In John 5:22 Jesus declares, “The Father judges no one. Instead, He has given to the son absolute authority to judge.”
According to this verse, God the Father delegated and relinquished all judgment to His son. So, what judgment does Jesus make? What is His verdict?
On the cross, during the most wicked and rebellious act in human history, when the evil and depravity of mankind reaches its final apex and the human race in league with the satanic powers of spiritual darkness conspire together in the brutal torture and murder of the Son of God — the One to whom all judgment has been assigned — at that very moment as He gasps his final breaths, He declares from the cross “Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing”.
And in that moment, Jesus Christ, the Father’s delegated judge of all who have ever lived, issues an unconditional and universal pardon to the entire human race. The only One with the authority and right to condemn us all is the very One who pronounces us now forgiven and reconciled.
“For God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:17)
“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself and not counting men’s sins against them.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
Back when I was a Fundamentalist, Charismatic Evangelical Christian, we used to pray for God to ‘move’ on the earth like He’d never done before. For decades now, most of the Evangelical church has been praying for this worldwide ‘move’ of God, and promising the carrot of the Kingdom which will happen ‘really soon now’, but it never seemed to get any closer.
And that’s because we were looking in the wrong direction.
Ironically, the great work that God is doing right now, in answer to those prayers, is happening among people of all faiths, of all denominations, and of all cultures, races and creeds. It’s happening among people whom the Church would normally see as outcasts: the down-and-outs; the LGBTQ+ community; the divorced; refugees from cults; the poor – in fact, all the people whom Jesus said the Kingdom was for. In the parable of the Banquet in Luke 14:15-24, Jesus spoke of all the privileged people (probably meaning the Religious) who made excuses, so He sent out into the ‘highways and hedges’ (so, outside the church), and almost forced them to come in! And this is what is happening right now, and many if not most in the Evangelical church can’t see it, mainly because they deem the ‘sinners’ being ‘forced’ to come in to be not worthy of the Kingdom. But Jesus never said that anyone had to be worthy; He just invited them anyway, with no conditions, because He is giving a great banquet. Because He’s like that. And the irony is that God is doing this in answer to those very prayers that the Evangelical church has been sending up, and those of many others too – and they just can’t see it; in fact some people even brand it a work of the Devil – again, just like the Religious people in Jesus’ day (Mt 12:24). The ‘tax collectors and prostitutes (i.e. those not accepted by the Religious) are going into the Kingdom ahead of those who are praying for revival (Mt 21:31)! Irony indeed!
That the church of today is missing it all is unsurprising; the Religious missed what God was doing the first time round too, when Jesus first came. Because the wind blows where She wants Jn 3:8), and not where Religious humans say She has to; that’s just another way of saying that God always does stuff that’s unexpected. But for those with the eyes to see it, it’s magnificent. If it’s God Who is doing something, then the results will be well worth seeing 😀
Anyway, here’s the brilliant Dave Carringer who puts all this a lot better than I do:
Salvation. You might (or not) like hearing the word at this point in your life. Yet taken back to true meaning (before the doctrinal distortions of man were applied to it) it was simply a place of peace, wholeness, preservation and freedom- even to the point of protection and rescue from something that could be of harm or a risk to that wholeness and well being.
The largest move of ‘salvation’ the world has ever known is taking place right now. The true Source of all Light and Life is waking people up (from within) all around the globe. They’re being rescued from veiled distortions of a God they once believed was angry, distant and too holy to live inside them- and back (re-newed) to an upper room consciousness of unity and Oneness with each other- out of the dumbed down, disrupted mindset of separation and alienated ideas of ‘us and them’.
There is a great falling away taking place that is necessary to catapult them back to the truth and resting place of their authentic origin. In this place of peace and wholeness, certain ideas have been taken captive and cast down from their vain and distorted war-like imaginations. This falling away isn’t at all like you may have heard taught over the years; it’s men and women dropping the ill-fitted grave clothes that reek with the stench of fear and death. It’s them leaving passively imposed control and religious hoop-jumping lists behind, and coming back to the true home place freedom of their right mind.
Among things falling away are:
Imaginations of a distant judging deity with a continual surveillance log, who’s only pleased by a certain kind of life in service and sacrifice.
Mythical imaginations of a place of eternal torment called ‘hell’ which those who don’t believe, live, and serve a certain way will be cast into.
The idea that one life is somehow more honored or valuable than another to the Source from which all Life comes.
