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Source: (consider it) Thread: Moral Influence atonement theology
churchgeek

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I'm thinking of this because of the Original Sin thread over in Kyryg right now - but obviously, I don't want to derail that thread.

I understand the basic ideas of Moral Influence atonement theology - that Christ's love and example influence us toward salvation. It seems to me it's largely a rejection of various kinds of substitutionary atonement theology, including any transactional ideas about God paying off the devil or Christ paying for our debts.

What I've never fully understood is why Christ's death should be so compelling, then. If you remove the "for us" part of "Christ died for us," then what is so loving or exemplary about his dying? All I can think of is that it's the way he died - forgiving those who killed him, e.g. But many, many people in history have done similarly; is it just that Jesus happens to be the one we've noticed? Does his being God come into play there? Does he have to be God in this model?

Mind you, I reject substitutionary atonement theology too. (My own view is that creation and redemption are really one action of loving creation out into existence and loving it back to Godself; that we're "saved" by God becoming human; and that what we needed saving from was the natural gap between creator and created - in particular, the fact that nothing but God is perfect, and so decay and failure and mortality are inherent in creation until God joins Godself to it.)

Anyway, I'm hoping those of you who do believe in the moral influence theory can shed some light on this for me. What is it about Christ's death that makes it so exemplary? Or do you also emphasize his life? Or do you really only emphasize his life, and see his death as an outcome of the way he lived (prophetically, etc.) in the the world he lived in (under empire)?

Let me stop putting words in your mouths. What are your thoughts, your takes on this particular (in my opinion, oft-neglected) atonement model?

--------------------
I reserve the right to change my mind.

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Anglican_Brat
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Churchgeek,

I would argue that in terms of preaching, moral influence atonement theory IMHO is the unofficial theology of many liberal protestants.

With reference to Christ's death, for me, the moral influence atonement theory powerfully doesn't separate Christ as Teacher and Christ as Savior which points to the poverty of evangelical versions of the atonement.

From a Girardian version of this model, the most powerful words of Christ's last hour is "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Christ's demonstration of love on the Cross reveals that he not only taught us to love our enemies, he exemplifies and most perfectly fulfills his way and teaching at his last hour. In this model, Christ perfectly manifests the coming of the Kingdom on the Cross because he alone, perfectly and absolutely manifests Kingdom values.

If one understands the cross this way, it would be grossly simplistic to dismiss moral influence as a sentimental, mushy "Christ changes our hearts" kind of way that some may like to jeer at it. It means that we can no longer pretend ourselves that we have excuses to not follow Christ's way. All throughout our lives, we justify not following the way of Christ by saying it is foolish and simplistic and not tailored to real world situations. I write this, not to deny the real difficulty of following His way, literally (How do we love our enemies after 9/11?) But I think the point of the atonement is to tell us that one person perfectly followed the way of the Kingdom and in the Resurrection, emerged triumphant:

Our Lord Jesus Christ.

--------------------
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Steve Langton
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by Anglican_Brat;
quote:
"...the poverty of evangelical versions of the atonement".
Really? Evangelical interpretations are actually very rich, not least because we see many, many, different aspects to the atonement rather than trying to limit it to just one theory which rather inevitably does not do justice to the full NT presentation....

"Moral influence" in isolation has the problem that it takes away most of the specific reason and logic of Jesus' death - raising the question why a rather pointless death should have all that much influence over us.

And the further problem that it pretty literally does nothing for us - it only sets an example and without the various other understandings a rather vague example at that.

This in my mind is related to the situation that Jesus doesn't bring ant very new moral rules for us - even "Love your neighbour as yourself" is an OT quote. The basic reason for Jesus' coming is that though we basically know the rules, we find ourselves unable to obey them and need an intervention by God and power from God if we are to keep the rules.

And again, 'forgiveness' isn't just nice feelings - in the real world forgiveness is COSTLY; it means the forgiver basically bearing the cost of the wrongs done against 'him and his'. Anyone asking "Why doesn't God 'just forgive'?" is showing they don't get what forgiveness is.

"Substitutionary atonement"
I'll agree that among many evangelicals the image of PENAL substitutionary atonement is overemphasised. To my mind this is a case where yes, things happen in human criminal legal systems which do represent a substitution in taking a penalty, and they are useful partial images of some aspects of atonement. But not THE primary image.

Debt, on the other hand, is an image that makes a great deal of sense and furthermore is much used by Jesus himself. If you do wrong you can't personally afford to compensate for, someone else paying your debt is very needed. Jesus is simultaneously God forgiving your debt by footing the bill himself AND God in Christ a fellow human being lovingly standing as your substitute. OT and NT imagery uses both ideas....

Jesus' moral influence arises precisely from the very purposeful nature of his death, achieving real forgiveness of real debt, and not arbitrary.

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Ricardus
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I suppose for me the issue is: how is Jesus' death supposed to have any moral influence on anyone who died before him?

Most other explanations of the atonement, whatever their other weaknesses, could at least work both forwards and backwards in time.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Anglican_Brat
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
I suppose for me the issue is: how is Jesus' death supposed to have any moral influence on anyone who died before him?

Most other explanations of the atonement, whatever their other weaknesses, could at least work both forwards and backwards in time.

[Confused]

I think the only atonement theory that deals with those who died before Christ is Christus Victor and the descent to the dead.

