The Self-Sacrifice of Jesus

lunamoth

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I'm starting this thread because there seemed to be interest in this topic coming out of another thread, and I'll post the relevant posts here (hope Chris and Mark do not mind):

China Cat Chris said:
Christians with good and loving intentions should realize, though, that Jesus in his savour aspect, with his "dying to save us", and all that, doesn't necessarily make sense to everyone. If the intent is to be loving without regard to whether the object of that love comes around eventually to the Christian point of view, that's great. But if it's a means to an end, then I would caution that believer that their motives, and their "love" can pretty easily be seen to be self-serving and rhetorical at best.

Paladin Mark said:
yes Chris, I agree and tried in a clumsy way to introduce this very idea in the Christian forum but it got buried quickly. I think many persons are confused on this point even if they are drawn to the teachings of Christ they turn back upon meeting up with this idea. A Schizophrenic God sets up a legal system that no one can satisfy regardless of intent. Then this God sends his beloved Son into the world and Kills him because of that law that says the wages of sin are death. After which the price has been paid as if the law is now a thing not even a loving God can control??? Or that the Cosmic Sadist is now satisfied because in the form of his Son he has in effect killed himself and anyone who believes the story is saved. Sure I can see why anyone would be confused!
But what if there is a real truth buried inside the myth? What if the story that was written about by the gospel writers means something very different from the juridical interpretation? It is this very thing I have gone in search of because something told me there is more than a cursory examination reveals here and something in my heart tells me that the mystery of salvation is real but in a way I had not considered.
Perhaps Christs sacrifice was to show us something, to get a message across to us that couldn't happen any other way. To say that his sacrifice saved us from sin may have a poetic meaning that is difficult at best to grasp and for many centuries had to be understood and taught in a pedogogical way, thereby the confusion.

Peace
Mark

My brief input to start is that I understand Christ's sacrifice as self-sacrifice, the willingness to give all of His Person in love for us. It was not necessary taht he be crucified or die a cruel death, although that is what happened. The sacrifice was in becoming fully human, to share in our suffering and touch us. It is one thing to think of a God loving us from afar, seeing but not sharing in our suffering (and we all suffer, we all grow old, get sick, die), but what greater love is there than to come a hold us and touch us in our suffering.

When a loved one is sick or dies, what can we really do or say to make it better? Nothing much...all our words fall flat. But isn't it important that we BE there for those who suffer, just our witness and presence?

OK, this probably seems to some to deflate the meaning of Christ's sacrifice, and I certainly do not mean to do that. But, Christ's suffering and self-sacrifice is certainly not less than this love which made God come down and BE with us.

I for one do not think of it as some kind of tit for tat legal system in which God now pays for my sins. Forgive? Yes, absolutely. But as Mark says, a literalistic interpretation in which God sets us up knowing we will fall, then shames and blames and punishes until He gives the only sacrifice that will do...no, I don't buy that at all.

Gotta dash so this really is an incomplete thought. But perhaps if there is interest to persue this it's a start.
 
I don't believe G-d has set up a system which we cannot master....I believe quite possibly man has.

I believe Jesus broke the ice, blazed the path, showed us another way. Not the way which the books indicated....but through love (intent) and belief (knowing) and faith (allowing) that we can create and perceive our world...

Is it a sacrifice when you know that you are moving on?

I have empathy for the person that is sick and is not one with it, or the friend who has a friend who dies but feels the loss. I am often perceived by others as cold hearted as I have a comfort level when someone makes their transition, yes I miss them in this world, but having a knowing that this suffering, this incarnation is over to me is not a negative, but a postive.
 
I think there is a misunderstanding of the kind of life we were meant to have in the beginning with God. We live in a fallen state, so we have no idea what state we were before. Whatever we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell here on earth is not the reality that God wants us to have. And I think that because we think this is all the norm that we start the comparisions. God is in the business of restoring that relationship.

