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Is Atonement Theology Inherently Anti-Semitic


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While most modern day Christians no longer blame the Jews for murdering God, there's still some leftover anti-Semitic bias in traditional understandings of atonement theology. According to atonement theology, the Jews didn't murder Jesus but Jesus' death was a sacrifice for the sins of the world. All of us are tainted by sin, whether our own or Adam's sin depending on if you're Catholic or Protestant, and only the sacrifice of a perfect sinless being can atone for that sin. Jesus was that perfect sacrifice and Jesus' death was the appeasement for God's wrath and now God will forgive us for our sins as long as we repent of it and convert to "true" Christianity. The problem with this "softer" view of atonement theology is that while Christians no longer solely blame the Jews, non-belief in the divinity of Jesus is still seen as a sin and many Christians think we're still crucifying Jesus all over again every time we commit a sin. So while these Christians give lip service to the idea that the Jews aren't to blame for Jesus' death, according to this theology, since the Jews don't believe in Jesus, then the Jews are sinning. Since committing a sin is like crucifying Jesus on the cross all over again, as long as the Jews continue to "reject" Jesus, they're still killing Jesus.

 

Not only does this view of atonement theology continues to see the Jews as repeatedly murdering God through their "rejection" of him, but it continues to pardon the Roman government from their guilt in all of this. They may give lip service to the idea of the Romans' being the real criminals behind the death of Jesus, but the Romans are still seen only as "guilty" as the rest of us our with our own sins and the Romans are excused as being an instrument in God's cosmic conspiracy. I once got into a debate with a fundamentalist Christian at another forum over the immorality of hell and they admitted that Anne Frank was going to hell for being a Jew and Hitler was going to heaven because he happened to be a Christian. So the Romans are only as "guilty" as the rest of us fallen humans are but the Jews are more worthy of hellfire than Hitler because they didn't believe in Jesus but Hitler did. I don't think most Christians today who subscribe to this theology are bigots and I think they're well-meaning people but as long as Christianity is still seen as an exclusive faith and the sins of all non-Christians are the ones guilty for putting Jesus on the cross, the Church still hasn't fully purged itself of antisemitism. The only difference now is that both the Jews and all other non-Christians are guilty of murdering God but the Jews are still co-conspirators in the crime.

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As like many Fundamentalist ideas, this one seems to have a contradiction. If, in fact, it was God's intention to sacrifice Jesus, then whoever did it (Jews or Romans) would have simply been instruments for carrying out God's will. Without their assistance, Christians would be without hope of salvation. So, maybe a little appreciation should be expressed.

 

George

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I think the challenge for atonement is a question of exclusivity, rather than anti-semitism.

 

Theologically, it's rather easy to shift the blame from the Jews to either Rome or to temporal power in general. Now, in terms of chuch culture and practice, that's another matter. However, if we're talking about whether or not a specific theological idea is inherently anti-Semitic, I don't think this one is, unless one views it as hard wired into the claim the Jews killed Jesus.

 

But exclusivity... that one is a bit trickier. Again, I don't think it's impossible, but it's more of a challenge, especially given the second half of John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life"

 

I don't think there is much of a challenge in the first part. God wished to bring the world back, reconciling it to God. This suggests the world and all its inhabitants are fallen, rather than a specific group. It also highlights God's action as unilateral, which also helps avoid a specific group being targeted for praise or criticism.

 

But that last bit, that's the mess. If you don't believe in Jesus as son of God sent as a sacrificial lamb, then you will know death, according to the reading we all know.

 

I think there are ways out of that box, but if you want to find the challenge, that's it. However, IMHO, it's not specifically anti-Semitic as much as it's anti-everybody-without-a-membership-card.

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While most modern day Christians no longer blame the Jews for murdering God, there's still some leftover anti-Semitic bias in traditional understandings of atonement theology.

 

Can a spirit be murdered? But, that's another argument.

 

First, as a Jewish person (but raised as a Christian - it's a long story B) ), I don't use the appellation anti-Semite lightly. So, I don't consider Christians who misunderstand history, the Jewish religion or how their own religion evolved as anti-Semitic.

 

I think the proper term is stereotyping.