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Louise
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hosting

Hi there,
this is not a Dead Horse on these boards. The only Dead Horse subjects are 'biblical inerrancy, homosexuality, the role of women in church and Christian households, creation and evolution, abortion, closed communion and bitching about church music. ' Please remember when starting a DH thread to check the guidelines before posting because only the topics in the guidelines qualify.


I'm moving this to Purgatory, apologies for the delay.

cheers,
Louise
Dead Horses Host

hosting off

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
I suppose for me the issue is: how is Jesus' death supposed to have any moral influence on anyone who died before him?

Most other explanations of the atonement, whatever their other weaknesses, could at least work both forwards and backwards in time.

[Confused]

I think the only atonement theory that deals with those who died before Christ is Christus Victor and the descent to the dead.

Wouldn't ransom theory also cover it?

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Anglican_Brat
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It is constructive to see the different atonement models as all partial and incomplete on their own, every atonement model has their pluses or minuses.

If I tend to seem dogmatic about the moral influence model, it is because it is sometimes dismissed as a sentimental, liberal sappy "Jesus changes your heart" model, but I think it can speak more than that.

In reflecting on atonement, the issue begins with "What is the problem that atonement is trying to solve?" The moral influence model begins with the premise that the problem isn't with people's broken relationship with God, because God is eternally loving, and our sin does not impair the glory of the Trinity. The model begins with the premise that the problem is our brokenness in our relationship with each other.

The other models begin with the premise that the problem is our broken relationship with God.

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mousethief

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I don't see how God's eternal super-duperness means we can't have an impaired relationship with God. Relationship takes two parties. If one party is messed up, the relationship will be impaired, even if the other is not.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
I suppose for me the issue is: how is Jesus' death supposed to have any moral influence on anyone who died before him?

Most other explanations of the atonement, whatever their other weaknesses, could at least work both forwards and backwards in time.

[Confused]

I think the only atonement theory that deals with those who died before Christ is Christus Victor and the descent to the dead.

Wouldn't ransom theory also cover it?
I would suggest that sacrifice too would cover it, because Christ descended in order to announce the news that his sacrifice validated in retrospect all the sacrifices made under the Mosaic covenant.

--------------------
"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
G.K. Chesterton

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
It is constructive to see the different atonement models as all partial and incomplete on their own, every atonement model has their pluses or minuses.

If I tend to seem dogmatic about the moral influence model, it is because it is sometimes dismissed as a sentimental, liberal sappy "Jesus changes your heart" model, but I think it can speak more than that.

In reflecting on atonement, the issue begins with "What is the problem that atonement is trying to solve?" The moral influence model begins with the premise that the problem isn't with people's broken relationship with God, because God is eternally loving, and our sin does not impair the glory of the Trinity. The model begins with the premise that the problem is our brokenness in our relationship with each other.

The other models begin with the premise that the problem is our broken relationship with God.

I agree with this [Smile]

I have been considering what I've written elsewhere over the last couple of days in relation to original sin, etc.

It seems to me that the atonement metaphors cover different circumstances, different aspects of sin.

It has been mentioned that the Orthodox (and The Salvation Army, if I may be so bold to include them) are quite big on the healing aspect of the atonement. I might suggest that healing would cover the basic fallenness, inherent and 'natural' aspect of sin. It's not my fault that I am a sinner and so, Christ as the Great Physician, offering healing to the 'sin-sick' soul is a great help.

Another aspect of sin is that it is a falling short of the glory of God, no matter how hard we try. well maybe the Christus Victor metaphor can help because his strength within can fortify us against sin and temptation, realising that Christ gives us the victory of sin.

The metaphor of moral influence is also quite big in evangelical circles because it draws us to Jesus and persuades us to give our life to him.

I could quote Wesley's When I Survey the wondrous cross and 'see, from his head, his hands and feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down,'.
Or Love so amazing, s divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.'

Or I could quote from the Old Rugged Cross:
'O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me...'

Or General Evangeline Booth's 'There is life for a look at the Crucified One'... Look, look, look and live'.

People are very polarised about penal substitutionary atonement and I can understand why someone who says 'original sin is not my fault, so why should I be punished for it...'
Maybe therefore, PSA would cover deliberate, rebellious, transgressions, where someone purposefully breaks a known law of God. If God is a just God, a righteous God, can he leave such wilful sin unpunished, with no consequences at all?
If Christ is the one who is 'pierced for our transgressions,' then the phrase, 'the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,' is entirely appropriate - but only, as I said, in the case of those deliberate transgressions.

I accept PSA but I would and could never say it is the only metaphor - indeed, it is a limited metaphor because it does not touch my inherent sin, my weakness, my uncleanness or my slavery to the world, the flesh and the devil.

In a similar way, Moral Influence cannot cleanse my soul, Christus victor cannot heal my broken spirit and ransom cannot give me victory over said world, flesh and devil.

The theories or metaphors are simply that - theories and metaphors. There is but one atonement seen in the cross of Calvary; but like a diamond it reveals many facets; and all of them are appropriate in different ways and at different times.

Today I might be glad of healing.
Tomorrow, grateful for victory.
The day after might praise God for redemption or ransom.
But after that, I might be very glad that while 'in my place condemned he stood, sealed my pardon with his blood, hallelujah what a Saviour,' Jesus took the punishment that my deliberate sin deserved.

I don't think we should throw any of the metaphors out. They all have something to say.

--------------------
"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
G.K. Chesterton

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Jay-Emm
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
I would suggest that sacrifice too would cover it, because Christ descended in order to announce the news that his sacrifice validated in retrospect all the sacrifices made under the Mosaic covenant.

