Thursday, April 05, 2012

An interesting discussion of ECREE

15 comments:

Cole said...

I can go along with C.S. Lewis and his ideas on beauty because I've had the same experiences that he's had. I think the other arguments and probabilities balance themselves out. I'm still not sure about the resurrection. I need to study it some more I guess. I do believe he existed and was crucified.

Cole said...

Dr. Reppert,

If I go back to Christ I'm going to have to find a different doctine of atonement. I'm looking into Christus Victor model of Eastern Orthodox. They don't see the Father taking His wrath out on Christ in His suffering. As Derek Flood puts it:

On the cross God in Christ took on our suffering and took on our hatefulness. He was broken for us. He that was without sin became sin for us. Jesus experienced the terrible abandonment by the Father....Yet right there at that point of loss and abandonment and the deep suffering of being godforsaken and accursed, at this point of utter despair as the skies above him turned black and the earth trembled, we see on that cross the truest picture of who God is. God was on that cross. As we look on the horror and ugliness of the crucifixion we see there the saving power and glory and beauty of God. Christ was revealing the love and compassion of God.

Christus Victor sees Christ's life and death in complete harmony with one another. Christ gave his life standing up for what he had stood up for his whole life - caring for the least. The first-century church's understanding of his death and resurrection was a parallel to his life: Love had stood up to Death and overcome it. His whole life he had stood up for the voiceless, touched the untouchable, loved the forgotten, the rejected, the abandoned. And as he had done this, the people had seen that it was really God touching them, loving them, defending them, seeking them. Jesus reveals for us the heart of God, in his life and on the cross. In seeing God's heart revealed, our upside-down world is set right - our estranged identity is reconciled to Life, our twisted image of authority is pointed back to God's way of compassion. We are liberated from the hold of an oppressive environment and our own self-hatred and reconciled into a loving, intimate relationship with the living God.

Jason Pratt said...

Cole,

There are plenty of coherent options for the atonement. While I agree that the notion of the Father wrathing the Son (so to speak) instead of us is not one of the coherent options in its typical deployment (not for trinitarian theism anyway--maybe for unitarianism), the notion that God as Christ (or even Christ if He was not also God Most High) shares our punishment (even when inflicted by Himself) with us, as well as willingly sharing out victimization with us, is something I think makes plenty of honorable and coherent sense.

Atonement, in the New Testament Greek, is always grammatically about the righteous (usually God and/or Christ) acting to bring sinners back in line with righteousness. It's never about someone convincing God to lean toward us or smile on us instead of rejecting us. God already acts from the first to save sinners from sin. He doesn't have to be convinced about it. (Thank God! {g})

Anyway. A good weekend to look into such things again. May you find true peace in the end. (I already believe true love Himself will find you, sooner or later, and bring you home.)

JRP

Cole said...

Thanks Jason.

I'm really liking this view of atonement. In this view of atonement the Father wasn't taking His wrath out on Christ. Moreover, the cross was the end of the temple sacrficial system which was only a shadow of the real thing and was declared inferior and obsolete. The cross was not a parallel to the earthly temple. Jesus was a self sacrifice offering of love. He wasn't appeasing an angry God but His entire life was a fragrent offering of selfless servant love. He was revealing God's heart of compassion for us. The entire life of Christ was a sacrifice as He took on the life of a servant. Likewise we are called to bring our lives as a living sacrifice by living a life of selfless other directed love. Jesus came to reveal God's heart of love and compassion to the broken and rejected. He would gain victory over sin, death, and Satan. We are united to Christ in His death and resurrection as we die to the old self and put on the new self on a daily basis. We let God's love come into our lives as we enter into a personal relationship with Him. The cross declares that our own self-hatred and the whole cycle of being hurt and hurting others is broken, freeing us from the bondages of sin and death. At the cross Christ suffers with those who suffer revealing the compassionate love of God. Love stood up to death and overcame it. He took on all our sin and hatefulness, died, and was risen as death was overcome and love was risen as victor.

Victor Reppert said...

I have never thought that the substitutionary theory was the only option. Lewis in Mere Christianity said, if I recall correctly, that he used to think it was a really silly theory, and when he became a Christian, he decided it wasn't quite as silly as he had thought. But he never endorses is, and the atonement in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is very Christus Victor.

If you get the volume on The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy, Taliaferro and, I think Traughber, develop these implications of the Edmund story.

BeingItself said...

What's with all these various theories about the meaning of the death and resurrection? Why didn't Yahweh make it clear what this stuff was all about? Allegedly the resurrection is the most important thing about Christianity. Yet you lot aren't even on the same page when it comes to the meaning and purpose of the it.

Jason Pratt said...

