THE CROSS #5

For What Do We Search?

For What Do We Search?

Acts 20:27-29

We see that for which we look.
Our discoveries mostly match our expectation.
This is the grave
distinction between exegesis and eisegesis.
In the end it may well be that theology is all about eisegesis.
If that is true, I will look for love
and not hate—
healing, and not wounding,
A God who is not repugnant.
That am I to make of a story
about a loving God who
demands that forgiveness be forever
bathed in his Jesus’ blood?
Where do I find hope when violence and hate
can only be ended by more violence and hate?
How do I cure fear with more fear?
How can I create love out of a hateful act?
How will God ever be satisfied with me
when I cost him the life of the one who know his as father?
And, how might it be even possible to
trust a God to be a God of all Grace
when it is so evident that Grace itself is graceless? How?
I will begin with an understanding that the original story
was a mis-visioning of God by a people
bathed in blood and violence,
needing hope and justification for the
national terror in which they survived.
I will then re-read the stories with
hope, love, forgiveness, grace in mind,
and find what is there to be found.
I then will re-vision those stories
through my own experience of
hope, love, forgiveness, and grace.
What is it I discover?
I find a God who does not demand death
but demands love as a sign of my faith.
I find a God who offers and expects forgiveness.
I find a God who has experienced
my own pain and fear and suffering,
with whom I find hope and succor and nurture.
I find a God of Glory in whom
all creation is held in absolute love!

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Below are my research notes.

CROSS AS PAYMENT OF DEBT (Substitutionary Atonement)

ACTS 20:27-29 — King James Version
27 For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN—is a doctrine that began as an argument against the gnostic heresies, and first stated by Irenaeus who based his agrument upon Romans 5:12-21.
The development of the Doctrine of Original Sin is more a development of the Roman Catholic (Western) church than of the Eastern Orthodox. It is based on the actual and factual existence of the persons of Adam and Eve and an original, one-time act creating a forever rift between God and humanity that is transmitted naturally through the propagation of the species.  The doctrine was further clarified by Tertulian, St. Cyprian, and St Ambrose taught the solidarity of the whole human race with Adam.  It was later expanded by Augustine, in an argument against another heresy, Pelegianism (that free will, supported by ascetic practices, was sufficient for living the full Christian life and the securing of eternal salvation), and became understood as transmitted by the concupiscence accompanying the conjugal act.

It should be noted that CONCUPISCENCE is defined by Augustine as humans having a nature in which the desires of the flesh are no longer subordinated to reason.

It should also be noted that according to Roman Catholic theology, that prior to the Adamic Event, humans lived in what is termed, ORIGINAL RIGHTEOUSNESS OR JUSTICE, which is the original created state of humanity where humans were created to be free from concupiscence, and we were gifted with bodily immortality, impassibility, and happiness.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE ATONEMENT—

In traditional theology this is the reconciliation of humanity with God by way of the sacrificial death of Jesus, and it is based upon the Hebrew Scripture notion that God is so pure that nothing impure may approach the Divine Person, and purification can only be achieved through the shedding of the blood of an animal. Leviticus 3 King James Version 3 And if his oblation be a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offer it of the herd; whether it be a male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord. 7 If he offer a lamb for his offering, then shall he offer it before the Lord. 8 And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his offering, and kill it before the tabernacle of the congregation: and Aaron’s sons shall sprinkle the blood thereof round about upon the altar The Christian Doctrine is itself based on John’s Gospel where Jesus becomes that Pascal Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

The Church Fathers developed the doctrine of Atonememnt based on problems that went beyond the purview of Scripture:

Origen, St Hilary of Poitiers, St Augustine, and St Leo, considered the death of Jesus as the ransom paid to Satan who had acquired ownership of humanity by way of the Fall.  St. Athannasius claimed that Jesus took on human nature (became human) to effect a change in our nature so as to make us divine. “He became man that we might become divine.”

Patristic teaching took on the affirmation that Christ was our representative not our substitute; and that the effect of his teachings, sufferings, perfect obedience, resurrection, extends to the whole of humanity and beyond.

Scholastic, St Thomas Aquinas, suggested that while the act of Atonement might have occurred through Christ it was not necessary because God could have redeemed us without any satisfaction whatsoever.

###

ANOTHER WAY TO VIEW: The little girl said as she was about to be confirmed into the church, “But I don’t want to be a Christian, Daddy. I don’t want to have to believe that God is mean. If you and mommy are nice and would never send me to hell, why should I believe that God would be meaner that you and mommy and do that to someone?”

What are we to believe? We have been so indoctrinated by these doctrines of original sin and the atonement that we are many times afraid to even consider that it could be different. And yet I believe that it is, different. Humans need to know about what they don’t understand. Humans need to have a handle on Mystery. We seem to need to know what is not knowable. We try to make sense out of the senseless. We stand with our faces to the sky and shout, “WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT!!!” Usually there is no answer, so we try to answer the question on our own, and by our own means.

THOUGH I LIKE THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL RIGHTEOUSNESS OR JUSTICE, IT NONETHELESS TROUBLES ME — because it offers an unreal “Golden Age” mentality to humanity’s relationship to God. In this Golden Age of temporal righteousness we didn’t die, we could not be swayed, we were continually happy, we could talk to the animals, we could walk and talk with God who was our best friend forever, we smiled a lot, we had no understanding of racism because we were all the same (white?) color, there was no carnal knowledge (sex), and I assume that there was no Rock ‘N’ Roll either. This is that Garden of Eden we got kicked out of because we disobeyed God, attained knowledge… But I ask, If we were created IMPASSIBLE, how is it that we could have been swayed to disobey God at all? This state of idyllic innocence is more or less a dream state for a humanity that cannot accept itself as simply a sinner, and needs to find some way out of its own reality.

