The Easter Call-In Challenge!

Last year’s John 14:6 challenge was a blast – so we decided we would throw out another challenge and ask the deacons to call in. We will pick a selection of calls and posts to interact with on the next TNT. Wooden Cross

Here are the step-by-step instructions:

  1. Read the challenge post below
  2. Think about a response
  3. Write up your thoughts
  4. Use the speak pipe on the front page to send us an MP3 message

 

Here is the challenge: 

Suppose I was to say: 

We need to stop saying “God sent Jesus to die on the cross”.  The only place the New Testament even talks about God sending Jesus is in John 3:17 – Jesus was sent into the world, not to condemn it but to save it.

The danger of saying any more than John 3:17 says itself is that it distorts our image of God and our understanding of the mission of Jesus.

What really happened is that Jesus died an unjust death. He was nailed to a cross by the Romans – as many threats to political peace and social stability were.

In the years after that weekend’s traumatic/amazing events, Jesus’ followers came to ascribe bigger and cosmic meaning to his death and their experience of his resurrection.

Believers, in those first few centuries, retro-fitted divine intention and design into Jesus’ death.

This comes down to us through the centuries and gets distilled as “God sent Jesus to die for our sins” or ,even worse, “Jesus came to die for our sins”

No – Jesus came for many reasons. He was then assassinated by an unjust regime in cahoots with a corrupt religious system.

God vindicated this injustice with the event we now call Easter. That signals God’s solidarity with those who suffer and are persecuted under unjust systems and structures.

The death of Jesus was seemingly as senseless as any victim of the powers. 

It was only afterward that Jesus’ followers retroactively ascribed this kind of meaning and divine intention on his death.  Doing so is:

  1. poetics at its best – and very appropriate.
  2. problematic at many levels including metaphysics, nature of time, and child abuse (to name just 3)

 

The selecting of narrative elements to illustrate a thread is a common way to give meaning and direction to a story. We do it at weddings all the time. We have this couple standing at the altar and we trace narrative threads back to show how they were ‘destined’ to be together or even ‘made’ for each other.

It’s a nice way to talk and it is poetic and beautiful. I am fine with doing it – both for a couple’s wedding and for Jesus’ death – as long we understand that this is what we are doing.

When I say that a couple was meant to bump into each other at the party/parking lot/ dating site … I am trying to ascribe an extra level of meaning or significance to their relationship.

When we say that “God sent Jesus to die for our sins” we are doing the same thing. It is our way of attempting to ascribe an extra-ordinary level of meaning or significance to his life and influence.

 

What would you say to that?

Agree, disagree?

Comments, questions, concerns? 

 

I look forward to your SpeakPipe calls!

 

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60 comments
wg23
wg23

Well, I just responded, and I hope it isn't too late. 


Patrick Frownfelter
Patrick Frownfelter

Are tag-team calls OK?  Might grab a buddy of mine and see what we both come up with, if that's OK.

BTW, my brain is turning flips reading this stuff. Challenge accepted, sir!

bigdaddy3lk
bigdaddy3lk

The answer to the question for anyone hinges on whether God is a Holy Trinity and Jesus was/is God, and to a lesser extent, whether God the Father (of Holy Trinity fame) is sovereign.  Jesus foretold of his death and instructed his followers to expect the same persecution he would endure.  

It is no stretch to assume (from biblical references already noted among these comments) that Jesus knew what his destiny on earth would be.  If Jesus did know and was the physical manifestation of God in the flesh, then God (the Father) knew that Jesus had to die.  If God (the Father) knew that but did not intend for it to happen, he either was heartless regarding the plight of Jesus or powerless to stop it from happening.  

Either conclusion would point toward a deity not worth dedicating a lifetime to.  It was a cruel death and an unusual punishment meted out by Roman authorities - at the urging of Jewish provincial leaders - and should have been stopped by an omniscient, compassionate sovereign being.  But for some reason, it wasn't.

Every person who has existed since that time has had to determine for themselves why it wasn't and the significance of the fact that it wasn't.  To retroactively determine who Jesus was and properly ascribe meaning and divine intent to his death is actually meant to be the ultimate pursuit of our lives. 

Toy_Adams
Toy_Adams

@theBoSanders thank God! I bet there'll be more responses from ppl trying to comprehend the challenge than answering! I'm gonna go w\/Girard.

BoEberle
BoEberle

Hey Deacons, go read James Cone's "Cross and the Lynching Tree." I almost think there should be a moratorium on white people doing atonement theories until the engage with it. 

wg23
wg23

Bo,

Is there any particular time frame you want these responses within?

