If you don’t know Tony Jones then you haven’t been around the Emergent Church movement. Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt and a bunch of other people are part of a relatively new direction in Christianity. But that’s not what I’m about here.
I just finished reading Jones’ book on the Atonement. He roamed through the historic views and presents a new one. In the process he discounts Augustine, Calvin and a handful of others… including Paul. Now, I can’t claim that I know what Paul was thinking, but I’m thinking the presentation of the Bible overall would make a lot more sense if people saw the work Jesus did on the cross differently… well from Jones… and Augustine and Calvin for that matter.
Been thinking on this for a while and if you’ve been hearing me preach then you heard some of what my thought includes. So, let me begin with a story. I went to a trainer to get in shape at one point. She was running me through a series of tests just to appraise my overall fitness before starting a regimen. And so, at one point, she told me to do as many push-ups as possible.
I’ve always been one of those people who could “drop and give ya 20.” So I went down with that expectation. I was shocked when I could not lift my shoulders off the floor, not even once. Something wasn’t responding inside me. No matter what I tried nothing moved. I immediately went in for a check-up and discovered that a recent fall, down a stairs, had stretched a ligament or a tendon so much that it had no recovery. My trainer had to work with me to strengthen the muscles all around my shoulder before it started to respond. Even now I experience particular weakness in that spot at times.
My point is that something inside me was “dead.” It was no longer working as it should.
Now, let’s get to sin. Back in Genesis, God tells Adam and Eve that if they eat of the fruit of the tree they will surely die. But they don’t. For some people this is the first contradiction in the Bible. So, let’s consider an alternative. Let’s consider God told the truth and something inside them did die. Something stopped responding as it should. Death inserted itself. It came upon us.
If you’ve read my blogs or heard me preach or tell stories then one you may have heard is how I’ve asked people of every type and persuasion a simple question. “If you cheated on the person who loved you best and they never found out, would something inside you still die?” Every person I’ve asked that of has told me, “Yes.” And that is sin. Sin is that little death created by how we treat others, or mistreat others, or fail in love… or whatever you want to say. The way we live and breathe spreads death. This death separates us from each other. All we have to do is walk down a street and not look at someone to make them feel separated or judged or worthless. We infect others with death as we live with them. As much as we would love to love even those closest to us with a completely unconditional and selfless love, we still have everything that’s within us that messes that up and, subsequently, mess with them as well.
So, this is the first of a short set of blogs on a different view of God’s work, the cross, Jesus and atonement. I hope you feel they’re worthy of discussion. I’d love to hear your thought.