Tag Archives: creation

Salvation: More than a ticket to Heaven?

God Saves

When someone says, “I’m Saved!” There is always the contextual question, “Saved from what?” Except if it’s said at Church. Within Christianity Salvation has become synonymous with Eternal Life. Salvation means that if I believe, one day I will go to Heaven. Yet, should Salvation always equate to being rescued to Heaven?

There are many places in the Scriptures that Salvation is past, present, and future to the author or reader. One tricky example is Romans 13:11 the Apostle Paul writes,  “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed?” Was Paul saying that he was not “saved” yet?

Or take for instance Luke 19:9. Jesus said Salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day. Does this mean Zacchaeus died and entered Heaven that day?

“In the Old Testament, God’s acts delivering the people from hunger, bondage, and other difficulties are usually called ‘saving’ acts, and Yahweh is repeatedly praised as the Savior of Israel.  In the New Testament, ‘salvation’ may mean either healing or deliverance from sin-and sometimes both.  Thus, salvation has to do, not only with one’s eternal destiny, but with everything that stands in the way of God’s purposes of communion with creation-and specifically with the human creature.  Thus salvation includes both justification and sanctification.

In the Greco-Roman world in which Christianity was born, there were many religions offering ‘salvation.’  Most of these understood salvation mainly or exclusively as life after death, and often combined these notions of salvation with the ideal of escaping from the material world. Given that context, it is not surprising that quite often Christians lost the fuller notion of salvation that appeared in their Scriptures, and came to think of salvation merely as admission into heaven-sometimes even seeing such admission as an escape from this physical world.  Perhaps the most notable development in soteriology [the Study of the Doctrine of Salvation] in recent decades has been the recovery of the wider notion of salvation as including, not only salvation from death and eternal damnation, but also freedom from all sorts of oppression and injustice.  Salvation, in its fuller sense, certainly includes eternal life in the presence of God; but it also includes the process of sanctification, whereby we are brought greater communion with God; and it includes also the destruction of all the powers of evil that stand between God’s purposes and present order of creation.”

-Justo L. Gonzalez, Essential Theological Terms. pg 162-163

Salvation cannot be understood in reference to one particular saving act of God. Jesus has rescued us from many things, and will one day rescue, redeem, and renew us and creation. The one unifying aspect of Salvation throughout the Scriptures is that God does the saving apart from the help or interference of man.

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No More Sea.

Throughout the Scriptures, both Old and New Testament, the seas and oceans represented Chaos and wickedness. These large and deep bodies of water are host to the mighty unknown, and reckless and destructive power. Even in our modern age our titian vessels and ports cannot withstand the devastating power of the seas. Only God has the power to control the mighty seas. God separated the waters of the Red Sea, and closed them on the invading army. and when Jesus calmed the storm that was about to swallow the disciples as they were on the water, this was the major turning point for them to recognize Jesus as God.

God spends 3 days ordering and separating the waters in Genesis chapter 1.

Day 1: The Earth is formless and void, and the Spirit of God was moving over the waters. Gen1:2

Day 2: God separates the water to form the sky and the seas. Gen 1:6&7

Day 3: God gathers the seas and lets dry land appear. Gen 1:9

*It is interesting to note that God is never recorded created the waters. The waters are just there, just as evil is there in the Garden of Eden to tempt mankind after creation.

The waters represent chaos. However, God does not remove the chaos, but he organizes and separates it, causing good to rise from it. Like all things evil seeks to destroy God can use to form life. Jesus claimed “I am the resurrection and the life,” a claim the God of the Old testament establishes on many occasions. God gives life to the barren womb of many, and springs of living water in the midst of the desert..

Furthermore, it seems like from the beginning God did not intend to destroy the chaos, but to order it. To me this parallels God’s allowance for man to choose evil that was provided in creation. Although evil was not God’s intention for man.

Then at the time when mankind’s choice for chaos and wickedness had almost overwhelmed his love for God, God released the waters of chaos unto the earth to cleansed it and humanity. God used the very representation of the thing man was seeking for in place of God to bring his judgment. The flood also used to foreshadow the coming judgment fallen humanity will face before the Holy God in 2 Peter.