I would really like to chime in on this one, but not at the moment.

kylejespo
kylejespo

Bo,

I'd like a little clarification of the problem: 

When you say Christ's followers retroactively attached meaning to his death (Jesus came to die for our sins)  are you talking about what we see Christ's followers doing in scripture in Acts-Revelation (I'm specifically thinking of Hebrews 9 especially vs 26,28). 

Or

 Are you saying that historically/culturally we have retrofitted the meaning onto Christ's death (Jesus came to die for our sins), even though that idea is not in Scripture.

Another way of phrasing my question:

Is Acts-Revelation off the table as legitimate scripture to use for answering the challenge?

paulthom
paulthom

Hold on--what's the challenge?  Is it just to comment on your comments challenging the notion that God sent Jesus to die on the cross? Is that a challenge? I've never thought that to be the case. I dug the John 14:6 challenge, but I'm not getting this. 

BrianBailey
BrianBailey

Chris,

I believe that what Bo said, is that God did not send Jesus to die on the cross.

I don't think that because Jesus foresaw his death before it happened, you can say that God sent him to die. In the verse from Matthew 16, Jesus clearly saw his death coming, but that doesn't mean that God sent him so that he could die. I can almost see where you might think that the verse in Acts makes this claim, but I still think that you have to read a bit into the verse to come to that conclusion.

I am not saying that I don't believe that Jesus willingly laid down his life, I'm just saying that I don't believe that the Bible supports the idea that Jesus was born so that he could be killed in accordance with God's plan to use him as a sacrificial lamb. I believe that his life and death have a much greater meaning than that.

Aside from the problems that Bo mentioned, I believe that dis tilling Christ down to the role as sacrificial lamb causes a great many people to overlook the things Christ said and did in the Gospel accounts. People tend to look to the Epistles for teaching, without taking in to account what Jesus taught. From there, one could hear Paul talk about submission to authority

TerryHarvey1
TerryHarvey1

Why bother to call yourself a "Christian", if it's all a big made-up fairy tale?  The comfort of a label or people and a place to hang out with?   Bo -I like where you're going with this.

ChrisFerguson
ChrisFerguson

Tsned,

I get it. Still though. I'm not sure you read the part where he states, "The only place NT mentions God sending Jesus to die is..." You can believe what you want. Believing something doesn't make something true or false. It's just if you are going to argue we should stop saying something, because its not biblical. It better not be.

tsned
tsned

Chris, Patrick,

I think Bo covered your complaints in the post when he wrote about retroactively ascribing purpose or meaning to the events of the life of Jesus. You might consider re-reading the post.

ChrisFerguson
ChrisFerguson

Why did he predict His death then? (Matthew 16:21 and it's coinciding references) Also it is unfair to say, "The only place in the NT that mentions..." Jesus Himself implies  that they should follow His example by "laying down  their lives for each other." (John 15)  There are plenty of references in the NT that could lead someone to this conclusion, they are not limited to these. Acts 2:23, 1peter 2:21-23, 1 John 4:19, 1Timothy 1:15, Etc. I really like your podcast. I just cant see how you came to these conclusions. PAX

wg23
wg23

@BoEberle Thanks, I have been looking to diversify my reading as I wrestle with my atonement (theory). I haven't read any Cone for a long while now, so that will be great.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@wg23 we record just before or after Easter ... so you have 1 week.  Does that work? 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@kylejespo GOOD question!   You can use Acts-Revelation - yes. 

BUT - just understand that they are  exhibit A of what I am talking about.  They start the trajectory that we end up with.  The retro-fitting is happening IN those texts.  

does that help?  -Bo

mattmccrac
mattmccrac

@theBoSanders I like that it isn't just one person but - I think - everyone who has commented - and then there's that last chap! Amazing.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@paulthom How would you answer the statement "God did not send Jesus to die on a cross"  - agree, disagree?  

Basically just tee-up your best defense/understanding of the  atonement/intention of God and the purpose/function of the cross.   -Bo

does that help? 

BrianBailey
BrianBailey

And justify war, without reading Jesus's command to love our enemies.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@TerryHarvey1 I didn't say fairy-tale...    I said retro-fitted with meaning and ascribed significance ;p 

Hope you call in  -Bo 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@ChrisFerguson you have your work cut out for you :)  I have given you a specific assignment! (below)

  -Bo   p.s.  glad you like the podcast. We have fun with these challenges 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@tsned Thanks.  You get the point of the challenge :)  

I am challenging our assumptions by saying "if I don't concede to you the assumptions your faith is based on, can you answer?"    -Bo

WELL DONE THEN! 

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@ChrisFerguson You are missing the spirit of The Challenge!  I throw down a challenge that allows you to call in and 'sound off' about how you would defend against the challenge! This is your chance to shine :) 

So let me be more specific: Telling people to lay down their lives is NOT the same as proving the God SENT Jesus to die on the cross.  

