Friday, July 10, 2009


I don't think Jesus had to die. It was the obvious outcome of him living, but not what needed to happen. Just don't tell my congregation I think this, or I may have to go into another line of work. Now let me flesh out what I just said.

I have struggled with the concept of Jesus dying for my sins for years. Finally, I have just given up on it making any sense. There are several theories and interpretations of what happened, but none of them really click with me.

There is the ransom idea. Jesus paid a debt to the devil for me. So I belong to the devil and not God, and Jesus paid him off. Not wait, I belong to God, but the devil stole me, and Jesus paid to get me back. I'm getting passed around a lot without my knowledge. I suppose this is fine for a metaphor, but I could never buy it as actual. Why does God need to buy me back with dying anyway. Just kick that devil's butt without making me feel guilty.

Anselm interprets the cross differently than Origen. He says that sin is dishonoring God and we owe God honor. In order to fix the problem we either need to be punished or satisfy God. We deserved to be punished forever because we are just so awful, but God is merciful and decides to satisfy God's own honor by having God's son die instead of us. Perhaps this made sense as an explanation in the time of Anselm, but I think it makes God sound a little crazy. "You have dishonored me and must die, but that would not be merciful. I will kill my son instead to satisfy myself. " Can't God just get over it and move on? And would God really feel satisfied by killing God's son? God, you're freaking me out a little.

Then we move to the moral theory of Abelard which I barely understand. If I understand it correctly, Jesus shows us how much God loves us by dying on the Cross, and then we feel bad for what we have done wrong and repent. This one I can buy into a little more. Jesus was showing us a better way to live and was rejected and killed him. I can even relate this to how I respond to others. I reject that which is life giving more than I should. I feel bad about and try to repent. But where this breaks down for me is the I killed Jesus idea. No I didn't; I wasn't even there. Would I have killed Jesus? Oh, I'm sure I would have been in the crowd shouting for his death. It's an ok metaphor, but not based in reality. My life style helps kill people or at least doesn't do much to save them. I feel bad for them, but not Jesus. I try to change my life to hurt less people. I find Jesus my guide in this not my victim. (This theory makes some pretty cheesy camp skits.)

Then we have your friend and mine Calvin. Calvin talked about God being a just judge. We have sinned and need punishment. Someone has to pay the price for what we did! Really? Why is that again? Doesn't someone pay the price for what I do without Jesus dying? This is just ladling on the guilt. Now I'm depressed.

So, did Jesus have to die? Well, yes and no. Jesus didn't have to die in order to save me, but Jesus had to die because of the way he lived. You can't go against the established system as much as he did and expect to live. What saves me is the hope God gives us through Christ. There is hope is the Kingdom Christ proclaimed and ushered in. There is hope in the Resurrection that sin and death do not get the last word.

This post is getting way too long, so I'm going to stop. I'll end by saying that the event of the Cross is still very important to me personally and theologically even if it doesn't sound like it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

My first theological thought

I was thinking about how I would describe my personal theology today walking home from buying too many books at Barnes and Noble, and a thought popped into my head. I had my first theological thought at approximately age 4, and it was probably my best one ever. That isn't meant to sound arrogant or make me sound like a wise little kid. I think it was my best one because it is still my life's struggle and because it was so straight forward. I've used this story before for different reasons, mostly because its easy to reuse stories and not come up with new ones. So if you've heard this before, I apologize for my lack of creativeness.

When I was fourish I saw my first person who could not walk. I don't remember the details of it, but I do remember being shocked that this little girl, who was near my age, couldn't walk. She kinda scared me. I saw her on my way into the sanctuary. I remember being stunned and not sure what to think of her or how to respond. But then, and I remember this very clearly, I thought to myself "But God loves her too, and so should I." God's love seemed really big in that moment. God loved everyone, even little girls who scared me because they couldn't walk.

That's it. "God loves her too, and so should I." Gosh, those hard words to live by. God loves that annoying politician, and so should I. God loves the theologian that drives me crazy, and so should I. God loves (insert whoever scares me or upsets me), and so should I.

Now if I could only figure out how to love all those people that I don't feel very loving towards.

Faith like a child doesn't seem so childish when I think about it this way.