfishness and the ultimate results of selfishness - a demonstration that the universe as a whole desperately needs, because love is dangerous. Love includes the power to reject love.
Thus, evil must be defeated not only by God's power to punish, but by a clear demonstration of its destructiveness.
Those who are suffering in Rwanda and the Sudan and Darfur and Burma, and those who are suffering in personal "hells" in every place the world including our own nations, are our human responsibility. We are also demonstrating, by our response to them, how important love and justice are to us. We can blame it on God, but we are the ones who have created such situations, and we are responsible to respond to them. We can't sit on our comfy couches and expect God to clean up the mess we are making with our self-centredness.
To the suffering and to us God offers a freedom, a love, and a peace that no sword can take away. No, he didn't wave his wand of divine power and kill all the soldiers: instead he came himself into our world, into our life, and offers to rescue us from ourselves and from the sin that threatens to destroy us. We dare not think that we are, in our hearts, better than those who commit atrocities throughout our world. The same hatred, the same selfishness is in us that is demonstrated in them.
He also offers us freedom from fear. In North America we pride ourselves on extending freedom to all, but there are many who could testify that what we have done is allowed the body to live while we tortured the person inside with racial and religious hatred and discrimination, bullying, and disregard. Yes, it's better than Darfur. But it's far from being enough. Peace and love that begin from within are our only hope for real freedom and lasting peace.
Jesus said, 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell.' (Matthew 10:28)
God offers not political peace, but personal peace. He offers not tolerance but love. And there are persecuted people throughout the world who don't have legs to run or families with which to share the joy of life, or warm clothes or clean water, but they have love, and it is theirs to pity the empty life of comfort we so naively hold out as healing for their suffering.
Sorry this is so long, but the issue is a sensitive one, and the short answers are so trite as to be offensive.

**But as I asked on a different post of yours, does that desire for inerrancy mean the Bible *is* inerrant? On what basis do you believe it to be so? (Slapdash)

I know I have yet to respond to a few more of your questions. I'll address this one next where you first asked it on "Must the Bible be 100% True?"

Heather said...

**We dare not think that we are, in our hearts, better than those who commit atrocities throughout our world. The same hatred, the same selfishness is in us that is demonstrated in them.**

This kind of seems like a dangerous slope, though. For those who are going through and gang-raping the women in those situations, why can't we think we are better? It's not a matter of pride, or a matter of gloating that we are so much better than them. It's a matter of evaluating ourselves, and knowing that who we are at this moment could never descend to that depth. I tend to look at it this way: would I tell my brother, or my friend that they can't think they are any better than those who commit such crimes. There is a huge difference between recognizing that we have flaws and saying that we're two steps away from being the next Hitler.

** Let me say that it was a pretty sure thing. If they loved him, and knew his choice would hurt him, why didn't they do everything they could to stop him? Why didn't they scream and cry and forbid him to buy a bike?**

What happens when the choice affects someone else? I think this is much of where the difficulties with God come from. If we look at the situation with Darfur and Rwanda, why do they suffer for choices not of their making?

Plus, if we do hold all the responsiblity for this, and it's our job to fix it, why bother involving God at all? Why bother praying to God, if we have to look at people for the solution?

This isn't a matter of assigning blame, or ranting. But people are told that there is an all-powerful God who loves them and wants to save them. We then have pictures of people in Rwanda who could be praying to this same God, and seeing no such results. You mentioned earlier that we have a tendency to say that if God loves, He will to this specific action. Except we can all agree that if we loved someone and it was in our power to stop that situation, we would do so in a heartbeat. That is how all of us define love. And to say that we *can't* define God's love in that way seems to leave the concept of 'love' subjective.

I mean, even if we look at the recent event where that young girl was stoned to death and people filmed it on their camera -- it is very, very hard to see either a loving or just God in those situations.

Heather said...

Jenny,

In addition -- please know that I don't keep commenting to be argumentative, or try and ram my position down your throat. Reading your responses to what I bring up does help me understand my position better, and just gives me better insight, period. You're like a springboard. :)

Slapdash said...

**We dare not think that we are, in our hearts, better than those who commit atrocities throughout our world. The same hatred, the same selfishness is in us that is demonstrated in them.**

I don't necessarily disagree with this. Consider the Stanford Prison Experiment run by Dr. Philip Zimbardo in 1971, well before Abu Ghraib:

http://www.prisonexp.org/

Basically the argument is that with the right circumstances, even
'good' people can be manipulated to commit evil acts.

Heather said...

**Consider the Stanford Prison Experiment run by Dr. Philip Zimbardo in 1971, well before Abu Ghraib:**

I've heard of that experiment. It was a great example of how humans follow authority.

I think the difference here comes down to a matter of comparison. One approach in saying that we're all two steps away from being just like those who commit atrocities is that it comes across as saying we're all two steps away from grabbing a gun and racing off to slaughter the neighbors.

