Thursday, November 1, 2007

Christ's atonement and the Holy Spirit

I do still plan on continuing my series on the psychology of redemption, but I have something else to post about pertaining to the topic some.

As I was thinking this early morning due to my insomnia, I had some speculative thoughts on the relation between Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and how the two are joined together to bring a man to salvation. It isn't necessarily brilliant, nor can I say it has never been taught, but it is something I have never seen.

First off, I constantly ruminate on how Christ's death and resurrection affords us salvation. Not the analogy one might use to describe the atonement, but to go further and try to identify why Jesus' work is effective. What makes Jesus' death capable of saving us? This becomes especially true as I deny any idea of God being angry and taking His anger out of Jesus to calm Himself in order to forgive us. I admit that is a very simple explanation and if true it would explain why the atonement is effective since it directly affects God and His emotions. Seeing as how though I ascribe to atonement freedom from sin, which as a result brings about forgiveness, I have difficulty seeing what change the atonement makes that allows for redemption to be possible.

So in considering this topic, I always have to remember two points. First off, I do not perceive the spiritual realm (or perhaps more properly speaking, the non-material realm) in totality, or even in anything more than a minuscule amount. Considering that, I must be careful not to be too speculative or to be too dogmatic in my speculation. Secondly, I have to accept God's divine freedom and that He is not bound by our logical understandings. So then perhaps God makes the method of the atonement what saves us purely because it pleases Him. The result may be that there is no answer I can give and it is merely because God wills it so. Ultimately, all things are because God wills it so, or otherwise we would say that God is bound by some laws, rules, or will that are external to Himself.

Anyways, I was studying Romans 5:5 to study the phrase "the love of God" because in my reading about John Wesley, he is a fan of using this phrase. In my study of that verse, I noticed the whole second part of the verse "the love of God has been poured out in [or on] our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who was given to us." Generally speaking, "poured out" here is taken to be referring to the pouring out of merely love (if the phrase "love of God" is taken as God's love for us and not our love for God) or the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. However, I couldn't help but notice the language of "poured out" is used in Matthew 26:28 to refer to Jesus' own blood and it is also used in that manner Matthew 23:35, which suggests the word could be used in reference to blood (metaphorically referring to the slaying of a person). Could Paul be making an implicit reference to Jesus? In my opinion, he does, since the chapters of 5 (and 3-6 as a whole) put Christ and His relation to our redemption at the forefront, whereas God's love and the Holy Spirit are barely mention in this chapter (and 3-6 as a whole). As Paul goes on in verses 6-8 to explain his statement in verse 5, he talks about the love of God displayed by Christ dying for sinners. Therefore, I conclude that it is in fact an implicit reference to Jesus' blood (and metaphorically, His death).

However, to be fair, the word for "poured out," exchunnw, can also be used to refer to the giving of the Holy Spirit, such as in Acts 10:45. This reflects a Lukan usage, which may be a result of influence of Paul upon Luke and therefore one might seeing "poured out" referring to the Holy Spirit, reflecting a thought of Paul that was handed down to Luke. But, given the context I am more inclined (though not terribly certain) to see an implicit reference to Christ' sacrifice provided by God out of love than a "pouring of the Spirit."

So if I am indeed correct, then Paul goes on to state this love of God through Christ is brought upon the heart (as if to bring about a moral change in the person) through the Holy Spirit. It is as if Paul attributes the efficacy of God's love through Christ's death coming by the work of the Spirit. Or in more practical terms, the person is not changed by Christ's death if the Holy Spirit does not work. To speaking analogically, the Spirit is to Christ' blood, as a sponge is to water. A surface is cleaning by water when the sponge rubs against the surface, so likewise the heart is cleansed by Christ's blood when the Spirit is rub against the heart.

However, is there any idea that might be similar to this presented anywhere? I would say indeed there may be. In Romans too. In Romans 8:11, it is said if anyone has the Spirit, "[God] who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through the Spirit who dwells in you." Right here, God is spoken of as bringing about the resurrection through the Spirit. However, Paul also relates this resurrection with Jesus' own resurrection. There seems to be a relation between the believer's resurrection and Jesus' resurrection. This relation is not without precedent either, as Romans 6:1-12 speaks of the believer following in the manner of Jesus' own death and resurrection in matters of the moral life. Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, Paul states that by Jesus' resurrection, there will be a resurrection from the dead of humanity in general. So there is a linking between Jesus' resurrection and believers following in His pattern.