And PSA would (for the same reasons as ransom and any other transaction ones)
(Any of the battle ones would as CV)

[ 08. January 2017, 14:05: Message edited by: Jay-Emm ]

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Gamaliel
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It was Watts not Wesley who wrote 'When I survey the wondrous Cross ...'

On the idea of overlapping and complementary atonement models - well yes, that makes a lot of sense to me. We are dealing with the ineffable here. It stands to reason that no single atonement model is going to exhaust the issue or cover all the bases.

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Another aspect of sin is that it is a falling short of the glory of God, no matter how hard we try. well maybe the Christus Victor metaphor can help because his strength within can fortify us against sin and temptation, realising that Christ gives us the victory of sin.

Not sure how that requires CV. God sends us his indwelling Spirit, which points us and guides us and sometimes drags us toward theosis. Heals us. Back to the sickness/healing model.

quote:
If God is a just God, a righteous God, can he leave such wilful sin unpunished, with no consequences at all?
Why not? Does the father of the Prodigal Son punish him? Proponents of PSA create an imaginary God who is all hung up on his dignity.

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
Another aspect of sin is that it is a falling short of the glory of God, no matter how hard we try. well maybe the Christus Victor metaphor can help because his strength within can fortify us against sin and temptation, realising that Christ gives us the victory of sin.

Not sure how that requires CV. God sends us his indwelling Spirit, which points us and guides us and sometimes drags us toward theosis. Heals us. Back to the sickness/healing model.

quote:
If God is a just God, a righteous God, can he leave such wilful sin unpunished, with no consequences at all?
Why not? Does the father of the Prodigal Son punish him? Proponents of PSA create an imaginary God who is all hung up on his dignity.

It's called justice

--------------------
"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
G.K. Chesterton

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Steve Langton:
by Anglican_Brat;
quote:
"...the poverty of evangelical versions of the atonement".
Really? Evangelical interpretations are actually very rich, not least because we see many, many, different aspects to the atonement rather than trying to limit it to just one theory which rather inevitably does not do justice to the full NT presentation.....
While I am entirely sympathetic to this view, I would have to concede its not the most commonly articulated evangelical view, at least in US. Steve L is correct-- among American evangelicals anyway, substitutionary atonement is generally the be-all and end-all.

That being said, this American evangelical would agree with Anglican Brat: moral influence on it's own is probably the weakest of the five metaphors for the atonement. But as part of a multi-faceted approach that embraces all the metaphors as telling us something true about Jesus' death & resurrection, it's a powerful and rich teaching.

--------------------
"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Gamaliel
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I would suggest that PSA, or at least substitutionary atonement, is the main atonement model among UK evangelicals too.

I think that both Anabaptists and Wesleyans may take a more nuanced view, with PSA being supplemented by other models - but some of the more Reformed types of evangelical seem to be all about PSA and very little else ...

I've even heard evangelical Anglican clergy preach on the subject without any reference whatsoever to other models or ways of understanding the atonement.

On the 'justice' thing - well, yes, but even that needs more unpacking. It's hardly 'just' to punish someone else for something they haven't done.

The whole idea of God the Father punishing Jesus the Son is an awkward one, even though it's emphasised that Christ willingly died in our place. It could be argued that this does violence to the doctrine of the Trinity.

However, not all PSA proponents put things as crudely as that. John Stott, for instance, in 'The Cross of Christ' is careful to maintain that God in Christ is taking on the role of sacrificial victim - and stepping down into our pain and mortality. So the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are involved - we're not talking about some kind of dislocation ...

However, to my mind this is where PSA is weakest. Like any metaphor or model - and that's what any atonement theory is - it can only be stretched so far.

Stretch it too far and it snaps.

The 'justice' thing is a biggie, but if we're not careful we can end up with God 'trapped' or diminished by his own sense of injustice or limited by it in some way.

We can put no limitations on God.

The same applies, I would suggest, to very full-on forms of Calvinism where God ends up being trapped in a corner by his own eternal decrees and sense of injustice as if these are somehow extrinsic to him.

No, no, a thousand times no.

We cannot limit the eternal and immutable God in any way - not even by his own sense of holiness or propriety.

That's not how these things work, surely?

Ok, I know I have been deliberately crude, but taken too far PSA ends up as an incredibly crude model.

--------------------
Let us with a gladsome mind
Praise the Lord for He is kind.

http://philthebard.blogspot.com

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:
quote:
If God is a just God, a righteous God, can he leave such wilful sin unpunished, with no consequences at all?
Why not? Does the father of the Prodigal Son punish him? Proponents of PSA create an imaginary God who is all hung up on his dignity.
It's called justice
Let me ask again, since you missed it in your vocabulary lesson. Does the father of the Prodigal Son punish him?

--------------------
God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:
On the 'justice' thing - well, yes, but even that needs more unpacking. It's hardly 'just' to punish someone else for something they haven't done.

The whole idea of God the Father punishing Jesus the Son is an awkward one, even though it's emphasised that Christ willingly died in our place. It could be argued that this does violence to the doctrine of the Trinity.

It only does that if one has a faulty view of the Trinity.
Jesus is not the innocent victim unless he was the adopted Son. I am sure there are ,ore learned people than I who could articulate it better but 'God was in Christ reconciling the world'; Jesus laid down his life: 'no-one takes it from me.'
Jesus is not the only victim - as Moltmann said, the Father also suffered the loss of his son.

It is as much a heresy to say the Father punished the Son as it would be to say that the Father is the Creator and the Sin is the Redeemer.

