Substitute My Humanity

Jesus as substitution…a discussion I am having all over the place on blogs these days.

Wikipedia

Substitutionary atonement is a doctrine in Christian theology which states that Jesus of Nazareth died – intentionally and willingly – on the cross as a substitute for sinners. This doctrine presents Jesus’ death as a supreme act of love for mankind, and a heroic act to save people from hell. It stresses the vicarious nature of the crucifixion as being “instead of us”.

I remember One Small Step discussing this idea of Jesus being God as that substitution – and how that was problematic. I couldn’t find that piece from her writing – but I wrote this the other day:

If Jesus is God then everything he did on earth was basically a sham and God is asking us to live up to something we cannot. Jesus was sinless and perfect – could not be tempted being God – could not die either (being God) – Jesus really shares very little in common with us if he is God on earth (it’s an undue advantage we do not have nor should be expected to have). So the sacrifice and everything makes little to no sense – it’s God and all God and nothing to do with humans at all.” (SVS on MetaLutheran – Trinity)

The substitution idea is a theology developed mainly from Paul’s works as the source than backed up by scriptures from other areas. I, however, see problems a plenty with this idea now – maybe I should have listened more closely to OSS or maybe I did?

But the point is – if Jesus is God then all the things he asks of us – we cannot do. Also, he is setting up a standard in his teachings he has undue advantage over – he was God and could do them. Top that off, no real temptation could occur – he is not really like us in that sense…actually I would say if he has God capabilities he is nothing like every other human on the planet today.

And that’s where this atonement theory comes in and finds its foothold – in humanity’s inability to follow the Law (unto perfection). However, we never could according to this atonement theory and now we don’t need to at all. Jesus plays substitute for us and does all the things we could not do – and also becomes our righteousness. Is not everything ‘finished or complete’ – what can we add to God’s perfect life and sacrifice? Nothing!

I would say if that theory holds water – then what do we need teachings, community, or even basics of faith for? Since we cannot do a single thing to ‘earn’ heaven – this is done on behalf of us by another. I would say the best thing we could do is honor that sacrifice – and even then – that means nothing.

What is our role in this system? What about our sinful nature? Isn’t that also taken care of – and if not – we have quite the convenient excuse for not truly dealing with it. I am not saying God is not gracious towards us – He is – but this theory is a little over-gracious don’t ya think? I can be the most irresponsible person in history and by accepting this atonement – well – I am ‘all good’ vicariously through someone else’ actions and because I am convinced this is true (that type of belief is the definition).

Does God promote vicarious ‘righteousness’? Are we responsible for anything we do after accepting the atonement? If so, how? We cannot add to God’s work in atonement according to the theory which leaves us ‘right out of the loop’. Humanity has been by-passed altogether in my opinion.

I like responsibility for my actions – maybe this is simply about integrity.

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Misunderstood…

I am currently in the process of reading a book called ‘The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus‘ by Amy-Jill Levine.

The book is basically about pondering the idea of inter-faith dialogue between the Judaic faith and Christian faith – and the possible link between the two – the Jewishness of Jesus. I have only finished the introduction and I am rather liking the book so far…admitting that I have a lot to learn and maybe this is a good choice in reading. The author is unique in a way – teaching at a Christian divinity college all the while being an Orthodox Jewish lady. Some of the comments for the book:

  • ‘Precisely the book we have long needed’ (Rabbi Harold S. Kushner)
  • ‘Easy to read, easy to understand, hard to ignore’ (Richard Elliott Friedman)
  • ‘A searing challenge from the heart of Judaism to the conscience of Christianity’ (John Dominic Crossan)
  • ‘Irrefutable textual and historical evidence of how misunderstanding has harmed us for centuries’ (Rabbi Wayne D. Dosick)

On a side note, apparently I am not a Christian anymore – at least that’s the latest I have been called – which makes that about 10 fellow compadres denouncing my faith – maybe they are right? That being said I am not Jewish either – thanks to this Christ ideology I still hold to – which makes no sense when you think about it – since I am condemned anyways. I used to wonder how this Jesus I read about felt…

The Point of the Gospels

Matthew 7:12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets

Matthew 22:39(b) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself

Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged

What is the point of the teachings of Jesus – what is the core message – what is the ‘good news’? This is a central point I contend with on a daily basis in blogs – trying to get to the key points of Jesus’ message and their meaning. With this blog I plan to point out what I see as key in the ideas of the gospels.

I have put 3 quotes that seem to be very key to the message Jesus is teaching in the gospels – your relations with the ‘other’. In each quote there is a verb: (a) treat (b) love (c) judge – and how this relates to our relationships in life. Each time the idea is to safeguard those relationships and to ensure the best for both parties involved. For me, this is the ‘good news’ – God cares and now wants His children to care about one another – this is godliness (acting like God).

In your acts there is also a return effect – what you put out there will also come back to you. If you love, then someone will love you also. If you treat someone unkindly – they will also return that. This is also the same idea in the judgment passage – and trying to mitigate how we use our perspective on life towards another. The key being – you will get back what you put in – and God is asking us to care about each other (not really that hard a task) – and it also has benefits for us (ie: friends).

