Thursday, March 25, 2010

Christ as Sacrifice, Christ as Victor

In my previous post where i revealed how big of a heretic i am, i stated later that i would clean up some inaccuracies on my part. This is that later. This post will divide up the sacrificial model of Anselm and posit the real Christus Victor model. both models have their pros and cons, and i will cover both.

The image of Christ as sacrifice is super old, prolly one of the oldest. the images pop up many times in the New Testament, featured heavily in Hebrews but also in the synoptics. it is also in the early church liturgy yet notably absent in the Didache, which i find really interesting... but i digress.

while the Pirate tried his best to offer up helpful metaphors for me, my prof did one better and offered up a section of the movie Dead Man Walking.

there is a part towards the end where the convict confesses to the nun. he starts off with some bravado he has had the whole movie yet acknowledges that he was a coward and thus was a victim by this other bully. however, the nun gently presses him and he finally admits guilt and responsibility for his actions. the nun forgives and the convict seeks forgiveness and notes that while his life was no good, maybe it will finally be of some good as his victim's family may take some comfort in his death. it hurts the nun to forgive as she finds a connection with a soon to be dead guy and it will hurt to see him die. it hurts the convict as it completely deconstructs his carefully held and constructed identity as a tough guy.

here's the kicker: in the view of sacrifice, God would be both the nun and the convict. the cross is the symbol of the connection between human guilt and divine perfection, love and empathy and repentance. Jesus as both divine and human becomes the rep of humans who need forgiveness as sinners and God who needs to forgive the wrongs done. Hurts humanity and God and the anguish on the cross symbolizes that.

this metaphor i can support more so than before. it gets strange when we ascribe Jesus as a substitute for us, as that gets legally strange, but to see Jesus as symbol of humanity, a representative of us, then that i can buy into. this requires a notion of a corporate self which Anselm and the early church would be operating with, yet we here in the Western 21st century might not get... but maybe, there are some connections for us.

just think of it like the government or sports team. if the government declares war on our behalf, then we are at war as a whole, whether we agree or not. if you listen closely to sports fans, they'll say strange things like "We WON!" but they weren't even on the team! They id. so closely that the team becomes the symbol for the city and everyone in it.

what does this say about God? the incarnation is a must in this theory. many divergent theologians come together here and state that this doesn't make God angry or any such thing, but those like Paul, Karl Barth, and even Paul Tillich (with his uber-abstract God) states that God is loving and merciful.

so in this instance the cross = the fact that love hurts. pain is the price of being in relationship and we are called to participate in this love and grace NOT thank God we got a substitute and we're off the hook and we can just believe and be fine (and buy Hummers, screw over the poor, and benefit from other's hard work, while giving those outside our faith a really hard time). i like this because i am in pain often due to my relationships... i'm always screwing something up or saying the wrong thing. even on this blog, i take pains to speak to others both inside and outside my faith tradition. there's a lot of forgiving and reconciling that goes on at a regular basis around here. this process involves sacrifice on both parts... of time to write responses, of giving up or questioning long held assumptions... so i understand this better now than the other...

the other view being, Gustaf Aulen in Christus Victor states that Christ as sacrifice is completely wrong! Aulen is Lutheran and so he went back to Luther and found that Luther too, didn't like this view held by Anselm. while this view is also scriptural and early "creedal" church Aulen was the first to give it a name.