--------------------
"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
G.K. Chesterton

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Mudfrog
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:
quote:
If God is a just God, a righteous God, can he leave such wilful sin unpunished, with no consequences at all?
Why not? Does the father of the Prodigal Son punish him? Proponents of PSA create an imaginary God who is all hung up on his dignity.
It's called justice
Let me ask again, since you missed it in your vocabulary lesson. Does the father of the Prodigal Son punish him?
PSA is irrelevant in the story of the prodigal son.
My comment was not about the prodigal son per se but in response to your comment about the 'imaginary'(?) God who is all hung up on his dignity.

In PSA it's not God's dignity that's offended, it's his law. None of this has anything to do with the prodigal son.

--------------------
"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid."
G.K. Chesterton

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Jay-Emm
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:
quote:
If God is a just God, a righteous God, can he leave such wilful sin unpunished, with no consequences at all?
Why not? Does the father of the Prodigal Son punish him? Proponents of PSA create an imaginary God who is all hung up on his dignity.
It's called justice
Let me ask again, since you missed it in your vocabulary lesson. Does the father of the Prodigal Son punish him?
Going through the synoptic parables

Sower
Here (assuming the sower is godly, our response is prebuilt, and 'punishment' is natural)

Weeds
Here God (and it is explicitly God) is the antagonist to those not saved. It's a bit predestininy

Treasure
Here God is entirely passive. But (assuming we are the man) there's something to discover. Actually I've just thought (and I bet it's not original) while the first is like that, the second has the kingdom as the merchant, are we the pearl (who God gives everything up for)?, if so it's definitely the most atony/ransomy of these early parables, but even without the most gospelly one

Net
Is basically the same as the weeds.

Unforgiving Servant
While the crux of this is on human behaviour and the response to forgiveness. It has forgiveness (by God presumably), but apparently spontaneous, a financial metaphor is used, it isn't mentioned why the debt is owed (I guess God is the antagonist like in PSA/satisfaction in that sense, but he does what he doesn't do in those models)

(2 Sons)
On human behaviour without any real input

Labourers in Vinyard
Again no real input on atonment or kingdom or heaven, except that we might get sulky about it

Vinyard Tenants
Here we have an explicit, crucifiction like situation, but no atonement.
Unlike PSA it's the father's choice to send him, like PSA the son is punished, unlike PSA the father didn't expect this. Unlike PSA the death is a bit of a failure, and a bit of an anti-atonement)
(similar comments can be made about it's relationship to Moral influence)


(Coming of son of man)
Nothing really on why Jesus is special.

10 Virgins
Here it's Jesus who's offended (rightly or not). Any atonement type thing would be wrapped in the hosting of the feast.

Talents
Ditto? (not really sure what to make of it)

Sheep&Goats
Here again, it's Jesus who's offended (it's clear what by in practical terms!).

Feast
Here, unlike the virgins, it's our choice (again any atonement thing would be wrapped up in the feast)

(Samaritan)
Is all about us?

(Sign of Jonah)

(Rich fool)
Is all about us? I guess it's God who "calls' time"

Lost sheep&coin
Here the father or son, takes an active part, in the sheep I guess it's the sheeps (us) fault, in the coin it's no-one or the woman's (God) fault. In neither, does God punish the sheep or coin for being lost and it's all God's* effort

Lost sons
Here clearly neither 'son' is The Son (or if it is we need to rework our theology). However compared with the initial ones where Jesus&the Father are the enemy of 'sinners', here the Father distinctly does not punish the son (and that's when it's us who have gone wrong, so how much more so would that apply to the Son). There actually is a death caused by the father in the story, but it's clearly not instrumental in the return (except in it's affect on elder son), that would fit a metaphor more if we were screwed to get a prodigal Jesus back.

Persistant widow
[/i]

(Camel&Needle)
[i]



*I was going to put his, but in the context it seemed ill fitting.

[ 08. January 2017, 18:36: Message edited by: Jay-Emm ]

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Lamb Chopped
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I don't think it's possible for God to simply say "oh that's all right" and leave it at that. It's rather like that scientific law about equal and opposite reactions. But he does take care to see the worst of it falls on himself.

Consequences exist and the prodigal is surely going to face some (that inheritance is still gone and he's going to be dependent on the mercy of an offended brother for a while.) But things are on the upswing for him.

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Gamaliel
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Sure, and I was always taught that we have to be care about building doctrine on the Parables. Like analogies, you can only stretch them too far.

On the Moltmann thing, yes, I get that ...

I'm not sure what Mudfrog means when he apparently describes Christ as the 'adopted Son' - so I must have misunderstood what he's saying or read it the wrong way ...

However we understand the atonement the Holy Trinity is involved in His entirety, if I can put it that way.

My understanding of the Orthodox 'take' on these things is that it's more akin to someone diving into a river to rescue someone and then perishing themselves, or pushing someone out of the way of a speeding train and being struck by it themselves - rather than someone being punished in our place.

It all depends on how we understand some of the verses in Isaiah 53 and the 'expiation' or 'propitiation' thing from Romans. Opinion seems divided among scholars on that one.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Proponents of PSA create an imaginary God who is all hung up on his dignity.

It's called justice
There may be ways in which you can describe PSA to explain the attraction, but 'justice' is one of the things it isn't.
It is never just for an innocent person to be punished for something they haven't done.