So this gets me to my point. The sacrifice of Christ is efficacious only through the Holy Spirit's work in the believer to mold them to the pattern of Christ. By this though, I mean further than a merely being molded to His moral example/pattern, but to His example/pattern in the submission to righteousness and the avoidance of sin even to the total rejection of oneself by death, and His resurrection from the dead. And Paul does speaks earlier in Romans 8:10 of Christ being in us, where one would generally expect the Spirit of God or the Spirit of Christ to be written, as if to say to have the Holy Spirit is to also be in union with Christ spiritually.

Now in saying this, it is important to emphasize that I am not speaking of a mere example that would give us merely moral inspiration and some type of future hope. What I am speaking goes beyond that in saying that we are given the spiritual strength of Christ who overcome sin in death on the cross to become free from sins ourself and given the spiritual power (though we do no exercise it on our own volition but God does) that raised Christ from the dead which will raise us too from the dead also.

It this is the case, here are a few implications:
1) All forms of substitutionary/satisfaction theories become incorrect except as analogies that can describes parts of what happens as a result of Christ's death for believers. However, an analogy is not necessarily reality.
2) Christus Victor and other similar atonement theories are also shown to be merely analogies that only explain part of the results of Christ's death for believers.
3) The whole life of Christ is viewed as important for redemption and not merely His death (though His death one might say is where the ultimate victory and strength over sin is obtained by Christ for the believer in spiritual union) since we are united with Christ who didn't merely come to the earth for a few moments, died, and then rose from the dead three days later. This does have some similarities with Irenaeus' recapitulation theory, though there are some distinct differences between the two.
4) It is totally people who are changed by the atonement whereas God remains the same, except in accepting the changed people whom He formerly condemned when they were unchanged. Christ solves the problem of humanity's sinfulness directly through the Holy Spirit, and not God's anger with sinful humanity.

Now this is all speculation based upon a few words of the Bible that I have tried to peace together. Furthermore, I have no idea if there is an precedent for this in theological history (I am inclined to say there is because it is doubtful I am that original) as I have never heard of that. Also, it requires a lot of study of some other parts of Scripture in a bit more detail, both verses that might be for the idea and against it.

Oh and maybe this is just my insomnia kicking in and deluding me.

2 comments:

KP said...

Atonement is not the freedom from sin, rather it is the freedom from the penalty of sin. Wasn't that the whole point of the death of Jesus Christ? Have I missed something? We were condemned through Adam before we were ever born. The issue for the condemned is to become reconciled to God the Father. And, since God the Father demands "perfection", we need to come to a realization that "perfection" is impossible(repentance). Unless such status is received as a gift from God. That is the beauty of the gospel. To be made judicially perfect, a new status received as a gift once we believe in the work of Jesus Christ. How simple it is. I did not say, sinless perfection, literal, but judicial. One is impossible the other is free. So, see atonement for what it is. God's grace whereby the penalty of human sin was imputed to Jesus Christ.

Owen Weddle said...

"Atonement is not the freedom from sin, rather it is the freedom from the penalty of sin. Wasn't that the whole point of the death of Jesus Christ? Have I missed something? We were condemned through Adam before we were ever born."

Were we? I don't hold that opinion. I find the Bible supports that we all die because of Adam, but this isn't some "spiritual death" but it is the physical death we all experience for which a resurrection is needed to overcome.

"The issue for the condemned is to become reconciled to God the Father. And, since God the Father demands "perfection", we need to come to a realization that "perfection" is impossible(repentance). Unless such status is received as a gift from God. That is the beauty of the gospel. To be made judicially perfect, a new status received as a gift once we believe in the work of Jesus Christ. How simple it is. I did not say, sinless perfection, literal, but judicial. One is impossible the other is free. So, see atonement for what it is. God's grace whereby the penalty of human sin was imputed to Jesus Christ."

This is based on a judicial understanding of atonement, a concept which I do not hold to.

I do not find that the Gospel is essentially a replacement for lack of perfection, which I do agree we were called. That is just a hop, skip, and jump from license. IMO, the New Testament supports that the ones who are saved live a new lifestyle, whereas the Bible relatively rarely talks about forgiveness.

I find the problem in being reconciled with God is that we act hostile to God more so than our past deeds, because reconciliation is a matter of relationship which goes beyond being merely forgiven but cooperation and mutual love for each other. Friendliness from both parties and forgiveness are both necessary, but I find the latter does not have to have an object of wrath to be given (Jesus) but rather it is given when one trusts in God and repents, which Christ death enables (for us to follow through with our repentance).

The Gospel is more about repentance and new life than it is forgiveness and "judicial righteousness" in my reading. Therefore, the atonement is more about allowing us to have the new life and being able to repent than it is about getting a covering for our past evil.