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Atonement


tariki
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It is with a certain trepidation that I begin a topic on the atonement. As someone who indentifies more as a Buddhist (Pure Land/Shin) than a Christian, in some ways it may seem inappropriate. Yet it is not so. The "unity" of Amida - the Buddha of Infinite Light - with the "devotee" plays a great part in the development of Pure Land thinking since it evolved out of Ch'an Buddhism.

 

I have read somewhere that as far as Christianity is concerned, the Atonement is the one "doctrine" that has never actually been defined by any Papal Bull, Church Council or Creedal Statement. Each "believer" is left to understand it in their own way.

 

Obviously, as a Buddhist (though I have to say that the labels are becoming a little flimsy these days) I would not be in agreement with any "view" that involved the neccesity of hearing the name "Jesus" before any atonement of the human with the divine could be contemplated.

 

There is the word kenosis, pointing to the self-emptying of Christ in His Incarnation. In effect, a self-renunciation. And that we need to "naught" ourselves to be "reconciled" to the divine. Obviously this would have links with Buddhist teachings of "no-self".

 

There is the thought of "love", that in loving as Christ loved, we are united with Him. Eckhart said...."In giving us His love God has given us His Holy Spirit so that we can love Him with the love wherewith He loves Himself. We love God with His own love; awareness of it deifies us." Thomas Merton says that this statement of Eckhart is "perfectly orthodox and traditionally Christian", and remarked also that the Zen/Shin Buddhist D.T.Suzuki quoted it with approval.

 

There is obviously the substitution theory, that Christ was "punished" in our stead. He was a "sacrifice" to God, who demanded it in some way. Personally, when I give thought to this, I think of the gospel verse......"Go and learn what this means, I ask for mercy and not sacrifice".

 

And there is the "social gospel". Christ came "to serve, not to be served." And "feed my sheep". By serving His sheep, we become "one" with Him in service.

 

Well, thats a few for starters!

 

How do others here understand the "atonement"?

Edited by tariki
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If you go to the facebook site for the Center for Progressive Christianity, there is a wonderful discussion of this subject under the heading "Substitutionary Atonement" I wish there was a good way to link the two and be able to merge input from people on that site that are interested as well as those here.

 

I love looking at the various ways the story of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection can be interpreted. Especially with Lent coming up.

 

Janet

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My view is closest to the one Gustav Aulen named Christus Victor

 

http://www.theopedia.com/Christus_Victor

 

 

There was no debt that had to be paid, no blood sacrifice. It wasn’t God who had to be appeased but we humans who needed to be reconciled to God. Jesus reveals God’s heart as that of a loving father, as in the parable of the prodigal son. Atonement says in effect that God became at one with us in suffering and death, so that we could become at one with him in resurrection, new life.

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rivanna, I took a peep at your link............certainly liked the rejection of the idea of any of this being a "buisness transaction". Always loved the thought of anyone being ushered into the kingdom and saying "who, me?" and meaning it! I'm a long way from that myself, but hopefully also a long way from "well, of course, evidently!"

 

God loves as as we are, accepts us as we are..........not indeed because we are intrinsically loveable but because of the love of God, who is Love. And paradoxically, it is the pure and total acceptance of ourselves by God as we are that is the catalyst for genuine transformation, as we begin a life based upon gratitude rather than one attempting self justification by "works". This is pure Pure Land.......its just that in Pure Land the range within "devotees" sweeps from Amida as some sort of indentifiable Cosmic Buddha, to the impersonal Reality-as-is. All are welcome. "Better to see the face than to hear the name"

 

There was a guy called Willaim Barclay, who did his own translation of the NT, and also wrote commentaries on every book. These were at one time read and loved by many. He can seem sentimental at times, yet his stories and words often hold truths that are still needed within many hearts. In one commentary he mentioned a story from an autobiographical work. It was about a young boys childhood and of his getting to know his father. His father had always seemed to him rather stern and unforgiving. Each sunday his father would take him to church. One day the weather was very hot and the sermon went on and on. The child felt himself nodding off, and fearful of the wrath of his father, he fought to keep himself awake. Once again he felt his head begin to nod forward, and just then his father raised his arm. The child flinched, waiting for the clip around the ear. Instead, his father's arm went gently around him, encouraging him to rest his head upon his father's shoulder. At that moment, the child wrote, he came to know his father for the first time.

 

I think it is easy to see Jesus as trying to stand between us and the wrath of the Father. "Hit me, instead of him". Yet God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Whatever the merits of the Trinity, Father and Son have the same attitude towards us. In this sense, one is the other.

