Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On Atonement

Last week someone asked me for a brief statement of my view of atonement. “Sure,” I said, “How about one word—Jesus.” Of course, I was being slightly cheeky, but in the end I was also dead serious. Jesus is atonement. While I knew the man wanted a little more, just not a whole tome, I expanded a little. For me, atonement is not so much a thing that Jesus did as it is Jesus himself. For Jesus Christ is the Father’s eternal Son incarnate, and the One anointed in the Holy Spirit, and the One in and through and by and for whom all things were created and are sustained. Through his incarnate life, death, resurrection and ascension he has brought his Father, the Holy Spirit and all creation together in real relationship. This real relationship is atonement, and it is inseparable from Jesus. So for me atonement, adoption, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, reconciliation, the kingdom, eternal life, new covenant and salvation are all of a piece. They are all different ways of describing who Jesus is and what has happened to the Triune God, the human race and all creation in his very incarnate existence.

Adoption speaks to the fact that we have been included in Jesus’ own relationship with his Father. The baptism of the Spirit speaks to the way he has included us in his own anointing in the Holy Spirit. Salvation speaks to the fact that in his life, death and resurrection our sin was overcome and we were placed in a new relationship (covenant) with the Father. Eternal life speaks to our inclusion in Jesus’ own knowledge and communion and fellowship with his Father. And the kingdom of God speaks to the fact that Jesus has included us in his relationship with his Father, and in his relationship with the Holy Spirit, and in his relationship with the whole human race, and in his relationship with all creation. When we pray for ‘the kingdom to come’ we are asking for Jesus’ own life in this four-fold relationship to come to personal and abiding, corporate and international, environmental and cosmic expression in and through us.

The ideas of atonement and reconciliation speak to the way Jesus, in his own experience as the incarnate Son, through life and relationship, through death at our hands and resurrection in the power of the Spirit, brought everything in the cosmos together. Whatever else we say about the nature and means of atonement, it must never be separated from Jesus himself, and must never lose sight of the stunning fact that right now and forever the incarnate, crucified and resurrected Son of the Father sits at his right hand—as a human being. Our great hope is the fact that he has us with him and the Holy Spirit is determined that the breathtaking at-oneness established in Jesus would come to real and personal expression in us, and in our relationship with Jesus’ Father, with one another and with all creation.

In Jesus Christ a new cosmic order of real togetherness has been established forever. We all included, and we all stand called to a radical change of mind, called to rethink everything we thought we knew about God, about ourselves and others, about our planet, our future and life itself. Because of Jesus and of what he has made of the cosmos, we are all called to give ourselves to participate in his world. We are called to let his Father love us. We are called to walk in his Spirit. We are called to love one another with his love for each person. And we are called to participate in his relationship with all creation. And we are promised abounding life in the process. We are free, in a manner of speaking, to live in our own worlds, and free to try to impose them upon Jesus and his world, but such will only produce ever increasing pain. For it is a violation of atonement, of the way things really are in Jesus, of the togetherness that he has established between the Triune God, the human race, and all creation in himself. And such violation necessarily hurts like hell.

In an age when the idea of truth seems anachronistic, the togetherness and at-onement that Jesus Christ made real in himself is and remains the truth—reality—God’s reality, our reality, cosmic reality, reality that sets us free for life in his world.

12 comments:

Pastor Paul said...

Baxter, this post is truly beautiful. Such a drastic change of viewpoint from commonly accepted Western Theological thinking. Unity, Oneness, At - Oneness, At-onement. Being ONE with the Great Triune God. How cool is that. And Forever. Forever lived, provided for, blessed, given pleasure at the Father's right hand and Loved. You make it so easy to understand and inspiring.

The Perichoresis Conference/ Shack conference was Awesome. Paul Young is precious. Thanks for everyting.

Hoddie Toddy,

Paul

Richard said...

