Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rethinking Atonement in Dangerous Ways

All through church history there have been various understandings of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, both within the church and without. But for many centuries, many scholars who hold a a high view of scripture have accepted the Bible's teachings on the more legal aspect of the death of God's Lamb as one that satisfies the Holy Wrath of God. 
This has at times been painted as a harsh view of an unloving God. This criticism isn't new. God was seen as harsh in the garden for not allowing Adam and Eve to eat of every tree. To withhold even one good thing from his people was cruel. And then when they did that One Thing, God drove them from the Garden and made them work and put warrior angels guarding the Garden... What a violent God!!  You might notice my sarcasm here. I think it is incredibly arrogant of humankind to judge God's actions, motives, or outcome. Of course, some would say they are not judging God but those who wrote about him so carelessly. They were so steeped in their cultural milieu they could not possibly write the truth. Now in our enlightened age we can sift through the Holy Writ and decipher for ourselves what is to our liking as progressive, educated, truly compassionate human beings; and thereby derive what God should be.Hence this article from Pastor Chuck Queen. (This is only a snippet.)


Rethinking the atonement

By Chuck Queen Is it possible to understand the saving significance of Jesus’ death in credible, holistic and transformative ways?
Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) was the first to expound the theory that Jesus’ death was necessary for the satisfaction of God’s honor. This evolved into the theory of penal substitutionary atonement, perhaps most elaborately developed by Princeton theologian Charles Hodge (1797-1878).
This theory became so popular in Western Christianity that it came to be equated with “the gospel” preached in the Great Awakening, and in more recent times by renowned evangelist Billy Graham.
Today, a growing number of evangelical and progressive Christians are questioning the truthfulness and viability of this theory. Why is this so?
Two reasons are most often given by interpreters. First, it is suggested that this theory of the atonement makes God look small and petty. What kind of God requires the violent death of an innocent victim? And if God demands a violent atonement, then violence must in some sense be redemptive, which a growing number of Christians believe contradicts the good news of God’s nonviolent rule that Jesus proclaimed and embodied.
It is argued that at its worst, substitutionary atonement makes God guilty of cosmic child abuse; at its best, it lacks coherence and common sense. Even Trinitarian formulations that emphasize the union between Father and Son cannot erase the fact that in all versions of substitutionary atonement the bottom line is that God must save us from God.
Another reason this theory is being questioned today is because it reinforces the unhealthy notion that salvation is simply a legal, juridical transaction between the believer and God. According to most versions of substitutionary atonement, our guilt is imputed to Jesus, and his righteousness is imputed to us. As such, it does nothing to nurture authentic conversion and discipleship to Jesus. 
So how might we understand the saving significance of Jesus’ death in more credible, holistic and transformative ways?   
Read the rest here: http://www.abpnews.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=28460&Itemid=100200#.Uyhv-PldWSp

     I fear for the salvation of one who does not believe that Jesus paid the sin debt with his death. And for one who assumes, that he must be more loving and caring than God if in fact that is the case. What you are not is HOLY as God. And while I am very aware of the varied past of baptist believers, not just the last 40 years but 400, I am saddened that a Baptist, right here in the American South, would deny this aspect of redemption. Explore other concepts concerning the redemptive death of Christ? Certainly. Attribute Biblical thought strictly to an Anselmic 'straw-man' and then debunk it? Tragic.

"Violence must in some sense be redemptive." What a logical leap. Death is redemptive given the precise parameters and setting. But, hey lets call it 'violence' and so play on the popular horror of all things violent. (Maybe we can work in Columbine and Sandy Hook.)

"...it reinforces the unhealthy notion that salvation is simply a legal..." No it doesn't. One aspect of it is legal. Its not complicated, its varied and nuanced. There is plenty in the gospel story about the relationship, the oneness, the indwelling empowerment aspects of redemption. To see that an Old Testament model was fulfilled in the redemptive death of Christ, that propitiated, is a belief pre-Anselm.

There are other quotes I could deal with but I'll let you readers discover other faulty assumptions from his article.

If my reply takes on a bit of 'personal' flavor that is because Mr. Queen is leading people who claim to be believers in Christ, and I trust they are, but leading them away from the Jesus of scripture and I find that reprehensible. Even with all his compassionate and erudite language, rejection of the salvific death and payment of debt owed to God for sin is a tragedy.

The Bottom-line is, "God must save us from God." Who else possibly could? He is God, we are not. There is no merely human champion who can argue in God's court, fight in God's arena, out-compassion God in a situation where compassion would be the game changing attribute. Unless he is the human born, divine Son of God. Who is every bit as Holy and Loving as the Father who loved the world so much that He sent Him to die...  In, Our, Place.

Clark Dunlap is pastor of First Baptist Smithfield, North Richland Hills, Tx. An Historic Southern Baptist Church. And Author of The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints; Don't Just Survive, Thrive (An Exposition of 1st Peter), and other books available at Lulu.com.

