Sunday, August 26, 2007

Expectations for UGA

#14 in the AP and Coaches' polls, as well as the Blogpoll. #11 in ESPN's Power 16 and #19 in SI's preseason rankings. Predicted to finish anywhere from 1st to 3rd in the SEC East, with a possible postseason berth on January 1st.

That's the preason prognostication by the polls and punditry. Does it mean anything for our season?

This time last year, we were coming off a true "reloading" season--first-year starter D.J. Shockley had replaced David Greene and taken us to an SEC Championship and a BCS bowl. We were looking at a solid defense and a potential quarterback controversy. We entered the preseason at the edge of the top 15.

This year we find ourselves coming off of a true "rebuilding" season--true freshman starter Matthew Stafford beat out Joes Tereshinski and Cox for the starting job, stumbled against Vanderbilt and Kentucky, but eventually led us to a record-setting three wins over ranked teams, including a Chick-fil-A Bowl win. We again enter the preseason at the edge of the top 15.

So what happens?

We could try an in-depth breakdown of the season, but every point we could make has an equally valid counterpoint. To wit:

Oklahoma State's highly-touted offense could have a field day against our defense. But if our offense gels they could be equally potent agianst OSU's weak D.

If South Carolina is going to beat us anytime in the near future, it will probably be this year. But our matchup will be quarterback Blake Mitchell's first game of the season, and we did shut them out last year.

Depending on how our, and their, first three games go, we could go into Tuscaloosa expecting a nailbiter or a blowout against Nick Saban's Crimson Tide.

Tennessee will be better this year than last. But so will we.

We can't lose to Vanderbilt again. But they're bound to upset somebody this season. Ditto for Kentucky.

Florida owns us. We own defending national champs.

Auburn has a winning record in Athens. We had a field day against Auburn last season.

Georgia Tech has a new quarterback. Also, Georgia Tech has a new quarterback.

All that to say that while we can probably say with confidence that Southern California will go to the national title game and Florida won't, while we can say that Ohio State will probably overcome its loss of a Heisman candidate and Notre Dame won't, and while we can say that Virginia Tech will probably replicate or exceed their success of last season and Wake Forest won't, we can't say anything about Georgia. We have solid answers and troubling questions on both offense and defense and an SEC East race that could be insane or pathetic. We have plenty of talent...and little experience.

So my official prediction for the season? I say 9-3, with loses to any combination of OSU, USCar, Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn, Kentucky or Georgia Tech. Guaranteed wins over Western Carolina, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Florida, and Troy.

But hey, all this preseason nonsense is all meaningless in the end. The whole point is to tide us over until the regular season, which is indeed less than a week away. So for now I'll try to forget about preseason predictions and focus on what we do know: Football. Begins. Soon.

Go Dawgs!

For the First Time Ever...

I went to church overdressed. I wore khaki slacks, my Vans and a polo to Sojourn tonight. Everybody else was in shorts, sandals and t-shirts. I don't think I'm ready for that...not that I have a problem with it, I just don't know if I'm ready to wear something like that to church. Just not used to it. We'll have to see, I guess.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Totally Irrelvant Dawg Prognoistication

So I've been reading this about twice a week. Sometimes it makes me cry.

This is a pretty good pick-me-up, too.

Since I'm not (yet) knowledgeable enough about college football in general or Georgia football specifically, I'll be linking to other, more knowledgeable prognostications as the season draws closer. This season is looking pretty tough: Oklahoma State may very well present more of a challenge than Boise State did in 05. If South Carolina is really going to become a contender in the SEC East they're going to need a few marquee wins over Tennessee, Florida, or Georgia...and since we're the only top-tier East they have not recently defeated, I'll be willing to be they'll be gunning for us most of all. Depending on how the season has progressed by week four, we could go into Tuscaloosa expecting to blow 'Bama out of the water...or be looking at our most challenging fight of the season. Tennessee in Knoxville is always tough, of course. If we're ever going to beat Florida, it's going to be this season, but we can't expect an easy repeat of last season's thrashing of Auburn. Although I don't expect us to lose to Kentucky again, they may well still pose a serious threat. And, finally, we'll play Tech in Atlanta without Reggie Ball...which, judging by the closeness of our last few wins, may be enough to swing the momentum in their favor.