However, when all is said and done. Once evil is finally destroyed. The waters of chaos will also be done away with.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

(Revelation 21:1)

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Spiritual Milk? Do you get enough? Has it changed?

The writer of Hebrews lists several key items and labels them “Elementary Teachings.” He says of points listed that they are “spiritual milk,” and that his Christian audience should be growing up and feasting “spiritual meat.”

Here are the points of understanding that the writer labels “milk”:

  • Repentance from acts that lead to death.
  • Faith in God.
  • Instruction about baptisms.
  • The laying on of hands.
  • The resurrection of the Dead.
  • Eternal Judgment.

(Hebrews 6:1-3)

Some of the items on this list are understandable as “milk.” Repentance and faith in God are the introductory elements to the Christian life. However as one examines the other items on the list unanimous consent isn’t a given. For some these points might be areas of contention between denominational communities. For many others there might a complete and genuine ignorance as to understanding of these issues. To this ladder point I write to address.

The Christian church has failed on many levels to educate its people. At one point Christians were at the forefront of community education. Yet our ranking has dropped. Many churches are “producing” dumb Christians. I am not an advocate that every Christian needs a seminary education. However, I do believe that the community of believers need to taught more than many of them get in the Sunday morning situational/behavioral sermon. Our lives are shaped and flow out of our understanding of who God is. If our view of God is shallow than our lives are build on a shallow footing and any powerful event may have the ability to shake us from beliefs.

It also seems as though this list has shifted today from what it was. The elementary teachings of the church ages past are not consistent with the elementary teachings of the church modern. I have debated my self, wondering if this is due to contextualization or if there is a misrepresentation of what truly is an “elementary teaching.”

Two of the most common substitutions on this list are the teaching of Creation, and the Rapture. In many circles these have become the benchmark doctrines for new believers. Evolution is only equaled by some to Satanism, and the teaching of the resurrection of dead has been surpassed by the Hollywood images of floating in clouds in some mysterious Rapture.

I want to hear your opinion on the issue. Think back for me what was the most common and frequent teaching you remember or hear to this day in church?

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Wonderful cross or place of death?

We often sing of the wonderful beautiful cross. And because our mind cannot handle the intensity or cruelty of the cross we grow numb to the brutality of the cross. Yet, we have to remember the cross was torture leading to death. Jesus experienced pain at the highest levels of the human experience.

The cross was not just some uncomfortable experience, like the awkwardness of telling a stranger on the plain you’re a Christian, or the embarrassment of getting to front of the line at the grocery store with a cart full of items and realizing you forgot your wallet.

Jesus died on the cross. He bled, and breathed his last breath on the cross.

When we sing of the cross it should be in the sober reality of what happened, why it happened, who it was that died for us.

The cross is the anchor point of our faith, not some pithy poppy featurette of the Sunday lineup. Our God died at the hands of his creation; the creation he loved and formed. Our God suffered and was humiliated by the very people he gave life to.

The cross is not wonderful, it the shame of humanity, and the glory of God. The cross does not represent the best in man, but the worst. The cross is the premiere exhibit in our museum of disgrace.

I understand why people wish to forget the cross, and down play its reality. As a humanitarian why would I want to highlight the cross any more than I would want to highlight the holocaust as an act of human civility and love?

All one should do at the cross is fall down before it and cry out, “I will never deny you again. With my heart and with my actions I too crucified you, but never again. I will serve the King whom I killed. He will be my God.”

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Must death preceed recreation and renewal? Is creation lost?

There is this conflict within the christian community as how the recreation of the world will take place.

One side believes that all of creation will be destroyed. Then God will form again from nothing a new created world.

The other side believes that this created world will not be destroyed merely recreated. God created this world “good,” loves this world, and does not and will not ever destroy it.

Side one:

2Peter 3:10-13

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

The interpretation:

  • Sin has completely corrupted the world, beyond saving.
  • Both mankind, and all of creations was changed beyond return because of mans sin.
  • Therefore God, must destroy the old to bring forth the new.
  • There must be death before recreation.

