Time for a new theory of atonement?

Did Jesus really pay for our sins through his crucifixion or is the real meaning of Jesus’ life more positive and filled with love, and proof of a loving God?

God became man to make men into gods (not by changing their nature, but by allowing them to participate in His). God lived to teach us how to live. He suffered to teach us how to suffer. He died to teach us how to die. He rose to promise our own resurrection.

There are already many reasons for atonement. Ransom is just part of it.

His life means very much, yes. However, we absolutely cannot say that the atonement was only for moral influence. Christus victor and the satisfaction theory of the atonement have worked well enough for Christians. Even penal substitution (from John Calvin) is just a play on the satisfaction theory.

Isn’t this from Irenaeus?

In the second century, Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons (c. 130–202) said that God “became what we are in order to make us what he is himself.” Irenaeus also wrote, “If the Word became a man, It was so men may become gods.”

I wasn’t quoting Irenaeus directly, but you’re right. It’s one of the most ancient views on the Incarnation, and Athanasius is probably most famous for it. You also see it implied in 2 Peter 1:3–4, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.” By participation in Christ we become participants in the divine life of the God.

Ransom theory is pretty old, too, though this should be distinguished from substitution.

Christians have previously believed in the moral influence theory of atonement and the satisfaction theory only emerged around 1000 years after Jesus’ death. Therefore, I don’t agree that we absolutely have to believe in a particular theory or theories.

Does it make sense to you that God only forgives through payment of debt? Do you use the same logic when forgiving someone who has wronged you?

Is another meaning that can be extracted from Jesus’ life, that following religious dogmas leads not only away from god, but in fact destroys god? Jesus was killed because the Jews objected to Jesus’ blasphemous behaviour.

But what evidence is there that Christians have previously believed in the moral influence theory? There have been claims that moral influence was taught in early works such as The Shepherd of Hermas or by figures like Irenaeus or Clement of Rome. Irenaeus’ view is actually the recapitulation theory of the atonement, which is similar but not the same. It is true that the modern satisfaction theory only emerged with St. Anselm of Canterbury (11th century), and St. Thomas Aquinas made some contributions to that work.

Also, I only say that the moral influence theory does not make sense when it is used on its own. If we use it with some other theory (particularly the recapitulation theory), then it reflects a bigger meaning of the atonement.

First, one has to have a good idea of what happened when the original Adam freely committed the Original Sin. Adam shattered the original friendship between humanity and Divinity. It is the Divine Creator Who established this amazing friendship relationship. Genesis 1: 27. Genesis 2: 15-17.

Original Sin left Adam, because he is human, without a way to repair his relationship with his God. The only person who could repair the relationship would be God Who originated it. John 3: 16 speaks about the Incarnation where the Second Divine Person, Jesus, assumed, not absorbed, human nature. John 3: 17 speaks about the mission of Jesus.

As you say, Jesus’ life is very positive and filled with love and proof of a loving God.
1 Corinthians 15: 21-22. Romans 5: 12-21. Jesus hanging bloody on His chosen cross conquered death and opened the gates of heaven. 1 Corinthians 15: 54-58.

The historically earliest theory of atonement was not Moral influence, but Christus Victor. Which is a Ransom theory

I am coming to the conclusion that non-violent theories of atonement are actually the truth and there needs to be a radical change in the teaching and focus of the Church’s message. If we stick with these theories that suppose god requires the death of an innocent as payment before forgiveness is granted, then we are in fact casting humanity as morally superior to God, as we are able and taught by Jesus to forgive without retribution.

Thoughts on this?

You might find this interesting :