So, assuming we handle the games we should (which isn't always a safe assumption after last season), we're looking at at least eight very challenging games. And, if we do indeed make two trips to Atlanta to close the season, we'll be facing SEC favorites LSU or Darren McFadden and some other people.

My totally uninformed prediction? Even if we lose to USC, I don't think they'll pull out other necessary wins to contend for a trip to the SEC Championship. And since we will beat Florida, it'll come down to our record vs. Tennessee's to determine who goes to Atlanta. I don't know if we can win there...but hey, beating Florida's all that really matters. And beating Auburn. And Tech. And Tennessee. And Alabama. And Vandy....

Sunday, July 22, 2007

John Dominic Crossan on the Atonement

From God & Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2007).

P. 138

In that theory [penal substitution], God is imagined as a Divine Judge who can no more forgive everyone than a human judge could walk into the courtroom and forgive all those under indictment. ... Notice, however, that the traditional metaphor for God is Father rather than Judge, and that in human courts we expect a father to rescue himself from judging his own child. We do not think one can be Judge and Parent at the same time.

P. 139-140

Sacrificial offerers never through that the point of sacrifice was to make the animal suffer or that the greatest sacrifice was one in which the animal suffered lengthily and terribly. Whether for a human meal or a divine meal, an animal had to be slain, but that was done swiftly and efficiently--ancient priests were also excellent butchers. Likewise, sacrificial offerers never through that the animal was dying in their place, that they deserved to be killed in punishment for their sins but that God would accept the slain animal as substitutionary atonement or vicarious satisfaction. ... We may or may not like ancient blood sacrifice, but we should neither caricature nor libel it.

P. 140-141 (emphasis in original)

Jesus died because of our sins, or from our sins, but that should never be misread as for our sins. In Jesus, the radicality of God became incarnate, and the normalcy of civilization's brutal violence (our sins, or better, Our Sin) executed him. Jesus' execution asks us to face the truth that, across human evolution, injustice has been created and maintained by violence while justice has been opposed and avoided by justice. That warning, if heeded, can be salvation.

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Brief Survey of Atonement References in 2 Corinthians

1:5 - "For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ."

--This verse comes in the context of consolation in affliction. Paul's emphasis here is then not on the atonement but on consolation of Christ in the lives of suffering Christians. But Jesus Christ's sufferings here are clearly "for us."

4:8-10 - "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies."

--Here is a clear statement of participation in Christ's death; it is always "carried in the body" of his servants. "Carrying in the body the death of Jesus" correlates with the sufferings that Paul and his fellow apostles experience and which he described here. Affliction, perplexity and persecution all allow Christians to participate in the death of Jesus Christ.

5:14-21 - "For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, no counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors of Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

-- Many things are going on in this passage, one we can justly call one of the central atonement passages in Paul's letters.

First, Paul insists that since "one has died for all," thus "all have died." It is not immediately clear whether by "all" he means all Christians or all people; v. 15 ("those who live") seems to imply anyone living. I'm sure Five-Pointers have an argument for this passage, but to me it seems to be that Paul is referring to all people.

Second, we have a clear explanation of the purpose of atonement: "that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them." The (or "a") purpose of the atonement is that we might live for Christ and not for ourselves. The purpose of the atonement is to make us into disciples and followers of Christ.

Third, atonement is tied intimately and essentially, to God's work of redemption and re-creation. "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ." Atonement has cosmic effects.

Fourth, Green and Baker make the case that God does not need to be reconciled to man but rather man to God; that the problem lies in our affections, not God's. This passage seems to support that view, since it always speaks of man being reconciled to God, never God to man: "God, who reconciled us to himself...God was reconciling the world to reconciled to God." If God indeed needed to reconcile himself to the world this would have been a perfect place to say so. However, this is an argument from silence and not enough to disprove the objectivity of God.

Fifth, Paul seems to be speaking here not of the how of atonement but of the what. "Reconciliation" does not describe how the atonement effected something, but rather what was effected. Atonement accomplishes reconciliation. I think we can safely conclude from this passage that reconciliation is a, if not "the," key purpose of atonement--mankind reconciled to God, restored to a proper relationship. Such a restored relationship has implication for every facet of life--a human being restored to a right relationship with God is by implication restored to a right relationship with other human beings and with the rest of creation.