The idea that this God will (in a cataclysmic sci-fi ending) destroy the terra firma earth that exists (while a few escape to a distant members-only paradise) rather than bring man’s mind back to the genesis awareness of ‘very good’ in which it was created.
Though things may ‘seem’ dark and prolonged to our minds that were programmed with ‘time’, one day it will be seen as happening in ‘the twinkling of an eye’. We can argue, debate, and push against it with our powerless traditions all we want- but it’s coming… and nothing can stop it.
And once we see how gloriously beautiful it truly is… we’ll wonder why we didn’t surrender to it long ago.
– Dave Carringer
This wave of the Spirit is bringing a lot of shaking and uncertainty to some Christians. I can understand that many people who feel that they are ‘holding the line for God’; standing up for His truth while so much ‘error’ is flying around; I can understand why they might feel threatened, that the truth is being diluted, and that the Gospel is not being preached. That the ‘whole counsel of Scripture’ is not being adhered to.
What I can suggest to you, if you are reading this and are one of those people, is that you get close to Jesus. Not necessarily by reading more of your Bible, although if this is His main way of speaking to you, then it’s a starting point. But what I mean is to get close to the heart of Jesus Himself. Listen for His voice. Hear the still, small voice right there in your heart. If He tells you something you don’t agree with because it’s not related to how you interpret the Bible, simply remember that Jesus is not confined to the pages of the Bible, and He’s certainly not confined to the way in which you personally understand it.
So, begin to swim in the ‘oceans‘ that you have sung about, where feet may fail. In fact, allow your feet to fail. You’re not supposed to be standing in your own strength anyway; you already know this. Launch off the ‘foundation’ you have been standing on – your own assumptions about God; your own Graven Image of God – and swim free in the oceans of bottomless faith. He will catch you; He will keep you afloat. There is simply no other way to live, and if you can bring yourself to swim like this, there is no limit to where you will go in that vast ocean of faith. But you need to let go of the jetty, and to take your feet out to where there is no bottom. Because when you’re out there, you won’t need feet anyway; you will be kept afloat by Jesus. Whose hands would you feel safer in: yours or His?
My friend Phil Drysdale is a man with a remarkable ministry.
He helps people to grow as Christians while giving them permission to allow that growth, in full realisation that sometimes that growth is constrained by the church environment they are in, maybe their circe of friends, maybe their family.
Phil helps these people to realise that it’s ok to grow outside the plant-pot they have been raised in since they were seedlings. Sometimes for the first time, these dear ones see that growth is normal, that it doesn’t always go in the direction that their peers want, and that it’s always healthy even if sometimes (actually usually!) painful. In his seminars and meetings, Phil provides a safe space where people can be open about all aspects of their growth, and realise from meeting others in a similar place that they’re not alone in their travels
And Phil has a lot more patience with naysayers than I do 😉 I don’t have a lot of time for people who try to bring down the Good News to their level, down there in the pits of mud and despair of deadly Religion. Religion that hampers rather than promotes; Religion that steals, kills and destroys rather than giving Life in all its fulness (Jn 10:10). But, more than anyone else I know, Phil also includes these people too in the ‘growth’ framework, because, whether they like it or not, and whether they fight it or not, the growth pressures are almost always still there. He can see it; I can’t.
And so that brings me to today’s gems of wisdom from Phil. I want to learn everything I can from this great little essay, and apply it. How well I will stand up when confronted by the naysayers, I don’t know…but this little piece is golden and I hope that my readers, at least, can be encouraged by it.
Over to Phil:
Many people are victims of their framework. When their rules of engaging with their faith require them to seek to move society backwards they are naturally going to be scared, confused, aggressive, upset etc. when society naturally moves forward.
There is no scenario in which they win, certainly not for more than a few years here or there which end up being blips in history. Any student of history will tell you we are moving gradually forward in remarkably positive ways.
We continue to move forward, society evolves, spirituality evolves. We are more loving, more inclusive, more accepting etc. etc.
These people are fighting a losing battle, they have lost again and again throughout history and while they can still have tremendous negative impacts on society that impact is lessening every single day. Not only that but less and less people are believing the lie that our future is in the past. Every day more and more people wake up and see the future is believe it or not, in the future! And even better, we can bring it about TODAY!
There is a danger that we look down upon such people rooted in the past though. The truth is that they are not inherently bad people but rather good people lost in an old dead system.
We must learn to cease demonising these groups of people intent on dragging the world backwards… rather we need to remember to humanise them. For they very much are human. They are scared, they have no other options for how to see the world. Some in time will wake up. But many won’t. And it is very unsettling to see society moving in the opposite direction from the one you’ve been told since birth we need to move.