Hi there,

Thanks again for an encouraging post. And it reminded me that naturally we humans seem to want to be our own atonement. In other words, we quite easily feel that if we can just do certain performance rules and laws just right, then God will take pleasure in our atonement work and appropriately reward us. Jesus, except in dealing with our past sins, is not really necessary in this model. But the truth is that Jesus is atonement for us past, present, and future. Thank God!

The best to you always!

J. Richard Parker

Boyd Allen said...

Every time I come here, I am constantly reminded to always start with Jesus. Often we get caught up with the words that we are familiar with trying to make sense out of them. When all we need to do (assuming we do understand what the words, such as "atonement" mean) and apply that to Jesus himself. Jesus is... and you fill in the blank. If we say "atonement" you say "Jesus". If we say "salvation" you say "Jesus" and if you say "redemption" "kingdom", etc. you say "Jesus".

So what is the answer? Jesus!
Thanks again for reminding us.

Anonymous said...

Dear Baxter,

So much of what you write sounds so beautiful. And so confusing. I know that makes me kindergarten level, yet I still find listening to scholars trey interesting. Often I read heavy duty books written by the heavy hitters such as yourself and underline words that I mean to look up later, but rarely do. So you are the deep waters and I am the shallow pool, but I still want to ask questions. :) In enjoying the Bible, I notice that God's promise to Abe was that ALL would be blessed in him. I think of the cool verse for us gentiles where Jesus says, "many will come from the east and the west" and dine with Jesus but, "The sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness where there will be a weeping and gnashing of teeth." Surely the folk he was talking to weren't at that time weeping and gnashing their teeth, so Jesus was referring to a future day where they would be cast out. So, while Jesus died for all, will He cast anyone out? Is there a future hellish experience? Who's in in the end and who's out? I mean, I agree with you that All have been made a way for, but if we're all in, then why wont he just come for us before another child is tortured or another country enjoys the wages of genocide. This world tires me out. I wish I was more intelligent sounding, but I do thank you for answering my simple questions.

Bobbit

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kruger, do you have any thoughts on Deepak Chopra?

Boyd Allen said...

Bobbit quoted: "The sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness where there will be a weeping and gnashing of teeth." in light of "many will come from east and west". Contradictory?

I am reminded of the parable of the prodigal son, or "Dancing God" (Baxter Krugers' rendition). The son of the kingdom, the one who did "every thing right" refused to enter into the celebration dinner of his lost-but-now-found brother. Was he "cast" out? Actually, he just refused to come in. I guess he decided to sit out with the goats and gnash his teeth for a while.

Anonymous said...

May I suggest a contrarian view... that God's relationship to his creatures, as compelled by His Triune nature, ought to produce a God that acts relational. And yet, we see Job crying out for input, any input from God, the older brother of the Prodigal son becoming upset when his father had not reinforced their relationship adequately (and thus misread his father's reaction to his brother)...and each of us -- crying out, pleading, wringing hands with longsuffering throughout life -- just to hear some...any...encouragement from God. We crave exactly what we were made for -- a direct relationship with God. And yet...most often we receive mystery, silence, distance. I'm not suggesting a pantheistic God who would be in all things -- like the sunset, the seashore, a baby. I'm suggesting a God that directly relates. After all, He did in fact, relate to the prophets...and Jesus to the people of His time. I'm sorry, but a "relationship of faith" as the evangelicals call it, comes off as a cliche of one-sided imaginings. A friend tells me that that idea is setting up God in my own image...what I'd want God to be, not what He really is. Absolutely! I want God to be relational, and I won't accept less. I fear much of protestant (much less catholic) ideas of God are popularized notions to support a few operative fallacies...and much of my life is spent trying to unlearn them. Therefore, to the Infinite God who's Triune nature compels Him to relationships, I cry out..." ACT LIKE IT!"

Warren said...

To the last 'anonymous' poster.

Please, open your ears to hear the call of the Trinity to you.

