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Perspectives In Redemption


Mike
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Hi all,

 

A few weeks ago my church held a bible discussion group, and the conversation moved to the question of why bad things happen to good people, and to the idea of redemption. The popular notion is, of course, that the innocent who suffer now will be vindicated in the afterlife, and evildoers will be punished. Essentially, just reverse the order of things presently.

 

There are other ideas about theodicy. Suffering is a test of character, or evil occurs for an ultimate good. Everything happens for a reason, even if we don't understand it. Basically this means that the evils we all suffer now can somehow be justified in the divine plan.

 

Some of the people in our discussion group had faith in this reasoning. Others expressed skepticism that suffering is a test (obviously there is a great deal of suffering in the world that is simply gratuitous and without any constructive value whatever), but stood by the belief that somehow God will make good of it. And that is the meaning of redemption.

 

My minister turned to me, being one of the younger attendees, and asked for my opinion. I didn't want to contradict most everyone else and say that I have just about no confidence in the above sentiments. So I meandered and skirted about the issue. I said that at different periods in one's life, such reasoning can be more convincing than at other times. It is very difficult to find any good in pain while it is happening. Some times we can look back and see that it ultimately had meaning in our life's story. But other times it just doesn't have any discernible value at all - pain is just pain. Basically I said nothing at all.

 

Then I began to think about the theology that became very pronounced after the second World War - the theology of the suffering God, the crucified God. While not providing any logical answers to the problem of suffering, this theology is determined to actually see God in our suffering, to participate with Christ in his passion (suffering) as he participates in ours. There are no answers, only God's presence - his identification with us, and our identification with him.

 

Redemption is a very important theme in Christian thought, and I wondered just what it can possibly mean in the world we live in today. I wondered if I believe in redemption. Then I thought, what all these different points of view - these attempts to explain suffering and evil - have in common is their determination to see God in life - to not divorce God from this world, no matter what situation life presents. And if God can be authentically seen in our circumstances, then our circumstances will be redeemed. They will be infused with transcendent meaning, no longer seen as absolutes or finalities in themselves. Rather, only God has the final say on their meaning. God speaks to their true reality, thereby transforming their nature. Now they speak to the reality of God, and not of their own reality. Somehow, even in the midst of grief, struggle, birth and death, life is made good by God. This is by seeing God, by identifying God’s own Self in the world.

 

What do you say, do you believe in redemption? What does it mean to you?

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Hi Mike,

 

If by redemption you mean that "the innocent who suffer now will be vindicated in the afterlife, and evildoers will be punished," then I must confess that I'm not to confident in the idea. On the other hand, the idea that "if God can be authentically seen in our circumstances, then our circumstances will be redeemed" does have some appeal, as does your statement that "even in the midst of grief, struggle, birth and death, life is made good by God." However, my way of resolving the theodicy issue is by concluding that God is not in any way omnipotent. I think that has become my starting point, but I'm not sure how that deals with the idea of redemption.

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Mike,

 

To me, at a particular period in time, redemption had meaning and seemed necessary as guilt and self condemnation made up a sizable portion of a conditioned life i was experiencing. Guilt, condemnation and forgiveness seemed to be an endless cycle of existence and a need to extinguish that cycle in me arose. Religion, Fundamental Christianity, at first seemed to be an answer, though now, Fundamental Christianity as taught seems to me to be more the cause of the conditioning and cycle than the fix. For a time it acted as the fix or redemption from what was taught and perceived as sin.

 

Somehow, in the cycle of this life and in pursuit of a deeper less societal conditioned Religion, a deeper understanding of the root of Christianity and other religions arose of itself giving a different picture of condemnation, sin, and choice among other things. In this understanding, redemption appeared to me as temporal and man-made and i find nothing in creation in need of real redemption but rather a divine dance of creation being played out in a perfection beyond description of intellectual reasoning. In this, an identification with God surfaced that was always present but not perceived.

 

So now to your question, "do you believe in redemption?", i can only answer with a question, Who is it that needs to be redeemed?

 

To your question, "What does it mean to you?", the question simply disappears.

 

Joseph

 

 

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Hi Joseph,

 

I tend to agree with your sentiments insofar as I think if there is redemption, it is something that happens from our perspective. I have little faith in traditional notions of it, as pertaining to the afterlife, or as you mention, in redemption from a state of human sinfulness or original sin. However, I think it is true that experiencing God, or what is sacred, redeems life. Creation may or may not be in need of actual redemption in the traditional sense, but our usual dualistic and ego-centric ways of thinking and relating to our self and the world do. When one person's life in the world is redeemed, his or her delusions and conflicts dissolved, for this person the whole universe may be transformed into God's kingdom. That to me is redemption.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Hi Mike,

 

If by redemption you mean that "the innocent who suffer now will be vindicated in the afterlife, and evildoers will be punished," then I must confess that I'm not to confident in the idea. On the other hand, the idea that "if God can be authentically seen in our circumstances, then our circumstances will be redeemed" does have some appeal, as does your statement that "even in the midst of grief, struggle, birth and death, life is made good by God." However, my way of resolving the theodicy issue is by concluding that God is not in any way omnipotent. I think that has become my starting point, but I'm not sure how that deals with the idea of redemption.

