Throughout my life, I have struggled with the traditional substitutionary atonement models that have been taught by the church. The very concept that a loving God would knowingly create imperfect beings that would fail to meet the required goal of perfection and therefore be rightfully destroyed has caused me many a sleepless night and pounding head. Following that same teaching through to its end does nothing to help the situation either: Because god cannot abide sin (missing the mark) i.e. imperfection; then God sacrificed Godself so that God’s own perfection could cover our imperfection??? To me that sounds more like at best a grudging tolerance than it does of love. “You are welcome to join me in paradise as long as you sit behind that picture of myself so I can only see myself when I look at you.”
The Eastern Orthodox views of the atonement as being ransom to the powers of the earth to save the souls of believers is more suitable to my thinking, but still leaves many questions for this questioning soul.
Therefore, for a great many years, I rejected the notion of any sort of any atonement at all. During that time, rather, I viewed Jesus more as teacher and prophet put to death for his heretical teaching and challenges to the powers of the day than as agent of atonement.
Many years later, I began to consider alternative concepts of the atonement. After much study and prayer, a simple question came to mind: “What if Jesus died not to reconcile us to God but to reconcile us to ourselves”.
Since that time, I have been working to ask that question and provide possible answers to it.
Therefore, I was both thrilled and a little miffed to read Jonathon Brink’s “Discovering The God imagination”; for in it, the author explores variations of that same question; and does it in a thorough and engaging manner.
Brink proposes that the ultimate question of human history is whether we are good or bad, and beginning with Adam and Eve’s temptation in the garden of Eden, we rather consistently judge ourselves more critically than our loving creator. Viewed in this light, the sum of scripture is God’s constant effort to share with humanity the love that God holds for us. As the author writes:
“Love draws each of us into reconciliation with reality by discovering the image of God already present in each human being. It validates the soul by seeing it the way God sees it, as good. It invites each person out of oppression and into the journey toward restoration of one’s own dignity and also the dignity of those around them.”
If, like me, you have struggled with those traditional concepts of the atonement; you would do well to read and study this new insight into the biblical narrative of God’s love for humanity.
To say that in no way means that there is little of value to those with more traditional understandings. Far from it! For regardless of our position as traditional, progressive, Christian or Agnostic; we all search for some sort of validation. This wonderful work presents a wonderful insight into the eyes that look upon us all with love; and presents us with a way by which we might look with love upon one another.