 

Christians have been raised with the idea that the Jews were the bad guys in the Biblical narrative. This isn't Antisemitism, it's reading comprehension. Look, if you were told that the Pope was the anti-Christ for your entire life, you would probably think that it was true, although probably a few years of living in the big, wide world would help to dispel the notion. And, hopefully, when you are all grown up, you will reject the idea entirely.

 

 

According to atonement theology, the Jews didn't murder Jesus but Jesus' death was a sacrifice for the sins of the world. All of us are tainted by sin, whether our own or Adam's sin depending on if you're Catholic or Protestant, and only the sacrifice of a perfect sinless being can atone for that sin. Jesus was that perfect sacrifice and Jesus' death was the appeasement for God's wrath and now God will forgive us for our sins as long as we repent of it and convert to "true" Christianity. The problem with this "softer" view of atonement theology is that while Christians no longer solely blame the Jews, non-belief in the divinity of Jesus is still seen as a sin and many Christians think we're still crucifying Jesus all over again every time we commit a sin. So while these Christians give lip service to the idea that the Jews aren't to blame for Jesus' death, according to this theology, since the Jews don't believe in Jesus, then the Jews are sinning. Since committing a sin is like crucifying Jesus on the cross all over again, as long as the Jews continue to "reject" Jesus, they're still killing Jesus.

 

It's funny, but I've heard the same thing said of Catholics who celebrate Mass - that it is equivalent to crucifying Jesus all over again.

 

I've been among a lot of Jews, and have never met one that views the Atonement theory of Christianity as anti-Semitic. To them, it's just confirmation that the Christian god is not the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The real G-d would never demand a human sacrifice for the atonement of sin. I mean, that's what the whole lesson of Abraham and Isaac is all about.

 

Not only does this view of atonement theology continues to see the Jews as repeatedly murdering God through their "rejection" of him, but it continues to pardon the Roman government from their guilt in all of this.

 

Do you know many Christians who hold this view?

 

They may give lip service to the idea of the Romans' being the real criminals behind the death of Jesus, but the Romans are still seen only as "guilty" as the rest of us our with our own sins and the Romans are excused as being an instrument in God's cosmic conspiracy. I once got into a debate with a fundamentalist Christian at another forum over the immorality of hell and they admitted that Anne Frank was going to hell for being a Jew and Hitler was going to heaven because he happened to be a Christian. So the Romans are only as "guilty" as the rest of us fallen humans are but the Jews are more worthy of hellfire than Hitler because they didn't believe in Jesus but Hitler did.

 

Jesus was just one of thousands of Jews killed by the Romans during that time period. I think the historic record maintains the guilt of the Romans. As to the "murder" of Jesus - well, I only know of a handful of ultra-right wing uber-Christians (and Mel Gibson) who believe that one.

 

I don't think most Christians today who subscribe to this theology are bigots and I think they're well-meaning people but as long as Christianity is still seen as an exclusive faith and the sins of all non-Christians are the ones guilty for putting Jesus on the cross, the Church still hasn't fully purged itself of antisemitism. The only difference now is that both the Jews and all other non-Christians are guilty of murdering God but the Jews are still co-conspirators in the crime.

 

Well, what do you call the Hasidim I hang with who consider Christians heretics who worship a false prophet who is the illegitimate child of a loose woman?

 

Fortunately, these are the exceptions and not the rule. Most Christians and most Jews that I know consider each others' faith with respect, although reserve the right to believe their views are correct.

 

From my perspective, having lived in both the Christian and Jewish worlds, I've come to see both religions as complete within and of themselves. I find that Judaism aligns more with my world view than does Christianity, but I don't think Christianity is a "bad" world view.

 

Christianity no longer needs to stand on the shoulders of Judaism for legitimacy. Second and third century Christians successfully purged all aspects of Judaism from the theology. In fact, the Atonement story of Jesus, I believe, was intentionally chosen because it is so diametrically opposite of the Jewish faith.

 

As far as my Jewish friends, they no longer feel threatened by massing hordes of Crusaders and fascist dictators wielding the cross and sword.

 

NORM

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But exclusivity... that one is a bit trickier. Again, I don't think it's impossible, but it's more of a challenge, especially given the second half of John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life"

 

I don't think there is much of a challenge in the first part. God wished to bring the world back, reconciling it to God. This suggests the world and all its inhabitants are fallen, rather than a specific group. It also highlights God's action as unilateral, which also helps avoid a specific group being targeted for praise or criticism.

