Archive for the ‘Redemption’ Category

No Satisfaction Needed

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

At the cost of repeating myself, I want to note that in all these psalms there is no need for anyone to die. When a person turns to God from a wrongful path, divine forgiveness of sin is a gift generously given, pressed down and overflowing, because of the goodness of the God who loves them: “as far as the east is from the west, so far God removes our transgressions from us” (Ps 103:12). No satisfaction is needed.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 60

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 22, 2020

The Subversive Heart of Revelation

Friday, March 27th, 2020

But Revelation pulls an amazing surprise. In place of the lion that we expect, comes a Lamb: “Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered” (Rev 5:6). It is a complete reversal. Actually the Greek word John uses is not just “lamb,” but the diminutive form, a word like “lambkin,” “lamby,” or “little lamb” (arnion in Greek) — “Fluffy,” as Pastor Daniel Erlander calls it. The only other place this word arnion is used in the New Testament is where Jesus says he is sending his disciples out into the world “as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:3). No other apocalypse ever pictures the divine hero as a Lamb — Revelation is unique among apocalyptic writings in this image. The depiction of Jesus as a Lamb shows him in the most vulnerable way possible, as a victim who is slaughtered but standing — that is, crucified, but risen to life.

Reminiscent of the servant-lamb of Isaiah 53, who “is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep to the shearers is silent,” the Lamb of Revelation became the victor not by militaristic power and slaughter but rather by being slaughtered. From beginning to end, Revelation’s vision of the Lamb teaches a “theology of the cross,” of God’s power made manifest in weakness, similar to Paul’s theology of the cross in First Corinthians. Lamb theology is the whole message of Revelation. Evil is defeated not by overwhelming force or violence but by the Lamb’s suffering love on the cross. The victim becomes the victor.

Lamb theology is what true victory or true nike is. For we, too, are “victors” or followers of the Lamb on whom the term nike or conquering is bestowed. This is one of the amazing features of the book. Much of Revelation can sound so violent, but we have to look at the subversive heart of the book — the redefinition of victory and “conquering” — to understand how Revelation subverts violence itself. Just like the Lamb, God’s people are called to conquer not by fighting but by remaining faithful, by testifying to God’s victory in self-giving love.

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 110-111

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 27, 2020

Radical Solidarity

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

The point of the Christian life is not to distinguish oneself from the ungodly, but to stand in radical solidarity with everyone and everything else. This is the full, final, and intended effect of the Incarnation — symbolized by its finality in the cross, which is God’s great act of solidarity instead of judgment. Without a doubt, Jesus perfectly exemplified this seeing, and thus passed it on to the rest of history. This is how we are to imitate Christ, the good Jewish man who saw and called forth the divine in Gentiles like the Syro-Phoenician woman and the Roman centurions who followed him; in Jewish tax collectors who collaborated with the Empire; in zealots who opposed it; in sinners of all stripes; in eunuchs, pagan astrologers, and all those “outside the law.” Jesus had no trouble whatsoever with otherness. In fact, these “lost sheep” found out they were not lost to him at all, and tended to become his best followers.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 33

One of Us

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

By His life and example, Jesus shows that there is no human mediator between God and man, and that God has not separated Himself from mankind because of our sin, but has instead become one of us, sharing in our pain and releasing us from our shame. This teaching got Jesus in a lot of trouble with the religious leaders of His day, because they (rightly) understood that what He was saying was undermining the entire sacrificial system that supported the temple and the priestly class. Strangely, many religious leaders today side with the religious leaders of Jesus’ day in saying that the religious buildings, clergy, and sacrifices are all required by God. Of course, the religious leaders who argue this today believe that they are following the teachings of Jesus, but they twist the words and actions of Jesus to make it sound like they are in agreement with Him.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 149-150

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 14, 2020

Hope Amid the Horror

Friday, March 6th, 2020

More than five hundred years before Jesus’ death on the cross, Second Isaiah proclaimed that the God who created heaven and earth was redeeming and saving Israel and forgiving their sin out of the infinite depths of divine compassion. This God is forever faithful and does not need anyone to die in order to be merciful. It is strange to contemplate how Christian preaching in the tradition of the satisfaction theory seems to assume that some seismic shift suddenly changed the divine character, so that Jesus’ death was necessary to win favor for sinners. One hears that he came to die, and without the cross we would not be saved, as if at some point the flow of divine mercy were shut down, needing Jesus’ death to start it up again. As we will discover, however, rather than making a necessary gift to placate divine honor, Jesus’ brutal death enacts the solidarity of the gracious and merciful God with all who die and especially with victims of injustice, opening hope for resurrection amid the horror.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 50

Photo: March 6, 2015, South Riding, Virginia

Victory Redefined

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Revelation carefully redefines the word “conquer” to make clear that the Lamb and his followers conquer only by their testimony and faithfulness — not by making war or killing. War is something done against God’s people by evil beasts and by Rome, not something that God’s saints or the Lamb practice in this book. Two verses of Revelation do indeed refer to Jesus as “making war” — Revelation 2:16 and 19:11 — but the way he makes war is crucial. Jesus makes war not with a sword of battle but “by the sword of his mouth.” The word is Jesus’ only weapon — this is a reversal as unexpected as the substitution of a lamb for a lion. These reversals undercut violence by emphasizing Jesus’ testimony and the word of God….

