Every year around this time I celebrate Jesus’ time on earth and his conquering death. I learned years ago theology is made up of many fancy tags and the amateur as well as professional theologians love to use them to show their knowledge ( I kind of think it is really to snow the rest of us). The tag that explains Jesus having to die for our sins is called Substitutionary Atonement. Here are some words from Christian Piatt about that:
It is worth noting that the notion of Jesus dying for our sins did not gain traction in the Christian imagination until at least a dozen centuries after Christ’s death. This is critical in our understanding of the crucifixion, namely because so many assume today that their present belief in substitutionary atonement has forever been the cornerstone of Christian theology…
“By the sixteenth century, Calvin focused upon punishment,” he says. “Because of the immensity of humankind’s sin, God’s wrath demanded punishment; Jesus became the substitute punishment.”…
Contemporary theologian Walter Wink goes a step further than Abelard, claiming that atonement theology is a corruption of the Gospel, focusing on an act of violence rather than the values of peaceful humility and compassion lived and taught by Christ.
Resolving the debate about the causes of, and purpose behind, Jesus’ death is an impossible task. More important, though is to make clear that such a debate is going on. For too long, Christians and non-Christians have assumed that all who yearn to follow the way of Christ universally believe Christ died for our sins. For millions, this not only defines their faith, but their understanding of the very nature of Good as well. For others, it is the basis for rejecting Christianity, understanding it as an inherently violent religion, centered on a bloodthirsty God that requires death in exchange for mercy.
This is not the God in which I put my faith, and I am not alone.
Christian Piatt, who is the author of this Huffington post is not your everyday theologian. He dares to ask questions and study the topic for answers which is something few in that occupation seemingly dare to do. He is a regular contributor to one of my favorite blogs RedLetterChristians.
The idea of Jesus’ primary goal in coming to this earth was to die for our sins was not really formulated until the 12th century. It was not until then that the majority of Christians celebrated this atonement idea. Yes, conquering death as an early celebration but dying for our sins was not. Of course since then it has been widely accepted across denominations. But I am just not one of those who believe that God needs a blood offering to satisfy his rathfull nature.
To me Jesus’ primary goal in coming to earth was to teach us how to live our lives as God intended. It was to wash away much of the Jewish traditions/laws that had nothing to do with God that were in place at the time. So many of Jesus’ quotes from the New Testament start with “The law (tradition) says this but I say this…” Even up till then there was just too much wrong headed interpretations of God’s limited words. Can you imagine what God thinks of it now?
So, while my life is geared toward celebrating Christ’s mission to earth I don’t buy necessarily buy into the man-made concept of “substitutional atonement”.