 

But that last bit, that's the mess. If you don't believe in Jesus as son of God sent as a sacrificial lamb, then you will know death, according to the reading we all know.

 

So what did God give Jesus to us for if not to believe on Him and have everlasting life? The above makes no sense and appears a contradiction in terms.

 

II Peter 3:9 says "God is not willing that any should perish". I take it to mean that, quite literally, God does not want anyone going to hell. Period, end of story. God said it, that settles it.

 

Let's break that down. If God doesn't want anyone going to hell, then how do we, as sinners, get to Heaven when God cannot allow sin into heaven? John 3:16 holds the answer. 2 Peter 3:9, likewise, refers to ALL people, not a specific group. So where is the "anti-everybody-without-a-membership card" problem you refer to?

 

The actual problem has nothing to do with any of this. God offers everyone a choice. There is nothing exclusive about that. Why choice? Because God gave us free will. We can do whatever we want with that will. If we did not have free will, we'd be puppets of God. God did/does not want puppets; he wants people who willingly choose to follow Him, worship Him, praise Him, obey Him. Everyone is free to choose.

 

Doug

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Guest billmc
II Peter 3:9 says "God is not willing that any should perish". I take it to mean that, quite literally, God does not want anyone going to hell. Period, end of story. God said it, that settles it.

 

I hope you don't mind me breaking in on this, Doug. I doubt that many here on this forum would take the stance of "God said it, that settles." Many of us don't believe that God literally inscripturated the Bible. We realize that it was written by the ancient Hebrews and the early church. Were they inspired? Certainly. But were they infallible and inerrant in all of their ideas about God, Jesus, humans, and reality? No. They were, just like us, products of their times, cultures, and religions. They, just like us, had lenses that they saw through.

 

A good example of this is your own lense that tells you that to "perish" means to go to hell. Actually, this interpretation does not stand up against the whole of the scriptures, my friend. In the Bible, "to perish" simply means "to die." It certainly does not mean to endure unending torment. If you don't this to be the case, consider Gen 6:17; Gen 7:21; Lev 26:38; Deut 4:26; Job 4:11; Psa 1:6; Micah 7:2; Matt 8:32; Matt 26:52; Acts 8:20; and many, many more. See especially:

 

Then the sons of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “ Behold, we perish, we are dying, we are all dying!" - Num 17:12

 

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. - 1 Cor 15:53

 

If this is true, and I believe it is, then some Christians have seriously misinterpreted "perish" i.e. "to die" as "to exist in everlasting torment," a notion that, IMO, does not really line up with the character of God as we see in Jesus Christ.

 

Let's break that down. If God doesn't want anyone going to hell, then how do we, as sinners, get to Heaven when God cannot allow sin into heaven?

 

Again, Doug, you are seeing through a lense that has been handed to you by pop Christianity. In the Bible, we don't go to heaven, heaven comes to earth: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The book of Revelation closes with heaven comes to earth, not with people going to heaven.

 

The actual problem has nothing to do with any of this. God offers everyone a choice. There is nothing exclusive about that. Why choice? Because God gave us free will. We can do whatever we want with that will. If we did not have free will, we'd be puppets of God. God did/does not want puppets; he wants people who willingly choose to follow Him, worship Him, praise Him, obey Him. Everyone is free to choose.

 

Yes, and no. The world before Jesus did not have a choice of following Jesus, did they? What about them? What about all the rest of humanity who has never heard of the name of Jesus? Do you really believe that God would send the ignorant to unending torture? Don't we see in Christ the notion that whoever is compassionate is really a child of God, whatever religion they might adhere to?

 

The fact of the matter is, my friend, despite what Jesus did or did not do, we still perish. We die. That is the hard reality of life and, perhaps, what puts life into context for us. And even by most conservative Christian standards, Jesus was not a direct substitute or he would be suffering in hell today in our place.

 

Christianity is a wonderful religion. It is certainly worth exploring. And many of us have discovered the "Way" to God through the person of Jesus of Nazareth. But it is seldom as simply as "God said it, that settles it." People say many things in the name of God - both today (remember the recently missed Rapture) and in Bible days. We have to learn to separate the chaff from the wheat, Doug.

