Thank you "Former Saul" for this comment posted on the Open Letter to Christianity Today:

I would agree with the direction but not the timing…in my limited understanding, Jesus put an end to the sacrificial requirements with His final sacrifice for all…while there is a way around it, not sure why we would try?

Coming to see the radical difference between a sacrificial reading and a non-sacrificial reading of scripture, in other words, the difference between a God who occasionally uses sacrifice (who supposedly made certain sacrificial prescriptions for his people) and a God who has nothing at all to do with sacrifice, is truly difficult for those of us inculcated in the traditional penal-substitutionary atonement doctrine. Perhaps it’s on the level of a Copernican shift.

For people who grew up with a (Ptolemaic) geocentric understanding of the solar system, the heliocentric version proposed by Copernicus was unthinkable. The atonement as simply and only Christ’s utter self-gift that exposes our sacrificial ways, may seem as unthinkable.

But presuppositions, preconceptions, can be overcome through trying on new lenses, trying out a different framework. Coming to scripture with (St. Anselm’s) the familiar framework of penal substitution in mind, those scriptures that allude to God’s sacrifice of Christ, fit well enough. However, when you take with you an view of God being completely non-violent and non-sacrificial, a view that Jesus reveals the whole nature of God, full-stop, that the "sermon on the mount" is arbiter of God’s unfolding revelation, then, concerning conventional atonement, things are turned inside out.

Is it possible that God’s supposedly putting an end to the sacrificial system or its requirements through "sacrificing" is geocentric thinking? Is it possible that in this scheme we remain half-blind to our own sacrificial-scapegoating ways of constructing life together. Instead, is it possible that God’s putting an end to the sacrificial system through uncovering its workings and our complicity in its perpetuation, is Copernican thinking?

Is it the sacrificial reading that furtively "makes its way around" the revolutionary aspect of the gospel? Is it possible that while substitutional atonement recognizes God’s self-gift in Christ and our (sin’s) role in Christ’s death, it cannot go the whole way because in the end it is still God who demands Christ’s death in payment for our sins? Does God’s wrath need appeasing through human sacrifice, even when that "human" is also God? Or was it our wrath that needed appeasing?

The Gospels do not require a sacrificial reading, and in fact ask for a non-sacrificial understanding.

Is it any wonder that the "resacrilizing" of Christianity has lead to anti-Semitism, the Crusades, and continues to serve as justification for wars of all kinds? the current USA’s Administrations justification for war as just one example.

So yes, with utmost respect, we must try to come to grips with God’s radical non-sacrificial and non-violent ways. It’s time to reject all dispensational categorizing and any and all shades of Arianism and take Christ’s word that God is fully revealed through Jesus Christ.

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  1. The Coperican shift was required not as a mere shift in paradigm but a shift in reality. A Copenican shift was required because the previous view was simply wrong. Thus I would not say that reading the Scriptures through a different lens (non-sacrificial) is the same as geocentric thinking vs. heliocentric thinking. This is to say that a non-sacrificial way of reading the Scriptures is the more enlightened way and ultimately the correct way to read the Scriptures. It is also saying that any reading other than a non-sacrificial way is antiquated and ultimately wrong. Is this what you’re saying by putting it on the same level as a Copernican shift? Is the sacrificial approach is antiquated and have we become more enlightened? Or are you just saying that some have just chosen to read the Scriptures differently??

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