When Jesus resurrected from the grave, we have a glimpse of what we can become. Did you notice that sometimes He was unrecognizable, that he popped in and out of places, even behind closed doors, almost like an angel? Yet He had some kind of physicality to Him for He ate honey and fish. In other words, He had an incorruptable body that could do things we probably couldn't imagine.

We are not normal. It is not normal because of our separation of God due to sin. Our bodies start the process of dying as soon as we are born. death is already our sentence.

But the resurrection is the hope that one day, though we fall like a grain of wheat and die, we too will be raised to incorruptable, immortal bodies. But the thing that will raise us up is the Spirit of God, for that is what raised Jesus. But in order to be immortal, we must be free from the effects of sin, else we're right back where Adam started. The question is whether or not we can rid ourselves of sin. Or does God need to do this. Well, obviously we know we are sin. Nobody has been able to rid the sting of sin, for everyone thus far has died. We cannot purify ourselves. Oh, we can try and some might get closer than others, but in the end, we all have a grave sight waiting for us.

If God took on human flesh, then God in his human form would conquer death, for He would be perfect. And being perfect, death could not hold him down in death. Jesus, therefore, became the template in which God will redeem Man. For by imparting the life of Christ to us, we will be perfected. The purifying power of God's Spirit and Holiness will not consume us, for we have a buffer in Jesus. This is what Jesus said that you cannot put new wine in old wineskins. We must be made new in order for God's Spirit to indwell in us and be the power that raises us from the dead.

"And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." - John 8:23-24

Jesus is trying to translate us into His World. Why is that so hard for people to understand?
 
I'm starting to feel like I don't fit in with a Conservative or Liberal viewpoint.
 
Well, so far these posted responses share in common with my view the view that Jesus was not here technically to atone for anything, but in 1 way or another to teach. This thread 1 could see as a continuation-well worth it-of the recent thread with poll re theories of atonement. Actually Paladin's remarks are quite apt. A similar point was made in Richard Smoley's book, "Inner Christianity" where he likewise said something along the lines that the literalistic notion usually taught of "God so loved the world that he offered to kill himself and then to punish anyone who subsequently didn't toe the line" did not really make a whole lot of sense. It also seems to me that there is a relationship between the theories one holds related to "atonement" and whether the tone of the spirituality/theology we embrace is judgment-oriented or love and reconciliation-oriented. (I know which one I as well as others in my professional field-a secular one-believe is emotionally healthier). Guess you'd say that the only theorry of "atonement" I'd embrace is a synonym for reconciliation. So indeed a whole different Passion story/interpretation seems called for. take care, earl
 
Well, so far these posted responses share in common with my view the view that Jesus was not here technically to atone for anything, but in 1 way or another to teach. This thread 1 could see as a continuation-well worth it-of the recent thread with poll re theories of atonement. Actually Paladin's remarks are quite apt. A similar point was made in Richard Smoley's book, "Inner Christianity" where he likewise said something along the lines that the literalistic notion usually taught of "God so loved the world that he offered to kill himself and then to punish anyone who subsequently didn't toe the line" did not really make a whole lot of sense. So indeed a whole different Passion story/interpretation seems called for. take care, earl


Good points earl! And for reference here is the thread on atonement.

At-One-Ment: or as Dondi said: God is in the business of restoring that relationship.

Another theory of the cross I really like is the one emphasized by Marcus Borg: the Way of Jesus being that of dying and rising. Here's a bit more from Borg (somewhat paraphrased from The Heart of Christianity):

"So we (mainline scholars) do not think Jesus saw his purpose as dying for the sins of the world.
Rather, this interpretation, like the others in the New Testament, is post-Easter and thus retrospective. Looking back on the execution of Jesus, the early movement sought to see a providential purpose in this horrendous event.

At least five interpretations of the cross are found in the New Testament itself. The first stays closest to the political meaning of the cross. It is a simple rejection-and-vindication understanding of Good Friday and Easter. ...The authorities rejected Jesus and killed him; but God has vinidcated Jesus by raising him to God's right hand...The authorities said 'no' but God says 'yes.'"