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First, as a Jewish person (but raised as a Christian - it's a long story B) ), I don't use the appellation anti-Semite lightly. So, I don't consider Christians who misunderstand history, the Jewish religion or how their own religion evolved as anti-Semitic.

 

Hi, NORM. I'm not exactly sure of all the definitions myself. But I want to share something that I heard in Sunday School this morning. And before I share it, I also want to make it clear that I do *NOT* agree with this person's theology.

 

Our class is going through the book of Daniel. We were specifically discussing the story of the three Hebrew children who were thrown into the fiery furnace (heated 7 times hotter than normal, so much hotter that the guards throwing them in were killed). The point of the story, said the teacher, is that we need to be faithful to God, regardless of whether we are "delivered" from our fiery trials or not. But I said, "While I might agree with your point, when I was taught this story as a child, the point was that God will *always* deliver us if we are faithful to him." And I added, "I can't help but wonder how this story might square with last century's Holocaust where 6 million Jews died, despite still believing in God."

 

One lady spoke up and said (and this is what I don't agree with), "They rejected Jesus Christ as their messiah. God is punishing them for that sin."

 

I waited to see if anyone in the class would say anything in defense of our Jewish brothers and sisters (and I do believe them to be brothers and sisters). Nary a word. So, in the awkward silence, I said, "I don't believe that. I don't know who Jesus was speaking to or of from the cross, but he asked God to forgive his executors. I simply can't believe that God is holding the nation of Israel responsible for the death of Jesus."

 

I'm sometimes floored that while Christianity sometimes preaches the cross as a message of reconciliation and peace, some parts of it use the event to play the "blame game." I don't remember the verse, but it seems to me that Jesus somewhere said that he laid down his life willingly, that no one took it from him. I don't think he necessarily wanted to die, but I suspect that he knew how the religious and political powers of his day would interpret his teachings and his movement and would want it squashed.

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And I added, "I can't help but wonder how this story might square with last century's Holocaust where 6 million Jews died, despite still believing in God."

 

One lady spoke up and said (and this is what I don't agree with), "They rejected Jesus Christ as their messiah. God is punishing them for that sin."

 

What is especially unfortunate is that many orthodox Jews subscribe to this sort of reasoning as well, believing the Holocaust to have been God's punishment for Jewish irreligiosity. It seems to me that a similar mindset motivates both orthodox/fundamentalist Christians and Jews in this area.

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One lady spoke up and said (and this is what I don't agree with), "They rejected Jesus Christ as their messiah. God is punishing them for that sin."

 

 

I've been in discussion groups (called Minyans) with Jews who speak to this issue. First, there is a group among the Hasidim who would agree with the lady - although, not because we reject Jesus, but that we rejected the ritual of the Temple by allowing it to fall to the Romans. They believe that the Shoah is proof that G-d has turned Its back on us.

 

But most believe that the Shoah demonstrates what Hillel was trying to teach us:

 

"If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?" Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14

 

That is to say; it is WE who are responsible for our own salvation (from ourselves). It is WE who are responsible for the salvation of the world. If we wait upon Moshiac or G-d to usher in the World to Come outside of our efforts, then we are only deluding ourselves.

 

I'm sometimes floored that while Christianity sometimes preaches the cross as a message of reconciliation and peace, some parts of it use the event to play the "blame game." I don't remember the verse, but it seems to me that Jesus somewhere said that he laid down his life willingly, that no one took it from him. I don't think he necessarily wanted to die, but I suspect that he knew how the religious and political powers of his day would interpret his teachings and his movement and would want it squashed.

 

To Jews, the cross is nothing but an emblem of hate. The Romans crucified thousands upon thousands of Jews on the damned things. I cringe whenever I see someone with a cross dangling from their jewelry. But, I say nothing because I know how Christians were raised (as I was) to believe it as an emblem of triumph. I think it distorts the sacrifice of Jesus, but that is a different argument.

 

BTW, thank you for saying something. Nothing will ever change if bad ideas are allowed to remain stagnant.

 

NORM

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I'm enjoying your thoughts on this subject, NORM. It's always good to stretch, though sometimes it hurts a bit! ;)

 

That is to say; it is WE who are responsible for our own salvation (from ourselves). It is WE who are responsible for the salvation of the world. If we wait upon Moshiac or G-d to usher in the World to Come outside of our efforts, then we are only deluding ourselves.