I can see the emotional appeal as a metaphor for some other model of the atonement, or even as a metaphor for something essentially beyond our comprehension: but not as anything you would want to use to explain beyond the emotional reaction.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Mudfrog:
PSA is irrelevant in the story of the prodigal son.

Yes. And in the rest of the bible also. Or so one could argue. BUt you've got the question the wrong way around. The question is not whether PSA is relevant to the Prodigal Son, but whether the Prodigal Son is relevant to PSA. And if not why not? It's about someone sinning and being received back into fellowship without punishment, and without any mention of or fulfillment of justice. Which makes it a counterexample to your claim. Which therefore should be addressed if your claim is to be taken seriously.

quote:
In PSA it's not God's dignity that's offended, it's his law. None of this has anything to do with the prodigal son.
Bullshit. The prodigal son disproves PSA.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I don't think it's possible for God to simply say "oh that's all right" and leave it at that. It's rather like that scientific law about equal and opposite reactions. But he does take care to see the worst of it falls on himself.

Consequences exist and the prodigal is surely going to face some (that inheritance is still gone and he's going to be dependent on the mercy of an offended brother for a while.) But things are on the upswing for him.

Consequences <> Fulfillment of justice. Unless you want to say that God's justice is just what kindergarten teachers call "natural consequences." You were running when you should have been walking and you fall down and skin your knee. That's the end of it as far as justice is concerned. The teacher at that point might scold you, but mostly she'll give you a bandaid and a hug. There's consequences, but there is no "justice" in question at all. (Actually this fits in nicely with the sickness and healing model.)

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the father's reaction to the son's return is simply joy.

One might say the older brother's reaction is sinful. Or natural and understandable. But if he acts shittily toward his returned brother, that's not God's justice, it's the older brother being an asshole.

[ 08. January 2017, 20:13: Message edited by: mousethief ]

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Gamaliel
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Are you proof-texting, Mousethief?

The Parable of the Prodigal Son neither proves nor disproves any of the various atonement models.

If we want to address the legitimacy or otherwise of PSA then we can't simply pick out one particular Parable.

The issue if PSA or not PASS doesn't hinge on that.

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I don't think it's possible for God to simply say "oh that's all right" and leave it at that. It's rather like that scientific law about equal and opposite reactions. But he does take care to see the worst of it falls on himself.

Consequences exist and the prodigal is surely going to face some (that inheritance is still gone and he's going to be dependent on the mercy of an offended brother for a while.) But things are on the upswing for him.

Consequences <> Fulfillment of justice. Unless you want to say that God's justice is just what kindergarten teachers call "natural consequences." You were running when you should have been walking and you fall down and skin your knee. That's the end of it as far as justice is concerned. The teacher at that point might scold you, but mostly she'll give you a bandaid and a hug. There's consequences, but there is no "justice" in question at all. (Actually this fits in nicely with the sickness and healing model.)

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the father's reaction to the son's return is simply joy.

One might say the older brother's reaction is sinful. Or natural and understandable. But if he acts shittily toward his returned brother, that's not God's justice, it's the older brother being an asshole.

First of all, the prodigal son story doesn't address PSA or any other atonement theory at all. It's not dealing with the "how" of forgiveness and reconciliation--that's not its focus. To put it a different way, you're trying to prove a positive point from a simple absence. Not logically do-able.

But as for consequences. When it comes to human beings dealing with one another, it makes sense to draw a line between natural consequences and stuff "done" by the teacher or parent. But that doesn't work well with God. The universe and its laws have no existence outside of him. Their very design grows to some extent out of his own nature (that is, no universe can exist which contradicts it). And so we expect to see certain attributes of God mirrored (even if only darkly, post-Fall) in this universe.

Take justice. Christ said something about reaping what you sow, which is an analogy from the natural world. We know ourselves that there are consequences to what we do, good or bad. Somebody generally ends up paying the piper. And that sucks if they haven't got the wherewithal to pay that bill without being wiped out (yes, I realize we've wandered into debt analogies, and that's okay with me, theories of the atonement all interweave anyway, it seems).

But that cosmic bill--or consequence, if we're taking that model--is going to be footed by somebody. If you want to extend the Prodigal Son story, it's foreseeable that the next morning kiddo no. 2 is going to hop out of bed and have to deal with the fact that he's got his way to make in this world without the benefit of an inheritance now. Time to get a job.

Or if he's very, very lucky, time to discover that his elder brother has had his heart grow four sizes overnight, and now Dad and big bro together are willing to "foot the bill for him," to deal with the consequences that rightly belong to him and not them. In which case the Dad and big bro end up taking the consequence (which means less money now and a smaller inheritance for the big brother).

What I'm trying to say is that consequences exist, even and especially when it comes to sin; and other people may step in and take those consequences on themselves, but that does not mean that the consequences stop existing. It merely means that the burden of suffering has been transferred to somebody else. Usually God. Because that's how he rolls.

And that willingness to bear our consequences is what enables him to welcome us home with joy without ripping up the basic fabric of the universe--or of his own nature.

--------------------
Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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mousethief

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Oops, xpost with LC -- this is to Gamaliel

True enough, and I was overstating my case. Nevertheless proponents of any given theory can't wave their hands at verses or pericopes that tell against their theory as if they weren't even there, or didn't have any implications concerning soteriology.

To LC:

You seem to be creating a theory of Christian karma. How is your consequence theory any different from karma?

[ 08. January 2017, 21:56: Message edited by: mousethief ]

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Gamaliel
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That's not what I understood Mudfrog or any other poster here to be doing, Mousethief.

my impression wasn't that people were waving the Parable of the Prodigal Son aside but reacting against the weight you were putting on it as an argument against PSA.