The safer you can make them feel in these moments of growth and evolution the less grief we will be creating.
Our goal as we continue to transcend as a society should be to try and minimise the growing pains as much as we can for those not ready for growth. To love people where they are at while not allowing their desire to live in the past to hold society as a whole back.
Phil hasn’t asked me to do this, but it is possible to support him financially in his ministry. He also runs a network called ‘The Deconstruction Network’ which enables Christians from all over the globe to contact other Christians in a similar growth/deconstruction position. For more details, visit his website where the links to all his great material are available for free. There’s also his other site, ‘The Deconstruction Network‘. And if you’d like to support his ministry. there are links on both those sites about supporting him, via ‘becoming a partner’ or ‘support us’.
I just wanted to make a plug for my daughter’s new EP that’s just been released today.
It’s a six-track EP/album called ‘Ashes’ and it’s taken her more than a year to create the songs on it. All proceeds go to our local Hospice, Rowcroft Hospice, where Ellie’s Mum was looked after for her last few days on this earth.
It’s priced very reasonably at £3.54 on Amazon, and I am sure it will be on other countries’ Amazon sites too. It’s also avaliable on streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music; just search ‘Ellie Rosie’ to find the links to this and all her other published music.
Click the image below to go to the Amazon UK sales page, where you can also listen to some short preview clips from the tracks on the EP. Ellie is a very talented young lady with a superb singing voice and excellent songwriting skills; even the short clips will send shivers down your spine 🙂
On the back of my last post about pets being with us in Heaven, here’s a lovely piece shared by my friend Mo Thomas, which I think was originally written by a chap called Keith Wilson. It describes a lovely act of human kindness and compassion to a grieving soul. Let it minister to you:
“Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month. The day after she passed away, my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God, so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so, and she dictated these words:
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.
I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.
We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.
Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies.’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:
Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away.
Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.
Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I’m easy to find. I am wherever there is love.
You will be happy to know this wonderful story is 100% true.
“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” “
I would think it likely that most people are familiar with the grief and loss that we feel when a well-beloved pet dies, and so I reckon the piece was so popular because so many people could identify with it, and hopefully many were helped by it too. The essay was particularly well-received on the Unfundamentalists site (possibly because more people saw it), and the ensuing discussion was very touching as I got some lovely comments from people who had been blessed and encouraged by it. Encouragement is what I do, so I was really pleased to see one comment in particular, which I will quote here:
“I lost my best friend, Strudel (German Shepherd), to cancer on Sunday. He was the best person I have ever known, and my heart is broken. Then, this blog showed up in my email box, and I am so grateful to for the comfort it has given me. I write this with tears in my eyes, but I know that he is waiting for me with Jesus in heaven, enjoying plenty of his favorite food (hot dog buns)”
That comment brings tears to my eyes too, even now, years later 🙂
After that comment, the discussion sadly degenerated rather rapidly into some pretty dull theological stuff, which I won’t share here. There are people who, because of their limited theology, believe that pets can’t be in Heaven. They would rather their theology remains intact – which the idea doesn’t really threaten, as animal ‘sin’ is not really an issue – than believe that even they will see their beloved pets again – or that anyone else will see theirs, either. Sad, sad people, without much hope for what Heaven will be like (far, far, better than anything we can imagine!), and who want to drag others down into that mire too. And that’s tragic.
But still the raw emotion of that comment about Strudel demonstrated the point of what my essay was aiming at. The encouragement of the ‘silent listeners’ who don’t get caught up in pointless discussion, who don’t try to argue others out of the real hope they have in the interests of ‘following Scripture’ (whatever happened to ‘following Jesus’?), but who are simply blessed by the things they read that are a million miles away from the harsh, dogmatic and ungentle things that are written on so many faith blogs. That encouragement is what this stuff is all about.
And so, I will share today a couple of things that have really blessed me, in the hope that they will bless you too, my gentle readers.
We begin with the sadness of loss. Gutted to say that, a couple of weeks ago, we lost Merry, who was the oldest of our pet rats. That’s Merry in the header picture for this blog post.
Initially, Merry was a bit of a sad case when we first adopted him. We had four rats already (they were about a year old), and I was in a pet shop buying food and other accessories for them. When in the shop, I always make a habit of going to look at the baby rats (because they are so cute), and there in this cage all by himself was this beautiful white Dumbo rat. And so we rescued him from being condemned to a life of loneliness and isolation, and took him home with us. After displaying some initial behavioural problems, he eventually settled in just fine, after neutering and a caravan holiday (yes we take the rats in the caravan with us), and he turned out to be the sweetest, most lovable little fella you could ever want to meet.
