Doing Theology On The PhxP

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46 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    Why this is important…what you believe the mission was will determine almost all the rest of your theology…

  2. PM says:

    I’ll take a run at it – in two sentences.

    Death was his final payment for our sins. The old was done with and the new was coming via the resurrection.

  3. Reuben says:

    I used to have an answer to this that was well rehearsed… now I don’t know.

    My mind still goes to this, “Created sick and ordered with the threat of eternal punishment to be well.” After that, it’s hard to know what Jesus did.

  4. Jean says:

    His mission was clearly foretold by the angel: Mt. 1:21.

  5. Eric says:

    I’m not a big bible scholar like many on this site are, but I happen to remember that “it is finished” = tetelestai, and this was sometimes used to mean that a sentence was completed. Done the crime, done the time, no further price to pay.
    In this case, we did the crime, Christ did the time and we are free.
    That’s not the whole of what Jesus came to do, but it seems a good way to read that verse.

  6. Linn says:

    Substitutionary atonement for the sins of man

  7. JoelG says:

    Im in way over my head here but I’m intrigued by a thought I’ve read that the Incarnation is the culmination of God’s creation that began in Genesis. The “it” that was “finished” by Christ was the creation of mankind in and through Himself.

    This could be way off the mark but I find it fascinating.

  8. The New Victor says:

    To redeem humanity back to God.

  9. Xenia says:

    He came to destroy death and the Devil.
    —-
    No one need lament poverty,
    for the kingdom is seen as universal.
    No one need grieve over sins;
    forgiveness has dawned from the tomb.
    No one need fear death;
    the Savior’s death has freed us from it.
    While its captive He stifled it.
    He despoiled Hades as He descended into it; it was angered when it tasted His flesh.
    Foreseeing this, Isaiah proclaimed: “Hades,” he
    said, “was angered when he met You below.”
    It was angered because it was abolished
    It was angered because it was mocked
    It was angered because it was slain.
    It was angered because it was shackled.
    It received a body and encountered God.
    It took earth and came face-to-face with heaven.
    It took what I saw and fell by what if could not see.
    Death, where is your sting?
    Hades, where is your victory?
    Christ is risen and you are overthrown.
    Christ is risen and demons have fallen.
    Christ is risen and angels rejoice.Christ is risen and life rules.Christ is risen and not one dead remains in thetomb.
    For Christ, having risen from the dead,
    has become the firstfruits of those that slept.
    To Him be the glory and the dominion, forever.Amen.

    from St. John Chrysostom’s Pascal (Easter) sermon

  10. Shawn says:

    I am game but please note that my reply is not well reasoned, thought out, or rehearsed. As such I suppose I should get a pass if I straddle the line between heresy and orthodoxy.

    There is a part of me which thinks of Jesus’ mission in substitutionary/penal terms. Admittedly I am not willing to throw the idea out altogether. In this moment I am thinking in terms of multiple aspects as opposed to a single aspect which would define His mission.

    Yet, even as I write that it intuitively seems based on the context of Jesus’ death that his mission was to enter the restraints of human existence which is corralled by two absolute realities- life and death. He was not spared these universally human constraints. As God until the Incarnation and Crucifixion bookended the life of Christ there was no existential frame of reference to birth or death. In essence then the mission of Jesus could be seen as the full immersion into the bitter reality of human frailty. I think there is even Scriptural credence for this in the fact that Jesus seems to be at least mildly obsessed with His own death throughout the Gospel narratives (especially Luke 9).

    It is from this identification with the constraints of human existence that other aspects of His mission become evident. While we might be tempted to immediately point to the manner and method that he dealt with sin there may be other salient portions of it to first consider. One aspect that comes to mind the act of inaugurating, facilitating, and consummating the practicality of human participation in the Kingdom of God.

    Also wrapped up in this idea of human experience is the fact that two existential realities, one spiritual and one physical, are part and parcel of human existence, that is, sin and death. Surely, one of the aspects of Jesus’ mission must by necessity deal with these two things. Here it is essential that Jesus not only die within the context of human limitations and experience. If death was the end of His experience with the human nature, then nothing significant truly happens. Yes, God experiences what all humans experience but the story quite frankly ends. Nothing changes as death remains the final equalizer.

    We all know that is not the end. As essential, though more Biblically veiled, to Jesus’ mission is the conquering of death. The great news is just not that God experienced death to bring an end to the consequences of sin but that after death comes resurrection. An aspect of resurrection that may be often overlooked is that through Jesus’ resurrection he opened the way for a new human experience, an addendum to the former finality of the death clause. It is essentially a reinstatement, as punctuated as it may be, of the original Tree of Life and in due time life in Eden once more.

    An interesting undeveloped raw thought that just came to mind is that it is all about a tree. First, at the start in the Garden. Second, in the middle at the cross. Finally, it ends with the tree in Revelation.

    Too many interruptions to keep going. I really should refine and edit but I am no stranger to throwing caution to the wind. I probably should have learned my lesson years ago. Lol.

  11. Josh says:

    What was finished? Old Covenant.

