Thinking Anglicans

Opinion – 31 March 2018 – Easter Eve

Markus Dünzkofer pisky.scot The Eucharist is a dangerous thing

Ben Pugh Church Times Ransom, substitute, scapegoat, God: is there one doctrine of the atonement?
“No, there are only theories”

Rosie Harper ViaMedia.News Apologies, Forgiveness and IICSA

Editorial The Guardian view on Easter: it would take a miracle

The Guardian Good Friday around the world – in pictures

Simon Jenkins The Guardian Happy Easter to you. Now let’s nationalise our churches
“Church buildings should revert to places of congregation, comfort and enterprise – through liberation from the church”

More primatial Easter messages
Archbishop John Davies
Archbishop Stanley Ntagali
Archbishop Fred Hiltz
Archbishop James Wong
Archbishop Paul Kwong
Archbishop Moon Hing

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Kate
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Kate

I heartily recommend the piece from pisky.Scot

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

Thanks, Rosie Harper, for an excellent article. It made sense, and it made me think. Always a good thing – if a dangerous one!

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

I truly enjoyed Dr. Pugh’s examination of Jesus of Nazareth and atonement. I thought he laid out the various theologies well, without judgement. I’ve always been troubled by “penal substitution”. If I have sinned, I need to be the one who does the atonement. If I have broken a civil law, committed a crime, no other person can go to the judge and say, “Your honor, let me serve in this poor man’s place”. I must do the time or pay the fine. Likewise, if I have sinned before God or people, I must make the amends. No one can… Read more »

Charles Read
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Charles Read

peterpi – the whole point though of most atonement models is that we cannot do for ourselves what needs to be done. We cannot pay the ransom, defeat the powers of evil or set ourselves free – or pay the penalty if you add that model. Almost all atonement models are substitutionary, not just the penal model. To hope to deal with our sins ourselves is Pelagianism. The good news is we don’t have to.

rick allen
Guest

“This whole notion that Jesus of Nazareth was conceived, grew up, preached his ministry, then was brutally executed on the cross so that God would be satisfied makes God out to be cruel and barbaric.”

Unless, of course, Jesus himself was God. Every act of forgiveness–which relieves you of any obligation to atone–is a sacrifice of self.

(Without the least intention of being snarky): I hope you are having a Happy Easter.

Rod Gillis
Guest
Rod Gillis

Re Ben Pugh”WHY did Jesus suffer under Pontius Pilate?” Thankfully we no longer need to look at contorted patristic/medieval hocus pocus theories for an answer. The death of Jesus the Palestinian Jew is notable not because it was extraordinary but because it was so absolutely ordinary. He died as a victim of state torture and the deprivation of the most basic of human rights by a mercantile imperial power, as commonplace today as it was then. If the cross has any meaning today it is as a challenge to Christians to be in complete solidarity with those who are deprived… Read more »

Evan McWilliams
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Evan McWilliams

It’s always good to read a piece that acknowledges the necessity of a variety of angles on the atonement. There is one Christ who saves utterly and comprehensively. That we are incapable of saving ourselves seems rather the whole point of the scriptures; Jesus is indeed very Good News!

Rowland Wateridge
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Rowland Wateridge

No reactions, as yet, to the Guardian’s reference to “the Myth of the Resurrection” or Simon Jenkins’ suggestion in the same paper that (Anglican) churches should be “nationalised”. Similarly unsympathetic (to Christians) thinking about Easter also appeared in the “Independent”. Race meetings and other events which in the past would have been unthinkable on Good Friday: no wonder Lord Carey says that Christianity is under siege in this country. I applaud the saving of redundant churches, although saddened that they inevitably happen, still sometimes lovingly cared for by local people. Unless I have misread him, Simon Jenkins hasn’t considered the… Read more »

shamus
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shamus

I really wonder if all CofE churches were “secularised”, which seemingly would be the ultimate goal for Simon Jenkins, whether he would feel that nothing whatever had been lost from all those buildings? Having said that, I think most parish clergy, like me (responsible for 5 mediaeval churches and one Victorian one) would be only too happy to find a way of compelling the state, in whatever way, to embrace full responsibility for their upkeep.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

Canon Edward Probert, acting dean at Salisbury, is quoted in The Guardian as saying, “Jesus plumbed the very depths of human suffering. We have to take up the cross and follow him and identify with the suffering of the world.”