Christus Victor = Christ victorious over sin and death and the devil. that is the "package" plaguing humanity and we need liberation from. this is heavily dependent on the Fall, original sin, and the idea of an objective and personified evil. the whole problem with the world is that we are at war, life is conflict, a battle between good and evil, angels and demons. Everyone else is pushed around by evil until Jesus comes and conquers it.

the best film to convey this idea is Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. take note of this "garden" scene. I've never watched the movie and doubt i will, and if you haven't all you need to do is watch this:

this is the whole movie in miniature. Jesus in agony, the devil being creepy, and humans behaving badly (either chickening out like the disciples or being corrupt like Judas and the Sadducees, or violent like the Romans).  God needs to win back humanity as we are powerless to do it ourselves. So God disguises Godself and is "born to die" and the devil, being smart in all other things in the domination of the world, doesn't recognize God in human form. So when the devil goes to claim another tasty soul, BAM! it's God who kicks some ass, liberates humanity and rules supreme.

this is Jesus as the Trojan Horse. Jesus as the fish hook, humanity is the bait, and when the devil latches on, it's curtains for him. the fishhook is an ancient symbol for Christ. so is Christ the boxer or Christ the gladiator.

here evil is an external presences where in Dead Man Walking, evil was internal. and isn't that the case, that laws and systems can be corrupt and unjust and thus catch people up in the cogs? aren't there things in society that you rail against stating "this isn't the way it's supposed to be!" but are powerless to change?

well that's me playing the advocate for this theory. i still have more problems with this one than with the sacrificial model.

critics of Aulen raised objections stating that he is just a failed manacheist or Zoroastrian, which his dueling Good-God/Bad God. this would make him a polytheist! plus what kind of creator lets evil sneak into the world? that's rather incompetent. and doesn't God take God's sweet time in making the correction? why didn't God just nuke evil from the start? and if Christ conquers sin/death/devil then why do we still have crappiness/death/and evil?

Aulen wasn't dumb, not by any means. if good comes from some cosmic "font of goodness" then why can't the bad come from a similar font? what would it mean if it came from the same font? entropy exists much like the south did after Gettysburg. They couldn't win, yet they still fought. same with many isolated islands on the Japanese side in WWII. They knew they lost yet fought into the mid-50s anyway.

so Aulen states that Good Friday shouldn't be the focus (like in those sacrificial folk), Saturday shouldn't either because that's when Jesus is turning over hell, but Easter is the true V-day. Worship them should be a victory celebration and proclamation until the cosmos and humanity catch onto this fact.

i don't like the spiritual warfare motif. i think Aulen had to have written this before the 20s because after he saw the Nazi conspiring with the Lutheran church, i don't think he would have held that view. the church is just an agent of institutional evil as anything else out there and with the European Catholic scandal going on, i really don't feel the need to argue this point.

i don't like the idea of God tricking or deceiving nor the idea of God being indebted to evil or Satan or some how accidentally letting evil into the world. i really don't think there is a perfected shalomic state we were supposed to be in from the start, i think we're supposed to grow and constantly work toward that goal.

and then insert the objections i had in the last post to this one... although i find myself more at peace with the sacrificial model now than i have been in a long, long time. once penal substitution is ruled out, i'm cool with it. Christus Victor, however, is a super-hero story transposed onto the scriptures. God the good defeats the evil Satan, evil genius and ruler of this world. i don't remember reading anywhere in the scriptures about how the devil came into being. that is more Catholic oral tradition than anything else. i wonder where that stuff came from.

Where I'm At:  I'm more of a Trinitarian than i thought. I like the play of internal and external evil, but i'm not choosing one over the other. i think both are problems we gotta deal with both individually and corporately. i'm not a dualist (or duelist in this case) and see how good people do bad things and bad people do good things and how good can come out of bad and vice versa. so i see how both models can't cover everything, but what system or theory can?


Anonymous said...

I spy ye opening more to the ideas presented. If ye be a Universalist I argue that ye are in some ways following Christus Victor. Read J. Denny Weaver or Susan Bond on this and let me know yer thoughts. YAR!

Anglican Boy said...

The last paragraph saved the article for me. It puts it into a theological wondering than the last one did. I think I was more upset about the tone and style of the last one, this one has more open consideration and I can hear the objections more clearly than last time. I was able to go back and read your Christus Victor original and make more sense of it. Keep searching and best yet, keep posting. I'm interested to hear what you make of dreadpiratescetis' claim that all universalists are following Christus Victor to some extent. Thanks!