 

I realise that here I am speaking to the converted, as it were! Yet I have spent a little time recently on another forum and seen for myself just how distorted "love" can become, until it in effect is erased by "judgement", "fear", "wrath" and dire threats and warnings involving wailing and the gnashing of teeth! All rather sad.

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Janet,

 

Sorry, I'm a bit thick when it comes to certain sites. I am on facebook, but only so I can access my daughters various photos. How do I access the feature you spoke of?

 

Anyway, nice to open to the variety, rather than become over defensive of our own understanding.

 

All the best

Derek

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Hi Derek,

 

Using the following definition of atonement.....

 

Amends or reparation made for an injury or wrong; expiation.

 

It seems to me that full forgiveness of others and oneself which initiates transformation and 'right action' is in effect one and the same with atonement. The powerful message of "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do" is founded in Love and, IME, is a key to the kingdom of God here now. It seems to me to be sufficient for any reparation and on a deeper level, at least in my experience, paradoxically, there is 'nothing' to forgive.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

 

 

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Janet,

 

Sorry, I'm a bit thick when it comes to certain sites. I am on facebook, but only so I can access my daughters various photos. How do I access the feature you spoke of?

 

Anyway, nice to open to the variety, rather than become over defensive of our own understanding.

 

All the best

Derek

 

Derek, I'm still figuring out the facebook thing, too. You'd need to go to the Search box in the upper right hand corner and type in The Center for Progressive Christianity. If you select their site, you can go to the discussions tab and click on that and see all the topics that are being discussed there. Substitutionary Atonement was the second one down last time I checked. Please ask more questions if you can't find it. We'd love to have you on there.

 

I loved that link to Christus Victor! Thanks for that rivanna!

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Derek, I'm still figuring out the facebook thing, too. You'd need to go to the Search box in the upper right hand corner and type in The Center for Progressive Christianity. If you select their site, you can go to the discussions tab and click on that and see all the topics that are being discussed there. Substitutionary Atonement was the second one down last time I checked. Please ask more questions if you can't find it. We'd love to have you on there.

 

I loved that link to Christus Victor! Thanks for that rivanna!

 

Janet,

 

Thanks, I'll give it a go..............if I get lost in Cyberspace I'll know who to blame...... :huh:

 

Derek

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Hi Derek,

 

Using the following definition of atonement.....

 

Amends or reparation made for an injury or wrong; expiation.

 

It seems to me that full forgiveness of others and oneself which initiates transformation and 'right action' is in effect one and the same with atonement. The powerful message of "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do" is founded in Love and, IME, is a key to the kingdom of God here now. It seems to me to be sufficient for any reparation and on a deeper level, at least in my experience, paradoxically, there is 'nothing' to forgive.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

Thanks Joseph,

 

At least for the duration of this thread, I had been considering "atonement" only in the sense of healing the "rift" between the "self" and the "divine". Yet God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Perhaps God is/was/will be? Not "once" but "eternally"?

 

Derek

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Heres an essay I found very helpful in understanding the cross from the perspective of grace rather than legalism - as God suffering with us, as love reaching out to us and overcoming the powers of evil, sin and death. This was the view of the early church for the first thousand years I feel that it expresses the PC position, but perhaps restored is a better term

 

http://sharktacos.com/God/cross3.html

 

Its a carefully researched and heartfelt piece of writing, and addresses the misguided idea of vicarious atonement or penal substitution in a very convincing way, to me at least. A sample -

So to the one wracked with guilt God says through Jesus on the cross, "I take the blame." To the one who is locked in self-hate, God says through the cross "I love you so much I would give my life defending you." To the one in rebellion to life God says through the cross, "See me here. I am not a threat; I am love."

Edited by rivanna
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rivanna, I took a peep at your link............certainly liked the rejection of the idea of any of this being a "buisness transaction". Always loved the thought of anyone being ushered into the kingdom and saying "who, me?" and meaning it! I'm a long way from that myself, but hopefully also a long way from "well, of course, evidently!"

 

 

I like the way Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan described their views on atonement theology in their book, The First Paul. They compared Jesus dying for our sins to being like Martin Luther King Jr's assassination. The idea was that Martin Luther King Jr died for the African American civil rights movement, but that doesn't mean he died in place of African Americans. Jesus' death was essentially an assassination of a civil rights leader.
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  • 1 month later...

I have a few ways I look at what happened on the cross. The most dominant one in my life right now is the sense that even in the darkest of times, Jesus fully identified with all humanity (including his enemies). In doing so, he revealed to us what divine love looks and feels like. And inasmuch as we participate in the divine spirit, we identify with others in our common humanity and become agents of transformation in this world.