  12. Michael says:

    Thank you all for chiming in…I’d hoped to be more involved but life keeps interrupting my leisure.

    For me, the clues start in John 1 where we are reminded that Jesus was in the beginning…the Creator God.

    He made all things good…and that good was partially undone by the Fall.

    The mission was the re-creation and reconciliation of the all things to God in Christ…both the creation and humanity.

    The mission was grounded in love…for God so loved the cosmos…

    We’re the advance troops of this new kingdom to come…

  13. Terry says:

    For me, penal substitutionary atonement is just part of the story. All the atonement theories are valid: ransom, christus victor, mimetic scapegoat, etc. What Jesus accomplished is multifaceted.

    For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. – Colossians 1:20

  14. JoelG says:

    I think you’ve nailed it, Michael. We are told that Christ was crucified before the foundation of the world. It makes me wonder if it’s “re-creation” or is creation, from the beginning, cruciform in nature? See Fr John Behr’s writings on “Plan A” and “Plan B”.

  15. Jerod says:

    For God so loved the cosmos before the whosoever believes … I think it means any who receive him, whatever the measure of faith is that they are given, yes, because the mission is reconciliation. Shallow enough for a child to play in, and deep enough for an elephant to drown in. Love this post, Michael.

  16. Muff Potter says:

    I hold to the tenets of The Apostle’s Creed as non-negotiable parameters up-front and on the table.
    But I flatly reject the doctrine of PSA (penal substitutionary atonement).

  17. Michael says:

    JoelG,

    Thanks…and a great question you pose…

  18. Michael says:

    Jerod,

    We’re close to the same page…glad you’re enjoying the discussion.

  19. Michael says:

    Terry,

    Agree on atonement theories…and I could meditate on this passage for the rest of my days and never fully understand the implications…
    “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
    for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.
    He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
    Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.
    For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
    and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”

    (Colossians 1:15-20 NLT-SE)

    That was the mission…and the mission was completed.

  20. Alan says:

    “I thirst”

    I believe this was the consummation of the unfinished Seder. It appears in two Gospels that Jesus ended the Seder with the Great Hallel. They sang a “hymn” and went out.

    The Seder involves 4 cups of wine each with a role to play in telling the Israel story. The Passover story. It is telling that when Jesus went out he prayed about a cup and submitted to drink it. Doing so would make him the body and blood of the Passover. He announced as much when he took the cup “after the supper.” That was the third cup which we know was the “cup of blessing.”

    On the way to the cross Jesus rejected the wine that would bring him some measure of anesthetic. He then goes to the cross announces his mission Ps 22. Then he announces his thirst and now receives the wine from the hyssop branch sponge – recalling the Passover sacrifice and blood on the doorpost.

    Then he announces “It is finished!” Not his punishment (another discussion) but his obedience hallowing the Father’s name. The darkness abated (defeated in an open display) and the work of the cross is accomplished.

    If this is true it places his completion of the unique Seder at the ninth hour. This allows his disciples to now see that his death is not a martyrdom but a sacrifice, “our Passover lamb.” I Co 5:7.

    The completion of the Seder means the new Moses has brought a new exodus to a renewed Israel. By Pentecost Peter understands and calls for repentance as the means of the Davidic revolution.

    As usual I am subject to error but these are my thoughts based upon my research. These are not original ideas. Nothing I know is original.

    Glad to do theology. It keeps me interested here.

  21. Alan says:

    And Michael I pray your transition accomplishes peace and dignity for you all.

  22. Michael says:

    Alan,

    Nothing I know is original either…but I so love these explorations.

    “The completion of the Seder means the new Moses has brought a new exodus to a renewed Israel. ”

    Agreed…we read some of the same people… 🙂

  23. Michael says:

    Alan,

    Thank you…thus far it has been really good for me, not so good for mom…but this too shall pass.

  24. Michael says:

    I have to go check on mom…but I’m curious as to what this means to folk here…

    “For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,
    and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”

    According to this…everything and everyone has been reconciled to God in Christ …it is a completed mission.
    The fullness of it all will be realized in the eschaton.

    What then is our mission?

  25. Alan says:

    That statement cannot be absolutized apart from the rest of his corpus that repeatedly makes faith the necessary basis of benefiting from this work.

    “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭1‬:‭23‬ ‭ESV‬‬

    I know the universalist impulse tends to pull these statements and isolate them.

    What have I missed?

  26. Michael says:

    Alan,

    You haven’t missed anything and I do have the universalist impulse.

    I do absolutize the statement in theory…and can also see the necessity of faith in other scripture.

    The question then becomes…what is faith and where does it come from?

    If it is a gift from God…then God may well give it to all at some point..the rocks can’t penetrate my catio…:-)

  27. Alan says:

    Ah

    Your catio will be invulnerable to my pebbles. I make this observation universalism is a form of Calvinism writ large. All thereby are predetermined for salvation. Of course that requires post mortem faith and turns the fire of hell into a purification. My friend Brad Jersak works hard at making that case in his Her Gates Shall Never Ne Shut.

    For me the fire is one that consumes and thereby allows the gift of faith to be resisted effectually.