Sabio Lantz said...

Luke, I get the ideas of forgiveness, of brokenness, of reconciliation. These play a wonderful role also in many non-Christian cultures and secular circles. With that intro, below I will give you my thoughts -- they aren't arguments.

Here is what I see:

Disillusioned disciples of a cult try to capitalize on the surprised death of their prophet and no son- of-man is forthcoming to rescue Israel. So, in an extreme effort of reconciling the cognitive dissonance (as seen in many cults) Jesus' image morphs using the sacrificial ideas of Yahweh, combined of the unfortunate event of their innocent leader's murder. And very odd doctrines evolve of sacrifice of an innocent life be pleasing to an "All-loving" God who still needs sacrifices.

Odd that you use sports and government -- two things I argue against the stupidity of people for decades. I think you are right, humans have very odd thinking on this. I don't buy into those analogies either. Looks like I must be defective.

The Mel Gibson film shows an almost cowardly Jesus. Men have willing died much more fearlessly for much less. After all he is dying for ALL of humanity. If those men really felt that they were doing the same, they would run head on bravely into death.

Also you've got to love Jesus looking up to the moon and praying.

As I wrote you many months ago, by becoming a pastor, by becoming a leader of a group and searching for a livelihood among her members it is natural that you will start to take on their beliefs. It is no surprise to me that you are becoming more of a "Trinitarian" and of a "Innocent Sacrifice" guy. You are quieting your cognitive dissonance.

But maybe you always were a Sacrificialist. Sticking to your analogies -- may you likewise cheer devoutly for your local sports team and would run off to kill and die in a war over oil prices if your government ordered you to. In which case, our temperaments will never communicate well.

Luke said...

DPS: I'll check them out! Thanks for the suggestion.

AB: Thanks for sticking around and reading.

Sabio: Good insights man. here are some considerations and insights into my personality and how i view both sports and government (broad brushstrokes, of course).

I like two NFL teams, Packers and Browns. The rest, i like players like Payton Manning, Flacco, Reggie Bush and Urlacher. I don't like my teams losing to the bears, vikings, or ravens. i don't hate people from other teams and i like many other teams. i hold my team ideology loosely. same with politics, i tend to skew left but value good plans put forward by the right.

what i don't like in sports, government and religion is a rigid ideological stance. i don't think you do either. when communication evaporates, humanity usually follows. i'm not into that. i don't like making "Others" out of ppl.

your view of Jesus sounds like Crossan. i came into seminary with a Crossan-esque religion that has slowly morphed into something else. it is as DPS stated back on the first post, i gotta be able to speak to those who hold differing opinions and see things from their perspective just as i work to see things from yours. both inform my own stance.

thanks for providing and struggling with communication. that is what i value over all else.

Anonymous said...

"And very odd doctrines evolve of sacrifice of an innocent life be pleasing to an "All-loving" God who still needs sacrifices" (Sabio)

I think the point can be made about the differences between the synoptics and atonement found in some of the letters (some in Paul, some in John's gospel, Hebrews is a big one)...the synoptics are silent on this idea.

I tend to lean to the synoptics and the use of the resurrection versus the use of blood atonement. The hope is we clean our lives up in hope of the resurrection - not in lieu of a sacrifice of God to God (strange to say the least).

I am more and more coming to realize the NT is not one big unified document that stitches together nicely/uniformly. It's 27 books and letters - from a variety of writers - that present varying views on the Jesus story and it's meaning. If there are some 7 authors (or more) - I expect to find some 7 differing ways to view the Jesus motif. This is becoming more and more the case as I study from writer to writer.

"The Mel Gibson film shows an almost cowardly Jesus. Men have willing(y) died much more fearlessly for much less. After all he is dying for ALL of humanity" (Sabio)

Good point. I get it that Jesus did not want to die, the idea of that resonates with anyone. However, it is true many people have given their life for far less in scope of all humanity...MLK Jr. comes to mind immediately. Dietrich Bonhoeffer another. Soldiers in any war is a very simple example.

