Saturday, December 3, 2016

Wrestling with Substitionary Atonement

It has been 2,029 days since I last published a blog post.

Over this year, 2016, I have had so many post ideas bouncing around in my head, and I even started several on paper before I lost the need to get them out of my head. I know that I am a better person when I write regularly though, especially if I hold myself to developing it as a habit, and even more so when I am sharing thoughts with others through my blog, rather than just keeping all my thoughts to myself. (Or just bursting the thoughts out in random, disjointed sentences on Facebook or Twitter when I just can't keep them bottled up anymore inside.)

I have a lot of writing in me that I want to get out over the coming weeks, months, and (hopefully) years, but here's what I have for now. I was having a conversation with some friends in a private Facebook group recently about Penal Substitionary Atonement, and the following are my current thoughts on the issue.

I'm a highly sensitive person, so thinking about the pain Jesus experienced in the cross often moved me to tears when I was growing up, but the phrase "Jesus died for your sins" for some reason always rang hollow. I couldn't connect to that concept emotionally, except through guilt and shame.

I was taught that Jesus' death and his blood literally washed my sins away. But also (talk about mixed metaphors) that my sin was a literal, real - although spiritual - barrier that separated me from God; that it was literally impossible for me to have a relationship with God because my sin was something He was not capable of being in the presence of because of His holiness. (And yet, He was also omnipotent.)

I was taught that somehow Jesus' death made a bridge over/crashed a hole through that sin barrier, so now I had the OPTION of crossing over/through to salvation and a relationship with God. (By faith alone in Christ alone, of course.)

The more I've thought about it, the more "magical" it's seemed to me; the more that what he did was a spell that undid some supernatural hold of sin on my soul, keeping me from being truly alive. I'm not denying the existence of the supernatural, but in this instance it just didn't make sense. I'm not sure I can adequately explain why right now. I never got a satisfactory answer as to how his death, his blood, did what I was told it did. The closest I got was because of God's absolute holiness, God couldn't make the choice to forgive our sin until it was paid; either paid by our eternal suffering in hell/the lake of fire, or by the ultimate sacrifice (God paying for our sin Himself through the death of His Son).

I can't believe in that kind of God anymore though-I can't accept substitutionary atonement. It leads me to conclude, maybe Jesus' death wasn't necessary after all in order for us to have a relationship with God? I don't know.... I'm still really confused. This is something that I'll probably keep thinking and writing about for a while.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This does make little sense. I got a similar explanation within a different environment albeit. The way it was explained to you at least sounds like a magical mix-up of metaphors and misunderstanding of spiritual concepts. You have made sense of why SA makes little sense even though it is touted as so logical. In this case Jesus's sacrifice in terms of salvation history makes God sound like a cosmic tax-collector (no wonder He loved the tax collector then!). Anyways, this is taking propitiatory atonement from the OT and applying it to the extreme (as doctrinal fundamentalists often do to cover bases). The sacrificial atonement was about reconciling the people to God, recognizing imperfections. It was not a daily reminder of your sins, but a recognition that God and people are separate (and within the cosmology of Hebrew religion and culture, and even further this was understood a bit differently from 1st century Jewish culture).

In the end, I am proud of you challenging this, questioning things now that you have had such a hard time reflecting on after your upbringing. I support you.