However, there are verses we all could cite, I'm sure that don't appear to fit neatly into any particular atonement theory.

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mark_in_manchester

not waving, but...
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quote:
And that willingness to bear our consequences is what enables him to welcome us home with joy without ripping up the basic fabric of the universe--or of his own nature.

I find that very helpful - thanks LC

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(so good, I wanted to see it after my posts and not only after those of shipmate JBohn from whom I stole it)

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Jay-Emm
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quote:
Originally posted by Gamaliel:

However, there are verses we all could cite, I'm sure that don't appear to fit neatly into any particular atonement theory.

There are verses where the Father is to be thanked and verses where Jesus is to be thanked (which is fairly easy to reconcile, if it were the only thing to merge).

And verses where the problem is in God's control, and verses where it's not.
(which is again reconcilable, but then puts stress on the top condition)

Again verses that talk of redeemed, atoned, forgiven, rescued, set free, reconciled, accounted, justified, delivered, adopted, sanctified, reborn, gifted, . (and that's just Romans).

Not insurmountable to unite, but hard not to miss off or relegate some to second place (and most of them having different natural subjects and objects).

[ 08. January 2017, 22:55: Message edited by: Jay-Emm ]

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Kwesi
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ISTM a problem with moral influence atonement theory lies in explaining how the moral example of Christ impacts upon the behaviour of those who observe it to produce the experience of atonement and its sanctifying power. Mindful of Paul’s frustration at being unable to do the good he wishes, (Romans 7: 18-20), it would seem that more is needed than the approbation and desire to emulate the example of Christ. It requires the added capacity to achieve the transformation. There needs to be something stronger than mere objective example.

Mudfrog has pointed elsewhere to the role of mysticism in meditations on the suffering of Christ, particularly in hymns. Mysticism, of course, links the mystic to the spirit of god in a profound, transcendental way that defies the limitations of logic and language. When Isaac Watts contemplates the “wondrous cross” he moves from observation to “dead to all the globe” to complete personal absorption in Christ’s suffering and its “demands” on his soul. Similarly subjective is Charles Wesley’s lesser known hymn, printed below, “Thou shepherd of Israel and mine…” : “ My spirit to Calvary bear/ To suffer and triumph with Thee.” I suspect that for many people the experience of personal atonement is of such a character, and is by no means confined to the evangelical tradition.

Consequently, while I’m attracted to Moral Influence atonement and am unimpressed by PSA and the tradition leading to it, I believe Moral Influence requires an infusion of power that comes with the linking of an individual’s spirit to that of Christ.

Thou Shepherd of Israel divine,
The joy and desire of my heart,
For closer communion I pine,
I long to reside where Thou art:
The pasture I languish to find,
Where all, who their Shepherd obey,
Are fed, on Thy boson reclined,
And screened from the heat of the day.

2 Ah! show me that happiest place,
That place of Thy people's abode,
Where saints in an ecstasy gaze,
And hang on a crucified God!
Thy love for a sinner declare,
Thy passion and death on the tree;
My spirit to Calvary bear,
To suffer and triumph with Thee.

3 'Tis there with the lambs of Thy flock,
There only I covet to rest,
To lie at the foot of the Rock,
Or rise to be hid in Thy breast;
'Tis there I would always abide,
And never a moment depart;
Concealed in the cleft of Thy side,
Eternally held in Thy heart.

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cliffdweller
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fwiw, I find it helpful to distinguish the direction of each of the five metaphors for the atonement.

• substitution and satisfaction are directed "God-ward"-- the impact of the atonement is on God-- to appease his wrath and/or justice/holiness. The limitations of that are noted above.

• moral influence is directed "human-ward"-- the impact of the atonement is on us-- we are changed as we are able to see/comprehend divine love

• ransom and Christus victor are directed "Satan-ward"-- the impact of the atonement is on Satan-- restraining him or causing him to release us from bondage.

I personally resonate most with the two "Satan-ward" theories, primarily because it has a more positive (IMHO) view of God as the rescuing one, rather than God as the one whose wrath/justice must be satisfied. But I can see truth in all of them-- which is why I think we have all five in Scripture. Like the multiple metaphors for God himself, we are describing something so complex, so transcendent, so beyond our comprehension, that it takes multiple images for us to even begin to grasp it.

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Kaplan Corday
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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
moral influence is directed "human-ward"-- the impact of the atonement is on us-- we are changed as we are able to see/comprehend divine love

Well, yes, but it is only the prior reality of atonement that gives Moral Influence Theory any point.

It is empty in itself.

As the late Leon Morris pointed out in his The Cross Of Jesus, if someone loses their life in an attempt to save you from drowning, then it is reasonable to regard this as a sacrificial act of love for another human being, but if they jump in the riuer and die while you are safe on the bank, then awe for their love is likely to be replaced by sympathy for their idiocy.

quote:
ransom and Christus victor are directed "Satan-ward"-- the impact of the atonement is on Satan-- restraining him or causing him to release us from bondage.
"Satan-ward"?

It is highly questionable whether any theologically sound ransom theory of the atonement sees the ransom as payable to Satan.

It is reminiscent of the crude patristic imagery of mousetraps and fish-hooks, and veers dangerously close to dualism.

Ransom theory should be seen as God, in Christ, undertaking to pay the necessary price of release to himself.

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mousethief

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cliffdweller, you leave out the sickness/healing model. Who-ward is that?