Now there is a first rate theology of the cross and ‘representative’ atonement.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/01/salisbury-easter-nerve-agent-russians-skripal-tourists-frightened

Jo
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Jo

I have to say I took the Guardian to be using “myth” as a category statement rather than a statement about truth or otherwise. The notion of a “true myth” as regards the Gospel should hardly be a novel one to Christians.

peter leach
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peter leach

I second Rick Allen’s reply to peterpi: penal substitution starts to make sense when you remember that judge is the substitute. I would add that it makes even more sense when you remember that Christ and we are not separate unrelated parties; rather we are “in Christ”. The genuine union of Christ with believers is fundamental to the New Testament. When Christ died, he takes our punishment because we are truly in him. And when he rises, we rise too – because we are in him. It is indeed very good news! Without saying that this is true of peterpi,… Read more »

Laurie Roberts
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Laurie Roberts

That made huge sense to me, and a kind of relief to here something that makes sense, and is for me, spiritually practical, with real-life application that can only be gospel for all our suffering sisters & brothers – in Syria, the Rohinga- and in all places and times.

For me, much theologising makes little real sense, and there’s nothing I can do with it or use it for.

Thanks Rod Gillis.

C.f. Rod Gillis on Sunday, 1 April 2018 at 1:30am BST

peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

Charles Read, “we cannot do for ourselves what needs to be done. We cannot pay the ransom, defeat the powers of evil or set ourselves free” In the USA Reform Jewish (called Liberal Jewish in many countries outside the USA) liturgy for Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), it says, if you have sinned against your fellow brothers and sisters, and seek forgiveness from God, God does not atone until you make efforts to heal the damage your sin caused. Then God will forgive. But if you have sinned against God, and you change your ways, and ask forgiveness, God will… Read more »

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

Peter Leach, The “substitution” part of penal substitution is precisely the problem for me with that model. If I sin, it is I who must change my ways, seek to undo what I have done, ask forgiveness of God, plus ask forgiveness of my neighbor if need be. Jesus of Nazareth did not commit my sin, he cannot take my place, no more than my wife can say to a judge, “Your honor, let me serve in prison in place of my husband for the crime he has committed.” Plus, monotheism says God IS. God is pure being, has always… Read more »

Philip Groves
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Philip Groves

TA readers may have avoided the Easter Message of the Archbishop of Uganda. There are good historic reasons for that, but the message he gives here is very important. A prominent lay Anglican MP has called for husbands to beat their wives. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-43372304 The Archbishop could not be more clear in his condemnation of the MP: “Listen to me carefully. The position of the Church of Uganda is that domestic violence is always wrong. Always.” There have always been concerns in Uganda and elsewhere on the judgementalism in the East African Revival, but there has been a consistent thread in… Read more »

Andrew Brown
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Andrew Brown

I don’t know who wrote the print headline on the Guardian leader, but I think it’s safe to take it as a classification rather than a statement of untruth.

Anne Lee
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Anne Lee

Dear Phil, Thanks for your post. Domestic violence is embedded in some cultures, so we need to tackle it at a very deep level. I will never forget a young Kenyan woman saying to me. “How do I know he loves me if he doesn’t beat me.” We need to show people alternative methods of communication, both when expressing love and when expressing anger or frustration.