*This would seem true, but not all believers will die before receiving their resurrection bodies. Those who are alive at the time of Jesus’ return will just be transformed.

Side two:

Genesis 8:21

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”

Romans 8:20&21

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

The interpretation:

  • Sin has not completely corrupted creation
  • Creation was distorted and pulled down because of man’s fall into sin.
  • God does not need to destroy creation to restore it.
  • He knew man was wicked, yet when man is restored then creation will be freed from the effects on sin.
  • Man’s sin is what is keeping creation from being how God has intended it, paradise.
  • Once sin is removed creation will be restored.
  • Man’s corruption is the issue not creation.
  • Creation is only a tool that God uses to both bless and punish.
    • Blessings: fruit of the land, provision, beauty.
    • Punishment: Toil the land, natural disasters, sickness.

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How could God allow evil to exist? Not your typical answer!

Refer to these two posts for a background of this argument, and the traditional Christian responses.

https://saintdisillusion.wordpress.com/2009/07/01/the-problem-of-god-the-existence-of-evil/

or a similar article…

http://christianelements.wordpress.com/2010/01/24/how-can-a-loving-god-allow-evil-and-suffering-to-exist/

In this entire conversion, a distinction must be made between Pre-Fall World and Post-Fall. Mankind, and the created universe was completely changed Post-Fall. So we are only speaking of what we hypothetical know of the Pre-Fall universe. Furthermore, we are only looking at mankind, and not angels or demons. It can be seen that Satan was operating with evil intentions before man, however, the universe only seemed cataclysmicly effect when mankind chose evil.

Option A: God did not create evil… or did he?

The same logic that says if you chose not to make a choice means you still made a choice, also means by the mere fact that God did stop the option for evil to exist, although he did not create evil man did when he disobeyed God’s order and design for creation, means that God is still the hidden creator of evil. For example if a biologist created a bacteria with the ability to both help and harm, is he not still the creator of the harm, although he intended only to help?

Even if you argue that evil is not a created “thing” with the previously outlined logic God still created the man with the capacity to “do” evil. Therefore, he is still the creator of evil, because he could have created man without the possibility to “do” evil.

Conclusion to option A: it seems the answer to this question of why God allows evil to exist is more related why does he allows good to exist. Man ability for evil is the same in his relation to do “good”(pre-Fall). So it seems that God allowed evil to exist in the hope that the good would triumph over evil. So it seems to match up with the narrative of the Bible, that evil is an option, but with the intervention of God evil is crushed.

Follow up Questions:

Why did God create evil only if he planned on destroying it?

Does evil need to exist for good to exist?


Or option B: Evil is not a created “thing.”

The Bible does not explain the origin of evil, but rather only the origin of evil within the created world. And since evil is not a thing, just as love is not a thing, both are wills and intentions of the heart/mind; they are ways to use things, rather than things themselves; then God merely made man with the capacity to operate on either the network of love, or on the network of evil. We were in one sense beings with free roam capabilities. However, God is a being that exclusively works on the network of love, and although he intended us to function lovingly, man does not always do so.

Therefore, the question as to why does God allow evil to exists is unanswerable with the information given. The question and focus becomes not where did evil come from or why is it here? But on how does God intend us to live. This also coincides with the narrative of the Bible, which is that God steps into creation to redeem creation so it has the power to resist evil.

Follow up Questions:

If evil is not a “thing” can it even be created? And if it cannot be created has it then always existed, and apart from God?

More to this thought:

God never intended man to understand “good” and “evil.” It was the forbidden fruit. God only intended us to operate on the network of love, and man in his first act of evil sought to understand both “good” and “evil.” After eating our eyes were open to what evil is.

If this is true, then it presents another serious question. Man’s first act of evil/sin proceeded his understanding of what evil really was. Therefore evil must have existed before man sinned, and the fruit of the tree only represented man falling victim to penalty of that understanding… judgment.

Before the fall, the question of evil is irrelevant. For man righteousness and judgment was only based on one rule, “do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” If man obeyed righteousness was obtained.

