Meeting Tim Chesterton and Paul Trathen

It has been good to meet my fellow bloggers Tim Chesterton and (rather briefly) Paul Trathen. I don’t think I have mentioned Paul here before; his blog is called the journey home. I have mentioned Tim’s blog An Anabaptist Anglican, but perhaps not his other blog Tale Spin which is more about his music and his story-telling. Tim is an Anglican pastor in Edmonton, Canada, but originally from here in Essex. Paul is also an Anglican priest, but still is here in Essex.

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Praying for the conversion of the Jews

Iyov, who seems to have been known to me before as an anonymous commenter on various blogs, has exploded on to the blogging scene in his own right and with a new pseudonym: he has written 45 posts in less than a month since he started his blog. Some of his posts are long and technical, but he has some interesting insights on the Christian scene from a perspective very different from mine. He is clearly a knowledgeable academic, but his real name and identity remain secret.

In one of four long posts yesterday Iyov asks whether the reintroduction of the Tridentine Mass is good for the Jews. The issue here is with the prayer in the Good Friday liturgy “for the conversion of the Jews.” I must say I fail to see what the problem is with this. But perhaps this depends on exactly what is meant by “conversion”.

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Smenita yet again

I was thinking of posting some profound thoughts for this post number 200, as I tried for my 100th post (which for some reason became number 101 here in WordPress). But I couldn’t think of anything, so instead you get this item of trivia:

Smenita is back yet again! I thought we had seen the last of her, with the completely new Blogger software package. But it was not to be, she has struck again tonight. At least she is not cruelly eating comments as she did last year, but being benign as she was in January:

Smenita doesn’t seem to be the problem she used to be. In the past when I typed in her name Blogger didn’t recognise it, and gave it to me again for word verification. Now Blogger does recognise “smenita” and accept the comment, and repeats the same word verification.

But how long will she be around this time, and when will she next turn up? Does Lingamish’s Institute for Smenitalogical Studies need to be reopened? At least, the Blogger folks need to tweak their random word generator so that it doesn’t get into loops like this.

At least I don’t have this problem any more on my own blog now that I have moved to WordPress. I do see some repeats in my list of verification words, which are Bible names, but it doesn’t get stuck in a loop like the Blogger one. At least, not yet!

Blair the Antichrist?

Oh dear, Tony Blair’s chair in 10 Downing Street is hardly cold and Cranmer (thanks for the link, Eddie) is effectively proclaiming him the Antichrist. Let’s see, the beast with ten horns (ten years?) who seems to have been slain (well, he did jump before he was pushed) but within hours has been “healed” by being offered a new post as, in Cranmer’s words, “Middle East messiah envoy, where he will set up his throne in Jerusalem”. Throw into the mix his expected conversion to Catholicism and possible candidacy for “Emperor President of Europe”, providing “a pulpit for Mr Blair’s personal philosophy – pro-European, anti-State, anti-individualist, socialist, federalist, ‘third way’ Catholic-ecumenism.” So, plenty of room for wild speculation here.

But I agree with Cranmer in shedding no tears for Tony Blair. However I wish him well in his new job. And I wish well to Gordon Brown his successor, a man who I hope has been waiting in the wings for his chance to undo much of the damage caused by Blair. Well, maybe that is hoping for too much, but at least there should be a chance of real action, and not just spin, on issues of social justice like third world poverty.

The Gospel is not just about guilt and forgiveness

Tim Chesterton continues to post excellent summaries of Yoder’s writings on the church and how it should maintain its distinction from the world.

Here is an extract which, although tangential to Tim’s main theme, is relevant to the ongoing atonement debate:

The Gospel is not to be understood as being simply about how individuals can alleviate their guilt and find forgiveness and peace of mind. That is to read the tortured psychological history of Martin Luther back into the New Testament. The Gospel, according to the New Testament, is about the creation of a new people for God, formed from communities (Jews and Gentiles) which historically have been at loggerheads with each other. Thus the God who loves his enemies calls into being a people who are learning to imitate him and love their enemies. According to Ephesians 3, this is the centre of God’s plan; this is the great and amazing mystery which has been revealed to Paul.

How true! And how sad that some people make penal substitutionary atonement, or for that matter any theory of the atonement, so central to their theology, and to their gospel presentations, that they almost ignore these implications which Yoder points out, and many other consequences.

As I wrote before, the gospel needs to be presented in a relevant way. The list I gave there of human needs, and how the gospel meets them, may have been a bit narrow, because it focused on individual matters. A more complete list would have included more communal needs, such as reconciliation and belonging in a community. These are met by other aspects of Jesus’ work which are in a sense models of the atonement, although sometimes considered separate matters: through his death and resurrection, he reconciled former enemies and founded his own new community, the church. These aspects of the matter must be included in a fully rounded presentation of the gospel.

But, Tim, we don’t have national flags in my Anglican church, except for the international set we got for the football (soccer) World Cup!

Does God change history?

Tomorrow Adrian wrote (! – yes, I am responding to a post dated tomorrow, and we are in the same time zone)

Justification is no mere legal fiction, for when God declares something to be the case, He also causes it to become the case.

For once the point I want to make in response to Adrian is not really to do with the atonement, although there is a link. For Adrian’s assertion here raises serious philosophical issues. I am not thinking of the superficial breach of causality involved in me responding now to something apparently written in the future, although sentences like “Tomorrow Adrian wrote …” are of great interest to grammarians. The real issue is, when God declares us to be justified, that is, not to have sinned, does he change history?

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Is breach of copyright theft?

Claude Mariottini writes that You Shall Not Steal Thy Brother’s Song (sic with the mixture of “you” and “thou” forms, and I guess he intends it to refer to sisters’ songs as well). Thanks to Tim Bulkeley for this link and his discussion of the issue, and to Claude for his follow-up post. Let me first assure everyone that I agree that it is wrong to copy Christian and other songs without permission. But is this really what Claude claims it to be, theft and a breach of the Ten Commandments?

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The personal relevance of the atonement

“Theo Geek” Andrew raises an important point when he discusses A spectator’s view of the atonement. He quotes someone (“a poster on the internet” – I wish he would acknowledge his sources) complaining that the Christus Victor model of the atonement is irrelevant, and he notes that the same could be said of the penal substitutionary model. Indeed.

As I have mentioned before, there are several valid models of the atonement; Andrew lists some of them. Each of these describes well one aspect of the atonement, but none of them is complete and adequate in itself. For the atonement is more profound than can be fully described in human words. But the model which is most relevant for any individual is the one which meets their felt needs.

Do you feel defeated by evil forces stronger than you? Or did you before you were a Christian? Then Christus Victor is the model you need.

Do you feel that you are trapped or in bondage? Or did you? Then ransom from Satan is the model you need.

Do you, or did you, feel guilty because of your sin? Then PSA is the model for you.

Do you, or did you, feel ashamed because you have let down your Lord? Then you need the satisfaction model.

Do you, or did you, feel lost in a moral maze? Then you need a moral exemplar – etcetera etcetera.

In fact, apart from Christ all of us are defeated, in bondage, guilty, ashamed and lost, and so all of these models, and more, apply to all of us. But the model which speaks most to us is the one which applies most immediately to our personal situation and feelings. So let us not insist on narrowing down the atonement to a one size fits all simple doctrine. Let us instead acknowledge the rich and all encompassing nature of what Christ has done to meet the needs of each one of us.