The second: as the defeat of "the principalities and powers," the domination system (the Temple beauracracy, Rome itself and Rome as representative of domination systems) killed Jesus and thereby disclosed its moral bankruptcy and ultimate defeat.

The third: the revelation of the way: dying (to an old way of being) and rising (to a new way of being); transformation. As Paul says: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me."

The fourth: as revelation of God's love for us. Self-sacrifice and God giving His Son for us.

The fifth: the sacrificial understanding: Jesus died for our sins. The most emphasized in popular Christianity.


More about this fifth category, Jesus died for our sins:
Borg said:
If taken literally, all of this is very strange. It implies a limitation on God's power to forgive; namely, God can forgive only if adequate sacrfice is made. It implies that Jesus' death on the cross was necessary--not just the consequence of what he was doing, but that it had to happen, that it was part of God's plan of salvation. It also introduces a requirement into the very center of our life with God: knowing about and believing in Jesus and his sacrificial death.

But in its first-century setting, the satement "Jesus is the sacrifice for sin" had quite a different meaning. The home of this language, the framework within which it makes sense, is the sacrificial system centered in the temple in Jerusalem. According to temple theology, certain kinds of sins and impurities could be dealt with only through the sacrifice in the temple. Temple theology thus claimed an institutional monopoly on the forgiveness of sins; and because forgiveness of sins was a prerequisite for entry into the presence of God, temple theology also claimed an institutional monopoly on access to God.

In this setting, to affirm "Jesus is the sacrifice for sin" was to deny the temple's claim to have a monopoly on forgivenss and access to God. It was an antitemple statement. Using the metaphor of sacrifice, it subverted the sacrificial system. It meant: God in Jesus has already provided the sacrifice and has thus taken care of whatever you think seperates you from God; you have access to God apart from the temple and its system of sacrifice. It is a metaphor of radical grace, of amazing grace.

Thus "Jesus died for our sins" was originally a subversive metaphor, not a literal description of either God's purpose or Jesus' vocation. It was a metaphorical proclamation of radical grace; and properly understood, it still is. It is therefore ironic to realize that the religion that formed around Jesus would within four hundred years begin to claim for itself an institutional monoploy on grace and access to God.
 
I'm starting to feel like I don't fit in with a Conservative or Liberal viewpoint.
Namaste Prober...

I personally don't see this as a 'Liberal Christianity' Board. I see this as a place where Christians can liberally discuss anything...including the dicey, tricky stuff where confusion and complications lie, treading where the Christian board can't tread.

Over here one can discuss whether walking on water or turning water into wine is metaphor...one can contemplate the variety and vagaries of our distinclty different traditions and thoughts w/o stepping on toes....discussion without reprecussions.

I don't see that a liberal viewpoint is required here, simply an open and questioning mind, no blood boiling, name-calling or sending someone to hell.

One doesn't have to agree with what anyone's viewpoint, it is just interesting to know that it is out there.

~ back to your regular programming....
 
But in its first-century setting, the satement "Jesus is the sacrifice for sin" had quite a different meaning. The home of this language, the framework within which it makes sense, is the sacrificial system centered in the temple in Jerusalem. According to temple theology, certain kinds of sins and impurities could be dealt with only through the sacrifice in the temple. Temple theology thus claimed an institutional monopoly on the forgiveness of sins; and because forgiveness of sins was a prerequisite for entry into the presence of God, temple theology also claimed an institutional monopoly on access to God.

In this setting, to affirm "Jesus is the sacrifice for sin" was to deny the temple's claim to have a monopoly on forgivenss and access to God. It was an antitemple statement. Using the metaphor of sacrifice, it subverted the sacrificial system. It meant: God in Jesus has already provided the sacrifice and has thus taken care of whatever you think seperates you from God; you have access to God apart from the temple and its system of sacrifice. It is a metaphor of radical grace, of amazing grace.

