Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Were the wages of sin really death - for Jesus?

I've been thinking a lot about sin lately, and about atonement. About what the crucifixion is really all about. What it accomplished. What would have happened if it hadn't. And I'm coming to some weird conclusions.

Like I am thinking, the point of the crucifixion and resurrection was that Christ conquered death, right? So if he'd been killed another way at another time, he still could have risen and conquered death. And if he hadn't been killed at all, would he have died of old age? Or would he have just gone on living? In the latter scenario, he still would have conquered death!

Was he killed as a necessary blood sacrifice for the atonement of our sins? Or did he just piss off the establishment to the point where they were fed up enough to kill him? If he didn't come expressly to die, but rather to live (live the "eternal kind of life" as Dallas Willard puts it), then that would put to bed a lot of troubling things in theology. Like whether he had a choice, whether Judas had a choice, why God would demand such a sacrifice, and how in the world does God killing Godself do anything for us anyway??

It's like God set up this system and then he was bound by it? It just doesn't seem right. People are fine with him being unbound by logic, time, etc. (which, by the way, I don't agree with), but somehow they think he is stuck in his own outdated sacrificial rules. Hmmmm. Does that really follow?

Anyway this isn't really advent thinking, is it? I should ponder this during Lent. I should also wait until I'm in a sotierology class so I can get some assistance from outside my own head!


seeker said...

Leslie Weatherhead, in his book The Christian Agnostic, said that he did not believe that Jesus died for our sins. He said that he believed that Jesus died to make a convenant with us - that he would always be with us. Makes a lot of sense to me.

Mom said...

I've wondered the same thing, but it never occurred to me that He could have conquered death by not dying. That would have been cool.

It also always seemed odd, if Jesus had to die, that people were so angry at Judas. I mean, didn't he do us all a pretty big favor? Shouldn't we be grateful to him for making such a big sacrifice for us? He obviously felt bad enough about it to hang himself.

Mainsheet said...

I'm not sure that the thoughts are inappropriate to Advent and Christmas, Mme Feminarian. And apparently Handel agreed with you -- we sing The Messiah as a Christmas oratorio, but it's really at least as appropriate to Easter.

A life is a life. The Church calender takes Christ's life and compresses it into a year. That sort of force-fitting has the result (for me, at least) of making me look at His life as a whole.

Chris said...

My own wrestling with the Atonement was one of my underlying reasons for attending seminary. After four years, several classes, intense dialogue, and now in a parish, I still wrestle with the meaning of Jesus' death. For now, it is easier to say what I don't believe the cross is all about--I reject substutionary atonement or any sceme that implies that God demanded some type of horrific human sacrifice in order to settle some cosmic debt or affront to God's honor. What I have found helpful are the works of Gerard S. Sloyan and Rene Girard. For a provocative Feminist critique of models of Atonememt look up "The Atonement Muddle: An Historical Ananysis and Clarification of a Salvation Theory" found in vol. 15 of the Journal of Women and Religion. A am left still pondering all of this and most likely always will be living in a place of tension.

Anonymous said...

I have also been torn on the purpose and meaning of Christ's death (among numerous other religious topics)for many years. Why did Christ need to die for our sins to be forgiven, couldn't God have just forgiven them because he loved us. Something struck me while watching The Passion Of The Christ, that had never occured to me before. That insight/revelation went even further tonight as I was reading on this site. Basically, it is that Jesus' death was all about setting an example for us in how to live our lives. As I was watching the movie and saw that after all the horrible things done to him and even as they were driving nails into his hand, he was asking God to forgive them. And I start cussing and screaming if I am running late and the guy in front of me takes more than 2 seconds to step on the gas when the light turns green. What struck me tonight was that it was his entire life, not just his death, that was the example. He didn't care what anyone thought other than God (well, and his Mom). He did what he knew to be right no matter the cost.

Unknown said...

Something you might want to consider: Christ's death parallels the old Jewish system of sacrificing a lamb to atone for sins. In this case, Christ is the lamb- The Lamb of God. He had to die in the way that He did to atone for our sins. (similarly parallels the Passover). Also, the crucifiction in particular parallels the story of the snake on a pole in numbers 21.

and I agree about the Judas thing. However, the theology of the event was not well understood at the time, creating that image of judas the betrayer, and ignorance of theology now perpetuates it.

ishtheish said...

I just came accross this site by accident but felt I had some insight to offer.

The following has been on my heart over this past christmas break.

1st. When God was using Moses to free His people from Egypt, He sent ten plagues. The tenth was the angel of death. Every door that did not have lambs blood on it, the angel of death entered and took the life of the first born. The first borns who lived through the night were covered by the blood of the lamb. In the old testament when a sin was commited, an animal sacrifice was necessary. Jesus is refered as the lamb of God. Jesus is the lamb. Again we see the blood of the lamb. Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He lived a perfect life. His death covered all our sins. The perfect sacrifice.


Imagine this. Our all mighty, all powerful creator became man. He became one of which He created. Jesus endured torture, the crown of thorns, humiliation, people spat on him, kicked him, cursed at Him. Jesus was God. God endured the full wrath of His creation. And suffered a fleshly death. Yet defeated that death.

Jesus defeating death is necessary to show that he is perfectly omnipotent.

Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He payed for every sin commited in the past and in the future.