Sixth, in this passage we have one of two examples of "status exchange" in Paul (the other being Galatians 3:13-14). Jesus was "made to be sin" so that we might "become the righteousness of God." From a penal substitutionary standpoint, this makes sense: Jesus Christ was "made to be sin" as a substitute for our sins, bearing the weight in himself of God's judgment on sin. For other interpretations this presents a problem: what does it mean that Jesus "became" sin? Indeed, the question of what it means for us to "become" the righteousness of God poses a problem for any interpretive framework. But maybe an understanding of our becoming the righteousness of God can help us interpret the idea of Jesus becoming sin. Of course, the phrase "righteousness of God" has itself many interpretations. Obviously, this is one of the more difficult atonement verses to explicate and one I'll have to return to later.

8:9 - "For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich."

--Craig L. Blomberg writes, "Contra some liberation theology, this statement probably does not refer to the material or socio-economic circumstances of Jesus througohut his earthly life. Rather if offers a far more profound theological summary of all that he gave up in leaving his heavnily home for the constrictions of earthly existence and the ultimate ignominy of crucifixion" (1999). This passage deals with atonement as long as atonement is defined as (as I see it) "Christ's work for us." Thus, since Christ's poverty (cf. Philippians 2 and comments here) makes us "rich," in the same spiritual sense of the poverty he embraced, this passage can properly be seen as referring to atonement.

13:4 - "For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God."

--A simple statement about Christ's weakness in death, followed by a statement of Paul's own weakness "in him." Christ's vindication after a shameful death from which he exercised no power to escape implies vindication for Paul's weakness and our own weakness today. Those who are "in" Christ will have their suffering in weakness vindicated in Christ.


Blomberg, Craig L., Neither Poverty nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Possessions. Downer's Grove: IVP; Leicester: Apollos, 1999.

Monday, July 16, 2007

In Ten Words or Less...: The Last Mimzy

Trippy. Perfect for five-year-old potheads.

Friday, July 13, 2007

C.S. Lewis on the Atonement

From Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1980):

Pp. 53-54
Now before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was on particular theory as to what the point of this dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem to me quite so immoral and so silly as it used to, but that is not the point I want to make. What I came to see later on that neither this theory nor any other is Christianity. The central Christian belief is that Christ's death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter.
P. 55
A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it.

Pp. 57-58
Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person--and he would not need it. ... But supposing God became man--suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God's nature in one person--then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes a man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God's dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God's dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Meditation on the Atonement: Colossians 1:13,14

He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (NRSV).

In his book Christus Victor, which helped restore the patristic view of atonement to prominence in the last century, Gustav Aulen speaks of the “dramatic” aspect of atonement. This in his usage refers to the cosmological nature of the atonement—its wide-reaching effects not just for individual souls but for the whole cosmos. This idea of dramatic conflict between God and the Satan, not just for the souls of the elect but for the shalom of the entire universe, is one that according to Aulen pervades both the New Testament and patristic literature. Whether or not Aulen’s thesis is correct, this passage certainly reflects such a perspective.

Paul’s view here is cosmic: God snatches away from the myriad powers of darkness and brings us into his new structure for reality, the kingdom of his Son. In Christ’s kingdom there is redemption, an economic term whose resonance for Jews recalls the Exodus (Exodus 6:6), the controlling metaphor for their understanding and experience of YHWH. This redemption in Christ is defined as “forgiveness of sins,” a phrase whose rich depths of meaning include ideas from personal salvation to God’s restoration of justice to the whole universe.

Whatever our view of the mechanics of atonement, we must affirm that his sacrifice has universal, and not just personal, dimensions. The cross is the turning point of history, the linchpin of God’s program for a new heaven and a new earth. Atonement is about new reality exploding into our lives, challenging our deepest assumptions and most cherished beliefs. Atonement is for the world: for our family, our neighbors, our countrymen and all of our fellow humans. Indeed, it is not just for them; it is for the creation that groans in anticipation for God’s redemption (Romans 8:22). For our own wounded souls, for the poor and powerless of this world, for the corrupted nature that assails us: Christ’s work is for all of these. And, as "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:19) entrusted with a "message of reconciliation" (v. 20), it is our job to proclaim the message of that conciliatory work to every inch of creation, through our words and our deeds, doing all to the glory of God.