Kate
Guest
Kate

If I had children and they kicked a ball through a neighbour’s greenhouse, I would go and knock on the neighbour’s door, apologise and offer to pay for the damage. Chances are, my neighbour would accept that. I would want to do it, not just to protect my children, but because I would want my neighbour to be able to move on as quickly as possible, for his sake. Why would my neighbour accept my apology and offer of payment? Was he terrible wanting an apology and payment from someone? Chances are, he would have forgiven anyway, but my apology… Read more »

David Rowett
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David Rowett

I’ve got reservations about the penal substitution model – I have a feeling it’s rooted in a particular cultural context, that of the absolute power of the monarch – but especially i’m puzzled at the absence of what might be called ‘The Passion of the Christ’ thinking in the early centuries. There is little early dwelling on the physical sufferings of Christ beyond ‘passus et sepultus est’. Nor do I find it represented in early Christian art – images of the tortured Christ are signally lacking so far as I know: I’m very willing to be corrected, but the Johannine… Read more »

John
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John

The “penal substitution” is the only thing one ever hears in many of our Sydney churches (e.g.on Easter morning when the Gospel read at the BCP Holy Communion I attended was St John 3, not a resurrection story) – and this is almost always the theme in funeral sermons, &c. Dean Rashdall’s thorough study of the subject is sufficient for me and, following Abelard, his emphasis on the influence of the passion and death of Jesus. “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all”. But so much that is said seems to ignore the fact that… Read more »

David Rowett
Guest
David Rowett

Picking up John’s Sydney observation, a colleague is covering a nearby parish where the priest’s out of action at present and found herself choosing hymns for Easter Day from their (two) hymn books, both modern charismatic evangelical. Easter hymns were almost completely absent from both compilations. Loads and loads about being at the foot of the cross, but hymns majoring on the Resurrection were remarkable for their absence.

Janet Fife
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Janet Fife

David Rowett’s comments on early Christian imagery and the missing emphasis on Christ’s sufferings are intriguing. If I may risk comparing the sublime with the (almost) trivial, there may be something of a comparison with English detective fiction between 1914 and c. 1965. When the horrors of the two world wars and the suffering they inflicted were fresh in people’s minds, novelists usually shied away from giving all the gory details. People had had quite enough of violence and had seen enough blood and terrible injuries not to need it spelling out. Similarly, did early Christian writers perhaps not say… Read more »

Philip Almond
Guest

Before we debate the atonement we should debate what is our position as sinners before a holy, just, loving and merciful God. Are we agreed that we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God?
Phil Almond

Simon Kershaw
Admin

It’s interesting to compare Jewish and Christian notions of atonement as in earlier comments. I’d have thought it one of the fundamental differences between the two religions — that Christians believe that Jesus set aside the Jewish notion of atonement, that the individual has to make atonement for the sins each has committed, and replaced it with grace, the undeserved freely-given forgiveness. The differences between Christians are how that undeserved, freely-given atonement and reconciliation is brought about. I’m even less of a theologian than David Rowett(!) but my take is that substitutionary theories of the atonement (and most especially the… Read more »

Simon Kershaw
Admin

Philip Almond asks “Are we agreed that we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God?”

In a word, no.

No, we are certainly not all agreed on this. At the very least you’d have to define what you mean by “wrath” and “condemnation”.

Kate
Guest
Kate

“Before we debate the atonement we should debate what is our position as sinners before a holy, just, loving and merciful God. Are we agreed that we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God?”

No. Why would God bring me into existence and immediately condemn me? It doesn’t make sense.

Flora Alexander
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Flora Alexander

I know I’m a very long way from being perfect, but the idea of the ‘wrath and condemnation of God’ is not one I can engage with at all.

