Thursday, May 03, 2007

Anonymous Reflections on mission at the Cathedral

I've been wondering over mission whether the massive focus on the cross asatonement only ends up with less focus on Jesus. Here's the rundown of most gospel conversations so far... God made the world, but people sinned, it all went pear shaped and humans were in the red. So God sent his son, killed him to fudge the books for us, so if we repent (of something?) and believe (in grace not works), then we have direct access to the father (Jesus job is done, he now sits on the sidelines). Where is the Resurrection? Where is the Ascension? Where is Jesus? Is god a bad account keeper?

No , God sends his Son to be the human we were meant to be, to be obedient the way we never were. Where the rest of us, like the disciples, had got scared and run away, or like the chief priests had got scared and fought back, where we, faced with giving ourselves to God and others backed off, Jesus came through. Yes Jesus death atones for my sin, but it also redeems the very idea of 'humanity'. In Jesus death on the cross we see that humans aren't a failed project of God, doomed to continually stuff things up and console themselves with 'I'm only human'.

Thus God's 'Yes' to Jesus, as he raises him from the dead is 'Yes' to humanity. In dying Jesus is the true human, in rising he is the new human. On the cross the old human is utterly condemned as it commits the most atrocious sin, killing the obedient one, killing God. To be old human is to identify with those that slaughtered the perfect one. Jesus ascends to the right hand of the father, and we are invited to hang on to his regal coat tails, to join his new family, the new
humanity that is right with God. The new humanity that looks in hope for God to restore our bodies and the world. We repent of the old humanity, with its fear, that could not and did not know God (so we turn from idols), and we believe in JESUS AS LORD, that is as YHWH, as God. Jesus does not open the way for us to know God by fudging God's accounting, He is the way, because if we know him, we know God.


byron said...

Oh so anonymous... :-)

byron said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
byron said...

A further thought: we don't get to skip the cross by hanging on to Jesus' risen coat-tails. It is we who are co-crucified there. To be old human is to identify with those that slaughtered the perfect one. Yes, but to be new human includes dying as an old human. Jesus died, thus I have died.

michael jensen said...

Actually you know, it is all in Calvin (though he is weak on Res, he is strong on atonement and union with Christ fer sure). Those old guys knew a thing or two. Actually, it is all in Irenaeus's recapitulation idea.

antman said...

Yep, I'll second that it is all there in Calvin and actually Irenaeus too, you know, it is probably there in the Bible (sarcasm directed at no-one in particular it was just too hard to avoid). I've been wrestling with Colossians 1:20 this week and I'm going to exegete it fully one day soon, but for now check out my post

Martin Kemp said...

Sounds like your focusing on humanity rather than Jesus ... Yeah I'm all for incarnational views of the atonement, and Jesus is the true human etc etc but you can't totally conflate Jesus and us. Chalcedon still needs to stand for something, esp when speaking of the atonement.

Bruce Yabsley said...

Keep reading your Bible, Matt (and whichever theological books you've been looking at): you for one seem to have been paying attention.

Something went deeply wrong in these gospel summaries at some point.

<off topic> Sorry, the verbal echo has Broadcast News running through my head. Do people still watch this film?
Holly Hunter: I have crossed some line, some place. I am starting to repel people. I am trying to seduce.
Albert Brooks: He must have been great-looking.
Holly Hunter: Why?
Albert Brooks: Because no-one invites a bad-looking idiot up to their bedroom.
HH and AB are excellent in this film, as is William Hurt; and the dialogue is all up to that standard. On top of all this: a Jack Nicholson cameo as a star TV anchor, and Joan Cusack as an office worker. And a note-perfect parody of portentous news/current-affairs theme music.
</off topic>

The short version of the case against these summaries used to be "weak doctrine of creation", although this criticism has been bouncing around the traps for decades, and yet nothing is changing. So either this isn't the whole problem, or people just don't hear it when expressed this way.

Bloodlessness is another way of coming at the problem. The sort of summary you've parodied doesn't of itself compel, or invite, "yes that is me" or "yes this is for real" recognition. The Gospels themselves can have this immediacy, and so can some Easter hymns ...

Martin: Chalcedon still needs to stand for something, esp when speaking of the atonement. I was missing your concern, and thought it was just my forgetfulness, so I went back to skim the Council of Chalcedon entry in my copy of Early Christian Doctrines, and then re-read Matt's post. I'm afraid I'm still missing your concern. Isn't the whole point that "focusing on humanity rather than Jesus" is a false antithesis?

Moffitt the Prophet said...

I remember at CMS (a great parachurch) Summer School a couple of years ago the Anglican Bishop of Spain gave a few talks, and he mention to how every one in SPain knows Jesus ever as a baby in Mary's arms, or more commonly, as a horrid dead corpse on a cross. His point was that the episcopal church preached the resurrected Christ, because Spainards had a high atonement-theology, but all that they knew was that Jesus died and stayed dead.