Impassible in its theological meaning is incapable of feeling or suffering, or of being moved. If one of the characteristics of our Original Righteousness was our impassibility, then God created a flawed humanity.

DOCTRINES, by their very nature, attempt to create teachable realities and meanings we can apply to what we observe in our daily lives.

Doctrines have consequences. Because they are teaching instruments, they become guidelines for how we are to live our lives.

Instead of being descriptive doctrines become prescriptive. Rather than being how it was, they become how you should be, and dysfunctional forms of faith seem to arise from various and toxic prescriptions.

Various leaders arise who demand that we view them as if they were God.

Some fathers, and many supported by their church communities abuse their families, because Bible Based Doctrines give them privilege.

Women are systematically abused and made subservient through mis-read and mis-understood scriptures—even domestic violence and rape are excused through a twisted scripture-based reasoning.

Jesus suffered and was glorified, becomes if we suffer we will be glorified as well, becomes I/you should suffer if you want to get close to God

Suffer here on earth because Jesus did and you’ll be like Jesus if you do.

IT SEEMS TO ME & THIS IS MY OWN PERSONAL DOCTRINE AND IT BEGINS WITH A QUESTION — What is it that we want from our God and our faith?

FIRST, let me say, that for both the Doctrines of Original Sin and the Doctrine of the Atonement to function, the premise of a six-day creation with an actual physical living and breathing Adam and Eve must be taken as literal. The Doctrine of a six-day Creation and the Doctrine of Evolution (say Ongoing Creation) are incompatible. THIS IS WHERE ONE MUST START FOR BELIEF IN THESE TWO DOCTRINES, because the Doctrine of Original Sin is based upon an Adam and an Eve, and the Doctrine of the Atonement is based on Adam and Eve as well. These stories are sacralized and reified myths–but we must decide if we are to believe in them as great stories and metaphors, or as fact and actual history. Because we each have the freedom to define the parameters of our own faith we need to do so by starting here, with this choice, at the beginning, and then working forward. I cannot decide this for you. It is truly your choice to make. Remember theology is descriptive, not prescriptive. Theology/Doctrine can only offer a description that leaves you free to choose.

SECOND, let’s talk about God for a minute. Who teaches us about God? How do we learn? Do we only know God through Doctrine, or do we come to understand God through some internal communication between God/Holy Spirit and our own selves? Can our God be bigger than the small words of doctrine, and come alive in our own hearts in ways too large to be contained by doctrine?

I do not deny that Jesus died. I do not disbelieve that he rose from the tomb. I believe in both the Cross and the Resurrection. However I do not think so lowly of God that God would demand a blood sacrifice to right a long past mythical wrong. I just do not.

I do believe there is sin in the world. I do believe that in the description of the Crucifixion that we can understand the nature of our own lives and find hope. Jesus died, I believe, for the singular reason that he believed in the good of God, and in the Truth of Love and Forgiveness.

In truth people just do not want to forgive and to love, and will kill rather than doing so, because truly loving and forgiving, means that people must, I said MUST, give up the hate and anger and rage and past hurts and insults and vengeance, and actually forgive and love those who have trespassed against them. I have actually heard of people who will not say the Lord’s Prayer because of the Forgiveness clause in it.

SO, to answer the second question, THE VERY ONES WHO TEACH US ABOUT A UNMOVABLE, UNAPPROACHABLE, BLOODTHIRSTY BUT LOVING GOD ARE THOSE WHO THINK OF LOVE AS UNMOVABLE, UNAPPROACHABLE, AND BLOODTHIRSTY. What I learn from this is that the God in whom I place my faith and trust is a God who is just not like that at all! I do believe that Jesus is not God’s sacrifice, but God, God’s Own Self, and God’s way to show us who God is! I believe that all the biblical stories around the Cross and Resurrection are the rationalizations of hurt, scared people who lost a close friend because he challenged the Jewish faith community and the Roman State to love and forgive as God loves and forgives, and was killed for his message. He would not back down. He would not recant. He would not let the torture and mob hatred and rage change his message of love and forgiveness, and so he died.

I also believe in the Resurrection. I believe that somehow Love and Forgiveness overcomes the darkness of rage, fear, hatred, and violence and rises into the light of hope and true forgiveness.

I do not believe in a mythical golden age of righteousness, because I have learned that love, forgiveness, and hope take one whole bunch of hard work. Jesus experience of the crucifixion is the human experience of life, but the resurrection tells me of hope and strength, and that despair is uncalled for because in Jesus’ we can see our own selves.

I understand that Jesus rose in both the hearts and minds of his early followers as they discovered his message of love and forgiveness come alive in themselves, and at the tables where they met to remember his life in stories and bread and cup.

I believe that is what we find Jesus doing, saying and experiencing we can see something of our own stories. We do not need to try to suffer or needlessly endure suffering or find ways to suffer to be like Jesus! But I believe that precisely because God, in the person of Jesus suffered and died and was resurrected, we can find the hope of resurrection in our own suffering. I believe that the darkness of the Cross, the light of Easter Morning, are all found in our own personal stories and that because God experienced all we suffered and more, and even though we may feel deserted, we are never alone.

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4 thoughts on “THE CROSS #5

  1. I feel so lucky to have you still in our lives. To help us to understand these ideas, and to remind us what it’s really all about. Thank you!!

    • You are welcome, Peggy. Theology is a conversation, but like some conversations it tends to become one sided, with the conversers trying to out shout each other. We all have some small thing to say about God. None of it is totally right. Some of it is silly, some of it is sad, and some of it is down right specious. God is too big for our words to encompass, but God is not mean!

  2. This poem is lovely. I am so happy to see so much healthy theology being born into the world again in so many places.

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