 

That's how I see it, also. Being a Christian, I use, of course, slightly different words. I like the way one person said, "Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not." I like to think of it as an active cooperation, a kind of response-ability. We see what God is doing in the world to restore it and we join him wherever, whenever, and however we can.

 

To Jews, the cross is nothing but an emblem of hate. The Romans crucified thousands upon thousands of Jews on the damned things. I cringe whenever I see someone with a cross dangling from their jewelry. But, I say nothing because I know how Christians were raised (as I was) to believe it as an emblem of triumph. I think it distorts the sacrifice of Jesus, but that is a different argument.

 

Yes, it is. But it is still related, IMO. Jesus' early followers, I believe, did everything that they possibly could to understand how his death on the cross could possibly fit into any kind of messianic picture. After all, doesn't the Hebrew scriptures say that anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed? (BTW, I doubt that was referring specifically to crucifixion, but the notion seems to be there of hanging in shame and disgrace.) Of course, Christians have *all kinds* of views on the cross, what it meant and means, and exactly what was accomplished there. Some, citing atonement, think that Jesus paid for the debt of sin to God. Some think he paid it to Satan. Some think he placated God's wrath. Others think it shows us God's sacrificial love. Others think that Jesus defeated sin and Satan at the cross. Others think that Jesus somehow nailed the Jewish Law to the cross, in some sense fulfilling it and bringing an end to what they call the Old Covenant. And, of course, many think that God could never truly forgive sins without Jesus' death.

 

Personally, I still struggle with *many* of these interpretations. Some of them just don't make sense, like God, who is supposed to be just, punishing an innocent in the place of the guilty. Others, like the ability of Jesus' blood to wash away sin, just seem (to me) to be ancient superstition. And others still seem immoral, like Jesus' death somehow changing God's mind about how he feels about us.

 

Truth be told, I tend to see in the cross whatever I think I need at the moment - forgiveness, compassion, reconciliation, grace, freedom from sin, etc. So it is very subjective to me and I'm not dogmatic on exactly what it means. But I guess the thing that bugs me the most about it is how the death of this good man has, in pop Christianity, completely overshadowed what he taught and how he lived. The Christian creeds (Nicene, Apostles, etc.), to the best of my recollection, don't mention anything Jesus taught or did. They jump from his virgin birth to his death, as if his life were inconsequential. I find this tragic. "Believing in Jesus" has become, in our day, acknowledging his birth, death, resurrection, and future return. Believing in him seems to have very little to do with following his Way, of seeking God's kingdom. Again, I think this is tragic. The cross overshadows everything because, for most Christians, God simply could not love us or forgive us without it.

 

I suspect most Jews, including Jesus himself, would argue against such a notion.

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To Jews, the cross is nothing but an emblem of hate. The Romans crucified thousands upon thousands of Jews on the damned things. I cringe whenever I see someone with a cross dangling from their jewelry. But, I say nothing because I know how Christians were raised (as I was) to believe it as an emblem of triumph. I think it distorts the sacrifice of Jesus, but that is a different argument.

 

 

This reminds me of a quote I've heard before but I can't remember who said it but basically it said that if Jesus was executed in the 21st century, Christians would be wearing little electric chair necklaces around their necks instead of crucifixes.
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This reminds me of a quote I've heard before but I can't remember who said it but basically it said that if Jesus was executed in the 21st century, Christians would be wearing little electric chair necklaces around their necks instead of crucifixes.

 

That is an interesting image, is it not? :D I remember reading something similar by William Placher in his book Jesus the Savior: The Meaning of Jesus Christ for Christian Faith.

 

Peace,

Mike

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Truth be told, I tend to see in the cross whatever I think I need at the moment - forgiveness, compassion, reconciliation, grace, freedom from sin, etc. So it is very subjective to me and I'm not dogmatic on exactly what it means. But I guess the thing that bugs me the most about it is how the death of this good man has, in pop Christianity, completely overshadowed what he taught and how he lived. The Christian creeds (Nicene, Apostles, etc.), to the best of my recollection, don't mention anything Jesus taught or did. They jump from his virgin birth to his death, as if his life were inconsequential. I find this tragic. "Believing in Jesus" has become, in our day, acknowledging his birth, death, resurrection, and future return. Believing in him seems to have very little to do with following his Way, of seeking God's kingdom. Again, I think this is tragic. The cross overshadows everything because, for most Christians, God simply could not love us or forgive us without it.

