Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Easter: not the atonement
Easter brings up atonement theory - the idea that God sent Jesus here as a sacrifice to die for our sins. But there's another way to see the Easter events ... the primacy of the incarnation ... the idea that Jesus came here to live, not die, that even if there had been no Fall and no Original Sin (and we now know there never was a golden age when all creatures lived peacefully together in Eden), Jesus would still have been incarnated. It's a view that sees the early followers of Jesus as grasping at explanations for why things had gone so terribly wrong (the crucifixion), and over time creating what became atonement theory. This incarnational view has been held in opposition to the atonement view by Franciscans like Duns Scotus. Here's a bit of an article by Ken Overberg SJ on this ... [...] Why Jesus? The answer most frequently handed on in everyday religion emphasizes redemption. This view returns to the creation story and sees in Adam and Eve's sin a fundamental alienation from God, a separation so profound that God must intervene to overcome it .... At times God has even been described as demanding Jesus' suffering and death as a means of atonement—to satisfy and appease an angry God. In many forms of theology, popular piety and religious practice, the purpose of Jesus' life is directly linked to original sin and all human sinfulness. Without sin, there would have been no need for the Incarnation ..... An interpretation that highlights the Incarnation stands beside this dominant view with its emphasis on sin. The alternate view is also expressed in Scripture and tradition .... It holds that the whole purpose of creation is for the Incarnation, God's sharing of life and love in a unique and definitive way. God becoming human is not an afterthought, an event to make up for original sin and human sinfulness. Incarnation is God's first thought, the original design for all creation. The purpose of Jesus' life is the fulfillment of God's eternal longing to become human ... I was glad to come upon this article because I have never been able to believe in the atonement. As Jeffrey John once said about it ... I don't know about you, but even at the age of ten I thought this explanation was pretty repulsive as well as nonsensical. What sort of God was this, getting so angry with the world and the people he created, and then, to calm himself down, demanding the blood of his own Son? And anyway, why should God forgive us through punishing somebody else? It was worse than illogical, it was insane. It made God sound like a psychopath. If any human being behaved like this we'd say they were a monster ... Sadly, his controversial 2007 BBC Lent talk can't be found online now but I have much of it here.