Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Thoughts to ponder

From the brilliant Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, by Joel Green and Mark Baker

  • 'The early tradition is evidently more interested in the affirmation that Jesus' death, far from taking God by surprise, was actually the means by which Jesus' mesiaship was most transparent, and is less concerned to tie down with precision how Jesus' death was effective in bringing about the salvation of the world' (17)
  • 'Forgivingness and reconciliation are fundamentally social realities' (73)
  • 'Paul S. Fiddes notes that Paul has a "penal view" of Christ's suffering and that he conceives of Christ as a substitute and representative of humankind, but he denies that these two concepts can be joined in Paul into a theory of "penal substitution", in which atonement is achieved via a transfer of penalty ... The phrase "penal substitution" is thus a mixing of Pauline metaphors' (95 n. 14)


At 12/05/2007 3:44 PM, Anonymous Jason Pratt said...

Simply on agreement with the second observation (about forgiveness, or 'forgivingness', and reconciliation being emphatically social realities), one might should have second and third and maybe fourth thoughts {g} about whether one is actually finding a "penal view" of Christ's suffering in Paul. Especially when a combination of the two results in something as odd as affirming both a penal and a substitutive view yet denying that these concepts can be joined in Paul into a theory of penal substitution. Uh... whah??

Put another way, if I reached a conclusion of this sort, I would consider it a pointer that one or more previous conclusions are out of whack somehow. I would be looking either to revise the notion of reconciliation and forgiveness; the penal view of Christ's suffering; the substitutionary/representative view of Christ's suffering; or the denial of conflating these things into a penal substitution view.

At least one of the three premises, or the conclusion, has to be wrong; or else there is some extra element (not reported yet) from which the denial is following validly in conjunction with the established premises.


At 12/05/2007 11:14 PM, Anonymous Jonathan Robinson said...

Could you clarify how the cross was 'penal' if not as a substitution please? I'm all for reducing penal substitution from being the primary analogy of atonement to its rightful place as one amoung many- but why is Christ being punished if not in our place?

Re the social reality of forgiveness and reconcilliation, i think that reflects the praxis of Christ's earthly ministry and the missional intent of much of Paul's writing. But i hope 'social' is used inclusively of our relationship with God, not exclusively to denote only human society.

At 12/06/2007 7:26 PM, Anonymous Jason Pratt said...

{{But i hope 'social' is used inclusively of our relationship with God, not exclusively to denote only human society.}}

Agreed! Though maybe that's how Green&Baker think they are getting to a recognition of 'penal' and 'substitution' and 'atonement' without 'penal substitutionary atonement': the atonement (i.e. the reconciliation) is supposed to be exclusively human and not inclusive of the social reality of man and God??

Just spitballing, trying to come up with some way they thought they could get to such a combination of affirmations along with such a denial as they (reportedly) have. I certainly hope it wasn't by this route, though, since what the hell (literally) good is a penal view and a substitutionary view and any other view of Christ's suffering (or any action of Christ at all) if forgivingness and reconciliation are exclusively human social realities?! It ends with no atonement possible between man and God! (Surely G&B couldn't have meant that, though...)


At 12/06/2007 8:40 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for your comments, Jason.

Paroikos, my rather lame response is to point you in the direction of the book they mention. I have not read it. I put these quotes up as I thought they were interesting, not becuase I agreed with or where convinced by them.

All the best

At 12/08/2007 11:55 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Hebrews is early and it is about how Jesus blood was used to purify Heaven. His death did nothing, just as the death of the sacrificed animals did nothing.

The author of Hebrews explicitly compares the blood of the animals with the blood of Jesus.

For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp.

Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.

The death , per se, was without meaning.

Just as the death of the animals had no meaning as such.

Paul, of course, never states why Jesus was the Messiah. He just was.

As always, Christianity was divided over theology. (Theology being no more than various people's opinions)

At 12/11/2007 12:06 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Steven,
"As always, Christianity was divided over theology"
Why do you see the variety of voices in the NT as a weakness? You are judging the matter from a fundie perspective, as if it needed to be monovocal to obtain your respect. The differences are there to be discussed, enjoyed, and benefited from - all with a responsible and informed hermeneutic (which pushes it away from merely "various people's opinions").

You are not alone. Dawkins makes the same elimentary mistakes in his claims.

At 12/11/2007 7:21 AM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Differences in early Christianiy certainly are there ot be discussed , enjoyed and benefited from.

Paul discusses the different varieties of Christianity that early Christians enjoyed and benefited from.

2 Corinthians 11 'For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you recieve a different spirit from the one we proclaimed, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough'.

The author of Hebrews has a Jesus who is a high priest in Heaven and whose death was there to provide salvific blood, just as the death of animals in the OT was there to provide blood for the High Priest to use.

And who really cares if that is not the Jesus of Nazareth, whose death was important for salvation, and not his blood?

Only people who want to know what early Christians really believed - and being interested in the truth is an elementary mistake as far as Christianity is concerned - one that Dawkins repeats on page after page of his book.


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