But, like so many rats, he eventually succumbed to a respiratory problem and we had to make the hard decision to have him put to sleep. It was made a little easier because, even as we had him in the car with us waiting outside the vets, we could see him deteriorating: cyanosis (going blue) of the lips, nose and tongue, and no circulation in the ears. It was definitely his time, and having him put to sleep was the compassionate thing to do, primarily because dying of respiratory distress is not a good way to go. Rats only live for two to three years, and Merry was just over two years old, but still, to lose that lovely little character with all his funny habits and his gentle and wise nature – it was terrible.
I mentioned in the previous ‘pets/heaven’ essay that my late wife Fiona had really clear and vivid visions from God that brought real comfort to her in times of emotional anguish.
Well, I too had one of Merry after he died. I saw him in Fiona’s hands, having scrambled along her forearms, and sniffing at the ‘camera’ (you know, the dream’s ‘viewpoint’) and Fiona was saying “Where’s your Grandpa?” (that’s me!). Building once again on my firm belief that our pets go with us into the afterlife, I was greatly encouraged by that vision and I shared it with my daughter too, and it encouraged her.
Looking back a couple of years, there was an occasion (when we had four rats) and we went on a caravan holiday (before we’d worked out how to take them with us on a regular basis), and we asked our lovely, kindly neighbours to come in and feed the rats for us in our absence. On our return, the rats went absolutely nuts when they welcomed us back. They came charging over towards us and gave us a right royal welcome, just like if you’d been away from home for a fair while and your dog welcomed you back.
And this brings me to Merry’s Legacy. That vision I had, and like I said above, building on my belief that our pets will be with us in the ‘hereafter’, led me to thinking about what that will be like when we arrive. I mean, I would have liked to have thought that Jesus would be the first to welcome me, followed closely by Fiona. But now I’m not so sure. If I have any dog owners reading this, how often have you noticed your dog hold back behind other humans when he comes to welcome you as you get home from work? It’s never happened once, in my experience. The dogs have always got there first in their enthusiasm and exuberance in welcoming home the humans that they love.
Do you see where I’m going with this? What if the first of our friends to welcome us into Heaven are our pets? What if the dogs come charging ahead and bowl me over with their enthusiastic welcome? How can they not do that; they are dogs! With the humans laughing at their antics, but still left well behind them? So, my dogs Melody, Jasper, Katie, Poppy, Bruno and Zeus. No doubt the cats, Daisy and Tigger, will be off doing their own thing and just being cats. And as for the rats: Zig, Zag, Honey, Rosie, Pepper, Sammy, Toby, Wally, Finn, Obi, Pippin, Merry (Peter and Raven are still with us) – these guys will all be right there and trying to get to me first. Even the chickens, and if you’ve ever seen a flock of chickens charging enthusiastically towards you to see what you’ve got for them, you’ll know what I mean 😀 What a lovely picture that is!
All these individual, unique characters – people – in their own right, and precious and beloved by us and by God because of that.
So, with all that competition, maybe Jesus and Fiona might not get to me first, then? 😉
You see, I think Heaven is going to be so full of wonderful surprises: things we thought we had lost forever; people we thought we’d never see again; pets who were so much part of our lives. And the reunion is going to be spectacular! Maybe I have even created a spoiler today; I mean who’d have thought that their pets would not only be there in Heaven, but that they would be the first to welcome us? But I think we can be sure that Heaven will be immeasurably greater than any spoiler I can give 🙂
I often say that God’s two greatest mistakes were a) putting nerves in teeth, and b) giving our pets such short lifespans. Regarding the pet lifespans, I am sure that there’s a deep reason for it, which I kinda have some inkling of (in fact I am sharing some of the wisdom in this essay) and which God reveals in small amounts as we walk with Him, just as He does with all of Life’s Big Questions. I trust Him fully, I know I’ll understand it all one day. and that’s all good. (But the nerves in teeth thing, well no, just no 😉 )
But still, our pets are amazing animals, who in their own way demonstrate to us God’s love and care. When we get to Heaven, I’m sure that we will more fully understand what their function and role has been for us in this life. They are God’s ministers to us – which is probably why cults ban their members from having them. Can’t have the real God showing up, now can we? 😉 And His ministry through these incredible animals – dogs, rats, cats, chickens – is real and tangible. The healing, unconditional love and acceptance that they display mirrors closely those same characteristics in our healing, loving and accepting Heavenly Father. And why not? Is not God capable of showing His character through all His Creation?
