Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Seems like a bit of a step backwards but.....

i read the text of a talk given recently by Jeffrey John, Dean of St Alban's Cathedral, which was one of a series of Lent talks - so having had Easter it seems a bit odd going back to Lent! This talk deals with the obsession with penal substitutionary atonement that has become a mainstay of certain wings of the Church - the belief that on the cross Jesus was being punished (by God!) for sin. I have to say that I don't think this is the only way of looking at what went on in the crucifixion - nor has the Church always seen this as the only interpretation.

And it is there that the crunch comes, when wings of the Church cannot accept that there is any other way of looking at the Scriptural material that we have been blessed with. It is a mixed blessing, because there are so many that say 'my way' or 'my tradition's way' or 'the founder of our denomination's way' is the only way to see Scripture...

I believe that Jesus paid the price for sin, but i don't believe it was a punishment from God, but the consequence of the brokenness and evil that sin creates. Jesus took upon himself the reality of sin despite his sinlessness, and therefore took away the ultimate consequence of sin - death. It wasn't, as far as I understand, because God demanded a punishment, or to deflect the wrath of a vengeful God, but because God was, in Christ, taking the consequences of sin in our place.

Jeffrey John say it better here. But one quote that really stood out for me was
The cross, then, is not about Jesus reconciling an angry God to us; it's almost the opposite. It's about a totally loving God, incarnate in Christ, reconciling us to him. On the cross Jesus dies for our sins; the price of our sin is paid; but it is not paid to God but by God. As St paul says, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.
And as my mate Jem says (though not on his blog, i just thought i should link there), there has been some 'mild controversy' about it and you can read about that here. It's a fantastic misrepresentation of the actual words in the talk, and the response from so called 'Conservative Evangelicals' also shows a lack of reading of the actual text, or listening to what he said!

The reason I felt compelled to write about it was because some nutty woman called into our national Radio station 'Radio 4' and went on about how unbiblical Jeffrey John was and how he called God a psychopath... I wonder which broadcast she was listening to? And by Biblical she probably means we should all be wiping out races that 'don't worship the one true God', and having multiple marriages, and concubinage, and slavery, and not suffering a witch to live and... oh you get the idea.

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