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.

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