 

I suspect most Jews, including Jesus himself, would argue against such a notion.

 

Indeed!

 

I think it tragic as well that the beauty and wisdom of the sayings of Jesus are squandered on the cult of the cross.

 

A book you would find useful is James Carroll's Constantine's Sword.

 

NORM

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To share some thoughts regarding the original post,

 

I don't see atonement theology as antisemitic. For one, the 'atonement' hasn't had any one meaning in Christian thought, even though growing up in modern evangelical churches one might not even know that there are other theories. The 'business transaction' theory of atonement in which God punished Jesus for the sins of others, that is, 'penal substitution', is not the only theory of atonement and to my understanding isn't really articulated as such in the New Testament itself.

 

Jesus' sacrifice in the NT (not to give the impression that the NT is monolithic, but still...) sees Jesus as the mercy-seat of God (the place of reconciliation and grace). Dying 'for' us isn't the same as dying 'instead' of us. In Jesus, God's love for humanity was demonstrated to the world, NOT his vengeance. God has set up Jesus as the place of reconciliation (that is, us reconciling to God, by the way, not the other way around as per penal substitution). I don't think Jesus need be seen as a human sacrifice - that might be taking the NT writers a little too literally and seems to be foreign to the spirit of what is written. The atonement, in my view, is not 'substitution' but participation. There is no legalized, mechanistic reason why Jesus had to die, rather, it was part of the divine choice and divine narrative that he do so. And that, by the way, is why Jesus' resurrection is seen as just as important in the picture of atonement as his death - which shouldn't be the case according to 'penal substitution'. That we have come to see the atonement as something that "had" to happen as part of an arbitrary system of rules strips away the significance of the divine play. Nothing changed in God's relationship to humanity from before to after Jesus' sacrifice, and yet at the same time, everything did. The atonement is a revelation of who God is, and that 'is' didn't change at all from "old" to "new" (or re-newed) covenants.

 

Anyway, that's the NT myth.

 

As Christian theology developed, Jesus' work became thoroughly mythologized as a story of the Divine becoming human so humans could become Divine. How this is accomplished is by approaching God through mystical union in Christ in the church, accepting his 'demonstration' of sacrifice on the cross as his participation in human nature so we can participate in divine nature.

 

While I do concur that it is tragic that Jesus' life and ministry has so often been overshadowed by this Christian myth, it is this myth - the Incarnation - together with its sacramental theology, that marked the religion of Christianity beyond its first century beginnings. I accept this mythical/theological dimension to Jesus as a legitimate expression of religious faith and practice. Together with a renewed interested in the historical Jesus I feel it creates an interesting dynamic tension.

 

The greatest tragedy is the church's history with the Jewish people, Christianity never has resolved its relationship with the Judaism and therefore has seen it as a rival and a heresy. Perhaps it is only liberal faith that has been able to see resolution, being able to confess both its Jewish roots and its otherness to Judaism as a narrative of incarnation. Liberality can resolve this because it doesn't need to resolve it. Otherness simply isn't a problem. Yes, Christians have believed Jesus to be the Christ, Jews do not, and the upshot is that it doesn't matter. Christians have their story and their sacraments, and that need not be exclusive. God is God of all.

 

Peace,

Mike

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Jesus' sacrifice in the NT (not to give the impression that the NT is monolithic, but still...) sees Jesus as the mercy-seat of God (the place of reconciliation and grace). Dying 'for' us isn't the same as dying 'instead' of us.

 

Yes. "Dying for" allows one to derive meaning from his death with obliging us to accept specfic ideas about his nature as divine or human or both.

 

George

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Yes. "Dying for" allows one to derive meaning from his death with obliging us to accept specfic ideas about his nature as divine or human or both.

 

I agree, George. Dr. Martin Luther KIng Jr. died for the Civil Rights movement, but he was not a substitute. Though we might speak of his death as an "at-one-ment" because his life and death helped our country to embrace his dream. We, obviously, still have a long way to go. But progress is being made.