For some, the key message of Jesus is the salvation message – confess, accept, and be baptized – and this is what is the most important thing and needs to be focused on above all. I have found this focus on ritual later leads to more focus on ritual – until one gets bogged down in religious ritual they start losing sight of their compassion for humanity – which is the central theme of the gospels. I say ‘fine’ if this what we want to promote – I just see the writing on the wall – I don’t make anyone abide by it.

But it is in this we see the basis of the problem with what some deem ‘true Christianity’ and ‘churchianity’…it’s literally a battle of the focuses one puts into their faith – people vs. structure. But don’t be fooled – there is no dual message – the church actually upholds both (not in equal weight) but with the mass focus on recruitment – they lose out on retention – and we ain’t playing business here – we are dealing with human emotions and lives – and people get seriously burned. We also see a loss of community in this focus and a shift to a very ritual looking message versus something that resembles a humanity crying out (ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI – Matt 27:46). I think we lose the realness of the faith when the focus is shifted from ‘treat one another…’ to ‘be saved and join the church’.

I am 33 – At the 100th Meridian

Me debunk an American myth?
And take my life in my hands?
Where the Great Plains begin at the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian where the Great Plains begin

Driving down a corduroy road,
Weeds standing shoulder high
Ferris wheel is rusting off in the distance

At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian where the great plains begin

Left alone to get gigantic
Hard, huge, and haunted
A generation so much dumber than it’s parents
Came crashing through the window

A raven strains along the line of the road
Carrying a muddy old skull, the wires show their approval
Off down the distance

I remember, I remember buffalo And I remember Hengelo
It would seem to me, I remember every single f*cking thing I know

If I die of Vanity, promise me, promise me
That if they bury me some place I don’t want to be
That you’ll dig me up and transport me
Unceremoniously away from the swollen city breeze, garbage bag trees
Whispers of disease, and acts of enormity
And lower me slowly, sadly, and properly
Get Ry Cooder to sing my eulogy

Where the Great Plains begin at
The hundredth meridian
At the hundredth meridian where the Great Plains begin

(At the 100th Meridian – The Tragically Hip)

***My birthday song – happy 33!

A Universalist Meets a Unitarian Monotheist…

From the ‘Community and Truth’ blog of Naked Pastor.  

Jesus laid down the law. No one can keep it” (Steve)

So Jesus fulfills a law we cannot keep anyways – do you believe he was God also? Has God set us up for failure then? Think about the logic for a second…God creates a law for the children of God – but He makes it so hard they cannot keep it – dooming them to failure and…well…punishment. Who can love that God? He is both setting up unrealistic expectations in the first place and then judging people by something you say ‘no one can keep’. Was God at one point un-loving?

I would also point out – pertaining to the law – the Jewish faith still keeps and cherishes it – or how do we judge their faith?

The problem won’t be solved by us since everything we do is tainted by sin” (Steve)

As per the quote, what we do in comparison to God is ‘like filthy rags’ and rightfully so – we are comparing creation with the Creator – I am also guessing we all feel like Isaiah in that presence of the Creator ‘not worthy’ to even look upon it or speak. But just because God is holy does not stop Him from establishing relationships w/humans – including Isaiah (prior to a Messiah ever stepping on earth).

But sin is weird thing and the atonement. If you check into the atonement Jesus’ blood sacrifice is compared to the sacrifice of the bull once a year (in Hebrews) for all the people. This only dealt with sins committed in ignorance and not willfully. Now Jesus is greater than that sacrifice – I comprehend that – however according to God’s Torah Jesus would of opened the way to the ‘Holy One’ – forever branching that divide (once and for all) – for the Jew and Gentile. Animal sacrifices now gone.

As for atonement, actually we play our part also. The Jewish people have 3 aspects for atonement (1) blood sacrifice (2) repentence (3) charity – according to the Law and Prophets. All 3 of these aspects we see in Jesus teachings and sacrifice. First words in Matthew from Jesus to the people is ‘repent’ – which is a key message throughout. Odd thing about repentence – it takes you to do it (God cannot do this on your behalf). Charity is actually a very big principle within the gospels, letters, and Acts – something we see Paul and the disciples very engaged in – almost as if they saw this as part of the gospel message. I can find it very easily in Matt 25 – the sheep and goats parable – anyone else see ‘charity in that passage?

The law is good and the Psalms attest to this fact over and over…and not once is the idea it cannot be lived up to explained in the Tanakh – and would also add Jesus’ own words to that list. Jesus makes no bones about us following the ‘commandments’ – including the ideas of ‘love Gpd and your neighbor” (from Deut) and ‘treat others how you want to be treated’ (this sums up ALL the Torah and Prophets). How can you even claim the Torah was not meant to be followed? Jesus points straight in it’s direction also and I am not sure the following commandments of summation Jesus used – you break?