So man could have done acts we now know as evil, but he would not have been judged for them. (If they would have this is not certain, there eyes had not been opened to seeing these things) Paul writes to this effect in Romans, that those judged without the law are judged apart from the law. They are judged by their own standards. (But no man can even live up to his own standards, so we are all guilty of at least breaking our law.)

Therefore, the question of How does God allow evil to exist is not a question at all. The reality is that the more we know about evil and good, right and wrong, the more we become accountable for those actions. The more evil a man does with understanding the more judgment he comes under. So with this, it is understood that God is both bothered with evil, as he punished it, and with our understanding of it because the more we know the guiltier we become and the more evil we seem to do.

In the end the answer to the original question is unanswerable, but to say that God does not like evil, that is why he punishes it, and that he never intended us to know evil and therefore its hurts and pains.

To phrase it another way:

As to the origin of evil or why God allows evil to exist, it is beyond our understanding. What is known is that God never wanted mankind to experience or participate in it.

Maybe it had always existed?

It could be said that because evil or love is not a created “thing”… it has always and always will exist as an option, because as it is not a “thing” only an intention, so as long as that intention is a possibility, “evil” will exist. Before creation there was only God. God is love, in Him there is no evil. Therefore evil was not presently visible. But when the created world was formed, evil was given a facility to operate and became a present visible reality. Both evil and love are only “made” or become visible and real when when someone chooses them (for example man).

If in my life I never chose to love… this does not mean love did or does not exist, just that I never chose it. This same principle applies to evil. Before the creation evil was not seen because God never operated with evil intentions. But after man was formed evil is made visible because man chose to operate in evil.

So the question of who created evil is the same question as to who created the ability to be generous, rude, kind, or mean. These are not “things” they are ways to use and treat things/others so before there was things and others, none of these characteristics were possible, for there was only God. The created world only gave these non”things” a platform to operate within.

However, this then presents another serious objection for option B. If the created world opened a “Pandora’s box” of evil. Then why did God create at all? If the created universe was only going to give a pathway for evil to be made visible why make it?

Maybe… it was worth creating because God wanted to make a community, who  like the triune God, could live and share love. Maybe… in love God created so that others could experience love, but first they would have to reject evil. Maybe, this is why God was willing to send his own son into the world so man could be redeemed from evil and the Holy Spirit could be with us, empowering us, de so that we could live in communities of love.

Conclusion for option B: God wanted others to experience the love in community only the godhead had experienced up to that point.  So he created the universe in love, which gave pathway for evil. Then it was either let evil destroy creation or step into creation to rescue and redeem it? The Biblical account testifies God chose the ladder option, and by stepping into creation God defeated evil and prepared the way that we could once again live in a community of love.

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Jesus Picture of Perfect God, or Perfect Man?

jesus man

“The truth is that the Man who walked among us was a demonstration, not of unveiled deity but perfect humanity.” A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy.

We often equate Jesus life on the earth as this great picture of God among us. However, this is not an appropriate statement. God did not come to this earth to completely reveal himself, but to completely reveal what was lost in the fall off mankind. Jesus is the picture of original humanity. Jesus is our example to live by, not as a picture of God, because we are not supposed to be “God” (for there is only one God) but we are supposed to be as God first created mankind, like Jesus. We are not to be god-like(per say), but Christ-like. We are not called to fill the role of God, but our role as men and women created of God.

Jesus was perfectly united with God in relationship and action. And because of this he was able to point others to the Father. Jesus did not point to himself as the embodiment of everything God was and is. He was nonetheless still God, but his purpose was to restore the knowledge of what it means to be human. He is the Second Adam. He reflects everything Adam was created to be. He was the restoration of a righteous heritage rather than sin nature. He communed and walked with God as man was originally supposed to. At every point Jesus restored, to a fallen and lost humanity, the knowledge of what it means to be human.

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The Richness of Atonement Theories

As a Disclaimer this post is long. But well worth the read if you interesting in Atonement theology.

This had been an area of theology that I have spent considerable time investigating.  Atonement theology is at the core of Christian Theology, and depending how you view the work of Christ on the Cross will be reflected in all the other aspect of both the practical and impractical side of theology.

atonement

Atonement Theology

The Importance of Integrated Theology.
Theology is an integrated area of study, and it works to our disadvantage by compartmentalizing its many different facets. To study atonement without the understanding of its relationship to the rest of theology would be detrimental to its significance. The atonement would be meaningless without the depravity of man; it would be powerless to display the love of God without the incarnation, and it would be hopeless without the promise of a resurrection.