Merry’s Legacy has been to show me just what these creatures do for us and how much they enrich our lives; how much they minister God to us. And it’s also shown me a good bit more of what my welcome into Heaven will be like. And I have Merry to thank for that.
The pain of the loss of our dear ones – humans and animals alike – will be nothing when compared to the joy of our reunion with them. Remember that divine ‘judgment’ means that all that was wrong will be put right; all hurts will be healed; everything that ever caused us tears of pain and sadness will become just a dim memory. Now that’s Good News! This is the Gospel! If it doesn’t lead you to believe that everything – everything! – will turn out right in the end, then it isn’t the real Gospel, because nothing other than that, as a final result, will even come close to being God’s best for us. Would God stop at anything short of absolute perfection, when it comes to our eternal home?
Finally, I would say that one of the things that we do when saying goodbye to our pets is that we thank them. We thank them for all the love and heartfelt presence they have ministered to us for the short time we had them, and for all the input they have had into our lives. So, I say thank you, Merry, for all you’ve been to us, your family; all you’ve done for us; and all you’ve taught us about selflessness, self-giving, tolerance and gentleness. And I will see you again soon.
Before anyone runs away, please let me say a word in favour of rats as pets! Rats get a really bad press in the public eye; they are seen as dirty, disease-carrying, vicious and bitey creatures with weird tails, and they give a lot of people the shivers. That, and they are regularly used for the ‘Yeuch!’ factor in game shows such as ‘I’m a celebrity, get me out of here!‘ where lots of (tame!) rats are released into some sort of coffin or box along with the contestant. But in actuality, even wild rats are neither dirty (they hate being dirty and wash themselves at every opportunity), and nor are they vicious; they would much rather simply be left alone. And pet rats, or ‘fancy rats’, are different again from wild rats. In addition to having some differences in the ways their bodies work, they too are clean, and are also beautiful, affectionate, gentle, empathetic, intelligent, caring animals with a very high emotional intelligence and, in some cases, a level of real wisdom that I have not seen very often in humans. They all have individual personalities and they really do make great pets. In fact, I know people for whom rats were recommended as ‘assistance animals’ to help with mental illness issues.
Dumbo rats have larger, rounder ears which are situated further down the sides of their heads than the usual ear position. ‘Top-eared’ rats are the ‘usual’ ear pattern for rats. Dumbos, however, are bred specifically to make them more ‘cute’ and appealing to humans, essentially so they sell better. It’s actually been quite hard to find top-eared rats in pet shops recently!
Picture shows two baby rats (‘kittens’) of about ten weeks old; the guy on the left is a top-eared rat whereas the little rascal on the right is a Dumbo. The top-eared fellow’s ears will look smaller and better-proportioned once he’s grown up a bit; don’t forget these are babies.
It strongly irks me when pet shops will sell a single rat all by itself by removing it from its group, or when they leave a single rat in its sales cage when all its brothers/sisters have been sold. The isolated rat (sold or unsold) will be bewildered and heartbroken, wondering what they have done wrong, feeling lost and in complete despair. Rats are pack animals; they need to be in groups of at least two, and preferably more. And that isolation was what had happened to poor Merry. Sure, a rat will enjoy human company, but having a proper ‘mischief’ (the name for a social group of rats), will be far more beneficial.
Rats tend to suffer from two major health problems: tumours and respiratory issues
Because the rats belong to my daughter, their ‘mummy’, I of course am ‘Grandpa’
Whatever you need the Cross of Christ to be, for you, it will meet that need. It’s often been said that at the Cross, God meets all the deepest needs of mankind. Reconciliation with God? Check. Healing? Check. Forgiveness? Check. Putting to death of the ‘old nature’? Check. A sacrifice? Check. Demonstration of God’s love for us? Check. I myself no longer see the Cross as being the place where Jesus was sacrificed as a Lamb to appease a wrathful god. But if you, personally, need the Cross to be the place of sacrifice, then God is big enough, and the work of Christ at Calvary is huge enough, to meet that need. And that’s fine. Others will likely have different needs, and that’s fine too.