A Nonviolent Atonement (At-One-Ment)
Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Jesus’ teachings seem to have been understood rather clearly during the first few hundred years after his death and resurrection. Values like nonparticipation in war, simple living, and love of enemies were common among his early followers. For example, the Didache, written around AD 90, calls readers to “share all things with your brother; and do not say that they are your own. For if you are sharers in what is imperishable, how much more in things which perish.” [1] At this time, Christianity was countercultural, untouched by empire, rationalization, and compromise.
However, when the imperial edict of AD 313 elevated Christianity to a privileged position in the Roman Empire, the church increasingly accepted, and even defended, the dominant social order, especially concerning war, money, and class. Morality became individualized and largely sexual. Formal Christianity slowly lost its free and alternative vantage point, which is probably why what we now call “religious life” began, and flourished, after 313. People went to the edges of the church and took vows of poverty, living in satellites that became “little churches,” without ever formally leaving the big church.
If you look at texts in the hundred years preceding 313, it was unthinkable that a Christian would fight in the army. The army was killing Christians; Christians
In the thirteenth century, the Franciscans and the Dominicans were the Catholic Church’s debating society, as it were. We invariably took opposing positions in the great debates in the universities of Paris, Cologne, Bologna, and Oxford. Both opinions usually passed the tests of orthodoxy, although one was preferred. The Franciscans often ended up presenting the minority position in those days. I share this bit of history to show that my understanding of the atonement theory is not heretical or new, but has very traditional and orthodox foundations. In the thirteenth century the Catholic Church seemed to be more broad-minded than it became later. Like the United States’ Supreme Court, it could have both a majority and a minority opinion, and the minority position was not kicked out! It was just not taught in most seminaries. However, the Franciscans and other groups taught the minority position.
Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans agreed with the mainline position that some kind of debt had to be paid for human salvation. Many scriptures and the Jewish temple metaphors of sacrifice, price, propitiation, debt, and atonement do give this impression. But Franciscan teacher, Blessed John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308), who founded the theological chair at Oxford, said that Jesus wasn’t solving any problems by coming to earth and dying. Jesus wasn’t changing God’s mind about us; rather, Jesus was changing our minds about God. That, in a word, was our nonviolent at-one-ment theory. God did not need Jesus to die on the cross to decide to love humanity. God’s love was infinite from the first moment of creation; the cross was just Love’s dramatic portrayal in space and time.
Scotus built his argument on the pre-existent Cosmic Christ described in Colossians and Ephesians. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) who came forward in a moment of time so we could look upon “the One we had pierced” (John 19:37) and see God’s unconditional love for us, in spite of our failings.
The image of the cross was to change humanity, not a necessary transaction to change God—as if God needed changing! Scotus concluded that Jesus’ death was not a “penal substitution” but a divine epiphany for all to see. Jesus was pure gift, and the idea of gift is much more transformative than any idea of necessity, price, or transaction. It shows that God is not violent, but loving.
Duns Scotus firmly believed that God’s perfect freedom had to be maintained at all costs. If God “needed” or demanded a blood sacrifice to love God’s own creation, then God was not freely loving us. Once you say it, its inherent absurdity is obvious! Unfortunately, the mainstream “theory” led many people to dislike and mistrust “God the Father.” This undercut the mystical, transformative journey for most Christians.
Jesus was not changing the Father’s mind about us; he was changing our mind about God—and thus about one another too. If God and Jesus are not violent, punishing, torturing, or vindictive, then our excuse for the same is forever taken away from us. This is no small point! And, of course, if God is punitive and torturing, then we have full modeling and permission to do the same. Does this need much proof at this point in Christian history?
Jesus’ full journey revealed two major things: that salvation could have a positive and optimistic storyline, neither beginning nor ending with a cosmic problem; and even more that God was far different and far better than the whole history of violent religion had up to then demonstrated. Jesus did not just give us textbook and transactional answers, but personally walked through the full human journey of both failure and rejection—while still forgiving his enemies—and then said, “Follow me” and do likewise (see John 12:26; Matthew 10:38). This is the crucial message of nonviolence that most of Christianity has yet to hear. Without it, the future of humanity is in grave peril.

Gateway to Silence:

Be peace.

Reference:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (Paulist Press: 2014), 70-73.

Thank you simpleas. The more I search the more I find folk agreeing with non-violent atonement theories.

Do you know any any groups that have been setup to push for change in this regard?

“Jesus was not changing the Father’s mind about us; he was changing our mind about God—and thus about one another too.”
This popular gem, changing our mind, is often the modern flag of those other modern Catholics who wish to change the Catholic Church from the inside. One of the main events of the popular progressive movement is to dance around the advertising gimmick of “Jesus changing our mind about God.” In other words, the modern Catholic Church needs to change its mind regarding the Creator God of the first three chapters of Genesis. Obviously, one should be curious about the Father’s mind. However, that is not important when the priority is to heal the world with human tools. No need for some unpleasant Catholic truths such as seeking forgiveness for mortal sins.

There is no doubt that the Scholastic Period (post 11) has a major role in the Catholic Church especially the role in the major Ecumenical Councils which are guided by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. (Chapter 14, Gospel of John) However, there is a problem of doing something after the fact, especially centuries after the fact. I am referring to the modern mistake of eliminating reality from the first three chapters of Genesis.

The concept of At-One-Ment meaning a Nonviolent Atonement (post 11) has merit as long as we remember that hanging bloody until death on a cross is not nonviolent. What the other progressive Catholics leave out is that any death is violent because it destroys a living material anatomy. From the Catholic Church position, the death of a human’s spiritual life (mortal sin) is not spiritually nonviolent. (CCC Glossary, Mortal Sin, page 889)
“Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans agreed with the mainline position that some kind of debt had to be paid for human salvation.” (post 11)

Back then, in the time of Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans, Catholics actually believed that Adam existed as the first human person on planet earth and thus the State of Original Sin was a no-brainer because all humankind descended from Adam and his spouse Eve, the second person on planet earth. (Genesis 2: 18) The debt payment or atonement for Original Sin would be a restoration of the original friendship (State of Original Holiness aka State of Sanctifying Grace) between Divinity and humanity.