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-

“So to the one wracked with guilt God says through Jesus on the cross, "I take the blame." To the one who is locked in self-hate, God says through the cross "I love you so much I would give my life defending you." To the one in rebellion to life God says through the cross, "See me here. I am not a threat; I am love."

 

Rivanna - I love this! It is so true that the resurrection has personal meaning to each of us, depending on where we are at the moment.

 

Janet

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  • 2 weeks later...

I believe attonement is a personal process that can not be explained in an objective and unbiased manner for everyone. Just as everything else that is mortal (and perhaps immortal, at that), it is completely unique to each individual.

 

You know, modern-day Christianity certainly is built on the platform of Jesus' death of all things to be central.. a fixed, unmoveable point of so-called atonement based on the death of a man. But, Christianity is a living religion and our God is a living God. Our spirituality is vibrant, breathing, dynamic, alive, changing... To me, the concept of the ressurection is a perpetual event that never ends and is dynamic, rather than a fixed point in time. And it is less about attonement, than about the survival and continuation of my own personal faith and walk with God.

 

While many people see Jesus' death as the pinnacle point of all points, the sacrifice of all sacrifices... and yet for me, I actually find the death of Jesus means very little to me; or at the very least, much less than his -life- and -teachings- both mean to me. Most consider his death to be a sacrificial point in time that extends forward (and backward) from the day it happened, radiating out as a beam of light from a point covering all other points and never grows dim with time nor distance; however, I see this ressurection of Jesus as a spiritual event that occurs as a spark within each of us at numerous and limitless times over the course of our lives, and becomes far more important than the actual point of nailing a human being to a cross a couple thousand years ago.

 

Don't get me wrong, I do see Jesus as a reconciliation between ourselves in the mortal realm, and God in the realms beyond.. and he is -my- reconciliation; but, I do not believe he is the ONLY reconciliation. I do not believe Jesus is the "only way," not by far.. which means atonement and reconciliation go far beyond a simple event in time.

 

Reconciliation (or Atonement, but I far prefer the word Reconciliation) is a daily, personal process. Often, many Christians see the death of Jesus as a single point in time where attonement took place; however, I am not one of those Christians (and I am, indeed, a Christian). For me, I look to the process of reconciliation to God through Jesus's teachings and life in an ongoing daily basis, rather than his cited death on a cross as a fixed point in history. And the spiritual ressurection is a mystical event that touches my life, as our faith in and relationship to God must overcome the threat of death to the mortal world on a continuing basis in a variety of shapes and forms.

 

The reconciliation is truly about triumph in (or salvation from) the face of adversity of all sorts. Reconciliation and atonement are both living and breathing, like all other portions of spirituality and religion should be. My attonement happens now, it happened yesterday, and it will happen again tomorrow. Reconciliation is repeated as much as I need it to recur for my relationship with God and my spirituality to exist in a perpetual state of health.

 

That's just my personal viewpoint.

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Ada wrote:

 

“To me, the concept of the resurrection is a perpetual event that never ends. Reconciliation is a daily, personal process. Atonement happens now, it happened yesterday, and it will happen again tomorrow.”

 

Nicely said - I agree, this meaning needs to be emphasized. As Tillich said, “A new reality has appeared in which you are already reconciled. Resurrection happens now, or it does not happen at all.”

 

Lately I’ve been reading a little on the theology of Dorothee Soelle. I think her view adds a valid perspective on solidarity:

 

“Jesus believed above all and for all, in a life before death.The resurrection is for all, not just for Jesus. He went to the cross on behalf of love and justice in the face of social contempt and oppression with only the power of powerless love. Such a life and love is greater than anything that this world can do to us. That is the power of resurrection that lives on in us today. We must free the idea of resurrection from the stranglehold of individualism. It was not an isolated event which took place once 2,000 years ago. It must be understood as a process that happens afresh again and again. The only possible proof of Christ’s resurrection and our own would be a changed world, a world a little closer to the kingdom of God. The real center of Christology is from below--a Christology from above deifies him, and results in our worshipping Jesus but not necessarily following him. To be in Christ means that we are with him on the way.”

Edited by rivanna
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Rivanna,

I love that quote of Dorothee Soelle's! I often refer to the resurrection as an event that shows Jesus is alive in our lives today, that death could not contain Him. However, this is SO much better than that.

 

Thanks for sharing!

 

Ada, I agree that reconciliation and atonement are a deeply personal process. Though I know I'm already forgiven, it is still important to consider how I'd like to do things differently the next time around, and God can help with that whole process.

