Jesus: Mysterious Necessity

Len, I am grateful for this comment:

I’m just not at the place where I can say I fully understand what to do with all that sacrificial stuff in the Old Testament (I often want to chuck it all and be a Simone Weil ’ian’) and the Lamb of God stuff in the new Testament. If we don’t include the idea of sacrificial and substitutionary atonement then there is a lot of scriptural material that I need to deal with in a new way.

I have evolved enough to change my statement of faith on my blog to read "Jesus was the fulfillment of some mysterious necessity. "It used to read: "Jesus was the fulfillment of the requirements of God’s law…."

You convinced me that I don’t have to define Jesus as God’s whipping boy, so I moved the atonement stuff to the realm of pure mystery in my thinking. For now I don’t know what else to say about it. Perhaps If I read the book that brought the light to your eyes I too will have the epiphany I am looking for.

Perhaps mystery is still the grand realm where all of our stutterings reside because they begin and end with the incarnation. And how I love your statement: "Jesus was the fulfillment of some mysterious necessity." Mysterious…certainly. Necessary…absolutely.

Here are a some of the books that have inspired and changed me, and have become texts for Grow Mercy: Books by James Alison: Knowing Jesus, Beyond Resentment, On Being Liked, and his thesis–where he deals with all the substitutionary atonement scripture and more–not an easy read but amazing breadth, an amazing book: The Joy of Being Wrong – Original Sin through Easter Eyes. Books by Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred, and perhaps the pivotal book, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World. And also, Gil Ballie’s accessible and pragmatic and beautifully written, Violence Uncovered.

There are of course others. Traces of the non-sacrifical, (hesitate to call it a movement) can be detected to various degrees, in authors like Merton, Nouwen, and Vanier. I could be wrong here but even evangelical writers like Yancy and Campolo seem to employ a kind of "atonement lite". At least the emphasis, as in all of Brennan Manning’s books for example, are all upon the exemplary love of Jesus. Here the work of Jurgen Moltmann for example, or the "exemplary view", or "Christus Victor" understandings of atonement are evident. These are efforts at reworking the substitutional atonement, while still leaving the language intact.

You’ll be intrigued to know that Girard regards Dostoyevsky as one of the greatest of novelists, and shows how Dostoyevsky, through his own writing over the course of his life, came to a deep understanding of human desire (mimetic desire) and to a non-sacrificial understanding of Christianity.

Again thank you for your comment. I hope in my own peice-meal way, through my own limited experiences, with obvious help from author-friends, that I can shed slivers of light in future posts in how all of scripture points to and supports non-sacrifice and non-violence and non-scapegoating.

The key is to read all things, as far as we are able, through "Easter eyes". I think that, in the end, this is what Simone Weil did. Her life was an amazing self-gift to the working poor, her mind a wealth for theologians, and her refusal to enter the church was, for her time, a Christ-like act…an identification with all people through rendering the Temple/Church exclusionary "laws" (which are by their nature sacrificial) as nul and void.

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  1. you’re touching all my bases.

    Vanier the greatest living Christian who’s life is a parable that explains the incarnation better than anyone else has ever done since Jesus.

    Nouwen a convert from the complications of academia to the simplicity of humanity at its most basic and pristine level.

    Dostoyevski the greatest novelist living or dead who gave us the only satisfactory answer to the problem of suffering; namely active love, and tears of compassion shed in the fellowship of suffering.

    And Weil the epitome of intellectual integrity who lived and died in the humble service of others and shoulder to shoulder with those she not only claimed to love but whom she actually did love by becoming one of them.

    the incarnation takes on greater importance when seen through the prism of these people’s stories. Perhaps the crucufixion becomes an aspect of incarnation when we turn the looking glass around.

    I will copy this post to my documents so I can keep your reccomended reading list handy. I definitely want to follow your journey into new territory and I think your people will be good guides to rely on because I like where they have been taking you.

    May God Bless the readings that opens up His Word.

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