Practically speaking, bodily death was one of the results of Original Sin (Genesis 2: 15-17). Therefore, the debt repayment or atonement would have to conquer bodily death. Conquering death is what Jesus did, hanging bloody on His freely chosen cross. (Romans 5: 12-21; 1 Corinthians 15: 21-22; 1 Corinthians 15: 54-55, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”)

Absolutely “Jesus was pure gift, and the idea of gift is much more transformative than any idea of necessity, price, or transaction. It shows that God is not violent, but loving.” (post 11) Nonetheless, we cannot remove the violent mortal sin from the teachings of the Catholic Church.

What you don’t address in this post, is that the current Catholic teaching on atonement is based on the reasoning that God requires the murderous, torturous death of an innocent in order to forgive the sins of humanity. This is at odds with what Jesus teaches about forgiveness, that we must forgive freely and without retribution and therefore casts humanity as morally superior to God. Can you explain this dichotomy?

No it doesn’t.

What are you referring to specifically?

This older than dirt granny does not consider a false statement as a current Catholic teaching. However, I do understand your problem.

This is at odds with what Jesus teaches about forgiveness, that we must forgive freely and without retribution and therefore casts humanity as morally superior to God. Can you explain this dichotomy?

Certainly. The dichotomy that “casts humanity as morally superior to God” is a direct attack on the existence of God.

Perhaps it is time to look to Traditional Catholicism for answers.:thumbsup:

I don’t know of any groups.

I think it’s an individual way to understanding why God chose suffering over an easier way to heal us, if there is an easier way that is…:thumbsup:

Originally Posted by grannymh

This popular gem, changing our mind, is often the modern flag of those other modern Catholics who wish to change the Catholic Church from the inside. One of the main events of the popular progressive movement is to dance around the advertising gimmick of “Jesus changing our mind about God.” In other words, the modern Catholic Church needs to change its mind regarding the Creator God of the first three chapters of Genesis. Obviously, one should be curious about the Father’s mind. However, that is not important when the priority is to heal the world with human tools. No need for some unpleasant Catholic truths such as seeking forgiveness for mortal sins.

I think that the flag has already been flown in a way. I grew up believing God to be a loving God, but some people grew up believing God isn’t all that loving. Maybe it’s a personal thing, but Jesus did change peoples mind about God or there would be no Catholic or Christian believers, we’d still be following the old testament.
I think of it as humans and God together, or God and humans together if you prefer. Working together to heal the world, if God gives us grace, then we are to use the gifts we receive in order to help one another. I know you know this. :thumbsup:

The concept of At-One-Ment meaning a Nonviolent Atonement (post 11) has merit as long as we remember that hanging bloody until death on a cross is not nonviolent. What the other progressive Catholics leave out is that any death is violent because it destroys a living material anatomy. From the Catholic Church position, the death of a human’s spiritual life (mortal sin) is not spiritually nonviolent. (CCC Glossary, Mortal Sin, page 889)

Hanging on across is definitely violent. But yet some believe God did not need Jesus to die on the cross to decide to love humanity. God’s love was infinite from the first moment of creation; the cross was just Love’s dramatic portrayal in space and time.

Back then, in the time of Thomas Aquinas and the Dominicans, Catholics actually believed that Adam existed as the first human person on planet earth and thus the State of Original Sin was a no-brainer because all humankind descended from Adam and his spouse Eve, the second person on planet earth. (Genesis 2: 18) The debt payment or atonement for Original Sin would be a restoration of the original friendship (State of Original Holiness aka State of Sanctifying Grace) between Divinity and humanity.

Back then they didn’t have some of the theories we have now, I’m not saying they are wrong…Just that it seem to ‘throw a spanner in the works’ And people changed their views.

FYI
The real Traditional Catholic Church is still following and is still teaching the Divine truths which flow from the first three chapters in Genesis which happen to be in the Old Testament.

Hanging on across is definitely violent. But yet some believe God did not need Jesus to die on the cross to decide to love humanity. God’s love was infinite from the first moment of creation; the cross was just Love’s dramatic portrayal in space and time.

Fortunately, the Traditional Catholic Church was not founded on what “some believe.”

Back then they didn’t have some of the theories we have now, I’m not saying they are wrong…Just that it seem to ‘throw a spanner in the works’ And people changed their views.

Fortunately, Catholicism is not dependent on some theories and some views.

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