For myself, I no longer see the Cross through the lens of ‘penal substitutionary atonement’ (PSA), where Jesus ‘took my place’. I no longer consider PSA to be a viable Biblical concept, although I do understand why people believe that idea. I used to believe it myself, once upon a time. I’m generally not very good at describing what the Cross means to me, because it’s more of an internalised thing for me, although I have expressed some of my ideas in previous blog posts. I know what it means to me, and I know that I am continually learning more about just what Jesus did there. At the bare minimum, if we fix ourselves to just one particular interpretation, or ‘meaning’, of the Cross, we will miss out on learning so much more about what Jesus did there.
And so, for your upbuilding, here is a beautiful piece by the brilliant Jacob M. Wright, where he presents a superbly logical and totally Biblical idea on a particular aspect of the Cross. As usual, Jacob expressess his ideas with clarity and conviction:
Here is a couple lines from a beautiful and scathing critique of Christianity by Sam Harris. Part of his critique is of the superstitiously violent nature of religion throughout history and its nearly universal practice of sacrificing humans in a myriad of different horrific ways to “appease the gods” or satisfy strange superstitions. I fully agree with him in this particular critique and I believe a very different interpretation of the crucifixion which I will briefly go over afterwards.
“Upon seeing Jesus for the first time, John the Baptist is rumored to have said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). For most Christians, this bizarre opinion still stands, and it remains the core of their faith. Christianity is more or less synonymous with the proposition that the crucifixion of Jesus represents a final, sufficient offering of blood to a God who absolutely requires it (Hebrews 9:22-28). Christianity amounts to the claim that we must love and be loved by a God who approves of the scapegoating, torture, and murder of one man—his son, incidentally—in compensation for the misbehavior and thought-crimes of all others.
“Let the good news go forth: we live in a cosmos, the vastness of which we can scarcely even indicate in our thoughts, on a planet teeming with creatures we have only begun to understand, but the whole project was actually brought to a glorious fulfillment over twenty centuries ago, after one species of primate (our own) climbed down out of the trees, invented agriculture and iron tools, glimpsed (as through a glass, darkly) the possibility of keeping its excrement out of its food, and then singled out one among its number to be viciously flogged and nailed to a cross.”
I appreciate Harris’ brilliant words here in so much as he is exposing the wrong way of seeing Christianity. This is why we need to continue to overturn Calvin’s model of the atonement and show that with Christ we do not have what every other religion has in terms of slaughtering a creature to appease its god with blood, but rather we have a subversion of sacrifice and an overturning of normal sacrificial thinking.
I would start by pointing out that if the bloody torture and crucifixion of Jesus was demanded by God to appease his wrath, then why are Jesus torturers and killers considered evil in carrying out this act, if they were merely fulfilling a necessary barbaric human sacrifice ritual unto God and with every drop of blood appeasing him?
Here is the normal sacrificial routine: those bringing the sacrifice are considered righteous and pleasing to God by bringing an offering to slaughter unto God. Now contrast with Christ’s Passion: The ones carrying out the act are evil, not pleasing to God. And the one bringing the offering (“I lay my life down of my own accord”) is God himself who is offering himself to humanity. This is the opposite of a divine wrath-appeasing human sacrifice model. This is completely turned on its head.
If they were carrying out an act that in itself was good and pleasing to the Lord, namely torturing and killing Jesus as a human sacrifice to satisfy God’s wrath, then why did God go about it the way he did? Why didn’t Jesus just explain to his disciples to tie him down to an altar, slaughter him, and burn his flesh as a pleasing sacrificial aroma to God? Instead we have the opposite playing out, that it was an evil act and that it was God offering himself up to the hands of sinful men, rather than humans offering a sacrifice to God. The Passion is a subversion of the sacrificial system.
Furthermore, we have Paul explaining that God offering himself to be killed by the hands of sinful men was an exposure and defeat of the principalities and powers and it was God making peace with humanity, in contrast to a sacrifice where humans try to appease and make peace with God. Usually it was man trying to reconcile God to himself through their offering to God but here we have God reconciling the world to himself through his offering of himself.
To go further, the normal pagan sacrificial ritual was to satiate the bloodlust of the gods with the flesh and blood of the sacrifice. Whereas in the Passion narrative, God’s flesh and blood is offered to us, and we are the ones who eat and drink the flesh and blood of God.
The Passion shows us to be the ones with the bloodlust, not God. God subverts this nearly universal practice of sacrifice to expose something at the heart of humanity and to transform human thinking concerning who God is and who we are. We are thus transformed by coming again and again to remember this act of self-giving, unconditionally forgiving love, remembering the One who does not demand blood but lays down his own life to make peace. We partake in this act, we receive unconditional forgiveness, and we are called to be transformed into peacemakers ourselves.
