some quick thoughts on models of atonement

30 11 2006

1. sacrificial (salvation is bought by blood) – the nature of God is presented here as one who demands blood sacrifice, but the OT states that God demands obedience rather than sacrifice.
2. judicial (salvation through punishment on our behalf) – often presented as a way of reconciling justice and holiness with the mercy and love of God, but unpopular in post-Christendom context as Christianity is moving away rather than towards the seat of power and judgement (but perhaps this can be reconciled).
3. merit (salvation Christ won favour of God) – to what extent does Christ have to win the favour of God for our salvation (marcion theology).

– vulnerable to questions concerning the definition of sin (wrong done to fellow people but ultimately to God) criticism of deontic models which make God seem petty.

4. exemplary (set an example for us) – fails to deal with sin as an ontological reality.

5. participatory – through participation in Christ’s death and resurrection we become alive to God in Christ Jesus. Our person is changed as we put off the old person and become a new person (the old person is morally culpable). I fear this either lends itself to a dualistic (Gnostic) understanding of human nature, or to a bizarre metaphysical proposal.

6. a hybrid of the participatory model that recognises salvation deals with the ontological and relational problem whilst our sin is dealt with as a deontological problem through Jesus suffering in our place.

– in this theory of atonement biblical language of ransom, suffering, and sacrifice remain valid and are supported by a true and Trinitarian understanding of God’s nature, whilst the emphasis remains upon the relational within the participatory model. And of course none of this denies the significance of Christ’s death as a witness and example of resistance against the domination system.


Religion and Politics- what to do?

3 11 2006

Please note- I struggled to write this because it really cuts to the heart of who I am as a Christian, who I want to be, how I want to live, and how I want others to learn to live as well, it also leaves me wondering whether there is a viable Christian political agenda- on the right or the left.

I think the religion and politics issues are really dangerous- as an evangelical it often hurts me to be characterised as a greedy, wasteful, arrogant, persecuting bigot. I think we as a church have a duty to respond to issues of poverty, global warming (and other green issues), and militarism (the myth of redemptive violence). I’m not sure how we can set these issues apart from our views on homosexuality, euthanasia (or assisted dying), and Christian education and formation.

Our secular governments trust in economic policies that protect our individual economies nurturing stable growth these policies set other nations (some of the worlds poorest) at a disadvantage economically. As Christians, we may want to criticise these policies but if we legislate against the policies the secular American wheat farmer goes out of business someone else pays the cost of our political agenda- the result is bitterness towards the Christian theocratic agenda and towards Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

I was speaking to a Canadian who works for the Commonwealth, yesterday, focussing on world health issues (most notably HIV AIDS). We discussed the Christian role in combating the aids pandemic across Africa; he noted that in some countries the church is providing 50% of the overall health care. It is an amazing testimony to Jesus Christ who healed lepers, reconciled community and outcast, and preached an alternative lifestyle that the Church continues to be Christ’s hands and feet and voice in the contemporary world. However, you can’t legislate for community reconciliation or Christian moral values these things come about as we accept the discipline of the Father, follow in the footsteps of Jesus and receive renewal through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Consider another situation ‘global warming’ at the moment, our nations are placing blind faith in further scientific and technological developments save us from an environmental catastrophe. We might want to say as the People of God actually living God’s way and being good stewards of the earth will save us from global melt down. But, it depends where you put your trust and in whom you put your trust for many the cost of following Christ with our natural resources is far too high- so how do we work this out?

We can either trust in our democratic right by legislate against homosexuality, bad stewardship (or what we perceive is bad stewardship) of the environment, assisted dying, and health care. Alternatively, we can pursue the Christian theocratic agenda through the Church, which acknowledges Christ as its head. In this situation, we provide an example to the world of good (faithful) sexual ethics good stewardship, good palliative care (and good dying), good (holistic) health care.
I know it is a difficult choice, particularly when it means allowing for suffering (perhaps that’s what it felt like for God when he allowed us to go our own way), but it is surely the better way for a people who believe that there is both judgement and life after death.

What do you think? Is there a way to square the circle that I haven’t seen? What does it mean to live ‘in’ but not ‘of’ the world?