classic popular versions of substitutionary atonement are heresy

Great set of posts here looking at some ’emergent’ theology questions (think Brian McLaren). I particularly liked this bit on atonement theories:

“brian said that at least among evangelicals there is almost a litmus test regarding one’s adherence to the “penal substitution” theory of the atonement which portrays god as a wrathful god because of human sin, and requiring sacrifice or punishment for that sin, and that rather than punish humans, jesus was the ‘sacrificial lamb’ sent in humanity’s place, and by his suffering and death he frees all of us from our guilt. the issue, brian said, is ‘who was punishing jesus on the cross?’ if you look at it as a case of the romans or the religious leaders, then it fits with a sort of interpretation of the powers killing jesus to maintain their own power. god rejects such violence and injustice and the resurrection is a final ‘no’ to such evil and the first fruits of god’s ‘yes’ to reconciliation and justice. but if you look at it as god punishing jesus because he was angry about our sinfulness, doesn’t that make the christian community like a disfunctional family who pretend that the dad is nice all the while that same dad beats his kids in private? it makes for confusing god-relationships, it makes for fearful christians, and it makes of god one whose right it is to make people suffer when they’ve done wrong. in a powerful response, miroslav said simply that is heresy. there is no ‘third party’ who is punished on our behalf. the guilt is not ‘transferable’. it is god in jesus who takes the evil and sin of the world and by taking it in, then can transform it once for all, and marking the deepest reality of the future glimpsed now–no place for retribution, for suffering, for tears and pain and death. and by our participation in the sufferings of god in christ we also die to such sin and are reborn a new creation, ready to move towards gods future of reconciliation…”

Quite so.

Twelve Links

One of the most coherent MoQ posters is now blogging! See the site here if you’re interested in metaphysics, Buddhism, that sort of thing.

It must say something about the nature of that particular discussion group that the attractions of blogging outweigh the attractions of dialogue. I don’t think it’s because we don’t enjoy debate – I suspect it’s simply that there are some heavyweight trolls there whose intellectual mills grind exceedingly slow….

Posted in moq

Dark Angel

Watched almost the whole of the first series whilst on holiday; finished it off on arriving home.

On the whole: very enjoyable, I liked the characters, especially Logan, and Original Cindy, and I particularly liked the conception of a post-‘Pulse’ economy in Seattle, USA – one which bears a strong resemblance to how I imagine a post-Peak Oil economy would look like.

But I was disappointed with the end – shouldn’t have had the last five minutes of frankly unbelievable plot-compression. It has put me off getting series two, although I was already put off by the fact that the third series was cancelled.

I also kept comparing it to Alias whilst watching it. Some points of parallel – a Lara Croft type action-babe experiencing various adventures – but the differences were ultimately quite stark. The script of Alias is much more interesting, and Sydney Bristow as a character – lacking Max’s special powers – has to rely more on intelligence and wit, and suffers rather a lot more. Dark Angel lacked a ‘Rimbaldi’ element – something to sustain interest beyond the humdrum, and beyond what becomes, eventually, the repetitive and formulaic beating up of the bad guys.

So, I’m sticking with Alias – we’re just about to finish Series 3 – Dark Angel, despite some good elements, didn’t have enough to sustain itself.

Avenging Angelo


I retain the minority opinion that Sly appears in decent films – not great ones, excepting maybe Cop Land, and maybe First Blood and Rocky 1, but that, on the whole, his films are normally watchable.

OK, I’ll give you the Specialist as a counter example. Keep quiet about the others!!

Of course, this may simply be proof positive of the collapse of my judgement after too many Budweisers on a Saturday night….

Rudeness and fear

A condensed thought or two about those cartoons.

One way of looking at the issue is to say it is about not causing offence – that whilst something may be permissible (legal) it is immoral, or rude. So Jack Straw: “I believe that the republication of these cartoons has been insulting, it has been insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been wrong.”

There is something in this. I can’t imagine a cartoon which is gratuitously rude towards Jesus being published in an Islamic newspaper (please point out the error if anyone has proof!) and I can see this as one aspect of a general (religious, ie both Muslim and Christian) view of Western society as decadent, barbaric and uncivilised – a large part of the critique developed by Sayyid Qutb with which I have some sympathy.

However, I don’t believe that that is the principal issue. For the cartoons are not being rude about Mohammed on the grounds of his followers being religious, or not quite. They are – so far as I understand – about the way in which his followers are prepared to murder in the cause of advancing their faith.

In this situation, where it is perceived that one party is intent on causing grievous harm to another, it seems rather beside the point to talk about rudeness – imagine a black man making fun of the Klu Klux Klan – why should we care if the Klansman gets upset???

The issue seems to me to be about two competing arguments. The one which the mainstream media buy into, because it accords with their secular presuppositions and political correctness is that of free speech vs religious respect. The other argument is about the possibility of co-existence between a militant Islamism and any other perspective, whether religious or not. It’s the latter which is more important. I’m doing a Learning Church session on Islam soon – that will be the suitable opportunity to clarify my wider thoughts.


BBC website on energy

BBC ‘gets’ the energy crisis: here.

It was interesting to see that Bush came out with a fairly explicit nod to peak oil in his state of the union address. The particular measure he proposed is rather meaningless, but simply the fact that he was using the language of addiction, and pointing out the need to shift, that is important.

Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt

This was fun, full of interesting information, but strangely unsatisfying as a book. Levitt is the economist who has become notorious for pointing out the statistical link between the legalisation of abortion in the United States, and the drop in crime twenty years later; a good example of the law of unintended consequences which is discussed in detail in the book. Having read Rudolph Giuliani’s autobiography, it was sobering to see the discussion of the drop in crime in New York, in the light of the drop across different cities in the US. The bigger drop in NYC was – according to Levitt – much more a consequence of the rise in police recruitment undertaken by Giuliani’s predecessor David Dinkins than anything which Giuliani himself developed.

The elements on crime were most interesting, especially the research undertaken by one academic ‘on the ground’ in a Chicago drug gang, the principal conclusion being that the organisation of the gang resembled less the Mafia and more McDonalds!

Unfortunately, given the various interesting snippets of information scattered throughout the book, the last chapter was underwhelming, being a discussion of the socio-economics of naming of children. This did have some interest, but compared to the foregoing discussions, not a great deal.

The Exorcist, Director’s Cut

I watched the Director’s Cut whilst on holiday, the first time I had seen it for many years, and what struck me most in watching it this time was the priestly side – the way that the Eucharist is celebrated, and the meaning (or lack of meaning) that this had for Fr Kerras, and the way that this fore-shadows what happens to him.

Once past the schlock, an amazing film. Not sure I would go so far as Mark Kermode in claiming it as the best film of all time – not by some measure – but it is surely one of the best horror films of all time, despite the copious quantities of pea soup.

Very satisfying. I think I’m going to obtain my own permanent copy, not least so that I can listen to the Director’s Commentary.