Well, you’ve heard it from me, you’ve heard it from my dear sister and now I introduce to you, my sweet, sweet Grandpa.
Born in England and raised during WW2 he has many a story to tell. He is by far, the most intelligent man I know. He’s a rocket scientist. I’m not joking, he really is. He is a well versed man with many talents- pianist, writer, carpenter (he built his English Tudor style home), pastor, and a great baker, just to name a few. After reading my blog and seeing some of the responses I got he wrote me a letter. I am honored to share it with you. Also, may I mention he is a theologian with years and years of studying scripture and faith under his belt. With that being said, read his letter! (But, it is very important that you read it in his English accent)
Well sydney, from the posts in this thread you have triggered more than a conversation about the existence of heaven and hell, you have opened up the additional topic of the nature of God and the whole issue of soteriology. There are not only the kinds of Jesuses that you don’t believe in … there is also the kind of God that one rejects.
The Christian theologians have left us with a rather warped vision of the nature of God. Taken at face value they saw a God who demanded that in order to forgive human sins then he required an atonement of the sacrifice of a perfect human. And so we have a constructed story of how God sent his son to pay this price and spill his blood for our forgiveness. At the base of this theology is the claim that Adam and Eve were created perfect and without sin. However, Eve succumbed to temptation by the serpent and ate the forbidden fruit and then persuaded Adam to do likewise. The result was that they both fell from God’s presence and there were several punishments imposed on them … and even worse, these punishments were to be visited upon all their offspring … even ’til today. A modern understanding of the creation of life and the evolution of humankind would suggest that there never was a perfect human being and certainly no garden of Eden and some catastrophic fall.
Inventive theologians further explained that this sinfulness was inherited by all humankind via the act of sexual reproduction. Because we all have inherited this sinful nature we are not capable of atoning for our own sins. Thus it is further argued, since God is a God of justice he demands that a price be paid before we can be forgiven, This price it is claimed is the shedding of the blood of a perfect human being. And so the story is further told that God figured a way for a perfect man to be born. Since our sinfulness is transmitted to us because of the sinfulness of sexual reproduction then this perfect man had to be born of a virgin. And so the time came that Mary should be delivered and Jesus was born in a manger. He lived a sinless life and eventually as per God’s plan he was crucified to atone for the sins of humankind.
It is a nice story but it is as flawed as the creation of a fictitious hell. What would we think of a present day father who would require that his son be killed to atone for someone else’s sins. The whole of the Old Testament speaks against such a concept. The Israelites lived next to neighbors who regularly sacrificed their children to the gods and the prophets repeatedly spoke against human sacrifice. Read Jeremiah 31:29-34 and Ezekiel 18:1-32 to understand who and how God forgives. God did nor does not need a blood sacrifice to forgive those who repent.
It is interesting to follow the development of sacrificial theology. It is a fact that Jesus was crucified. The plaque nailed to the cross read … King of the Jews. This alone support the fact that Jesus was crucified by the Romans since they believed that he was claiming to be a king of the Jews. This in their eyes was sedition and crucifixion was the standard penalty. The historical meaning of the crucifixion was therefore political and not religious.
HOWEVER, we realize that those who had followed Jesus had thought that God was about to intervene and overthrow the Romans and indeed Jesus would be elevated to serve as regent in the Kingdom of God on earth. Probably the most succinct summary of Jesus’ message is in the Lord’s prayer. ‘Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. (response to the first commandments) … Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (the message of the gospel the Jesus preached all over the Galilee and in Judaea). Give us this day, our daily bread (relief of all those who were living in hunger). And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive each other. (The essence of repentance without need for some saviour or blood atonement). Lead us not into temptation (in a more exact translation … do not bring us to the test) but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.
When Jesus was crucified all their hopes were destroyed. But then on further reflection had not Jesus called himself the Son of Man and hadn’t Daniel prophesied the God’s angels would come in the clouds led by one like unto the Son of Man. Surely God must have planned for Jesus to be crucified so that he would go to heaven to lead the angelic hosts to route the Romans. There hopes were renewed and the waited for his second coming in the clouds accompanied with the angels.
Now let us look at the logic of present Christians using the Bible record of the events. So God had planned the crucifixion so that the blood of his son could redeem humankind. The reason that the Romans crucified Jesus was because of the complaints of the High Priest and the Sadducees. We ought to be very thankful for these men because if they hadn’t acted then Jesus would not have been sacrificed. And then there was Judas. The story says that because of his betrayal Jesus was arrested and crucified. How thankful we must be to Judas who must have been one of God’s willing assistants. And then how thankful we must be to the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’ side so that blood could be spilled he too was evidently one of God’s agents. And when it was all accomplished God could sit back and now forgive those poor human sinners and once again look down on them with forgiveness and compassion.
We can follow the flawed logic of theologians such as Paul, Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas.
Paul first developed the idea of justification. He claimed that justification comes from the blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9) as a payment for sins that imparts to us the righteousness of God. Thus the developed theology is that one must have faith in Jesus Christ to obtain this justification. Paul rejected the idea of works and argued that one cannot be saved by works. It should be noted that Paul developed his theology and wrote his letters long before there were any Gospels. Indeed the gospel writers relied on the oral traditions from Paul’s gentile congregations in order to compose their gospels. Few Christians realize how much influence Paul had on their inherited Christianity. A further comment is that the symbolism of the Eucharist was set by Paul. When the gospel writers described the Last Supper they relied on Paul’s symbolism and placed it in Jesus mouth. None of them were there.
Augustine was probably the most influential in developing the idea that sin was introduced into the world by Adam and that this original sin was inherited by all future mankind. And furthermore the method of transmission of this sin was through the semen and intercourse.
Anselm, with later refinement by Thomas Aquinas, proposed that God acts according to the principles of justice in humanity’s redemption and this sense of justice demands some satisfaction or penance be done for the disobedience of humanity before humanity’s sin are forgiven, Jesus’ death therefore allows the forgiveness of sins because Jesus substitutes for us on the cross. God allows Jesus to stand in our place and take our guilt upon himself. Through faith, believers participate in the risen Christ and thereby share the benefits won by Jesus.
This short note cannot address all of the nonsense incorporated in Christian soteriology. However, on a closing note, many of the problems are the result of how one understands the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. Before any meaningful dialog can be carried out, then the parties must first come to some agreement on how the scriptures will be read. A fundamentalist approach of the Bible being the inerrant word of God will not suffice.
Thank-you Grandpa for responding. Although some have put me on their prayer lists and I doomed to Hell by most, your words of encouragement and those who have responded with positive questions and responses has been worth it! I must get my religious curiosity from you! I love you!