But the key in that experiment is that it was something built up -- same with Nazi Germany, or any other atrocity. It's not something that just "happens." With Germany, Hitler slowly corroded people's moral sense, until they found it perfectly acceptable to kill 11 million people. Had he just announced one day of his plans, people would've found him insane.

If the right factors are in play, and we have the same stimulus, we could do what the Nazis do. But that is something that happened over time, not a sudden thing. Too often when people say that we're just as capable, it comes across as though we're close to snapping, and that's not the case.

jennypo said...

Heather,
Don't think I'm ignoring you - just busy!

Thanks for your comments - it's good for me to know what it is that I am miscommunicating and possibly, what it is that I simply cannot communicate.

**Plus, if we do hold all the responsiblity for this, and it's our job to fix it, why bother involving God at all? Why bother praying to God, if we have to look at people for the solution? (Heather)

No way are we ever going to be the solution. That's just my point. It's our responsibility to respond, but only God's solution is ever going to change things on a real level - and he works from the inside out. His salvation is not to annihilate what frightens us, but to set us free from from fear within. He promises not to remove the evil that surrounds us, but the evil within us. Whoever chooses God has no promise of a happy, prosperous life, but we do have the promise that what we suffer has been chosen by God and is worthwhile.

**If the right factors are in play, and we have the same stimulus, we could do what the Nazis do. But that is something that happened over time, not a sudden thing. Too often when people say that we're just as capable, it comes across as though we're close to snapping, and that's not the case. (Heather)

Thanks, Heather, for pointing this out. I have to agree. We are not completely at the mercy of our environment, either. We have choices to make and we don't all make the same choices, though we have the same capabilities.

jennypo said...

Slapdash, finally got around to responding to your other questions. Sorry for being such a slooooow slug.

joeyanne said...

Heather, I'm really not picking on you. I'm just trying to understand how you came to the conclusions you did. You said, "Ultimately, if God didn't punish Jesus for our sins (as in, Jesus carrying the punishment we couldn't)"

If you only read the gospels (and ignore Matt.26:28 - For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins - and similar verses in Mark14:24 and Luke22:20), I could possibly see how you might come to the conclusion that Jesus' death was for the purpose of His ressurection, and not to bear the punishment of our sins. But you have to write off many other books in the New Testament, and Isaiah 53!

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripies we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.... Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to greif: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my rightious servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:5,6,10,11,12.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. Romans 3:23-25.

But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Romans 4:24,25.

Wherefore hi is able also t save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. Hevrews 7:25-27

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Hebrews 9:28

By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one scarifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God. Hebrews 10:10-12

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redemmed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 1Peter 1:18,19

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 1 Peter 2:24

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. 1Peter3:18

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood. Revelation 1:5.

Heather said...

Joeyanne,

The problem with the concept of Jesus being punished for everyone's sins is that it was a concept developed until the 16th century -- if it truly was something that important, why wasn't it used earlier in the churches? Instead, they go with a Ransom theory, in that God paid a ransom to the Devil to deliver everyone from sin and Sheol. And then in the 11th century, Western Christianity modifies that becauase it says that the Ransom theory makes the Devil stronger than God, so the Satisfaction theory is created.

Most of the verses you quoted below don't directly relate to God punishing Jesus in order to satisfy His justice, but it's something that is inferred. They do relate to Jesus carrying everyone's sins, yes. But that makes perfect sense if the point of Jesus carrying all sins was to destroy them with the power of the cross. Romans 6 goes into this, with its concept of the destruction of the sinful self by being united with Christ's death on the cross. If you are united with Christ on the cross at his death, then your sins are destroyed as well, and you are resurrected as a new man, fully justified.

Would he have suffered for this? Of course. Sin brings suffering. But that doesn't necessarily lead to God needing to punish someone in order to satisfy His justice. God's justice is seen in the destruction of sin. That is why Jesus was delivered for the offences, so that everyone could be justified through the power of the cross in destroying sin and death.

With the three verses pulled from the Gospels -- those just say the blood are shed on behalf of the covernant, for the many. If one believes that the covenant entailed Jesus being punished, that works. But that is something read back into the text, not something directly stated.

The Isaiah verses -- being wounded, and pleasing the Lord for Jesus to bear the iniquities -- is that to punish, or is that to destroy sin once and for all?

**For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. Romans 3:23-25.** This chapter goes onto to mention that God delayed showing His justice -- but much of the justice that people called out for in the OT was deliverance from oppression and evil. That's what Jesus' death did. There's not really God punishing Jesus instead of us mentioned here.

**But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. Romans 4:24,25.** Being delivered for the offences doesn't necessarily translate into Jesus' purpose was to be punished in our stead.

**By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one scarifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God. Hebrews 10:10-12** No punishment mentioned here. It still works in the sense that Jesus was offered in order to carry the sins of all, and thus destroy their hold, and that's all that is needed.

**Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redemmed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 1Peter 1:18,19** THis says nothing about Jesus being punished in our stead, but people would be redeemed through Jesus' blood if his death broke the power death and sin had over everyone.

**Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 1 Peter 2:24** This says nothing about God punishing Jesus for us. Yes, Jesus bore our sins, but in order to destroy them.

**For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit. 1Peter3:18** But this doesn't mean that God punished Jesus on our behalf -- but if Jesus is carrying everyone's sin, a natural result of that is suffering.

And for the other verses ... it really comes down to a matter of inference. If you read the Bible in the mindset that Jesus had to be punished for our sins in order for God to be just, then the verses will be read in that light. For Eastern Orthodox, they'll read the verses in their mindset.

Now, I could be wrong about the church theologians in the early period -- they could've taught this atonement theory. But from everything I've read so far, it looks like it wasn't really taught in specifics until the 16th century, and that was with the Protestant churches. If so, that's leading me to believe that this particular one was derived from the culture the theologians lived in, and they used that culture to interpret the Bible.

joeyanne said...

Heather, Maybe we agree and it is just wording..?? I don't see the difference between Jesus being punished for my sins and Him "carrying the sins of all" as you put it. Whether He was "punished" or was the One who "carried my sins to the cross", either way, I am justified by His blood. I am brought nigh to God through His death. His death was necessary for more than His ressurection. I don't know much about church history - mainly because I don't put my faith in what other people think or thought. Many people have been wrong and are wrong today - people who are wiser than I and have studied more extensively than I have. But "For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty." 1Corinthians 1:19-21,27. God is God to the common man and may be found by the heart, not the intellect. Mostly, He is found through His Word, which is living and is revealed to the searching heart by the Holy Spirit. It is not necessary to have any outside sources of information. If what an outside source says, contradicts what He has shown through His Word, it must be discounted. I cannot put my trust in what men say, but in God alone.

Heather said...

Joeyanne,

**His death was necessary for more than His ressurection.**

I'm not saying it wasn't. I'm saying that through Jesus' death, sin was destroyed. The cross destroyed all sin. Its hold was destroyed on everyone, which is why he carried everyone's sin. As Paul said, to be united in Jesus' death is to destroy the 'old man,' and the resurrection brings about the 'new man.' The death was necessary not just to lead to the resurrection, but in order to put to death all powers opposed to God. That is what Jesus carried, and I do see a huge difference between this phrasing and saying that God punished Jesus for humanity's sins. (Though much of that is because the latter concept goes against the idea of justice --innocence suffering on behalf of the guilty).

Mostly, I hold this because sin doesn't need 'extra' punishment. The very nature of sin is punishment itself. Why would it then need to be punished extra? If someone is awoken to the full effects of sin, that is punishment enough, and enough to make the person want to seek a different path.

**I don't know much about church history - mainly because I don't put my faith in what other people think or thought. Many people have been wrong and are wrong today - people who are wiser than I and have studied more extensively than I have. **

But if you're subscribing to a theory that says Jesus died so that God could punish him for everyone's sins, you are following a theory developed in the 16th century, and not used beforehand (which can lead to the fact that Paul and Peter could've easily not held this theory at all. Jesus might not have even seen it that way). If this wasn't the predominant theory in conservative Protestant culture, do you really think you'd believe it? Do you think that you would read the Bible and come to that conclusion? Or is it just as likely that you come to the Bible with a set of conclusions and read it that way? I'm not singling you out with that last sentence, because we all approach everything that way. Everyone has an installed set of biases, that influence how things are read and processed. Paradigms, if you will. As it is, when Christians thought the Earth was flat, they read the Bible through that paradigm. Now, it's read differently and all verses that support the flat-Earth concept are read as metaphor.

After all, Eastern Orthodox hold to the Christus Victor theory -- and they would say to believe anything else is to go against the Bible. And they would say that it would be easy to find justification for that theory simply by reading the Bible.

jennypo said...

Heather,

Yes, it is easy for us to accept cultural paradigms and the ideas prevalent in our age. But their relevance should be to some extent verifiable when questioned. People now haven't stopped holding to a "flat earth" theory just because the church has let it go - they started to question when evidence was brought forward that contradicted it. The church was forced to change its position because people did think for themselves. In the same way, I do think that I would see God, the Just, enforcing the imperatives of sin at his son's expense, thus allowing him to be both Just (demanding justice) and the one who justifies (satisfying justice) them that come to him. I think I would see that because the Bible says it. I've questioned it. It's certainly not what my generation thinks. But I don't HAVE to swallow whole whatever is the popular opinion of my day.
The historical church would have us believe that what God values is academic competence - that those who obtain theological degrees are the only ones who can understand God and what he means to say to us in the Bible. It's elitist. But I've read the Bible, and God is not elitist, and I am not convinced that the things they've called "great mysteries" are so mysterious after all. The Bible isn't simple, but it is straightforward. Furthermore, the political power wielded by the historical church makes its theories on anything highly suspect. Methinks they don't have much to do with what was written in the Bible at all. (Please, if you can, find a textual support for the early practice of selling "indulgences".)
Human scientific theories have a long history of corruption and ridiculousness, too. Shall we say that science itself is misleading or vague? No, rather the theories are!