Read Job properly. God does respond to Job, in a most powerful and personal way. He does it only after his 'friends' - who sound a bit like you, to be honest - have had their say and he's exhausted the normal human arguments about what God should and shouldn't be doing in the situation.

Read the parable of the Prodigal Son properly. The older brother's problem is not with the way the father had behaved towards him. Pure and simple it's his own preconceived, but incorrect, notions of what he thought his father expected of him. No one forced him to think he had to earn his father's love. And note, the father's love was still there for him even then! He was invited to and welcome at the party. Did he attend? Well, we don't know, because the question is, will we attend?

I'm not sure what you think a relationship of faith means. Do you demand that God takes on human flesh once more and walks into your house to relate to you? As Jesus said, even though one returns from the grave, some people still won't listen. God has entered into the human condition; Jesus as our brother knows all we are going through and offers us a spiritual, very real, relationship, that I and millions of others can testify is genuine. It's not easy - but that's part of the reward, as we see ourselves growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus as we walk each day with Him.

May God open your eyes and ears to realise that what you seek is very close to you.

Anonymous said...

The question i have is jesus incarnation make him in union with all humanity when he goes to calvary?

July 5, 2009 2:44 AM

Anonymous said...

any thoughts on Bndage of the will by Martin Luther?

SonsLoveLetter said...

The Bible Is A Trinitarian Book:

From Genesis to Revelation there are references to the trinitarian nature of God. God is one as clearly stated in Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one". The bible presents God, who is one, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit - Three in one.
Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..." The 'us' and 'our' in this verse are not references to God and His angels, as man is not made in the image of angels! It is a reference to the triune God: Father, Son and Spirit.
The prophecy in Isaiah chapter 9 and verse 6 about the Incarnation also illustrates the trinitarian nature of God. "For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace". (N.I.V.) There is no comma between 'Wonderful' and 'Counsellor' in several modern translations.
"Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God" is a reference to the Holy Spirit. "Everlasting Father" The Father. "Prince of Peace" Jesus the Son. "For in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9)
1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" The 'love' chapter also illustrates the trinitarian nature of God. "God is love" (1 John 4:8;16) "Christ is our hope" (1 Timothy 1:1) And faith is a gift of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:8; Galatians 5:22).
Also in Revelation chapter 14, verses 1 and 13 refers to the triune God: Father, Son and Spirit.
"Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 who had His name and His Father's name written on their foreheads...(verse 13) Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes" says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them." (N.I.V)
John 1:29 "The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."
These are just some of the verses that clearly show the bible to be a trinitarian book!

SonsLoveLetter said...

The Bible Is A Trinitarian Book:

From Genesis to Revelation there are references to the trinitarian nature of God. God is one as clearly stated in Deuteronomy 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one". The bible presents God, who is one, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit - Three in one.
Genesis 1:26 "Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness..." The 'us' and 'our' in this verse are not references to God and His angels, as man is not made in the image of angels! It is a reference to the triune God: Father, Son and Spirit.
The prophecy in Isaiah chapter 9 and verse 6 about the Incarnation also illustrates the trinitarian nature of God. "For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace". (N.I.V.) There is no comma between 'Wonderful' and 'Counsellor' in several modern translations.
"Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God" is a reference to the Holy Spirit. "Everlasting Father" The Father. "Prince of Peace" Jesus the Son. "For in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9)
1 Corinthians 13:13 "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love" The 'love' chapter also illustrates the trinitarian nature of God. "God is love" (1 John 4:8;16) "Christ is our hope" (1 Timothy 1:1) And faith is a gift of the Spirit (Ephesians 2:8; Galatians 5:22).
Also in Revelation chapter 14, verses 1 and 13 refers to the triune God: Father, Son and Spirit.
"Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with Him 144,000 who had His name and His Father's name written on their foreheads...(verse 13) Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes" says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them." (N.I.V)
John 1:29 "The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."
These are just some of the verses that clearly show the bible to be a trinitarian book!