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Kaplan Corday:
quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
ransom and Christus victor are directed "Satan-ward"-- the impact of the atonement is on Satan-- restraining him or causing him to release us from bondage.

"Satan-ward"?

It is highly questionable whether any theologically sound ransom theory of the atonement sees the ransom as payable to Satan.

It is reminiscent of the crude patristic imagery of mousetraps and fish-hooks, and veers dangerously close to dualism.

Well, of course, everything is "questionable", but it is the standard interpretation of both the ransom and the Christus victor images. And it seems to me to be the logical conclusion of the relevant biblical texts.

If you take

quote:

• John 8:34: Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.

and put that together with

quote:
• Matt. 20:28: Just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

I think it seems readily apparent that the one who holds us in bondage, the one to whom the ransom is paid, is Satan. This is put even more clearly here:

quote:
Heb. 2:14-15, 18: he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death… Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

of course, as with the other four, it is a metaphor and therefore subject to all the limitations that are inherent to metaphors. Just as substitutionary breaks down in the way it portrays God's nature, so the "Satan-ward" theories are subject to distortions simply by nature of being metaphors.

otoh (and this is probably grist for another thread), I'm not as precious as some about positing a real Satanic element-- whether personified or more generalized (as in Walter Wink's work on systemic evil), even as I am wary of the excesses of the spiritual warfare movement. I'm quite partial to Greg Boyd's work in (the unfortunately named) God at War for rethinking this so-called "dualism".

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
cliffdweller, you leave out the sickness/healing model. Who-ward is that?

hmmm... yes, it's not addressed in the sources I've used in thinking this way about the atonement. Off the top of my head, I'd probably say "human-ward" as it seems like humans are the ones who are moved/changed by the atonement in that paradigm. But since it's more integral to your tradition, I'd be interested in your take on it-- do you see it fitting into any one of those three paradigms-- God-ward, human-ward, or Satan-ward?

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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mousethief

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Sin-ward?

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Sin-ward?

Well, all the theories of the atonement are dealing with the problem of sin. The question is, what precisely is the problem? And who (in a personal sense) is being impacted or moved by the force of the atonement?

The God-ward metaphors posit the "sin problem" as something like this: "God’s wrath (or holiness or justice) against human sinfulness puts us in danger of eternal punishment". Thus, the force or direction of the atonement is toward God-- to appease his wrath or justice or holiness. It is God who is moved.

The human-ward metaphors posit the "sin problem" as something like this: "Humans need to know God’s love for us, but are incapable of comprehending it". Thus, the force or direction of the atonement is toward us-- to help us know what we could not otherwise comprehend. We are the ones who are moved.

The Satan-ward metphors posit the "sin problem" as something like this: "Humanity is trapped and oppressed by spiritual forces beyond our control." Thus, the force or direction of the atonement is toward Satan-- to defeat his power over us and release us from captivity. Satan is the one who is moved.

I could see the "cure of souls" notion of the atonement fitting in either the human-ward or Satan-ward paradigms. Does that fit for you?

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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mousethief

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If those are my only choices, then Satan-ward is the one that fits best, I think.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
If those are my only choices, then Satan-ward is the one that fits best, I think.

Is there another option I'm missing? Because there very well may be.

The thing with all the metaphors is that they are looking at the atonement from different perspectives helping us understand this massive, transcendent, cosmic event that is so divine, so beyond us, we can never really comprehend it. Which is why, I think there are 5 (or 6-- or more) metaphors. So I'm certainly not trying to limit the perspectives-- the more we have, the better, Just trying to systematize it a bit cuz that's the way my brain works, it appeals to me.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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mousethief

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Well let me toss this around a bit.

Let's say I'm on the playground and Satan comes and sprays his Gogurt all over my shirt. Then he sees Jesus coming, and takes off. Jesus comes and washes my shirt (with me still in it, but hey that's baptism for you).

Is his action Satan-ward? Well, he's not so much addressing Satan as the mess Satan left behind.

Is it human-ward? Well, aren't all atonement theories human-ward inasmuch as we're the ones getting atoned for?

Is it God-ward? Well, let's say God requires us to have clean shirts to get in the door (a really bad analogy to sin preventing fellowship with God). Then it's God-ward inasmuch as it allows us to have fellowship with God.

I dunno. It doesn't seem like any of the three really fit.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Well let me toss this around a bit.

Let's say I'm on the playground and Satan comes and sprays his Gogurt all over my shirt. Then he sees Jesus coming, and takes off. Jesus comes and washes my shirt (with me still in it, but hey that's baptism for you).

Is his action Satan-ward? Well, he's not so much addressing Satan as the mess Satan left behind.

Is it human-ward? Well, aren't all atonement theories human-ward inasmuch as we're the ones getting atoned for?

Is it God-ward? Well, let's say God requires us to have clean shirts to get in the door (a really bad analogy to sin preventing fellowship with God). Then it's God-ward inasmuch as it allows us to have fellowship with God.

I dunno. It doesn't seem like any of the three really fit.

Yeah, I think I'd agree it sounds most like Satan-ward.

Or maybe it's all three? Maybe the Orthodoxen are parsing it differently-- instead of focusing on the direction of the atonement (by embracing all three) it's focusing on the nature of the sin problem itself-- what is the "thing" that needs to be taken care of? Sort of like slicing the cake in a different direction?

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Lamb Chopped
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Satanic Gogurt.

Hmm.

That explains a lot. (Have you ever tasted that stuff?)