 

IMO, I think the scriptures shed a bit of light on this when the religious leaders say of Jesus, "It is better that one man die than that the Romans come and take our place away." I.e. the Temple rulers were supposed to help keep the people in line but not allowing open rebellions against Rome. But Jesus was getting to be pretty popular and, no doubt, cries of "Hosanna to the King of Kings!" would be interpreted by the Romans as a threat against Caesar. In this way, Jesus died for the Jewish nation, to keep Rome from obliterating it (at least at that time). Of course, we know that about 35 years later the Jews would openly rebel and be squashed by Rome. But I doubt that Pilate saw Jesus as much of a threat because he did nothing to round up and execute Jesus' followers.

 

Still, I don't see Jesus' cross as "something he had to do." I just see it as the natural result of speaking truth to power. Systems of power, whether political or religious, don't want to be challenged and death is the most efficient way to deal with troublemakers.

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Dr. Martin Luther KIng Jr. died for the Civil Rights movement, but he was not a substitute. Though we might speak of his death as an "at-one-ment" because his life and death helped our country to embrace his dream.

 

MLK is a great, and more recent, example of martyrdom. He was willing to sacrifice his life for the greater good.

 

George

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Some time ago I took a Humanities course at a local college. The professor made an interesting comment on the first day of class. She said that she knew that many of the younger students in the class would not read all of the material provided for the course. But, she said, if there was one reading she would like all students to pay attention to it was Letter from a Birmingham Jail by MLK. I remembered her comment when I first came across the 8 Points on this website. Speaking out for what one believes, for what is just, can indeed be risky.

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A good example of this is your own lens that tells you that to "perish" means to go to hell. In the Bible, "to perish" simply means "to die." It certainly does not mean to endure unending torment. If you don't this to be the case, consider Gen 6:17; Gen 7:21; Lev 26:38; Deut 4:26; Job 4:11; Psa 1:6; Micah 7:2; Matt 8:32; Matt 26:52; Acts 8:20; and many, many more. See especially:

 

Then the sons of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “ Behold, we perish, we are dying, we are all dying!" - Num 17:12

 

For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. - 1 Cor 15:53

 

Bill,

The word "perish" in John 3:16 is translated from the Greek "apollumi" meaning either (1) to be lost (2) to perish or be destroyed (in this case, both interpretations are correct). Notice the word destroyed, NOT die. In 1 Cor 15:53, perishable (corruptible in the KJV) is translated from the Greek "phthartos" meaning decayed, i.e. (by implication) perishable -- corruptible (imperfect in this context) which make perfect sense in the interpretation of the entirety of the verse.

 

Numbers 17:12 the word perish is translated from the Hebrew word 'abad' meaning to wander away, i.e. lose oneself; by implication to perish (causative, destroy) Notice, again, the word destroy, NOT die.

 

If this is true, and I believe it is, then some Christians have seriously misinterpreted "perish" i.e. "to die" as "to exist in everlasting torment," a notion that, IMO, does not really line up with the character of God as we see in Jesus Christ.

 

You are aware Jesus spoke far more of Hell than Heaven? There are 162 references to Hell in the NT and over 70 of them were spoken by Jesus!

 

Doug

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Again, Doug, you are seeing through a lense that has been handed to you by pop Christianity. In the Bible, we don't go to heaven, heaven comes to earth: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The book of Revelation closes with heaven comes to earth, not with people going to heaven.

 

Bill,

So what of Enoch (Gen 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) which the latter part of the verse says, literally, "Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven"? That sure sounds like go to heaven to me.

 

Doug

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Where in the bible does it say God can't allow sin into heaven anyway?

Ezekiel 18:20 (KJV) says "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him."

 

John 3:16 then confirms the context of Ezekiel 18:20.

 

Doug

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Guest billmc

So what of Enoch (Gen 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) which the latter part of the verse says, literally, "Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven"? That sure sounds like go to heaven to me.

 

To be honest, Doug, I don't know what to make of those claims. Here is what Jesus had to say about it:

 

NIV (©1984)

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.

 

I don't want to get into a war with the scriptures, Doug, but Jesus does say that no one had ever gone to heaven. So either Jesus lied about this or the Bible is not as monolithic on the subject as Christians say it is.

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Doug,

 

I remember reading one or two books by Jewish scholars. I was much taken by their insight and understanding. One such insight was that the verse from Elijah.......The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him......was given the context of being a movement on in understanding from the verse in Exodus 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

 

So the context was seen as pointing back.

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