Theology 2.0

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Theology 101 Updated – Still Speculative, Progressive & Universalist

Now that I have some time, it is time to rethink my “Speculative Theology” as posted on the website way back when.

Here’s the beginning of the my new speculative theological thinking (which is in need of more thought and better wordsmithing):

When the word “speculative” is applied to “theology,” all theology then becomes speculative. The thing about speculative theology is that our theology can change, and will change, as we experience God.
The following addresses changes in my thinking that relate to points 8 & 9 in my “Speculative Theology 1.0.”

The other day I was asked about whether I could sign a particular statement of faith that included the concept of redemption. I struggle with that word, as for me at least, it implies that Jesus in his death and resurrection was victorious over sin, and that in his death paid the penalty for our sins and redeemed us from eternal spiritual death.

For me, the emphasis of the Christian faith is on incarnation—God with us—rather than redemption and our need to be forgiven before we can gain eternal life. In the birth of Jesus, it is as St. Francis said, already Easter. In his coming in the flesh God affirms that it is good to be human. The incarnation affirms that we are created in the image of God, whole holy people with the potential to live as such.
With the emphasis on the incarnation there is no need then for a sacrificial atonement. In Jesus’ death and resurrection we are shown (as Fr Richard Rohr puts it) the infinite and participatory love of God, and non-exclusive, not only in our life, but also in all of creation.

God’s participatory love reveals to us how we can become fully human (wholly holy), fully reconciled on our part to God. God has never left us, or tuned his back on us—an impossibility for a loving God. Therefore, God has no need to be reconciled to us, as the idea of a sacrificial, penal atonement implies.
With the Christian faith rooted in incarnation, the Christian life becomes about striving to live a life that participated fully in the incarnation. The God who participates in this life—who is fully present in this life—is also the God who continually draws us, without exclusion, into his presence now and upon death.

If Christianity is rooted, as I believe, in God’s fully non-exclusive, participatory love rather than some sort of penal atonement there is no need for eternal punishment in hell (although we humans are quite capable of creating our own hell on earth as we struggle against God’s all-embracing love), nor is there a need for some sort of afterlife remediation. Simply put, all upon death without exception, will enter into God’s Love and Presence.

2 Replies to “Theology 2.0”

  1. The Participatory Atonement
    vs. the Substitutionary Atonement

    The “suffering servant” of Isaiah 53 originally referred only to the nation of Israel, not the Messiah. To this day, that is the interpretation accepted by most Jews. The nation of Israel was being punished for their iniquities and at the same time they were being healed by it. The purpose of God’s judgments on the nation of Israel was not retribution but refinement and purification, and in the end they are healed and restored.

    Christians saw in this passage a foreshadowing of the cross of Christ. By substituting Christ for the Nation of Israel, they came up with the idea of a “substitutionary atonement,” whereby Christ takes the place of the nation of Israel and suffers in their stead. There is no doubt that most early Christians saw it this way, as most of them do to this day. On the surface, this seems to be what happened at Calvary.

    The Apostle Paul, I believe, saw a deeper meaning. We are not cleansed by what Christ did on Calvary on our behalf, but instead by our PARTICIPATION in His death and resurrection. All of us, like the Hebrew nation, suffer for our iniquities, the purpose of which is to refine and purify us. The difference with Jesus is that he did not suffer for his own iniquities, but ours. He identified Himself with our sin, took upon Himself our humanity, and suffered the consequences of our sin right along with us. The atonement that took place on Calvary does not mean that we do not suffer for our iniquities. It means that Christ suffers with us, forgives us, and lifts us up to new life TOGETHER WITH HIM in Heaven. If God had chastised Christ “instead of” or “on behalf of” us, then He would not still be chastising Christians today. God chastises those whom He loves, and He loves all of us, Christians and non-Christians alike.

    In Romans 6:1-14, the Apostle Paul elaborates on this:

    “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

    For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

    Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

    In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

    Richard Goyette

    1. Richard, thank you for your comment. For me personally, the death and resurrection of Christ is neither participatory or substitutionary. Both are versions of Atonement Theory. For me, Christ’s death and resurrection is about our reconciliation to God, not God’s reconciling with us through some sort of bloody atonement. In the death and resurrection we learn how to live as we were created, Children of God. I’ll be writing more about this after Epiphany.

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