    Much in this debate is just beyond our grasp in that we have no clarity on the unseen realm of the dead.

    This much I am clear about we are compelled by his mandate to herald his great salvation to all. We would no doubt agree about that.

    I hope for more reaction from others concerning my response to “I thirst”. It is foundational to my Eucharistic theology.

    Grace and Peace.

  28. filistine says:

    At first blush, I consider the crucifixion–it is over. Second blush, his earthly sojourn in human flesh–done. Third, the covenant he came to fulfill and set aside as obsolete–check. Fourth, I’m simply blushing…

    I appreciate the comments and contributions.

  29. Everstudy says:

    I’m interested to hear how a universalist position deals with true evil. How do the Hitlers, the Stalins, the Maos, etc… fit it?

  30. Michael says:

    Everstudy,

    The theoretical universalism I lean toward does not deny the existence of Hell.

    There will be those who must undergo purification by fire until they bow the knee…

  31. Everstudy says:

    Michael,

    That’s kind of what I’m assuming.

    I just wonder how hot the flame has to get to purify that sort of evil.

  32. Bryon Mondok says:

    His death was the mission. His bodily resurrection was the proof the mission was successful, acceptable, and complete.

  33. Dread says:

    I have been watching christian universalism grow for a generation now. Sorry, but the fruit it bears is barrenness in missions and evangelism, a gateway to unitarianism, an increasing gateway to apostasy, and general malaise of passion for the one who sits upon the throne.

    I am not accusing anyone here with regard to this, least of all our host. But widespread universalist embrace will not bring forth the glorious church.

    Evangelicalism has many many flaws but the lack of zeal for Christ is not one of them.

  34. Michael says:

    Dread,

    What an abysmally lazy theological statement .

    Leaning into ultimate reconciliation has produced in me a much deeper faith and fervor to spread the Gospel in contrast to your statement.

    I could parry with saying the apostolic renewal has produced a group of charlatans, thieves, and liars such as hasn’t been seen since Tetzel, but that wouldn’t be a speaking to any real theological issues or thinking…

  35. Jean says:

    Maybe Xenia can answer, but anyone else is welcome to weigh in on this question: Are there any (and who and in what works) orthodox Church fathers who taught universalism.

    The weight of Scripture is overwhelmingly against universalism, so aside from pious hopes, what evidence is there that universalism is a position within orthodox Christianity?

    The charge of it being a gateway to apostasy is a reasonable conclusion. Why would anyone suffer for his beliefs (either from external pressure or internal) if he is saved no matter what?

  36. Michael says:

    Jean,

    Much of what I know of universal reconciliation is grounded in early Orthodox fathers.

    The weight of Scripture as Lutherans and evangelicals have been taught to interpret it is opposed to universalism…there are other possibilities.

    We suffer for Jesus, not a set of dogmas.

    I’ll take Bonhoeffer over Billy Graham any day…

  37. Michael says:

    As for “orthodox Christianity”…there is not a single letter of the Apostles creed or the Nicene Creed that I deny…some folks like to expand “orthodoxy” beyond the creeds…I’m not one of those people…

  38. Jean says:

    The creeds begin with “I believe” or “We believe.” Faith is patently embedded in the very language of the creeds. It would never occur to the early confessors that the blessings included in the creeds are given to anyone who rejects the contents of the creeds.

  39. Muff Potter says:

    “I’ll take Bonhoeffer over Billy Graham any day…”

    So will I Michael, so will I…

  40. Dread says:

    Sorry Michael

    I’m dealing with the boots on the ground realities. Real people and real churches that have been gutted by universal redemption preachers.

    Perhaps the laziness is theirs but it real. The apostasy is real as are the split churches.

    I agree with your retort of renewal frauds.

  41. Michael says:

    Dread,

    Real people and real churches have been decimated by political considerations as well…on what evangelical doctrine do you blame that?

    Evidently, a robust doctrine of hell hasn’t scared anyone into accountability for all the sexual and abuse scandals, either.

    A subjective assessment of “fruit” has nothing to do with an ideas theological veracity…

  42. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean,

    Clement of Alexandria

    Origen

    Gregory of Nyssa

    Diodorus of Tarsus

    Maximus the Confessor

    to name a few…

  43. Chris says:

    Alan,
    I’m very interested in hearing more about your linkage of the cups to the Seder and Eucharist, etc. That is a topic I find fascinating,and I would love to hear more about, or have fleshed out in further detail.

  44. Alan says:

    Chris

    Write to me at babylonthegreatisfallen@gmail.com

  45. Alan says:

    Michael

    None of this invites ongoing conversation… your first attempt to rebuff me was met with agreement – lots of renewal hucksters out there.

    Then you triple down with clear agitation. I don’t think I merited it but self perception is a tricky thing. With that in mind I yield the field to the home team.

  46. Michael says:

    Alan,

    In a theological discussion I expect to hear theological arguments, not simply accusations.

    I base a lot of my thinking on the early Orthodox fathers and modern thinkers like Bonhoeffer…I haven’t read Jerzak but I would expect him to draw heavily from those same wells.

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