Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I am a liberal heretic...


just read on another blog that due to agreeing with Jeffrey John I am a dodgy liberal...

it's a new one on me, my nickname at theological college was 'the evangelical'. I may have a broader understanding of the nature and shape of scripture than some, but i do try to keep things biblical!

Well, in times of persecution (tongue in cheek, I thought Andrew's words were a well expressed counter to my post and certainly wouldn't want to condemn them, it's a view I held for many years and one i am in the process of thinking through biblically, I may yet come back to the same place as him) I remember the words of Karl Barth (my favourite theologian) who, when asked to sum up all of his great works over many years in the Reformed Evangelical Church, said 'Jesus loves me this I know, 'cos the Bible tells me so'. Amen to that brother!

Until God sorts me out, i will continue to 'preach Christ, and him crucified'.


Nick said...

I think there is a danger of getting too hung up on this. You could look at the cross in so many different ways... but the important thing is the result: bringing us into union with God.

I once heard a tale about a man of God who was commanded by God to look at some ducks. The man looked and studied... but didn't get anything. Again he heard the Lord say "look at the ducks". Again he looked but didn't receive any deep revelation. Again this happened until evetually, as the sun was setting, the man asked "why?" Then God said "look at the ducks, they are beautiful". Sometimes God just wants us to appreciate what he has given.

On the other hand there are times when we dismiss things as simple when there is beauty in their complexity. I once met a man who had a similar experience to the story above. He was told to look at some sparrows. However in his heart, when he looked at them he thought of them as "just sparrows". God rebuked him and opened his eyes to the complex patterns on the birds wings... and the man repented of being hard hearted.

I guess the point I'm really driving at is that there are infinite ways of looking at God. He is perfectly loving, perfectly righteous, perfectly wise... and the perfect strategist. We should not get caught up on any one aspect of his character. If we do (as we all do at times), we send out the wrong message.

I just don't think God's grace is like an antique clock. I don't think it is truly possible to dismantle it and explain why all the pieces tick in a certain way. We can have a certain amount of insight... but our human minds just cannot grasp the true immensity of God's complete plan.

Our inquiries should never get in the way of simply recieving the undeserved gifts that God gives us freely and unreservedly.

Andrew said...

Hello and thank you for replying. I apologise for inferring you are a Dodgy Liberal. I partly used those terms as it gets a response from the title and encourages people to read it. I do still consider Mr John as having what I would class as a liberal view, though I add that conclusion comes from the text of his sermon and other things he has said in the past.

I do however think that the debate over what Jesus did on the Cross is an important one as it has a knock on effect to how we view God. You cannot view just the Love of God on the one hand without the Justice of God on the other. John 3:16 clearly states the Love of God. Romans 3:25 to me indicates that God’s Justice required a punishment/penalty be paid for sin otherwise He would not be a Just God. Even though the Old Covenant achieved forgiveness of Sin the penalty was not paid at that point. Thus both the Love and Justice of God are the driving force behind the Atonement, not one or the other.

So on the Cross Jesus suffered not only Physical pain and death, but the pain of bearing our sin that God the Father put upon Him. Our guilt from sin voluntarily taken by Christ. Then Jesus was abandoned by the Father for the first time ever as He bore our Sin since God could not look on evil. (Not saying that Christ Himself was evil I must add). Then finally as this was not enough God poured out his righteous wrath on Jesus, as is indicated in that Romans 3:25 passage, as Jesus was the ‘propitiation’ (great theological word). Meaning bore the wrath of God and turned it to favour towards us. The penalty came from God upon Christ (2 Corinth 5:21,Isaiah 53:10, Romans 5:8)

Therefore in my humble view it was a ‘penal substitutionary atonement’. Penal since it was a penalty and substitutionary since He did it instead of us. There is no mention of an angry God here. God does not act in anger as we would humanly do. His righteousness and Justice are in harmony with His Loving nature. He has the perfect right to not save us and condemn us all as we deserve. However He did chose to save us and I believe the only way to have achieved that without contradicting His nature was the way He did do it.

I understand your point about different wings of the church believing different interpretations. I have been reading and trying to get my head round the differences between the Calvinistic views and those of a more Arminian leaning. Both of which can be held without it affecting the core belief of what a Christian actually is. I will of course debate from the particular view that I have, but not in am I am right and you are wrong way.

However the point I am debating here I think is rather more central. What was it that Christ actually did on the cross? We all agree I am sure what it achieved, our being declared forgiven from our sin, justified and being made righteous if we repent and put our faith in Him. But if it is not God’s just wrath that Jesus bore instead of it being directed our way it seems to me to weaken somehow the reason for it and almost make it unnecessary. It also weakens the reason for us to ‘.. be holy because I am Holy’ 1 Peter 1:16 and it weakens the consequences of Sin in our lives. It is not necessary to water down the Gospel to the fluffy lovey side only. The truth is we are either going to eternity in heaven or eternity in hell, punished forever for our sin and quite rightly so.

Any way I hope that lot didn’t sound arrogant to say, since you are a priest. I am merely trying to state why I disagreed with what Jeffrey John said in his talk.

Yours in Christ


Tom said...

Signs. Everyone needs signs telling everyone else exactly who they are. Of course, then we'd get into endless arguments over what should go on our signs. For example, my friends would argue against my preferred sign, which would read, "motorcycle-riding king of Washington." Never mind that it has no basis in truth, it's just what I'd want my sign to read.

As for the debate at hand, it looks to me to be more of a question of why rather than what. No one seems to be questioning that Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins (the "what"). Rather, the question posed is why he died, or, in other words, why we need saving.

To me, this is splitting theological hairs. It's fun, educational, and not terribly useful when it comes to living a life in the footsteps of Christ. The facts that we needed saving and that Christ did that saving are really the important ones.

Much outside that, we just have to rely on faith that this God we follow, this savior we love, really is a good God and just Savior and thus worthy of our love.

That said, it was an entertaining debate.

Nick said...

I've come back to this post as my bible notes touched on the exact topic Geoffrey John spoke of (Selwyn Hughes has a wonderfully habit of setting out a study that is 90% of the time relevant to where you are personally or to the topic of the day... this is all the more amazing when you consider that he actually passed away a couple of years ago).

If you read the last three days of March/April's EDWJ notes, Selwyn gives us his take as to why the death of Christ had to be so violent.



I'm bbeing a bit comment manic.