Faith and doubt

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A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do willl find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection. Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts—not only their own but their friends’ and neighbors’.

 

But even as believers should learn to look for reasons behind their faith, skeptics must learn to look for a type of faith hidden within their reasoning. All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternative beliefs.”

-Tim Keller

“Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter…”

Forgiveness, Quote

“I really believe that when someone else does us harm, we’re connected to that mistreatment like a chain. Because forgiveness is nothing less than an act of fidelity to an evil-combating campaign. So it’s not an act of niceness. It’s not being a doormat. It really to me is more badass than that. Maybe retaliation, or holding on to anger, about the harm done to me doesn’t actually combat evil. Maybe it feeds it.

Because in the end, if we’re not careful, we can actually absorb the worst of our enemy, and on some level, even start to become them. So what if forgiveness, rather than being like a pansy way of saying, it’s OK, is actually a way of wielding bolt-cutters and snapping the chain that links us? Like it is saying, what you did was so not OK that I refuse to be connected to it anymore.

Forgiveness is about being a freedom fighter, and free people are dangerous people. Free people aren’t controlled by the past. Free people laugh more than others. Free people see beauty where others do not. Free people are not easily offended. Free people are unafraid to speak truth to stupid. Free people are not chained to resentments.

That’s worth fighting for. There really is a light that shines in the darkness, and that the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it.”

Nadia Bolz-Weber

The importance of the Trinity

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“The life of God—precisely because God is triune—does not belong God alone. God who dwells in inaccessible light and eternal glory comes to us in the face of Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit. Because of God’s outreach to the creature, God is said to be essentially relational, alive as passionate love. Divine life is therefore also our life. The heart of the Christian life is to be united with the God of Jesus Christ by means of communion with one another.

The doctrine of the Trinity is ultimately therefore a teaching not about the abstract nature of God, nor about God in isolation from everything other than God, but a teaching about God’s life with us and our life with each other.”

Catherine Mawry LaCungna, God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life

Reframing Penal Substitutionary Atonement

Atonement, Quote

“…by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” Romans 8:3

“Here is a point that must be noted most carefully. Paul does not say that God punished Jesus. He declares that God punished Sin in the flesh of Jesus. Now, to be sure, the crucifixion was no less terrible an event because, with theological hindsight, the apostle could see that what was being punished was Sin itself rather than Jesus himself. The physical, mental, and spiritual agony that Jesus went through on that terrible day was not alleviated in any way. But theologically speaking—and with regard to the implications that run through many aspects of church life, teaching, and practice—it makes all the difference. 

The death of Jesus, seen in this light, is certainly penal. It has to do with the punishment on Sin—not, to say it again, on Jesus—but it is punishment nonetheless. Equally, it is certainly substitutionary: God condemned Sin (in the flesh of the Messiah), and therefore sinners who are ‘in the Messiah’ are not condemned. The one dies, and the many do not. All those narrative fragments we saw in Luke and John come into their own.”

N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began

Does God need to punish?

Atonement

Retributive punishment might be a deterrent, as punishment is by nature punitive. It might also make a victim feel better to know that the offender was punished. Yet, punishment seldom equals the actual loss occurred by a crime. Seizing a thefts assets might help replay his victims, but in the case of capital offense, the punishment of one person does not repay or restore heath and lost life.

Thus, when we are tempted to say or believe, “God needs to punish and kill” in order to forgive or provide us life, it’s like suggesting that killing an innocent person will bring your murdered family member back to life.

Real justice—true and greater justice—cannot be answered with death. It can only be answered with life. Real justice is not focused on ending the life of the violent, but with ending the cycle of violence and death. Retribution is not the path to life, redemption is.

So…Does God need to punish? No. Not to provide life.

 

*Related post: FORGIVENESS AS JUSTICE

 

A problem when speaking of the atonement

Atonement

The problem with much atonement theology is that the conversation begins and is twisted around ‘God’s need’ (e.g. payment, punishment, blood sacrifice) and not about what God provides (e.g. cleansing, forgiveness, healing, redemption).

Starting with what God needs renders him passive. He is not passive. He is active in the story of history. He sends. He provides. He saves.

From the opening pages of Scripture when the first humans sinned, God acted. When the humans felt for the first time naked and ashamed, God came to them and provided for their need. When he looked upon the dark power they had unleashed into the world he promised one would be sent to crush it.

Sin may hold us back from God, but it does not hold God back from us. From the Garden to the incarnation and beyond God is a seeking, sending, and saving God.

…and our need is not to escape God, but Sin, Satan, and Death.

 

Forgiveness isn’t weakness

Forgiveness, Quote

“Resurrection is the result of death’s defeat; forgiveness, the result of sin’s defeat. Those who learn to forgive discover that they are not only offering healing to others. They are receiving it in themselves. Resurrection is happening inside them. The wrong done to them is not permitted to twist their lives out of shape. Forgiveness isn’t weakness. It was and is a great strength. Resurrection and forgiveness together are vital for understanding the extraordinary and large-scale result of the victory won on the cross. The nations of the world were now set free to worship the one true God.”

― NT Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion

Telling the truth of America

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“Telling the truth of America today is as unsettling as it was to tell the truth of Israel then. Over thirty-six million Americans live in poverty. One in four children in the United States is poor, and infant mortality rates in our inner cities rival those developing countries. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women: Three million women are being each year and every day for women or murdered by their partners or husbands. Homicide is the leading cause of death among young African-American men, and more or in prison or on parole than in college. AIDS, drugs addiction, and suicide lay claim to more and more citizens, including an alarming number of youth. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are homeless and unemployed as affordable housing evaporates and corporations ship jobs to foreign countries that pay workers pennies a day.

Rampant patriotic fervor and shouts of “God bless America” can’t drown out the cries behind the reality of our nation. For those of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ—the one who came to open eyes—looking away is not an option. Jesus invites us to participate in the coming of God’s kingdom.”

Joyce Hollyday, Then Shall Your Light Rise: Spiritual Formation and Social Witness

God’s Justice

Atonement, Quote

“God’s justice is not simply a blind dispensing of rewards for the virtuous and punishments for the wicked, though plenty of those are to be found on the way. God’s justice is a saving, healing, restorative justice, because the God to whom justice belongs is the Creator God who has yet to complete his original plan for creation and whose justice is designed not simply to restore balance to a world out of kilter but to bring to glorious completion and fruition the creation, teeming with life and possibility, that he made in the first place.” NT Wright, Evil and the Justice of God