10 June 2007

Forgiveness & Atonement

I just got my issue of The Living Pulpit - several months late due to not living in the US. (Grrr, but that's another story. It's still well worth getting.)

The current (April - June) issue is on the subject of atonement and I'm extremely pleased that the editors have chosen Dr. Myron S. Augsburger's article
Justice in Forgiveness to publish in full on the internet.

In my part of the cyber-world, I've been having discussions with one person on how there can be no justice without retribution and another person thinks that it's our repentance that calls forth God's forgiveness. I think this article answers both of those questions.

The article also answers the question of 'blood' - although I suppose it will not satisfy those who thinks that God demands a literal, physical sacrifice of blood before he will give.

My favourite idea - and one which I will have to mull over - is the idea of God saying (in Augsburger's words):
I care more about you than about what you have done. I really love you, and I will move beyond the issue to the person.


ca said...

Hm. There were parts of this article I liked, like the line you quoted.

I had problems when he'd say things like "[Forgiveness] is never easy for us, nor is it easy for God. We do not like to forgive, because in forgiving we lose our power advantage." Umm... I suspect that one of the things God does NOT have problems with is a power advantage. Why shouldn't forgiveness be easy for God? I find it easier the more loving and less angry I am (regardless of my relationship with God at the time); shouldn't it be infinitely easy for God, who is infinite Love?

In particular, I did not find that he answered the question of why the Atonement was necessary: why God couldn't just, as in your quote, look past our sins and forgive us anyway. (Of course, this is a hard question; but it sounded like he was going to answer it.) I have to side with the attorney in his little anecdote, because Dr. Augsburger's answer isn't a logical parallel. Yeah, if I sinned-- commited adultery, say-- my innocent husband would suffer. But let's say that now my husband commits suicide, which is the logical parallel to God dying for our sins against him. What did his giving his life as a sacrifice for my sin accomplish? Basically nothing, except that I must now conclude he's crazy.

(This is obviously NOT what I think about the atonement-- I don't think Jesus, or God, was crazy-- but I don't think it's as cut-and-dried as the article seems to imply, and i suspect I will never understand it.)

For this reason I can't answer your other question on PSA. Because honestly I can't figure out what he's trying to say.

PamBG said...

Charlene, I tend to be a very broad-brush and sometimes a fuzzy thinker. I am also making an assumption about what question he was trying to address and my assumption may or may not be true.

I think this theory is 'not very PSA' and I think he's trying to answer an objection that many PSAers put forward to other theories of atonement - that they don't answer the question of why it is that God suffers from our sinfulness.

I think you're being very precise and logical to my fuzziness and you're coming to a logical conclusion about a 'crazy God committing suicide'.

ca said...

I certainly don't see anything wrong with thinking in a more broad-brush sort of way, and indeed I think it's necessary to think a little "fuzzily" to understand things like this-- I don't think you can get there with just mere logic. And I'm sorry if I sounded critical of you; I didn't mean that!

I think I was just very frustrated by the article because I got the sense that he was implying that you could get there from logic-- that's what his attorney “For once I can submit the Gospel to my lawyer’s mind” anecdote seems to say to me-- but his argument breaks down if you continue to just apply a lawyer's logic to it.

But I suppose I'm getting sidetracked from his main point, and I guess I didn't answer your question, so I'm guilty of illogic too :) (for the record, I agree with peter kirk's comment of the article, though I still don't see why forgiveness is costly.)

PamBG said...

Charlene, I don't feel criticised at all! I was just observing that we were thinking differently. It's good to have a different perspective.

I think that I intuitively agree that forgiveness is costly. When someone has done me a great wrong, I find it hard to forgive and trying to overcome my bitterness and my sense of injustice having been done can be costly. Forgiveness is VERY costly when the other person doesn't want to admit to having done wrong. It can still be costly to try to be gracious when someone does ask for forgiveness and I sometimes I still feel the urge to hurt them back even if I want to forgive them.