Friday, December 07, 2007

Would God Send His Son to a Violent Death? Some Say No

From an earlier Lighthousetrails newsletter comes this article on some authors' views of Christ's atonement.

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Some leading contemplative proponents say that a loving God would not send His son to a violent death on a Cross. Brennan Manning, in his book Above All states:

"The god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased, is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist" (p. 58).

Although Manning takes credit for penning these words, they are actually the words of panentheist mystic, William Shannon, from his book Silence on Fire, who wrote them several years ago. Shannon stated:

"He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased ... This God does not exist. This is not the God whom Jesus Christ reveals to us" (p. 110).

What are the implications of Shannon's statement? Basically, making someone suffer a violent death to save others is not something a loving God would do. Shannon believes such a sacrifice is unnecessary because he believes all creation (all people) are already connected to God:

"The goal of all true spirituality is to achieve an awareness of our oneness with God and with all of God's creation ... and with all that is." (p. 160).

Shannon says that we are all "contemplatives" ("mystics") and that "God is the Hidden Ground of Love," and we are "all one in that Ground" and "contemplative prayer [is] becoming conscious of what is already there [God]" (p. 22, 154, 160). That is why Thomas Merton said if we knew what was really inside of each other, we would fall down and worship one another - Merton's biographer totally agreed with this.

Manning, Shannon and Merton are not the only ones who downplay the doctrine of the Cross. Alan Jones, in his book Reimagining Christianity, says that "Jesus' sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution was the name of this vile doctrine" (p. 168). Brian McLaren suggests that the doctrines of the Cross and of Hell are "false advertising for God."

If it were true, that Jesus Christ suffering a violent death on the Cross was unnecessary for man to be saved, then Scripture becomes invalid for in Hebrews it says that "the Mediator [Jesus Christ] of the new covenant" had to die before the covenant could take effect (Hebrews 9). If Christ had not died a sacrificial death, the new covenant of grace would be non-existent, and there would be no means in which anyone could be saved.

Contemplative spirituality ultimately rejects the gospel message, and those who continue in its path will eventually follow after other gods and be led away from the salvation freely given to all who will believe. Henri Nouwen, one of the most prominent figures in the contemplative movement, said that Buddhism and Hinduism offered many spiritual treasures to contribute to the life of the Christian (Disciplines for Christian Living - Ryan). What do Buddhism and Hinduism offer? Panentheism (God in everything)

If Manning, Shannon, Merton, McLaren and Jones are right, then there is no need to preach the gospel to the lost, for there are no lost - they are already connected to God and they just need to be made aware of that. But if Scripture is correct, then believers are compelled to defend and preach this message that we are reconciled to God through the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

8 Comments:

Blogger Capn said...

You ever think that Nouwen lived out a very powerful message of the Gospel with a similarly powerful motivation like the one in which you blog?

Nowhere in Nouwen's writings does he give anything less than a Gospel message. Nowhere in the life that he lived (and gave to serving others) does he give anything less than a pure message of Gospel many of us could learn from.

I don't think Merton, Nouwen or Manning would completely shirk the need to preach the Gospel, yet they are the ones who would encourage us to really BE the Gospel and live that out, that our being Christ to the world is our message. That, in fact, is what Henri Nouwen did with his life.

That type of living and working to heal the world through Christ's example are as or even more important than specific ideas one might embrace.

I greatly enjoy reading your blog and find your motivation utterly fascinating.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Capn:

By the way Capn, I also thought it utterly fascinating that you would see Thinkerup (Kenny) as the "Heritic Hunter". Nice song.

He has helped many people see the heresy in many different places. This is a good thing, not bad. Surely you would agree.

-Keith O.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Capn:

By the way Capn, I also thought it utterly fascinating that you would see Thinkerup (Kenny) as the "Heritic Hunter". Nice song.

He has helped many people see the heresy in many different places. This is a good thing, not bad. Surely you would agree.

-Keith O.

9:31 AM  
Blogger Cap'n said...

Thanks for your response. This blog is all about "heretic hunting," although I am sure it is more than that to you. It is the pursuit of the Gospel and the defense against anything that comes close to threatening it. I am one among many who thinks it doesn't so much need to be defended, but lived out.

I am so glad you liked the song. I also appreciate your voice in the dialogue here. Although I disagree with your underlying motivation for vilifying other followers of Jesus, I can identify with your passion for seeking out the truth.

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cap'n
I sense a good spirit in you, but I question one point. You say, 'I am one among many who thinks it (the Gospel) doesn't so much need to be defended, but lived out.' Why either/or here? Paul and Peter both speak of a defense of the Gospel in Philippians 1:7-10&17 and I Peter 3:15. I sometimes think we forget we are all, in Christ a part of His Body, and each is called to a unique service. Romans 12 speaks at length of the dynamic of that body as does Ephesians 4 and I Corinthians 12&14. I am not skipping 13 but insist the only way any of us can adequately serve the Master is to abide in the truth of I Corinthians 13. I Corinthians 11:18&19 speak of the need to articulate, I believe, a reasonable debate over truth and error but to assume that one should not exercise a gift that others may not have? .... I hope I can solicit further discussion on this.
Hank

9:06 PM  
Blogger Four Pointer said...

Just one more reason that Brennan Manning makes me sick to mu stomach. I tried to read "Ragamuffin Gospel" a couple years go before I knew what he was all about. I got to about page 70 before I had to throw it down. It was utter garbage.

As far as being "heresy hunters"--in light of the command given us in Jude 3, I'll gladly wear that badge.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Ken Silva said...

"Nowhere in Nouwen's writings does he give anything less than a Gospel message."

I beg to differ. Here is Nouwen from his book Sabbatical Journey:

“Today I personally believe that Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not” (51)

This is not the Gospel.

9:14 PM  
Blogger Cap'n said...

Nouwen, by his life, lived out a message of the Gospel that is simply radical commitment to God by helping others. I would think that we can learn deeply from Nouwen and read those words from the context of his life.

The door is wider than you might imagine.

Imagine your surprise when we all get to heaven, you smiling, sitting close to Brian McLaren, hugging Rob Bell, and playing hackey-sack with Doug Pagitt. You might even be able to have tea with Ghandi, Merton, Nouwen, and Jesus.

4:34 PM  

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