He sent His Son to live the perfect lives we cannot and will not live.” (Steve)

I actually fail to see how perfection was the mandate in the first place – sinlessness seemed to be what Jesus was called/created for. But in all honesty, perfection is not once recorded in the Tanakh – it’s not even a concept in Hebrew. Now God may not want us to ’sin’ – 100% in agreeance there – but perfection – what is that? Are we making a standard of unreasonable heights for the reason of making God look greater and us look worse? Why do we need to do this?

“We don’t get better so that Christ will love us and forgive us…He loves us and forgives us…then we get better” (Steve)

God loves us and always has…even prior to the crucifixion – however prior to that crucifixion there was no real inclusion for the Gentiles into the ‘Holiest place’. Christ changed that and made it equal for all to come and learn. God loves us – but even God will not do everything for us – Jesus dies once for all (not many times for many) – but that death means all can come and learn before God and no one can stop them. But it does not mean God does everything for us – we are responsible for our participation and 2 acts of atonement – reprentance and charity – we are now priests according to Hebrew of this sanctuary – we need to learn what that means and how to be a ‘priest’.

That’s what the Gospel means. How can it be good news if we have to toe the mark?” (Steve)

What mark? Of course even you would be lying if Jesus does not ask us of to behave in a certain way – so if there is a mark – it is something possible. I have very little problem with Jesus asking of us the things he does – in the end we have to act like judges (and on earth in a way) – and how do we judge in our personal courts (what measures do we use)? Should we be like the teachings of the Christ? He was merciful to the unmerciiful and peace where there was none. I think the teachings of Jesus are a great guide to ‘life’.

Finding the Answer

Idealism is not an answer – its ideal – but not an answer.

Scripture is not an answer – it’s a written statement – but not an answer.

How afraid are we to be ‘wrong’? What price is paid in the struggle for the seeking truth when we close off our minds and ears? If you have the truth/answer then you should have nothing to fear in talking doctrine – because your truth will bare you out – correct?

I typed the 2 sentences above because of what I have seen in many discussions with Christians over the past year – on a variety of sites – in which they use those 2 ideas as an answer. Those are not answers – they need to be expanded on to become answers.

Anyone can quote scripture but to shows what it means is quite another thing. Holding to ideals is a good thing – but even ideals do not solve problems in the ‘real world’.

EX1: It is ideal to think everyone should be saved.

EX2: ‘’AND IT SHALL BE THAT EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.’ (Acts 2:21)

Now if we were discussing ‘salvation’ and the ideal was all should be saved – well people will find a passage to back that – like the Acts passage. However, both need to be explained in detail as to (1) the definition of terms in the ideal and (2) what the passage means via interpretation (and its definitions).

The ideal is all should be ‘saved’ – what does that mean?

The passage – ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ – what does it mean?

I would add the obvious 3rd category – how did you analyze this idea in real life appliance? How did it look and what does it mean?

We are all subject to interpretation and our experiences in life – they will help us look at scripture. I don’t think we have anything to hide in discussion with one another – whether wrong or right – this is not the concern for me…learning is.

The Human Jesus

I just finished watching the ‘Human Jesus’ documentary and I must say – what a pleasure of 2 hours; namely Sir Anthony Buzzard. Also here is a list of sites affiliated:

I think the video does a great job in looking at the debate over Jesus as ‘God’ and Jesus as ‘son of God’ – and yes – there is a difference. I think many people are like myself – accepting of the doctrine of the Trinity basically because this is the tradition of the church attended. I never questioned the doctrine much in the past 15 years I have heard about it – but in these last 2 years I had reservations. Within this current year I am solidifying my belief as a monotheist – mainly because every single book in the bible leads me to that conclusion.

What is great about the video is the amount of research done within it but also the theological ramifications of holding to the Trinity. The idea of Jesus as “God’ actually does take away from our ability to worship God in some aspects and also changes the way we interpret every other book, letter, and scripture in the bible. The video asks us to be honest about our pre-conceived notions we bring to the book and to ‘seek for the truth’ and not stop where we get uncomfortable.

Fact is, you accept the idea of Jesus as ‘son of God’ and ‘created human’ – you can pretty much say ‘goodbye’ to many of the priveleged things you enjoy about your church community of faith (ex: from position to full acceptance). That’s tragic – but then again – that was predicted (not self inflicted) by virtue of the beatitudes and many other teachings of Jesus. It’s kind of weird but being orthodox also means being ‘in’ – and questioning the orthodox means being ‘out’ – it’s weird that we let peer pressure define the roles of ‘right and wrong’.

I also like to see Jesus as human mainly because I do take him as a ‘rabbi’ of sorts – the teacher I learn from and follow. I like to think he was very close to God (even given a great position) but mainly that what he taught was also very do-able and asks of me ‘the possible’. I see Jesus directing to me God – via the teachings – and that will lead me to ideas, attitudes, and values that respect the creation of the Father – and I have to play my part. I like responsibility and this view offers it in truckfuls. I like integrity – and this view also helps me keep that. Most of all, I like truth – and this view helps me walk towards it.