You have not answered the challenge! 

Then you used a Roman send off?   Challenge:  FOLLOW THE RULES> formulate your answer and call in via the speak pipe on the front page!!!    ;p   I look forward to it! 

p.s. This is how a challenge works: I am challenging our assumptions by saying "if I don't concede to you the assumptions your faith is based on, can you answer?"  GO! 

bigdaddy3lk
bigdaddy3lk

@BoSanders @bigdaddy3lk Nah...your deacons tread where we newbies dare not go.  Just posting a thought here.  Just found the website while searching for new podcasts to try out.  I travel a lot and the podcasts are my on-demand radio on a flight... Still, to this discussion, my position would be that if there was no predetermined intent on God's part for Jesus to die, and the death (event, means, circumstances, etc.) was unintended, then Yahweh is no god at all. (PS-I believe that he is, in fact, THE God.)  Thanks for allowing me to interlope...

BoEberle
BoEberle

@wg23 @BoEberle I don't always agree with Cone, but that book is insanely powerful, hope you can use some of it on Easter! 

wg23
wg23

@BoSanders @wg23 Perfect. I was concerned that it might be a day or so. This will be a great question to think about while preparing for my Easter Sunday sermons.

kylejespo
kylejespo

@BoSanders @kylejespo 

Yah, that is perfect. I assumed that they were exhibit A of your point, just wanted to make sure. This should be fun to think through. Good challenge.


wg23
wg23

@mattmccrac @theBoSanders Bo, I understand your challenge and promise that I will not call into question your personal faith, your knowledge of or frequency of reading the Bible, or your identity as Christian. Not that I should need to promise, because one thing that should be common among folks who listened to Jesus is that we should not tear down our brothers and sisters. However, this does not appear to be a common understanding, so I do promise that as I respond to this challenge I will not speak words to cut and tear you down. I believe that challenges like this (and far more heretical ones) are a great gift to exploring both our faith and our attempts to communicate that faith. Thank you for asking good questions. I will look forward to answering. 

theBoSanders
theBoSanders

@mattmccrac your smiling profile pic helps me feel better about it :) -Bo honestly, I am kinda stunned by that initial wave of comments...

wg23
wg23

@BoSanders @paulthom That's kind of creepy, because I think my Board of Ordained Ministry may have used a sentence exactly like that (only without the slashy words) when I interviewed for commissioning. I answered it quite honestly, so I was quite surprised when they recommended me. Who knows what my answer was then (two years ago). It's a lot more fun thinking about it here than in that interview.

bigdaddy3lk
bigdaddy3lk

@BoSanders PS Bo...yes please send me any recommendations on your favorite podcast episodes! You can tweet the links to me if that works.

bigdaddy3lk
bigdaddy3lk

@BoSanders @bigdaddy3lk Thanks! And please trust me when I say that I have come a long way to be at the place I am now. I am a recovering fundamentalist and truly agree that we can't say, "if it is beyond my comprehension, then it cannot be".  This may not be the place to do it, but I'd enjoy reading/hearing more about that school of thought.  I firmly agree that, from our perspective, God works after the fact, but to say that it is after the fact from His perspective presupposes that He is bound by time and space.  How do you reconcile a God-concept within the finite confines of time/space?  Not trying to be contentious...just curious to hear a different perspective.)

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

@bigdaddy3lk Fair enough :)   3 quick things:

1) safe travels!  

2) Let me know if you need podcast recommendations. I have some favorite episodes that we have done :)

3) We want to be careful with saying that 'If it is not the way I understand it that it can no meaning at all'.  There is a whole school of thought about God's redemption of injustice and tragedy that has something valuable to teach us - even if we believe in pre-intention. God working after the events is powerful and does not mean that God isn't God.   

glad you are here  -Bo  

mattmccrac
mattmccrac

@theBoSanders Hold on, the books of the Bible are contingent and were written in time\/places\/cultural thought-worlds? Get out of here!

theBoSanders
theBoSanders

@mattmccrac ya know - intro biblical criticism is a whiplash-hangover crash course. Hearing it for the 1st time is ice-water shocking.

mattmccrac
mattmccrac

@theBoSanders It's like folks are finding out y'all aren't conservative evangelicals or something! You're progressive Christians, right? ;-)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The theo-nerdiest podcast on the intertubes, Homebrewed Christianity, just finished up what they called the Easter call-in challenge in which listeners of the podcast called in and responded to a post written by one of the makers of the podcast, Bo Sanders. Essentially, Bo’s argument is that God sent Jesus into the world for many reasons and Jesus, because he was faithful to God’s intention for sending him into the world, was then murdered unjustly by an oppressive system that was threatened by his radical message of forgiveness, love and peace. You can read the original post here. [...]