The Importance of Identification in Atonement Theories.

Yet atonement theology remains one of the most vital areas of study in Christian theology. And the fact that the church has not ratified a single view of the atonement speaks to the imperative value of identification between the sacrifice and the sinner. As one commentator writes, “The use of animal sacrifice relied heavily on the idea of identification between the sinner and the animal.1” The gravity of the human need is vast, and no single theory can bridge the gap. Therefore, each individual has the opportunity to identify with Christ in a different way. To some Christ is their liberator, to others the reconciler, or purifier, and yet still to others, their ransom, victor, or vicarious substitution.
Furthermore, this concept of identification is also what helps defend unlimited atonement against both limited and universalism. The debate between these three views is one of the classic controversies over atonement. Because if Christ died for all, why are some still judged for their sin? Shouldn’t all be saved? And to defend this idea a limited view of the atonement arose that states, Christ only died for those who would be saved. However, the concept of sacrificial identification settles this dispute. It is not simply enough that a sacrifice was given, but the sinner also had to identify with that which was being sacrificed.

The Importance of the Atonement and its Many Faces.

Traditionally there are five main possible views of the atonement; ransom to Satan, recapitulation, example/moral influence, governmental, concluding with the prominent view of modern atonement theology satisfaction/penal substitution. Yet by limiting the atonement to Penal Substitution, one is left with an incomplete humanity. The human need is greater than the provision of Penal Substitution. So to understand the atonement one must re-examine the doctrine of depravity.
Dwight Pentecost describes the depravity of man saying that, “men have slipped past the point of no return. They have gone over the cataract of sin, and have been swept into the state of sin. They are slaves of a sin-nature. They are producing the fruits of sin. They are spiritually dead; they are under judgment; they are under Satan’s power. That is what it means to be depraved. Man is not as bad as he can be, but man is as bad off as he can be. He is lost.2” This is a rather comprehensive definition. Although when discussing the work of the atonement one must not forget about the falls destructive effects on creation, and the provision which was also included in the atonement. This is why the atonement is the culminating theological event that not only reshaped history, but also redefines salvation theology. As Martin Hengel writes, “No human death has influenced and shaped the world of late antiquity, and indeed the history of mankind as a whole down to the present day, more than that of the Galilean craftsman and itinerant preacher who was crucified before the gates of Jerusalem in AD 30 as a rebel and messianic pretender.3”

Therefore this paper will defend six different atonement views. The six views are Sacrifice, Justification by Grace, Penal Substitution, Liberation from Sin, Death, and Demonic Powers, the Renewal of Creation, and the Wondrous Love of God 4.
Each of these six different atonement theories were developed under unique circumstances, and those circumstances are reflected by the need that each theory addresses. Walter Rauschenbusch expresses this very idea as he writes, “It is important to note that every theory of the atonement necessarily used terms and analogies taken from the social life of that age. And that the spirit and problems of contemporary life are always silent factors in the construction of theory.5”

This is also why atonement theories circulate over time, rising and falling in popularity. The different atonement theories concentrate on a specific set of spiritual needs and their adherents identify with a particular atonement narrative as it relates most closely with their life. “Theories connect the story of Jesus with the believers in a new time and place. By identifying the needs of their context, the authors portray the saving power of Jesus in ways that draw a new generation into the believing community.6”

Another way of viewing all of these six different theories as a part of one larger united theology is by defining them by their object 7. The objects of the different atonement views are the law, sin & powers, creation, or mankind. It’s like four witnesses who testified about the same car accident. Each testimony is true but different. Likewise, the different atonement theologies are valid and correct, but different in their aim, and scope. This is possible because they have, as their foundation, the narrative theology of the Gospels, and the contextualized Epistles of the New Testament. This is why there is not one single view, but a melding of different views because each time it was written to address a different group of people, experiencing a different set of circumstances. In fact, Paul is the earliest pioneer of reshaping the purpose of the atonement to tackle the needs of his audience.  In Romans and Galatians he speaks of the atonement as Justification for both the Jews and the Gentiles. And later, in Corinthians he uses the atonement to address the needs of reconciliation within the body of Christ.
Moreover, upholding these six theories is not a defense of religious tolerance or an invitation for religious syncretism. Instead it is allowing the rich multitude of Scriptures, doctrine, and Christian traditions to bless the understanding of Christ’s work that was accomplished on the cross.