This is how Jesus’ sacrifice was pleasing to God. Not because God demanded it or was satisfied with a blood offering, but because as the writer of Philippians says, Jesus “emptied himself”, demonstrating the humility of a servant, laying his life down in non-violent forgiveness, dying a victims death at the hands of violent humanity. This was a perfect act of love, and thus God exalts Christ to supreme authority, that at his name, everyone will surrender and every tongue confess that this love is the supreme authority. Within this act of divine love is the reconciliation of all things.
God did this at the risk of being thought of as normal sacrificial thinking, that is, an animal or human being offered to God to satiate his bloodlust and appease his anger. Yet even when people see it that way, it still communicates the final doing away with sacrifice with an act of self-giving and peacemaking which begins to deconstruct these sacrificial paradigms in social thinking. Even when one cannot see the powerful subversion of sacrifice at work in Christ’s act, and they see it through the lens of normal sacrificial thinking, it still begins the necessary deconstruction of sacrificial thinking and begins to end sacrifice once and for all in civilization, and begins to point to a God of self-sacrifice, forgiveness, self-giving love, and reconciliation, which begins working itself through human thinking and overturning our violence and enmity with Christ’s act of peacemaking and reconciliation.
This is a brilliant insight by Jamie Englehart. I need add no more, except to say that it really fits with the general theme of my blog in that God is a good God!
Over to Jamie:
Jesus came to reveal the Father, not the law giver, or judge, or even a King, but a Father who desires relationship with His offspring.
When we view God and scripture through a legal, judicial lens, we will get excited about judgement, justice, punishment, and rendering evil for evil, and like the idea of God sending calamity, especially on those who have hurt us. These are not the days of Job or Elijah or Moses, but of Jesus.
However when we view God and scripture through Jesus which is a new and better covenant lens, we will view through the lens of family, relationship, mercy and grace, love, reconciliation, and the forgiveness for our enemies.
When we realize that His righteous judgements are from the heart of a loving father who is seated on a throne of grace and mercy and not in a courtroom, then we will run to Him and not from Him. He is a holy, righteous, and just Father who does chastise and correct those that are His, but it is from a place of loving correction and not punitive. Mercy triumphs over judgement, and TRUE justice or the God kind of justice is mercy and compassion (Zech 7:9).
If we are more patient, loving and kind as parents than our God, and we would not do to our children what we are ok teaching that He will do to His, then our God is NOT like Jesus. He is a good, good, Father and according to Jesus much better than the best of us.
– Jamie Englehart, shared with his kind permission
Prior to 2018 and the awakening within that I had, the place I was running with was the statement that “proximity fixes everything and nothing else will”
I still believe that wholeheartedly, except I see this in an entire new light
I want to say that although I’ve moved past the theology I am so thankful for the Pentecostal world
I adore it with my whole heart
At least they taught and stressed and emphasized that this thing with God is not merely some beliefs to hold sacred, but an invitation into an experience, a communion, a fellowship and a nearness to not only the Father of all of this beautiful creation but the very lover of our souls
But the proximity message was as if God was over there in this holy place that I was not and I had to seek to be there I had to pursue him I had to ascend this mountain….in other words I had to get on this hamster wheel called religion and strive strive strive, I had to do in order to be…..having lost that I am not a human do-ing but that I am a human be-ing
Once the concept of the incarnation became a deep seated revelation in my heart, Jesus destroyed my hamster wheel
Once understanding that there’s never been any objective distance or delay or separation between Him and I, it changed my entire life and is continually changing my life. I’ve been “saved”, from lies, I’m being “saved” as we speak, and I will be “saved”
Proximity fixes everything, the truth that I was joined to him from my conception, never been separate, he’s with me in my darkness as well as on my mountains. And when my life contradicts my true self, it doesn’t take weeks of me condemning myself and grinding out to be a good person and get back into his nearness again, but that he’s always near, closer than anything else, and I’m reminded of who I am, that I am in Christ and Christ is in me. Restoration
And I’m reminded that love is the essence of my being, it’s my DNA, that I’ve been formed and fashioned for love, through love, to love and In the very image and likeness of Love himself…..by the very One who is nothing other than pure Love
He asked me and he received, he sought me and found me, and knocked until my door within opened. He put me on his shoulders as One, clothed me in righteousness, found the image that was lost, and we together are moving forward in this journey called life
Love has the final word
Proximity does fix everything, and we’ve always been woven together. The message is Union. There’s an incarnated human be-ing seated upon the “throne” in “heaven” announcing this perpetual union, as well as your dignity and glory and beauty, forever and fully immersed into the divine dance of the ages
This applies to every single one of you who reads this
I’m sorry to say, but, in general, Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity loves to be exclusive.