 

If I do that DAILY, that means I am focusing on what is important in life (GOD) rather than focusing on all the other potential distractions out there. In my experience, focusing in such a way has brought the most spiritual growth and personal change in my own life, but some days it just doesn't happen...

 

One of the things that helped me is to realize that I can connect to God during the mundane tasks I do everyday (waiting for my computer to boot, jogging, singing)....

 

Thanks for a new insight, Ada!

 

Janet

 

Janet

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I actually don't know that we will ever completely see, understand or describe in words why God did what God did. However, I think that if we stepped back and looked at the picture God was painting, I think it would hit home as an ultimate picture of God showing the depth of what His love is and can be for us. The picture portrayed was not God sitting on a throne with a sceptre with His puny subjects scrambling around serving His every whim. Or a big gleaming castle set in the middle of a starving village and people hanging in the gallows. The picture that was painted was not one of a boastful tyrant or a thoughtless Deity. It was one of very simple, yet profound actions that examplify love at it's most highest and greatest. A picture is worth a thousand words!

 

It is with a certain trepidation that I begin a topic on the atonement. As someone who indentifies more as a Buddhist (Pure Land/Shin) than a Christian, in some ways it may seem inappropriate. Yet it is not so. The "unity" of Amida - the Buddha of Infinite Light - with the "devotee" plays a great part in the development of Pure Land thinking since it evolved out of Ch'an Buddhism.

 

I have read somewhere that as far as Christianity is concerned, the Atonement is the one "doctrine" that has never actually been defined by any Papal Bull, Church Council or Creedal Statement. Each "believer" is left to understand it in their own way.

 

Obviously, as a Buddhist (though I have to say that the labels are becoming a little flimsy these days) I would not be in agreement with any "view" that involved the neccesity of hearing the name "Jesus" before any atonement of the human with the divine could be contemplated.

 

There is the word kenosis, pointing to the self-emptying of Christ in His Incarnation. In effect, a self-renunciation. And that we need to "naught" ourselves to be "reconciled" to the divine. Obviously this would have links with Buddhist teachings of "no-self".

 

There is the thought of "love", that in loving as Christ loved, we are united with Him. Eckhart said...."In giving us His love God has given us His Holy Spirit so that we can love Him with the love wherewith He loves Himself. We love God with His own love; awareness of it deifies us." Thomas Merton says that this statement of Eckhart is "perfectly orthodox and traditionally Christian", and remarked also that the Zen/Shin Buddhist D.T.Suzuki quoted it with approval.

 

There is obviously the substitution theory, that Christ was "punished" in our stead. He was a "sacrifice" to God, who demanded it in some way. Personally, when I give thought to this, I think of the gospel verse......"Go and learn what this means, I ask for mercy and not sacrifice".

 

And there is the "social gospel". Christ came "to serve, not to be served." And "feed my sheep". By serving His sheep, we become "one" with Him in service.

 

Well, thats a few for starters!

 

How do others here understand the "atonement"?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Derek,

Check out 'Atonement' on page 6 of Debate and Dialogue.

Some of the responses may interest you.

 

 

David,

 

Thanks for the pointer. My main interest is in relating Pure Land ideas with what I would call the "negative way" of many Christian mystics..........as they relate to becoming "one" with divinity....At-One-ment.

 

In giving us His love God has given us His Holy Spirit so that we can love Him with the love wherewith He loves Himself. We love God with His own love; awareness of it deifies us." (Eckhart) And D T Suzuki Zen/Ch'an and Shin - Pure Land - Buddhist, quotes it with approval.

 

Your'll surely not be surprised to hear that the posts that interested me most were those of JosephM and Soma. :rolleyes:

 

This may all seem a bit up in the air, but for me it is very down on the ground, and relates totally with my life in all its nitty gritty.

 

Please david, this is NOT an invitation for another debate. Frankly I'm tired of repetition that achieves nothing.

 

All the best

tariki/derek

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Jenny,

 

Good sentiment; "the picture (of the Atonement) was not one of a boastful tyrant or a thoughtless Deity." - jenny

---

 

Hello Derek,

 

Thanks for the non-invitation. As far as debate is concerned, I'll be just as frank with you; you have no control over my responses, other than to provide the fodder. While I may disagree with you, I respect your opinions, but I really don't need your personal invitation to comment. Your posts are freely open to be commented upon by your own invitation.

 

You have the freedom to not respond.

