Nothing But the Blood: Johnny’s Response (+ Sweet Virginia)

So we’ve been having a rip-roaring discussion about ways of understanding and resonating with Jesus’ atonement this past week–I apologize to those who have intereacted with me in private emails and discussion lists about this, as I was barely able to keep up with the public comments section on the blog! I will be revisiting these, and probably asking many of you permission to quote your thoughts either “on” or “off” the record.

But for now, the instigator and my friend, Johnny, has written a response of his own. Check it out.  He brings together passages of Holy Writ which–as Bob Hyatt opined–“It’s not just a particular reading of the certain Pauline passages that get you to substitution. I mean, c’mon, folks…”

So…those of us who feel that the story we tell about “sacrifice” and “propitiation” is out of sync with Scripture’s compelling “minority report” and God’s movements of salvation history today…how do we celebrate and embrace these passages?

For the next several days–probably most of this week–I’ll be taking a bit of a back seat and reading what you have to say, marveling at your generous spirits and collective wisdom. I’m serious friends, I have the best readers so far. In what could have been a very nasty comments section, we’ve actually evidenced Christ’s grace and working in our lives by the tone of our comments. I am edified by this.

Why won’t I be so quick on the uptake myself?

Because in the morning (by the time you’re reading this) I am in the air, on my way to Regent with Jay Gary and Frank Spencer to hang out, learn, and be part of a symposium with public policy futurist Graham Molitor. So if I do blog, it’ll be about that.

And I’m pretty sure I will be blogging the week, so stay tuned! See ya in cyberspace…

4 Responses to “Nothing But the Blood: Johnny’s Response (+ Sweet Virginia)”

  1. 1 Brittian Bullock October 1, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    my goodness what a staggering array of theory. Truly amazing. I suspect that something is to be said about “the unified theory of the new testament writers”. Namely, there wasn’t one.

    It is in the nature of man to unify theories into one source…not God’s. God disperses creativity and perspective into vast flows showing no one snow flake to be the same, though they are in essence all “snow flakes”. The same with the atonement.

    Consider the first century Jew. What was his perspective on atonement? And there is the rub…it depends on which Jew you asked. Ask the temple cult and they will say “it is everything!” A member of it’s bloody rites would understand the importance of it. He will point to countless examples…instituted by God–not by man. He will show the nature and the need for sacrifice, the significance of its day to day effect.

    But ask the Pharisee (particularly Hillellian) and he might suggest that God loves mercy NOT sacrifice. He might offer that atonement is a symbol for something greater. “Torah,” he would say, “has replaced the temple as the truly significant feature of God’s union with Israel. Therefore the condition of the heart has replaced the context of ritual.” The Pharisee in remote villages would not have rejected the blood ritual but he would have understood it as primarily metaphorical and limited in its scope. He will later offer up a statement, “The sacrifice of praise.” to prove his point. And so worship and the word become the replacement and reality for blood and lambs.

    What of the Essene? There is debate on whether or not the Essene had completely abandoned all notion of temple ritual (believing the 2nd temple to be an abomination and God to be finished with the Temple until the Kingdom Age) or whether they set up their own subversive temple cult in a hidden location. So even there is ambiguity in belief. One might say that water purification (baptism) is the spiritual equal to sacrificial atonement and so any talk of atonement AND baptism would be redundant. But another might say that when God brings the Kingdom, then there would be a Exodus like sacrifice of a Lamb which would cover the elect forever with atoning grace and prove the present real-time existence of the Kingdom come to Earth.

    And aside from those perspectives there were a conflagration of others. The truth is Jews didn’t believe the same…they were united not by belief or even shared action but by an understanding of who they saw themselves to be…the chosen people of a covenant creator God redeeming a fallen creation. They had differing opinions of HOW this would happen and what it would look like but they were unified in their understanding that it was true.

    The early Christians were no different in their belief system. For three hundred years there seems to have been zinging understandings amassing and compiling. It was a pagan emperor who demanded unified theory on many of these “central” issues.

    I think the interesting thing is atonement simply IS.

    I am ambiguous on its meaning. I am unclear and undecided on its place. But it simply IS just as it was for them. It is a wonderful piece of this tapestry of a tale. For me the picture lies with something that has already been said. He, who was the embodiment of what God longed for Israel to be (justice rolling forth like an ocean, righteousness like a river), now finalizes His wooing of Israel–actually taking upon Himself the punishment that Israel deserves and one day will have. He, who was NO CROOK, is crucified between two brigands–two zealots. Foreshadowing of dark days to come. He is ultimately still showing Israel how to be Israel. To suffer silently. To turn the other cheek. To walk the extra mile. To die with dignity. And ultimately to join YHWH in a resurrected life, a life more abudant that may only issue from the whisper of death.
    To the end He was the saviour of all mankind.
    No wonder the cross was an afront to the Jews. It was still a galactic challenge of “BE WHO YOU HAVE BEEN CALLED TO BE!” Don’t try and call ten thousand angels down to save you and issue revenge on your enemy. No! Love your enemy! “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”

    It is God’s pattern of rescue, redemption, and resurrection for both Jew and Gentile. And it becomes an inclusive statement of the Kingdom life. “Having been crucified with Christ–therefore put to death…” These are kingdom words aimed at showing we were crucified as rebels…and now prove that your rebellion WAS really crucified. Pick up your cross. These are words of spiritual formation. Historical significance. Eternal consequences. And Practical outworking.

    The atonement simply is. It is written into the story, however large or small the print of that passage is in your telling of it.


  2. 2 John Singer June 26, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    The atonement is defined by the Scriptures esp St. Paul. Why muddy it with ambiguity? We are not to read our meanings onto it, but we are to exegete the Scriptures and see what they have to say about it. The book of Hebrews discusses Yeshua’s (Jesus’s) role and sacrifice of himself. It tells us very clearly what Yeshua accomplished. He was the sacrificial Lamb of God who offered up his body to redeem, or buy back, sinners who were convicted by the Torah and condemned to death. Yeshua paid the price. To point to various opinions of Jews who mostly reject the Pauline corpus doesn’t prove anything. Just because some are confused doesn’t mean WE need be confused.
    I had heard that so-called Emergents were to casting doubt–like throwing sand in the eyes– on the Atonement of Christ, but didn’t see any evidence of that until now.
    Brother, go to the Scriptures, read them and believe them. I will pray you get some clarity.

  3. 3 zoecarnate June 26, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    John, you don’t even believe in the deity of Jesus. So clearly, what is ‘clear according to the Scripture’ for one is ambiguous for another. I could just as easily say to you: Why not accept the deity of Jesus, and the Trinity? Stop reading your man-centered preferences into the Holy Bible” blah blah blah. But we’re all a mixture of exegesis and eisegesis, aren’t we? Reading out and reading into the Great Text of Life.


  1. 1 The Atonement–a discussion « Sensual Jesus Trackback on October 1, 2007 at 4:16 pm

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