Thus "Jesus died for our sins" was originally a subversive metaphor, not a literal description of either God's purpose or Jesus' vocation. It was a metaphorical proclamation of radical grace; and properly understood, it still is. It is therefore ironic to realize that the religion that formed around Jesus would within four hundred years begin to claim for itself an institutional monoploy on grace and access to God.


I like this. It makes sense. So, I can dig the Golden Rule philosophy, and I can enjoy the concept of the Logos-Christ and all the nifty ways it works out with the other stuff I'm thinking about, but I can dispense with the original sin and blood sacrifice concepts that make no sense to me.

O.K., problem solved. Good. Of course, that leaves me with absolutely no incentive to participate in organized Chrstianity, but that's pretty much where I'm at anyway.

Chris
 
To clarify things Chris, it should be noted that the sacrificial altar was outside the temple in the courtyard and was never inside the temple building even when it was a tent tabernacle in the desert way before Solomon. Other more sacred and secret stuff went on inside the buildings when they were built, one in Jerusalem and two in Egypt (only one of the Egyptian temples had sacrifices).

flow....;)
 
Namaste Prober...

I personally don't see this as a 'Liberal Christianity' Board. I see this as a place where Christians can liberally discuss anything...including the dicey, tricky stuff where confusion and complications lie, treading where the Christian board can't tread.

I don't see that a liberal viewpoint is required here, simply an open and questioning mind, no blood boiling, name-calling or sending someone to hell.

One doesn't have to agree with what anyone's viewpoint, it is just interesting to know that it is out there.

~ back to your regular programming....

Many, many thanks wil. Understood.
 
To clarify things Chris, it should be noted that the sacrificial altar was outside the temple in the courtyard and was never inside the temple building even when it was a tent tabernacle in the desert way before Solomon. Other more sacred and secret stuff went on inside the buildings when they were built, one in Jerusalem and two in Egypt (only one of the Egyptian temples had sacrifices).

flow....;)

Right! Well, the sacrifice system meant an ongoing barbeque for the priests and temple mucky-mucks. Plus they made a good buck off the money changing racket. Who knows what was really going on inside.

Chris
 
[/B]I like this. It makes sense. So, I can dig the Golden Rule philosophy, and I can enjoy the concept of the Logos-Christ and all the nifty ways it works out with the other stuff I'm thinking about, but I can dispense with the original sin and blood sacrifice concepts that make no sense to me.

O.K., problem solved. Good. Of course, that leaves me with absolutely no incentive to participate in organized Chrstianity, but that's pretty much where I'm at anyway.

Chris

Well, if a blood sacrifice is the only thing you think makes Christianity valid and you reject the idea of blood sacrifice, yeah, you're pretty much going to reject Christianity.

But a blood sacrifice has never been part of my beliefs...as I said in my first post the idea of self-sacrifice...the Incarnation itself...is what I find meaningful. There are lots of fancy theologies about the cross, some I talked about above. I'm far from a scholar...these are just things I've come across in readings that I find interesting and informative. However, I know I am far from the only person to think that it's not about the blood sacrifice and the legalsitic quid pro quo Paladin alluded to.

How does it all fit together in God's great plan? I don't know...I like the Mystery and acceptance of uncertainty, that I don't know it all but others leave breadcrumbs for me to follow and I put that together with my own experience of the woods I'm making my way through. Heck, I don't even think that God as a supernatural Being is an accurate reflection, although it's the easiest way to talk and think about God.

You're a much better Bible scholar than I am, you're also smarter and more widely read. I'm just throwing my little tuppence into the hat; not trying to convince you of Christianity in any flavor. I didn't know that was the point of your question to begin with. :)
 
I don't know anything Laurie! I don't even know what keeps me coming back to have these conversations. Bread crumbs maybe. :)

Chris
 
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