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
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mr cheesy
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I think justice is a difficult idea to overlay with the atonement.

First, we are saying that something done in finite time is so incredibly awful that it deserves an infinite punishment. That's almost impossible to be justice on its own, comparable to saying that some distance walked in planet earth deserves being pushed into infinite space forever.

Second we some saying that there is something broken about humanity which amounts to a crime deserving of an infinite punishment before you've even done anything. Which also doesn't really sound like justice.

Next, at least some theories of the atonement are saying that a perfect individual is needed to pay the price of everyone else. Not just.

Next, that his death -an ordinary part of human existence albeit in a very cruel way - was somehow equivalent to an everlasting punishment. Almost by definition that can't be justice.

Finally, the idea that the creator-god who set up the who system of eternal punishment somehow also gave himself as a sacrificial victim to satisfy his own punishment. That's not justice either.

I appreciate that we are struggling to understand a mystery, but just saying "because justice" is in no way answering the question.

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Enoch
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Is Gogurt, yogurt that has been eaten and then reGurgitated? I 'like' the picture of Satan regurgitating foulness on people like an angry Fulmar.


I suspect I'm with Cliffdweller on much of this debate. The atonement took place. It has an objective, ontological, cosmic effect. It is bigger, 'infinitely' bigger than our attempts to understand it and explain it. That's a major reason why all the explanations people give are inadequate and incomplete.

The most important thing is that we don't have to understand to be able to receive and say thank you - and that is far more important.

The bread and wine proclaim Christ's death until he comes.


I'd go further, and say that if somebody tells you 'this explanation (whichever of them) is the right one' the one thing you can say is that they are wrong.

The particular weakness of moral influence on its own as an explanation is that it has nothing to say to the lost, spiritually distressed, spiritually disturbed or the human predicament as a whole. It's basically a gospel for the well who have no need of a physician - or at worst, the complacent.

However, if you take it away, if you totally reject it, you lose much of the basis of Christian morality and ethics. The cross becomes just a transaction. It ceases to have anything to say to holy living.

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quote:
Originally posted by churchgeek:

What I've never fully understood is why Christ's death should be so compelling, then. If you remove the "for us" part of "Christ died for us," then what is so loving or exemplary about his dying?

The Christ died for us is part of the moral influence theory: died to show us the way the truth and the life.

I recall a particular lecturer saying what people need most in the world and in life is to be loved. To be loved is the core of transformation. So this theory can be the springboard for that.

Romans 2:4

Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?


quote:
Originally posted by churchgeek:

All I can think of is that it's the way he died - forgiving those who killed him, e.g. But many, many people in history have done similarly; is it just that Jesus happens to be the one we've noticed? Does his being God come into play there? Does he have to be God in this model?

Were there many that forgave those who killed them in history before Jesus? Maybe there were. But you could say they were Godly too then if so.

The difference with Jesus was the resurrection. Which was God's affirmation of all that came before. Making it clear as it were.

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I think justice is a difficult idea to overlay with the atonement.

First, we are saying that something done in finite time is so incredibly awful that it deserves an infinite punishment. That's almost impossible to be justice on its own, comparable to saying that some distance walked in planet earth deserves being pushed into infinite space forever.

Second we some saying that there is something broken about humanity which amounts to a crime deserving of an infinite punishment before you've even done anything. Which also doesn't really sound like justice.

Next, at least some theories of the atonement are saying that a perfect individual is needed to pay the price of everyone else. Not just.

Next, that his death -an ordinary part of human existence albeit in a very cruel way - was somehow equivalent to an everlasting punishment. Almost by definition that can't be justice.

Finally, the idea that the creator-god who set up the who system of eternal punishment somehow also gave himself as a sacrificial victim to satisfy his own punishment. That's not justice either.

I appreciate that we are struggling to understand a mystery, but just saying "because justice" is in no way answering the question.

Those are all concerns of the "God-ward" images that are based in defining the "sin problem" as "God's wrath/justice/holiness against human sinfulness"-- you don't find those problems in the other metaphors. IMHO the problem with the God-ward metaphors is a faulty view of God. But again, I think that's a limitation of metaphor, and why we need more than just the two God-ward explanations.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
Those are all concerns of the "God-ward" images that are based in defining the "sin problem" as "God's wrath/justice/holiness against human sinfulness"-- you don't find those problems in the other metaphors. IMHO the problem with the God-ward metaphors is a faulty view of God. But again, I think that's a limitation of metaphor, and why we need more than just the two God-ward explanations.

Well, yes I do think other metaphors are better - but evangelicals in particular seem to lack a sense of consistency.

I don't mean to say that things perfectly line up together (I don't believe they do), but too often evangelicals seem to push PSA to the exclusion of all other metaphors and seem blinded to the biblical text which does not seem to back up the narrow view.

For example, I've heard many times (too many to count, probably) that sinful man cannot approach the perfect deity. Therefore, this trope goes, sacrifice is necessary.

However, a cursary glance at OT stories and characters shows that this isn't backed up by the text. Almost nobody is pictured as having a sacrifice to purify themselves before meeting with God, and indeed in the vast majority of cases God is pictured meeting with man and not the other way around.

The idea that God is contaminated by man's sinfulness seems to be the opposite of the truth (in my view supported by stories and metaphors in the NT as well), namely that God is a "disinfectant" and reaches out to those who are contaminated.

Of course I appreciate that this is an oversimplification and not every Evangelical thinks like this, but I think this way of explaining the atonement is very widely used.

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