Victor,

Lewis was also nodding toward an ancient concept of God tricking Satan by offering Jesus as a victim of value superior to everyone else put together. "Hey, if you'll let these people go, I'll give you Jesus instead!" "Deal!" "Opps, I didn't promise Jesus wouldn't kick your butt anyway, did I? Sucks to be you. {g}"

I'm not a big fan, on technical grounds, of that concept of the atonement, but I can appreciate the narrative amusement of it. A more subtle version involves sending Jesus in a vulnerable position for Satan to eventually attack, which Satan can't pass up ("here's the heir, let's kill him and claim the vineyard"), but which then allows Jesus into hades to mess up Satan epically. A large number of ancient Christian hymns follow this line of approach; Lewis nods to it with his famous chess analogy. "I thought you'd be smart enough not to take the rook, but since you insist I move here, and here, and it's mate in three moves."

I'm more of a fan of that version than of the cruder ransom-swap version, but it's still incomplete in itself. (The ancient hymn writers were aware of that, too. But it makes for fine and not inaccurate drama.)


Cole,

So long as sinners (including currently impenitent sinners, like the thieves on the cross) are included with those whom Christ suffers for and with. That's hugely important to keep in the account. It isn't easy to remember to keep all the details in the account, though; or in some cases to figure out what the details mean.


BeingItself,

A highly and complexly detailed situation is happening, and being enacted, at a time when people don't have much skill yet at meticulously working out the implications of the details. Add in continuing and often very subtle temptations to misunderstand the details and implications (even by people who are otherwise acting in good faith), and a spread of beliefs naturally results.

If we were better about being chartiable to our opponents, such a spread of disagreement would be (as Lewis once said) a hotbed of charity. And I don't have a problem with the idea that God allows such a situation precisely in order to continually test and refine us on our charity toward opponents and self-critical humility toward our own beliefs.

If we were better about that, the world would be a better place today, even if our disagreements remained. But we haven't been better about that. Unbelief as a result is a fair judgment against us for our failures. (Which, if we already have the wrong attitude, easily leads in a vicious cycle to more reinforcement of the situation.)

Everyone has to do the best we can with what we happen to have been given. If all of us (but especially Christians) were better about remembering that in favor of our opponents and in self-critical humility regarding our own beliefs, not only would the world be a better place than it currently is, and not only would the remaining disagreements not matter so much (or in the same way) they currently do, but I expect the disagreements would be continuously sorted out relatively quickly. (Keeping in mind that everyone has to start fresh from zero when we're born and as we grow.)

JRP

BeingItself said...

Jason,

Is that the best you can do?

Christians have been hacking away at each other, literally and figuratively, for two thousand years. Is this what your God wants? If not, it seems for an omnipotent god it would be a trivial matter to fix.

Cole said...

Jason,

I agree that Christ was showing His love for everyone. In fact I wrote a short article awhile back on one of the reasons why I don't think hell is eternal conscious suffering. There will be a punishment but it won't last forever. Here's what I wrote:


Eternal Punishment


And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:46)

This scripture is often given to support the idea of eternal conscious suffering. But I'm convinced that there is another way of looking at it that shows that "eternal punishment" doesn't last forever. The Greek word for "eternal" or "forever" doesn't always mean "forever" or "eternal". It is a relative term and it's duration depends on the subject to which it refers. The New Testament Greek Lexicon defines the term this way:


for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity
the worlds, universe
period of time, age

In the Septuagint the word is used to translate the Hebrew word olam. When we look in the O.T. and compare scripture with scripture we get a sense of how the word "forever" is used when connected to God's judgment. It doesn't mean "forever" as we see in Is. 32:12-15:

Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
for the fruitful vine,
for the soil of my people
growing up in thorns and briers,
yes, for all the joyous houses
in the exultant city.
For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens FOREVER,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
UNTIL the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.

Israel's judgment is said to last "forever" until the Spirit is poured out and God restores it. This is a clear example of where "forever" doesn't mean forever in reference to God's judgment. But what about when the word is used twice in the same context in a parallel like the Matthew 25:46 verse? Here again when we turn to scripture we see that they can have different meanings even when used in the same context. Take Romans 16:25-26 for example:


Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for LONG AGES but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the ETERNAL God

In one instance it means LONG AGES in another instance it means ETERNAL in the same context showing the flexibility of it's usage. Matthew 25:46 contains another clue that this is the case. The word for punishment is kolasis and it carries with it the idea of correction. While it means punishment it can be a remedial type of punishment. As the New Testament Greek Lexicon states:


correction, punishment, penalty

There's no reason to believe that the punishment described in Matthew 25:46 must be everlasting conscious suffering.

Papalinton said...

Jason Pratt
"A highly and complexly detailed situation is happening, and being enacted, at a time when people don't have much skill yet at meticulously working out the implications of the details. ............
If we were better about being chartiable to our opponents, such a spread of disagreement would be (as Lewis once said) a hotbed of charity. ..............
If we were better about that, the world would be a better place today, even if our disagreements remained. .............
Everyone has to do the best we can with what we happen to have been given. If all of us (but especially Christians) were ..............."