David Rowett
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David Rowett

Janet F’s suggestion is an intriguing one, but I’m not sure it accounts entirely for the ‘crucifixion-as-theophany’ theology of John. Nor does it account for why it took 500 years after the abolition of crucifixion for it to be felt necessary to embark upon this radical new path – it’s not as if the later classical period was any the less bloodthirsty than the fourth century. Nor does it explain why the East has consistently shunned the penal substitution take on things. All in all I have the feeling that something’s going on which is about cultural shifts, as Janet… Read more »

David Rowett
Guest
David Rowett

I may well deserve the wrath and condemnation of God, but the poor little dying neonates whom I attended when doing chaplaincy in a Special Care Baby Unit didn’t seem obviously to do so – perhaps I was missing something and ontologically all humans are sinful (let’s hear it for Ps 51).

All of a sudden Dante’s Limbo seems positively charitable….

peterpi - Peter Gross
Guest
peterpi - Peter Gross

“Before we debate the atonement we should debate what is our position as sinners before a holy, just, loving and merciful God. Are we agreed that we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God?”

No. Why would God bring me into existence and immediately condemn me? It doesn’t make sense.”

Kate on Tuesday, 3 April 2018 at 3:52pm BST

Thank you, Kate! I agree completely.

David Emmott
Guest
David Emmott

It seems as if the Sydney evangelicals have influenced the Guardian’s picture editor. There was a photograph of (clearly) a Good Friday procession in (significantly) Salisbury I think. The caption was ‘Christians in an Easter Sunday procession.’

Nigel LLoyd
Guest

A number of years ago I was in Avila in Spain and it so happened that there was an exhibition of crucifixes in the parish church, many of them the life sized objects of devotion so often seen in churches in such countries as Spain. What was fascinating was how beautiful I thought the ones from the twelfth and twentieth centuries were. They were uncluttered and simple works of art. However, from the late thirteenth century onwards the theme of the suffering of Christ began to emerge, with some of the blood splattered depictions of agony so grim that I… Read more »

Chris H.
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Chris H.

Kate, isn’t birth necessary for a soul? Isn’t that the argument allowing abortion? It has no soul or humanity until birth? So if God wants to save the eternal spark of humanity, it has to be born, even if it has the “birth defect” of sin at that moment. A defect that like others cannot be treated until after birth?

Kate
Guest
Kate

The reason why I and many others oppose abortion is because we believe that the soul and body are united before birth.

Lorenzo
Guest
Lorenzo

“Before we debate the atonement we should debate what is our position as sinners before a holy, just, loving and merciful God. Are we agreed that we all face from birth onwards the wrath and condemnation of God?”

No. Why would God bring me into existence and immediately condemn me? It doesn’t make sense.”

Kate on Tuesday, 3 April 2018 at 3:52pm BST

Thank you, Kate! I agree completely.

Make it three, me too, it’s idiotic.

Richard Franklin
Guest
Richard Franklin

What I increasingly cannot explain to myself is why if God wants to forgive human beings (all or some) he cannot simply do so by fiat. If God is all powerful why does he need this sacrifice paraphernalia? Why substitution or ransom or victory over the devil etc.? I know all the stuff about justice and mercy but frankly it doesn’t add up. The nearest anyone has got to the beginning of an explanation is my old colleague Michael Winter’s idea that the death (and life) of Christ is a kind of sacrament of divine forgiveness, that it is a… Read more »

Rowland Wateridge
Guest
Rowland Wateridge

Point taken that I may have inferred an unintended meaning in the Guardian headline, but there was more to the article than just ‘”the Myth of the Resurrection”. How can the charge be made that the foundational document for ‘modern anti-Semitism’ is St John’s Gospel – or, for that matter, any of the other Gospels. They all contain the same factual account of the Passion with minor differences (those are hallmarks of authentic, not manufactured, evidence) – and it seems perverse of the Guardian to single out St John for special criticism. If one considers Nazi-Germany as an extreme example… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

Richard, I totally agree about crucifixes and crosses. Venerating the instrument of Christ’s suffering seems perverse in the extreme.

Jo
Guest
Jo

I think John’s Gospel is singled out for its repeated blaming of “the Jews” for the plot to kill Jesus, as opposed to the other Gospels that attribute it to a party within the Jewish religious establishment.