Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The sound of one hand clapping

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[A note for some of our readers: It goes without saying that the thoughts I express below are my own. They do not necessarily in every detail reflect the opinions of every contributor to this website. Some tender consciences appear to have been offended by my calling into question one specific aspect of atonement theory which is popular in Evangelical circles. What some people fail to understand is that, around here, we do theology like grown ups. We are not afraid of being spanked should we call into question some cherished theological opinion or tradition, so long as we do not step outside the undivided Faith of the Catholic Church. You see, around here we think theological reflection should allow room for calling human traditions into question. We want to create space for each other, to allow serious dialogue and debate to take place without living in mortal fear of being branded a heretic by some over-zealous Doctrinal Guard Dog.

Unfortunately, some, held captive by their theological traditions, are apparently not mature enough to listen patiently while different theological opinions are expressed. And make no mistake about it, the penal substitution model, though it is now dominant in Protestant orthodoxy, is an opinion, not an explicit teaching of Holy Scripture. The Church Universal has never given a sancrosanct status to any particular theory as to the logic and mechanism of the atonement, beyond the fact that Christ “was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.” Beyond that, grown up theologians can feel free to call into question any human tradition regarding the details of the atonement. We trust that some of our readers are mature enough to understand that.]

http://www.communiosanctorum.com/?p=94

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Translation:

A note to our readers: It goes without saying that I’m pretty full of myself. What all the little people fail to understand, since they’re not near as smart as yours truly, is that, around here, we do theology like grown-ups. Whenever anyone dares to offer an intellectual critique of our position, we impute emotional motives to him since that’s how to have an adult conversation about theology.

We’re not afraid of patting ourselves on the back because, if we don’t do it, who else will? I pat Kevin on the back, and Kevin pats Tim on the back, and Tim pats me on the back in one great big back-slapping, head-patting orgy of mutual admiration and self-congratulation cuz we’re all just so dog-gone wonderful.

It’s hard for folks who aren’t half as wonderful as we are to imagine how unbearably wonderful it is to be so wonderfully wonderful. Sometimes I can hardly contain myself. In fact, I have my right arm in a sling right now after I broke it in three different places by patting myself so hard on the back. Now Tim and I take turns.

We are not afraid of tootin’ our own horn. We even wear earplugs so's we don’t go deaf at the decibel level of our self-horn tootin’.

You see, around here we think theological reflection should allow room to pose as Presbyterians whenever we want to attack Baptists, while allowing more room to attack Presbyterians for not being crypto-Catholics like us. We want to create space for each other—preferably lots and lots of empty space up in the cranial region—to allow serious monologue to take place without living in mortal fear of being branded as a heretic by some over-zealous Doctrinal Guard Dog.

Of course, we reserve the exclusive right to brand a Baptist a heretic for not being more Mormon, and brand a Presbyterian a heretic for not being more Papistical.

And we also reserve the right to wallow in crybaby rhetoric whenever anyone subjects our public drivel to rational scrutiny--cuz that’s how grown-up theologians react to rational scrutiny.

Unfortunately, some, held captive by their theological traditions, are apparently not mature enough to roll over and play dead while we take pot-shots.

Of course, we reserve the exclusive right to make a highly selective and purely opportunistic appeal to tradition whenever it happens to serve our own provincial purpose since we’re so all-fired special. Mr Rogers said we’re special, and he was talking about us’ns, not about you’ins!

Every year we hold a contest with Dave Armstrong to see who’s the extra-specialest and most wonderfulest blogger in the whole wide world.

And let there be no mistake--today it’s penal substitution, but tomorrow it may be inerrancy or hell or the virgin birth or the deity of Christ, cuz it’s all about giving each other his/her own space, dude. We trust that some of our readers—all five of ‘em, including Tim’s Mom and Kevin’s Aunt Bessie and Jeremy (Jeremy’s my cousin twice-removed)—are mature enough to understand that.

4 comments:

  1. BTW, the post to which you refer is truly stenchworthy. Here's part of point 2:

    God's anger is not placated by the sacrifice of animals in the Bible, but by the destruction of sinners themselves (Exod. 32:33-35; Numb. 25:1-9). Expiation by the substitutionary sacrifice of innocent life is never said to appease God's anger in the Bible; such appeasement always takes place in the context of the actual destruction of sinners themselves.

    Apparently, the author believes that God is a God who has wrath, and is angry against sin, but offered sacrifices are never that which appeases such anger. Rather, "such appeasement always takes place in the context of the actual destruction of sinners themselves."

    OK, then. If God's anger gets appeased by "the actual destruction of the sinners themselves," and this is how such appeasement "always takes place," then how did God's anger against *us* (Christians) get appeased? After all, *we* haven't been destroyed! Did God's anger just evaporate one day? Get lost? Forgotten through a divine lobotomy? It's easy to see how God's wrath against *sinners in hell* gets appeased; it's through "the actual destruction of the sinners themselves." But what about God's wrath against those who get to heaven?

    The problem with saying that (a) God is angry at sinners, (b) God's anger is always appeased by the destruction of the sinner, and (c) God's anger isn't appeased by OT sacrifices or Christ's sacrifice, is simply this: the reason why Christians in fact escape hell is rendered a total mystery. If, as the author says in point 5, "God's anger was not poured out upon Jesus on the cross," then what has in fact turned aside the anger of God? Anything?

    BTW, the exposition of Isa 53 is truly comical. Apparently, Jesus was stricken, smitten, pierced, crushed, chastened, and scourged by God, but none of that has *anything* to do with divine punishment or anger! I mean, it's not as if God ever punishes *other people* in the Bible by doing these things ;-)

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  2. Good points. There's also the elementary point, lost on Paul Owen, that expiation presupposes propitiation. What's the need for expiation apart from the wrath of God against sin? If there is no divine wrath to be appeased, then there's no need for expiation. But if there is the wrath of God against sin, then expiation alone is insufficient to redeem sinners.

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  3. If Christ didn't penally represent sinners on the cross, then He stood only for Himself. But if God inflicted all this horrible suffering on Jesus Christ as Himself, not because Christ penally represented/substituted for sinners in their sinfulness, then this puts God in the position of having sinned grievously against an innocent Man, doesn't it?

    Christ himself certainly didn't deserve such treatment from God. So that would mean that God unjustly inflicted affliction on a Man who merited reward.

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