Sacrificial Atonement.
The Sacrificial View of Atonement draws heavily upon Old Testament imagery and law. The two primary sacrificial treaties that are related to the death of Christ, are Passover and Yom Kippur (or the Day of Atonement). It is interesting to note that these two sacrifices accomplished strikingly different results.  The Passover was done in remembrance of the 10th plague of Egypt, in which the angel of the Lord would pass over and spare the households that were covered by the blood of a lamb. On the other hand, Yom Kippur was instituted as the purification sacrifice for the tabernacle and the people. A lamb’s blood was sprinkled to symbolize the washing and cleansing of sins.
The New Testament authors fuse the imagery of the Passover lamb and the Atonement lamb. Jesus as the Atonement lamb is proclaimed by John the baptizer, saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)!”  Yet, the imagery of the Passover lamb is self-attributed by Jesus.  During the last supper Jesus initiates a new ordinance as he replaces the blood and flesh of the Passover lamb for His blood and body. This theme is even expressed in Paul’s writings as he labels Jesus the Passover lamb in 1 Corinthians 5:7.

Justification by Grace Atonement.
The Justification by Grace View of atonement (and the following view, Penal Substitution), both make light use of Biblical imagery and extensive use of the legal language of justification 8. The basic outline of the Justification by Grace Theory is that sin is a violation of covenant law, which results in the separation of man and God, and heralds the judgment of God upon man. It is impossible for man to ever bridge this gap of separation, or to make peace with God. So God, in his love, sent his son to die on the cross, so that by faith (and not by works) man could be justified before God, united and spared from wrath.

Penal Substitution Atonement.
Penal Substitutionary atonement parallels this basic legal outline. The major differences being (as its title makes reference), the focus is on the divine requirements of the law. The penal law required that, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22).” Death was required from all men as their punishment for transgressing the law of God (Romans 6:23). However, God in his love not wanting to be eternal separated from man, provided his son as the vicarious substitution for all of mankind.  Therefore in his death men are released from the payment of sin because Jesus paid for it on the cross.
Wayne Grudem defend that the Penal Substitutionary view is the heart of the atonement. For he writes “there is an eternal, unchangeable requirement in the holiness and justice of God that sin be paid for, “ adding, “Before the atonement could have an effect on our subjective conscious, it first hand an effect on God and his relationship to the sinner. 9” Paul Enns also labels this theory the “emphasis of the New Testament, 10” and the fulfillment of the Isaiah 53:5 prophecy that states, “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.”

Liberation Atonement.
However, turning the page one discovers the Liberation of Sin, Death, and Demonic Powers Theory of atonement. It is said that “the New Testament overflows with references to two aspects of the saving work of Christ: forgiveness of sins and liberation. 11” The Liberation view gained ground in the wake of World War I and II, and with the rise of liberal, neo-orthodoxy, and social gospel theologies.  Men like Walter Rauschenbusch argue against a cosmic or divine accounting and transference of sins to the cross of Christ. Instead he writes, “he [Jesus] did in a very real sense bear the weight of the public sins of organized society, and they in turn are causally connected with all private sins. 12” Moreover, men like John Howard Yoder write, “The cross of Calvary was not a difficult family situation, not a frustration of visions of personal fulfillment, a crushing debt or a nagging in-law, it was the political, legally to be expected result of a moral clash with the powers ruling his society. 13”

Liberation Theology operates under the general assumption adopted from Immanuel Kant, “that we have it within our powers to reform ourselves. 14” Yet, it should be noted that power within stems from the theological assertion that we have been liberated by Christ to live for him. And unlike the previous theories which divide and bicker over the nature of justification verses sanctification, liberation atonement expresses that salvation occurs by the incarnation of the Word of God, and sanctification, or the ability to live out God’s will, was provided in the liberating work of the cross. The Liberation view of atonement stresses the call to social action as well as personal reform. Unlike justification and Penal Substitution advocates who might have a tendency to become comfortable resting on justification by grace through faith, liberation advocates actively seek to be a force that emancipates man from evil powers.