Thus, the message of the book of Revelation becomes a reframing of the whole concept of victory, giving victory first to the Lamb and then to us. Nowhere in Revelation do God’s people “wage war.” What they do is “conquer” or “become victors” (the same word in Greek) — and they do that by the Lamb’s own blood and by their courageous testimony, not through Armageddon or war. In contrast to Rome’s theology that defined Victory as military conquest, Revelation develops a counter-theology of the nonviolent victory (nike) of Jesus, God’s slain Lamb, in which “evil is overcome by suffering love,” not by superior power.

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 121-122

Photo: South Riding, Virginia 2/22/2015

Freedom

Friday, February 7th, 2020

The most civilized apologists from the “infernalist” orthodoxies these days, as I have noted elsewhere in these pages, tend to prefer to defend their position by an appeal to creaturely freedom and to God’s respect for its dignity. And, as I have also noted, there could scarcely be a poorer argument; whether made crudely or elegantly, it invariably fails, because it depends upon an incoherent model of freedom. If one could plausibly explain how an absolutely libertarian act, obedient to no prior rationale whatsoever, would be distinguishable from sheer chance, or a mindless organic or mechanical impulse, and so any more “free” than an earthquake or embolism, then the argument might carry some weight. But to me it seems impossible to speak of freedom in any meaningful sense at all unless one begins from the assumption that, for a rational spirit, to see the good and know it truly is to desire it insatiably and to obey it unconditionally, while not to desire it is not to have known it truly, and so never to have been free to choose it…. Here I can at least point out that scripture seems to support my view. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32): for freedom and truth are one, and not to know the truth is to be enslaved. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34): not seeing the Good, says God to God, they did not freely choose evil, and must be pardoned. “Everyone committing sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34): and a slave, needless to say, is not free. Moreover, it is simply obvious that, under normal conditions, we recognize any self-destructive impulse in any person as a form of madness. It makes no more sense, then, to say that God allows creatures to damn themselves out of his love for them or out of his respect for their freedom than to say a father might reasonably allow his deranged child to thrust her face into a fire out of a tender regard for her moral autonomy.

— David Bentley Hart, That All Shall Be Saved, p. 79-80

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 6, 2015

A Substitute

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

While it is true, according to the New Testament, that Jesus is our substitute, the important point in the New Testament is that Jesus did not die “in our place to appease God,” but rather died “in the place of all the sacrificial victims we have killed in the name of God.” Jesus did not die because God needed or demanded a human sacrifice. God did not substitute Jesus in our place. No, Jesus died because we humans demanded a human sacrifice, and God allowed us to kill His own Son so that we might finally see what we were doing when we killed others in God’s name. Jesus did die as a substitute, but He was a substitute for all sacrificial victims of the world. He died to reveal the truth about sacrifice. What truth? The truth that God does not desire sacrifice; we humans do. Jesus died to reveal how we kill others in God’s name and to reveal that the sacrificial inclination comes from within our own hearts, not from the heart of God. Jesus died to reveal these truths to us so that we will put an end to the making and killing of all sacrificial victims.

— J. D. Myers, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus, p. 144-145

Photo: Gundersweiler, Germany, December 1999

Extravagant with Love

Saturday, January 25th, 2020

The scroll of this prophet [Second Isaiah] is a magnificent mother lode of insight into the liberating, merciful God who saves, not because anyone deserves this or pays something to placate an offended deity, but because it is the very character of God to be extravagant with love.

— Elizabeth A. Johnson, Creation and the Cross, p. 46

Photo: Centreville, Virginia, February 7, 2010

Woe!

Monday, January 20th, 2020

But “woe” is not really a helpful translation for the Greek word. Its sense is rather one of lament — like a mourner keening in grief, wailing out repeated cries of “Oh, oh, oh” at the death of a loved one. Spanish Bibles simply translate the sound as “Ay, ay, ay.” I would translate the word as, “Alas.” The meaning of the Greek word ouai is first of all a cry of pain, like the word “ouch” in English. It can mean “woe,” but it can also express deep lamentation or mourning, as in the laments of the merchants and kings over Rome in chapter 18, “Alas, Alas, Alas, for the great city!” — the same Greek word ouai.

It is as if God is crying “ouch” or “alas” on behalf of the suffering world: “Alas for the inhabitants of the earth.” It is a subtle but significant shift in direction because “Alas” conveys God’s sympathy in a way that “woe” does not.

This is important because dispensationalists use Revelation’s “woe” verses to argue that God has consigned the world to cataclysmic destruction. Their arguments contradict the overall message of Revelation. In the tradition of the Exodus story and the Exodus plagues, Revelation makes clear that God sympathizes, grieves, and laments over the world’s pain, even while threatening plagues to bring about the world’s liberation from injustice.

As we ponder the message of Revelation, especially its difficult middle sections, we must remember the overarching promise that God still loves the world and cries out for its liberation. In the slain Lamb Jesus, God shares our cries and comes to deliver us. God does not curse the world. God loves the world enough to weep and lament for it, and even to come to dwell in it with us. God will never leave the world behind!

— Barbara R. Rossing, The Rapture Exposed, p. 129

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, March 6, 2015