 

Hello Don,

I think your conclusion is a logical one. I see the problem of evil as so great a problem that it renders most traditional understandings of God unbelievable to me. One way to resolve this problem is by diminishing God as personal - God is not literally a person. I try to be open to many different ideas, as I don't take the enterprise of systematic theology all that seriously. But I lean to this perspective. I look for God in both the personal and impersonal. I look for God in life in general, so I'm something of a pantheist, though I personally would not prefer that label.

 

This pours over into my idea of redemption. Teleological expectations of redemption are nice to think about, but like I said I just cannot muster any life-altering trust in them. Leaving behind teleology - or redemption as a future event, I turn to the ontological - to God's reality in the here and now as qualitatively redeeming life through transcendent meaning, etc.

 

But like I said I'm open to other possibilities. I like the idea in Corinthians ('theosis' in Catholicism) of the purpose of the cosmos being God becoming all in all, everything to everything. Perhaps this is compatible with your own approach?

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Although I have redeemed "Green Stamps", something useless for something useful, to me to be redeemed is to be made whole. Maybe the idea of redemption serves a human need to break the chain that binds us to the negative, to shatter our current worldview so that we may experience a new life, a resurrection of sorts. To cleanse us from the effects of the "negative" and provide hope that the future will be better, that prodigal will return and that the woman who was tortured and raped will be a comfort to others who suffer the same. Reclaiming the good or recycling the "negative."

 

I think we find redemption through narratives, reframing, spiritual work.

 

In the book, The Shack, a very personal Godhead is portrayed. The narrow focus on the personal relationship seems to brush aside the theodicy question. I think that in this story God is saying "I am here to suffer with you. The murderer? That's another story. Yes I know it hurts. Tell to me about it."

 

Logically? I think God is inherently unable to intervene.

 

Dutch

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You bring up several issues,

 

Why bad things happen to good people?

This has been a question that has been asked for millions of years and never a satisfying answer. The fact that there has never been a satisfying answer suggests that there may not be an understandable answer. Or, and this is my personal view, it may be that stuff happens ..... thats life ..... ya can't have good without bad. Look at if from a squirrels life. He crosses the road and gets hit by a car Gods how do we explain this??? Stuff happens? Is the only difference between a squirrel and humans that we have the ability to say "Man that sucks"?? I personally find it a bit arrogant for humans to think we are the only creatures that God loves. Now getting to Earned Redemption I feel that it is an attempt by the church to explain the unexplainable and it is a very unsatisfying explanation at that.

 

steve

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You bring up several issues,

 

Why bad things happen to good people?

This has been a question that has been asked for millions of years and never a satisfying answer. The fact that there has never been a satisfying answer suggests that there may not be an understandable answer. Or, and this is my personal view, it may be that stuff happens ..... thats life ..... ya can't have good without bad. Look at if from a squirrels life. He crosses the road and gets hit by a car Gods how do we explain this??? Stuff happens? Is the only difference between a squirrel and humans that we have the ability to say "Man that sucks"?? I personally find it a bit arrogant for humans to think we are the only creatures that God loves. Now getting to Earned Redemption I feel that it is an attempt by the church to explain the unexplainable and it is a very unsatisfying explanation at that.

 

steve

 

That is an interesting point - I believe it was at least Paul's hope that not only humans but the whole cosmos would be redeemed one day. That, however, humans are assumed to be central to the story of the universe is a given in the bible. Perhaps we can forgive that bias, since it was humans that wrote it. However, as you mention, even other creatures die untimely and painful deaths, and most people don't expect them to be vindicated in the afterlife. The whole idea of vindication strikes my skeptical mind as ad hoc - if that's really the way the world is, then shouldn't we expect it to actually be the way the world is?

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Although I have redeemed "Green Stamps", something useless for something useful, to me to be redeemed is to be made whole. Maybe the idea of redemption serves a human need to break the chain that binds us to the negative, to shatter our current worldview so that we may experience a new life, a resurrection of sorts. To cleanse us from the effects of the "negative" and provide hope that the future will be better, that prodigal will return and that the woman who was tortured and raped will be a comfort to others who suffer the same. Reclaiming the good or recycling the "negative."

 

I think we find redemption through narratives, reframing, spiritual work.

 

Hi Dutch,

 

I believe you've hit on a lot of truth here. Indeed, I might restate myself using your ideas, and say that redemption is bringing God into life's story, giving him the central reality. The story of our lives then cease to be stories merely about ourselves, and become stories about God - sacred stories. The whole signification of life is reframed and speaks to something greater and whole.

 

Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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