Sunday, November 21, 2010

Biologos and Atonement

I will continue to repeat that the problem of deep time (geological ages, death before the Fall, common descent, transmutation of kinds, etc.) is a theological one and not a scientific one. Our theology shapes our worldview, and our worldview gives us our assumptions. Our assumptions determine how we interpret evidence/facts.

That is why I always look forward to theological articles from Biologos, although I continue to be amazed at how unorthodox they always are.

In the latest, guest author George Murphy denies substitutionary atonement. (Although he says in the comments, "My purpose is not to reject other models of atonement such as penal sub. They can be effective ways of making Christ’s work vividly present to people. But they don’t contribute as well to an understanding of the reorientation of creation. & they don’t picture our role in the cross adequately or give faith a crucial role.")

But how else do you interpret:
"He [Gerhard Forde] focused on what actually brings reconciliation: the event of the cross, not satisfaction of some theoretical requirement." (emphasis added)
If there is no requirement for Jesus to die on the cross, why do so? To build trust? ("The point is that that God brings about faith in himself, something neglected in other views of atonement.")

Substitutionary atonement holds that God creates faith in us (ex nihilo), then we come to believe, and receive the benefits of atonement. It appears Murphy is saying that our witnessing of the events of the cross creates faith - which makes no sense to me. The cross might create a sense of guilt, that I would understand. Tens of thousands of people were crucified, no one trusts them.
"The idols we depended on for life brought death, and in a real sense we die."
That's certainly true. However, what about murder and lust and theft? Are these not also sin? And are they not related to our descent from animals?

And if there is no "theoretical" requirement to pay for sin, why did Christ die? Why can't God simply forgive (as the Muslims believe)?

I will try and read more by Murphy and his mentor Gerhard Forde.


Joanie D. said...

Ned, I went and read the article and didn't have any problems with it, other than what I think must be a typo. He writes, "The work of Christ has sometimes been seen as 'moral influence,' the love shown on the cross evoking love for God from us." I think he must have meant to write, "love from God for us."

nedbrek said...

Hello Joanie! Welcome!

I agree with Murphy that the Cross puts to death our sin (including idolatry).

The problem is how it does that.

The Cross could point out our sin, but the Law already does an excellent job of that.

Something momentous is going on, I don't think Murphy captures that.