Friday, November 11, 2005

Feminist rejection of atonement theory

I really like these words from Gail Ramshaw's Under the Tree of Life - they sum up nicely what's been bugging me about all the focus on Christ's suffering and death:

"That our sins merited our death and that Christ substituted his death for ours gave theological support to the stranglehold that death has on society.

"As a feminist, I reject also this cemetery parade. Along with many other Christians, I do not subscribe to the beliefs that God sends death to punish personal failings and, as the old hymns suggest, that the sufferings of Jesus were the worst in human history. I ask how one man's death can be the solution to the continuing deaths of the weak. All this death gets us nowhere.

"...In my piety, Jesus' death has significance both because it proves God's life as a human and it demonstrates the horrific might of injustice; but Jesus' death has its power for me because of the resurrection."

(page 96)

11 comments:

Jan Rivero said...

I've been wrestling with this notion of substitutionary atonement for quite some time. The only way I can put it in context is in the line of Jewish sacrifice. In that context it makes sense as in "we've always done it this way." But I find the purpose of Christ's life and suffering not only in the resurrection but also in the awareness that God in Christ united in human suffering. So when we suffer God is in it with us. That is a source of both comfort and hope for me.

septuagenarian said...

I agree with you entirely. My only question;-as an very old and pretty well entrenched male chauvanist is: "Why do you entitle this viewpoint "Feminist?"

Chris said...

I have struggled with atonement theology for as long as I can remember--I have a clear memory of being ten years old and watching the movie "King of Kings" and crying at the cruxifiction of Jesus and asking my parents why did Jesus have to die? They could not answer the question, so 25 years later I went to seminary to find out--ten years after that, I still do not have a complete answer, but I can say what I don't believe, and that is in any substutionary model of atonment. Jesus' death has multiple meanings, none of which completely captures the meaning on its own. The problem is,living with multiple meanings is hard work! Reductionism is so much more comfortable for us, and so Jesus' death gets reduced (in the most banal scheme) to some sort of cosmic economic transaction, with God demanding payment for our "debts".

seeker said...

For another viewpoint on the subject, you might want to read Leslie Weatherhead's book The Christian Agnostic. He said that Jesus didn't die to save us from our sins but rather to make a covenant that he would always be with us.

The Feminarian said...

Only called it feminist because the author self-identifies that way.

Jeff said...

I've struggled having grown up with the idea that "wrath" is something that is "in" God, so to speak, rather than it being a function of our seperation from him as the Fountain of all life, more of a relational thing...I guess in the context of that I see the sustitutionary atonement as the Trinity itself swallowing the Abyss that seperates us from Itself, like the king the the parable "forgiving" the debting servant...in reality, swallowing the debt that was owed him.

I see the atonement as only one chapter in being incorporated into Christ through his substitutionary birth, substitutionary baptism, substitutionary temptation, substitutionary life, substitutionary death, substitutionary ressurection, and substitutionary ascension and exhaltation. Because I am "in" him, he is with me.

Holy Moly! said...

For explicitly feminist discourse on this issue, I recommend: this book.

septuagenarian said...

In his story, “The Great Divorce”, CS Lewis describes the sinner arriving in heaven, (from earth which is Hell) with his sin on his shoulder in the form of a lizard. A helpful angel offers to kill the lizard. (Pets not allowed?) After much agonizing, the sinner allows “Serpanticide,” whereupon the lizard becomes a beautiful Steed upon which the, supplicant rides triumphantly into paradise.
Of the several possible interpretations of this little vignette the one that amuses me is the following:

1. God created the world spotless and without sin, and declares it totally “Good.”
Man eats the psychedelic fruit, imagines himself “God,” and proceeds to organize creation into “Good,” “Bad,” and “Indifferent.” (These categories change whimsically through the generations, but are always Hell)

2. God’s problem with man therefore, is not sin so much as insanity. In a desperate (final?) attempt to hold up a mirror to His deranged subject, (to whom He has entrusted creation) He subjects Himself to man’s evaluation. He is executed for his trouble.

3. Christianity is based not upon His “sacrifice” so much as the subsequent demonstration of His resurrection. Man’s hope, (yet to be demonstrated) is that a life patterned after that of the Christ, (who recognized no sin) will always result in resurrection.

Purechristianithink said...

Eastern Orthodox soteriology is also far less "hooked" on substitutionary atonement than is western Roman/Protestant soteriolgy. The incarnation plays and almost equal role in their views of salvation in Christ with the crucifixion/resurrection. I've been finding that helpful--mostly because it does show that NOT being dominated by forensic atonement theories is not some late-breaking feminist inovation, but in fact very ancient within the Christian tradition.

Theodore A. Jones said...

According to the Bible the phoneme of death is the general outcome of the natural birth process and this outcome is not alterable. However the other aspects of death are it's permanent form, eternal, and the possibility of might being enabled to escape from it. There is no possibility of anyone not being in this cemetery parade even if she is a feminist. She, like anyone else, has the possibility of escaping eternal death but, that escape is dependent upon an exact protocol of obedience relative to the sacrifice rather than only the sacrifice.

Rick Olson said...

Substitutionary Atonement Doctrine (myth)...."Busted"
.by Rick Olson on Monday, March 7, 2011 at 10:31am.Substitutionary Atonement Doctrine (myth)...."Busted"



Most Universalists believe that Jesus paid "all' on the cross, and that we are free to do "whatever". Even Hitler got by with his sins and is "now" in heaven.



Nothing could be farther from the "truth".



Does Jesus dying on a cross "substitutionally" PAY for all mankinds sins?



Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The "wages" we all earn from sin is death. 1Pe 2:21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:



Rom 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Are we not ALL sons? We are reconciled to God by death of the "old man".

Rom 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

Our body of sin must be destroyed! Crucified, (slow death).

Now what?

The "NEW MAN" arises....the "elect" the "Christ".

Eph 4:24 And that ye put on the "NEW MAN", which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

Did you catch that?.....created in righteousness! We are now a new creation!

2Co 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a NEW CREATURE: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Parables will now make sense!

Mat 9:17 Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.



Rom 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be SAVED BY HIS LIFE.



The OLD MAN has to die! That is what reconciles us to God. The NEW MAN is raised from the death of the OLD MAN. The LIFE of the NEW MAN saves us!!!



So the "myth" of substitutionary atonement is BUSTED.



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