A point like that makes me wonder what was the point of Jesus' life? I tend to focus on the life, since Jesus was more than just a death.

"by becoming a leader of a group and searching for a livelihood among her members it is natural that you will start to take on their beliefs" (Sabio)

I concur with Sabio's statement. However, I don't think being a part of Christian organization is all that 'bad' an idea - even if it means you have to suffer in some silence on what you really think theologically.

In all honesty, I don't care what you think theologically about the nature of a God neither of us have ever met...but if you are wonderful person and become good news to the community you enter into - that's all I would ask.

RW said...

It seems that liberal christianity was born out of malcontent for fundamentalism but instead of being honest and discarding the faith, they change it to make it more palitable. Preaching the gospel is offensive, it is suppose to be. Thats why Paul was thrown in prison so many times. I care because I believe all religions, are potentially dangerous,they hinder the progress of man. They served thier purpose at the dawn of civilization but they should be discarded. Then we can work on coexisting. All of this is just stalling to your final destination of becoming an atheist. You're not a real Christian.

Luke said...

@SVS: What do you make of Matt 26:26-29 or Mark 10:45 if sacrifice and ransom are not part of the synoptics? It is rare in the synoptics, but it is still in there. Largely, it's John, Paul, and whoever wrote Hebrews.

@RW: Thanks for your visit but not your words. You have your history backward, it was the fundies that were spawned as a reaction to the modern criticisms being used by the supposed "liberals" in academic institutions. Some conservatives still use these and hold traditional stances, those like Rowan Williams, NT Wright, and Tony Campolo.

I agree with preaching an offensive gospel, grace is really offensive when you think about it. but religion as poison or the claim that i'm not Christian i disagree with 110%.

Anonymous said...

"@SVS: What do you make of Matt 26:26-29 or Mark 10:45 if sacrifice and ransom are not part of the synoptics? It is rare in the synoptics, but it is still in there" (Luke)

Here is the gist of the Matthew passage: ""Take, eat; this is My body." (vs 26) and "this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins" (vs 28).

It's one of 2 things.

(a) Either Jesus actually said this stuff and if this is the case - he was pretty silent about this through-out Matthew...which turned out to be such a huge doctrine for the church later on. Makes me question if it was added in or not during this final version of Matthew in later 80's or 90's? (ie: we have a virgin birth in Matthew also - so there is some precedence for this question).

(b) Jesus is being figurative with the meal (obviously) and only mentions that his death will result in the 'forgiveness of sins'. There is nothing there like a single doctrine surrounding various atonement theories - except this man will be broken, bleed, and die for the 'forgiveness of many'.

I guess I would also have to ask what sins are being forgiven...and what does Jesus actually mean? The sacrfice system is fulfilled? If so, we are still responsible for our intentional endeavors since 'unintentional' sins were only covered under sacrifice.

There really isn't much to go on on in Matthew alone...which makes me wonder what is meant there?

Mark 10:45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many"

What does ransom mean is the real question?

In this passage the point seems to be about Jesus coming not to be served, but to serve 'and' to give his life as a ransom for many. It seems like to me the point is about Jesus' self-sacrifice for the people and for the kingdom of God.

In this passage, Jesus says nothing about what it is he is exactly paying for as ransom with his life...except for his own disciples to follow his actions of humility.

Question is - ransom is attached to what idea in the teachings he just gave in Mark?

Luke said...

Jay Bird,

having the courage to say "I don't know" is awesome and a reminder of why we're friends. I agree with you that the sacrificial images aren't the synoptics bread and butter, but after 3 years of intensive Biblical studies, i know that it ain't ever so neat and clean. gotta struggle with the exceptions in this case. i'll be posting more on this after some research. RAWK!