Chuck Queen is pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Frankfort, Ky., and author of Being a Progressive Christian (is not) for Dummies (nor for know-it-alls): An Evolution of Faith.

Friday, March 14, 2014

So, Why Isn't the Church Reaching my Unsaved Friends?

Today I read a guest blog at http://www.ronedmondson.com/2014/03/why-the-church-isnt-reaching-my-unchurched-friends.html. It was a good, heartfelt, and pointed article. Right on target in many ways. For example, "Fake" IS a real problem. Has been a real problem for 2000 years. But we still need to address it and seek to change it. She admitted that some of the problem was her 'college age' attitude. When I was in college, I found a church (1972) but didn't fit in at all with the campus ministries. (It was more me than them.) And, she admits, the problem is people, both the churched and the unhurched, not how it looks or what it sounds like.
    But I guess I have some questions:
How do you know, from visiting on Sundays whether the people you see aren't the same Monday thru Saturday?
     When you said, "We want to ask questions. Voice our doubts. Explain our struggles. Confess our sins. Confide our fears." I thought, So? Aren't there small groups for that? If you can't talk in their home groups and/or Sunday School groups, there are plenty of churches where you can.
And doing stuff? Do none of these churches have outreach or service oriented activities? I bet some do.
May I suggest a different reason your friends aren't doing church or the church isn't reaching them?
Are you ready?

You aren't reaching them.

Before they are ready for church, they need to be reached by you. And me. And every believer reading this.
The problem is not FAKE. The Problem is LOST. Or for some it is is BACKSLID. (Old fashioned, I know, but I gotta be me. Authentic and all that.)
"There is none that seeketh after God." We must be the vessels God uses to pursue them.
And God does pursue. But He is not anxious, worried, or wringing His hands. In fact, this is the God they don't seek: Rom 1:18 "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, ... even his eternal power and Godhead; so they are without excuse:
21 Because, ...they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and birds, and beasts, and creeping things. 24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:"

     That was me, before Christ. I imagine it was you too, even if it was a 5 year old version of all that.
Part of the problem with the message of the church now is that we are less willing to speak the truth in love. (Sometimes we do speak it and the world screams "you intolerant bunch of haters." Guess what, Jesus told us that would happen.)
     The truth includes: there are "lost" people. Sinners, objects of God's wrath. There is such a thing as sin. It is wrong. God hates it. You can say you don't care what God thinks but you will answer to Him someday.
But, and this is the glorious truth, God so loved He sent His Son. And by turning from sin and selfishness, and surrender to Jesus Chris we may be saved. We may be indwelled by God Almighty Himself.
     Then, it doesn't matter how old the songs are, how the minister's dress, what color the carpet is, how "real" people may seem to you. You want to praise God for what He has done. If He says, don't forsake fellow-shipping with the Saints, you want to do what He says. When He says, let your light so shine that people may see your good works and glorify God in Heaven, then you want to work for Him.

Its amazing what a saved perspective can do for you.

Then a few other things were posted about how 'authentic today's generation is and how put upon the millennials are etc. 

So I posted this:

     I guess I have a problem seeing the Millenials, Xers etc. as more 'authenic' oriented or more 'put upon' and criticized than my generation. Yes I'm at the tail end of the boomers. But, narrowing it down to my High school college years. We are the ones who faced the military 'face to face' over Viet Nam. Were shot at at Kent State. Ushered in free love and (gasp) psychedlic rock. Drug use skyrocketed with my generation. We led a rebellion and nobody even noticed!
     We thought we INVENTED the whole idea that we wanted to get away from the fake stuff of our parent's generation and get real. In fact I think we coined the phrase "Get real." But then I realised, Every Generation wants authenticity! Nobody ever said, We're gonna be more fake and phony than our parents. As we get older, we may forget our ideals, but we didn't start out that way.
     So why aren't we reaching the millenials 'as a church.'? Because that's never been how we reached people. The people saved at large 'church events' without having had an individual planting the seed, are not the majority of the rank and file members of the Church Triumphant (in heaven) or the Church Militant (still here). Its made up of people who knew a believer, and were evangelised. Maybe they didn't become a Christian when they first heard, but the seed was planted and watered and some blessed soul got to reap the harvest.
     Faking it and inauthenticity has been a problem forever. As believers we DO need to address it. But acting like it's new or the 16 year olds of the world invented it is really ridiculous. We should Be real to people. And allow people to Be Real to us and still love and accept them. But we also need to Be Real before God and not try to massage His word into something acceptable to the wicked human heart.

The Gospel is offensive because it calls people Sinners. And even Authentic Millenials can recoil at the horrid thought that maybe they aren't as special and precious as our schools told them they were. Everyday. Ad Nauseum.