---

 

Since Tariki and I both believe in God's love and love God, we are (according to the Buddhist- Mr. Suzuki, et al) both deified. But both of us becoming god's is repetitive. Which, according to some posts, achieves nothing. I would agree on this point. What would two gods have to debate anyway? This is so grounded.

 

How do others here understand the "atonement"?

 

The Buddist concept to "naught" oneself is not found in Christianity, and in Progressive Christianity there is no purpose for an Atonement. Any discussion of it's being necessary or only a one time and space event, is futile, for it is few that seem to be open to God's provision for sinful man's reconciliation with Him.

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(snip)

How do others here understand the "atonement"?

 

The Buddist concept to "naught" oneself is not found in Christianity, and in Progressive Christianity there is no purpose for an Atonement. Any discussion of it's being necessary or only a one time and space event, is futile, for it is few that seem to be open to God's provision for sinful man's reconciliation with Him.

 

Davidk,

 

As a matter of TCPC forum etiquette, it would be appreciated that when you or another, when responding to a thread initiated by another, or for that matter any thread, that you make your comments clear that you do not speak for Progressive Christianity, Buddhists or for Christianity. Words such as 'it is my opinion or understanding that in Progressive Christianity there is no purpose for an Atonement' would be more appropriate. Some may understand that you are always just expressing your opinion/view but your wording above is in this moderators opinion provoking. Tariki has made it clear that he wants dialog rather than debate and in a sense it is his thread to steer just as any that you initiate are yours to do the same.

 

JosephM (as Moderator)

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  • 3 weeks later...

di·a·logue

Variant(s): also di·a·log

Function: noun

Etymology: Middle English dialoge, from Anglo-French dialogue, from Latin dialogus, from Greek dialogos, from dialegesthai to converse, from dia- + legein to speak more at legend

Date: 13th century

1 : a written composition in which two or more characters are represented as conversing

2 a : a conversation between two or more persons; also : a similar exchange between a person and something else b : an exchange of ideas and opinions c : a discussion between representatives of parties to a conflict that is aimed at resolution

--

 

atone·ment

Pronunciation: \ə-ˈtōn-mənt\

Function: noun

Date: 1513

1 : obs; restoration of friendly relations

2 : cap; a theological doctrine concerning the reconciliation of God and man as effected by the saving and redeemimg work (sacrificial death) of Jesus Christ

3 : reparation for an offense or injury; satisfaction

4 Christian Science : the exemplifying of human oneness with God (note: CS says man is incapable of sin and in no need of salvation. The writings of Mrs. Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy are considered infallible.)

 

Joseph,

 

Thank you for your comment, though Derek seems to be unruffled, as I am by his comments.

 

Everyone presents thoughts and opinions along with the occasional fact; to constantly provide disclaimers seems to be a useless repetition.

 

Buddhism has no theological doctrine of Atonement with God and Progressive christianity simply has no real need for one other than an appearance to conform to a traditional Christian tenet.

 

In my humble opinion,

Davidk

Edited by davidk
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As recently as April 1, 2010, TCPC's fearless leader, Mr. Fred Plummer, declared not only his preferred position for TCPC, but also impresses on the reader that a progressive Christian should abandon "the idea that Jesus died for our sins (atonement theology) and see atonement only as mythology".

 

Mr. Plummer attempts to reinforce his anti-"atonement theology" by arguing that God is an impersonal entity. Evidenced by the impersonal pronoun, he writes: "the Divine, the Holy, or what we sometimes call God"; and "God, as we call it today".

 

But, by virtue of the evidence in the language of his closing remarks, he cannot seem to live consistantly within such an argument for an impersonal god. For later, he assigns to God what are clearly personal attributes: "relationship with Alaha or God", "communion with God", and "given us a clean slate by God".

 

He is unable to actually live within what he seems to claim as the progressive "it" or "what" philosophy.

 

This inability to remain consistant, even within the same writing, seems to put TCPC's argument against "atonement theology" at significant risk, for with a personal God, the Atonement makes sense.

 

 

By the evidence,

 

Davidk

 

note: to avoid any confusion in the mind of our esteemed moderator, "fearless leader" is a term I have used for years as a friendly and casual term of respect.

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Davidk,

 

Since you are declaring what another person said (Fred Plumer) and partially quoting it, it is customary etiquette to reference the writing at least by link that you are referring to so others can find it, read it also and draw their own conclusions on what he is saying. When you are writing, "By the evidence", it is always appropriate to submit the actual evidence. I would hope you would be more careful in the future when quoting others. Also you are free to write Fred directly concerning his writing since you believe you have found inconsistency in it.

 

 

JosephM (as Moderator)

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