All laudable sentiments, I'm sure. If only this, if only that, if only, if only. No more humble an entreaty can speak as strongly of the fictive nature of christian theism than your words. At a time when Christian theism had the greatest and unrivaled opportunities before the greatest of captured audiences, the christian message struggled to ring true only under the most strained and obligatory of circumstances. Even at its zenith, many knew or intuited it as a failure of truth, that contrary to its claims, christianity was only a partial and flimsy narrative. The fuller story of the existence of humanity was yet to unfold, and it extended well beyond the self-prescribed boundaries of christian theism. Had christian theism been verifiably true, had it demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt its statement of truth claims, the Enlightenment era of human development, knowledge and understanding should not have come to pass. The oft declared truth claims of christian theism should have rendered the advent of The Enlightenment impossible, unimaginable, unthinkable in human history. But it did not. The historical fact of The Enlightenment is a living testament that accepting the precedence of christian theism above all other areas of study was antithetical to reason and logic. The magnitude of the explanatory power of, and the consistent narrative that emerges from the many disciplines of the physical and social sciences has simply dwarfed humankind's first and incomplete attempt at explaining about us, our relationship with the environment, the world and the universe; religion. It is religion, of its own volition, that is playing the odd man out.

Jason Pratt said...

Cole,

Yes, the meaning of "eonian" (and its underlying "olam") can be pretty flexible, and I myself have argued that examples like Romans 15 (and a verse from Habbakkuk that I'd have to look up again) demonstate than an author can use the same term in immediate topical proximity in two ultimately very different (but superficially similar) ways.

The context would have to indicate whether an author actually was using them that way. But I've also argued extensively that the narrative context of the sheep and the goats leads to just that sort of conclusion.

Especially when the Greek term is properly translated "baby goat". Which it practically never is. I guess because then it would be obvious the "baby goats" are the real "least of Christ's flock" actually there on the scene, and so are being punished for not caring about the salvation of the "least of Christ's flock" from situations similar to what the goats will now be punished with.

The judgment then becomes the last of the great Synoptic test-parables. How are we to interpret what happens to tbe baby goats? Are we to interpret it like baby goats ourselves (in effect that the Good Shepherd and the mature flock will henceforth act like baby goats to the least of Christ's flock), or like the Good Shepherd and the mature flock would?

To put it shortly, Christians haven't been very good throughout our history interpreting that parable. (But the apostles themselves can be seen having problems with the concept earlier in the Gospels, and even still later in Acts.)

I expect that comes from the natural habit of being so impressed by power that we think omnipotent power to impose effects must be the most fundamental and important thing in reality. A habit that Christins of all people should have dropped (and sometimes did drop), but which is far from unique to Christians in practice.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Cole,

(BI: "If not, it seems for an omnipotent god it would be a trivial matter to fix.")

For example. {g}


BI,

Supposedly that's on the way someday. But while that'll be sufficiently impressive for people who care most about mere omnipotent power, there are indications in the scriptures that some more time will have to be spent teaching such people that omnipotent power, simply in and of itself, is not the most important thing in reality. (Which will apparently lead to at least one more big rebellion, led by people who only see that attitude as weakness. It'll take somewhat longer for them to learn better; but there are indications they will, too, eventually.)


It comes down to whether a person is on the side of mere power to cause effects, or on the side of true love. Christians (and Jews), much more often than not, have been on the wrong side of that question. And here we are.

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Papa,

If you don't find at least one version of Christian theism to be logically reasonable, then don't believe in it.

But flatly ignoring that some Christians like myself and Victor base our theologies in logic and reason, is not logically reasonable. It's rather antilogical instead.


(Put another way: if you were really sure what I was saying was laudable, you would practice it yourself in your opposition to Christianity. Emotional and selfish illogicality is not confined to theists.)

JRP

Jason Pratt said...

Note: by "base our theologies in logic and reason", I don't mean we're always perfectly correct in our collection of data or our validity in inferring what the data means. A logical mistake still involves being logical.

Victor and I disagree with one another on a few points, which we cannot both be right about, but that doesn't mean I instantly have a reason to regard him as being anti-logical. One of us, or both of us, have got an inaccurate or incomplete data set in some way, or have added up the data wrongly. It happens.

JRP

Cole said...

Jason,

I think it's a real live option. Especially since God's judgments and punishments often have a corrective and remededial purpose in the Bible.

The fierce anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has performed and until He has accomplished the intent of His heart; In the latter days you will understand this. - Jeremiah 30:24


You laid affliction on our backs.…We went through fire…but You brought us to rich fulfillment (Ps. 66:10-12).

My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. (Is. 26:9)

Moreover, what is one of God's ultimate plans and purposes? Is it not the salvation of the world? God desires all to be saved:


who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4)

And no purpose of His can be thwarted:


I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)

Since God desires all to be saved and no purpose of His can be thwarted then it follows that all will be saved. In this life or the next. For the fierce anger of the Lord will not turn back until He accomplishes the intent of His heart. In these latter days you will understand this.