Black and white thinking: saved or unsaved; in or out; blessed or cursed.
We are the Chosen Ones; everyone else is wrong to some degree, and we are the only ones who have most of it right at least.
In the Old Testament (OT), so beloved of the more judgmental sectors of Christianity, there are – of course! – lists of people who are ‘excluded from the assembly’; in other words, they’re not allowed to ‘go into the presence of God’. The main list that springs to mind is the one in Deuteronomy 23:1ff, but there are others too.
Quite apart from those exclusion lists being part of the Old Covenant, of course, many modern Christians have not only revived the lists but have also enthusiastically gold-plated them by adding people from groups that they personally – or corporately – disapprove of. For instance, LGBTQ+ people, unmarried single parents, men who don’t wear ties 😉 , well, the list goes on and its contents vary depending on whom you ask. Maybe it’s best not to ask then? 😉 But it’s going to be that the main criteria for a given ‘exclusive’ Christian’s exclusion of certain people from the Kingdom of Heaven are: a) (in the wider sense) anyone who is not a ‘Christian’; b) (more narrowly) anyone who is not in their specific denomination; and c) (in the narrowest sense) anyone and everyone who does not believe the exact same things as he does. I suppose it gives them a sense of superiority or something.
But, to be fair, the reasons and the heart behind these actions and attitudes are not my target today; instead, I want to use an excellent piece, by Jacob M. Wright, to show why the main verse normally used to justify exclusiveness – John 14:6 – is actually a really inclusive passage of Scripture, not exclusive as it has of course been twisted to mean. Let’s take another look at it:
On the surface, when Jesus says “No-one comes to the father but (except) through Me”, it does look at first sight as if that’s what He’s saying, especially when we see the word ‘except’, which is of itself an exclusive kind of word. Jesus is the only way to the Father. And in a sense, I agree, but for other reasons which are not germane to this present piece. I too have written on this idea before in this blog (but I can’t remember all the places, but one such piece is here 😉 ) There is also Acts 4:12, which appears to say a similar thing, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name [Jesus] under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” But, look, I’m going to stop blathering and let you read Jacob’s piece; it’s a real eye-opener, and will give you a great perspective on this verse. I learned something new from Jacob when I read this.
Here we go:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” (John 14:6)
Today, I would like to discuss this statement. Typically this statement has been interpreted by many Christians as an exclusive statement, but I would like to show how it can and should be interpreted as an inclusive statement. Usually when you hear this verse, it is a Christian trying to use it to basically say that you must be a Christian by saying the sinners prayer or believing the correct things about Jesus in order to “go to heaven instead of hell.” This is just not what the verse says.
Rather, Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father but through me.” This is the same as saying, “Everyone who comes to the Father, comes through me.” It’s like saying, “No one is alive on earth but through breathing the air.” Yes, and everyone who is alive on earth is breathing air. In other words, everyone who has a relationship with the Creator, has it through the Spirit of Christ at work within them, whether they know it or not. Jesus was simply pointing to himself as the incarnation of this reality.
Christ was a universally ever-present reality before he assumed the body of Jesus of Nazareth, and still is now. As John tells us, he is the divine Logos through whom the universe was made, and his life is the light of all mankind (John 1:3-4), not just Christians. Furthermore, Paul tells us that in him we all live, move, and have our being, as well as that the whole universe exists and is sustained in and through Christ (Col. 1:17).
So, with this in mind, Jesus is simply saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. If anyone knows God, they know him through me and my Spirit at work within them.” Jesus was simply saying that he is the embodiment of the universal Christ that John and Paul later attested to. By this, Jesus was both saying he is the inclusive universal reality that everyone can and does access AND putting exclusive importance on his own life, teaching, and person that signifies and clarifies this reality.
– Jacob M. Wright, shared with his kind permission
I’d just add as a final point that there are many other verses that agree with Christian inclusivity (did I just invent a new phrase?? 😉 ). A good place to start would be in the list of Scriptures given by Mo Thomas in the recent post of his that I shared here.
And in any case, if there is no Hell, as I firmly believe, what other conclusion can there be but total inclusion? Even if not in this life, certainly in the Hereafter…but hey, why not start now?