Renewal of Creation Atonement.
The Renewal of Creation view of atonement may sound like it was created just in time for earth day, but its roots branch back to the Fourth Century, to a theologian named Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria. Contrasting the four previous views of atonement, the Renewal of Creation Theory takes a completely new and different approach to viewing God’s work through Christ on the cross.  The outline of this theory is that through Jesus all things were created but in the fall all had been lost, even the knowledge of God. However because of the love of God and the divine purpose of creation, God sent Jesus into the world to “renew creation” in his life, “restore life in the face of death,” forgive sins and “restore the true knowledge of God. 15”

Wondrous Love Atonement.
The Wondrous Love view of atonement affirms that the primary reason for Jesus’ life and death, and in fact all of God’s interactions with mankind, has been to demonstrate the love of God. 1 John 4:16b-17 supports the concept that love is the fundamental characteristic of God, saying, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.” And although, “some of the legal concepts of the atonement have obscured the love of God in the death of Christ. 16 ” Love still remains as one of the chief expressions of God throughout the different atonement theories. It is the common thread that intertwines all the atonement views together.
The outline of the Wondrous Love Theory of atonement is that God’s reason for creating the world was love, and the relationship between God and man is regulated by the love of God and it’s result: obedience. This unity in love that was present in the original relationship of mankind and God was corrupted by the sins of pride and self-centeredness.  Therefore, in the incarnation God came to demonstrate his love and obedience, which were completed in atonement. In the resurrection, God vindicates Jesus and “makes him Lord, thereby establishing a new community of Love for the sake of the world’s redemption. 17”  The basic principle of this atonement view, and the very reason for its universality, is that as God demonstrates his love, man will respond by loving God.

The Importance of Love in the Atonement: the Thread that Binds.
Today evangelicals pronouncement of the gospel is, “Jesus loves you and died for your sins.” Theologically many would affirm that the significance of this phrase is the forgiveness of sins. Yet, what stirs the heart and creates the change in people’s lives is the response to the love of God.  1 John 4:19 decrees “We love because he first loved us.” Not only did God take on the likeness of a man, dwell as a servant among his creation for 33 years, but he also submitted his life to death in the ultimate revelation of humility and love. This is one of the strongest attracting forces of the cross. The symbol of God dying for mankind (in every atonement theory) has an irresistible moral influence of the heart of man. Skeptics accuse the Old Testament to depict a God of Wrath and the New Testament a God of Love. And their criticism is not completely unmerited. The epicenter of the New Testament is the life and death of Christ, which is the greatest revelation of God’s love in all of history. Theologians want to see a systematic God that displays all of his attributes in equal proportion throughout all of his actions. Yet, God does not do this. Instead he tends to highlight only one of his many characteristics at any given time in history. And the atonement without a doubt is the demonstration of God’s love.

Footnotes

  1. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power: Theories of Atonemnt and Forms of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishng Company, 2005). Pg 21.
  2. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things Which Become Sound Doctrine (Gand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1965). Pg 16.
  3. Martin Hengel, The Atonement: The Origins of the Doctrine in the New Testament (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1981). Pg 1.
  4. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 11.
  5. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock).
  6. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 7.
  7. J. Denny Weaver, The Nonviolent Atonement (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2001). Pg 70.
  8. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 56
  9. Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrines: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999). Pg 254
  10. Paul Enns, Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989). Pg 232.
  11. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 123.
  12. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock). Pg 247.
  13. John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Willaim B. Eerdmas Publishing Company, 1972). Pg 132.
  14. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 124.
  15. Ibid. 170, 171.
  16. Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel. Pg 272.
  17. Peter Schmiechen, Saving Power. Pg 290.

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