Christmas Calumnies
Indulgences Part VIII : The Holy Rosary

Adamic Atonement

The story of the Garden of Eden presents us with the failings of mankind portrayed in an allegory. 'Adam' simply means 'man' and is derived from the Hebrew 'ha adamah' which means 'the ground' or 'the earth.'  'Eve' simply means 'living one'  or 'source of life.'

Paul emphasises that although made from the same 'earth,' there is a vast gulf  separating the 'first Adam,' who embodied all the faults of 'earthiness,' and between the 'last Adam,' Jesus, who embodied all the virtues required by God.

Because blood symbolised 'life,' and we have new 'life' in Jesus, Paul depicts Jesus as corporately 'atoning' once only for the sins of Adam and Eve - humanity in general - and purging them with redeeming blood. As well as humanity in general, this once only atonement referred to the failures of corporate entities such as the Law of Moses and the Priesthood. We might say that the slate was wiped clean at the time of the crucifixion.

What is not generally understood is the ritual blood sacrifices of the Mosaic Law atoned only for sins committed in ignorance. We see this confirmed for us in Hebrews 9:7 -

"...but into the second, only the high priest enters once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins of the people committed in ignorance."

The Hebrew Scriptures consistently warned that there was no vicarious atonement for intentional individual sin -

"And when you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you:  when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow..." (Isaiah 1:15-17)

"Atone for your sins with righteousness, and your iniquities with mercy to the oppressed, so that your prosperity may be prolonged."  (Daniel 4:27)

"And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moses said to the people, You have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up to YHVH; peradventure I shall make atonement for your sin. And Moses returned to YHVH, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if you will forgive their sin, and if not, blot me, I pray you, out of your book which you have written.

And YHVH said to Moses, Whosoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book." (Exodus 32:30-33) 

Moses' request was denied on the basis that he could not suffer vicariously for intentional individual sin.

"But everyone will die for his own sin..." (Jeremiah 31:30).

"No man can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him" (Psalms 49:7).

"The person who sins will die..." (Ezekiel 18:20).

"...everyone shall be put to death for his own sin." (Deuteronomy 24:16, II Kings 14:6).

By the time of Jesus, however, these many warnings had fallen on deaf ears and he found it necessary to issue another warning. That he did not see himself as vicariously 'atoning' for another individual's intentional sin is amply demonstrated in John 15:22.

"If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin."

Henceforth, in the New Creation of Life brought into existence by Jesus, there would be no more 'cover' for sin that the Mosaic Law had been seen to provide. Each and every individual was responsible before God for their own behaviour.

According to the Bible, the only way it has ever been possible for an individual to atone for intentional personal sin is through prayer and repentance, followed by good works. This concept is befitting of the God of justice, wisdom, and impartiality.

What does not reflect the wisdom, justice and impartiality of God, however, is the claim that only a divinity can atone for the sins of humanity. The prime message of the New Testament is obscured, twisted and robbed of meaning by this claim.

Only a normal man fashioned after the first Adam, subject to all the weaknesses and temptations of Adam, can possibly atone for the sins of Adam. Hence Jesus is referred to as the 'last Adam.'

Henceforth, it would be possible for all those who share the values of Jesus, the commitment of Jesus, and the integrity in adversity of Jesus, to follow in his footsteps and spiritually share in his death and resurrection by putting to death the old physical Adam and resurrecting the new spiritual man, 'begotten' of God and fashioned after God's own image, the intent of Creation.

Comments

Paul Robotham

Interesting post.

Would you confirm my understanding of what you're trying to say:
- Jesus as the God-man didn't atone for our sins, rather it was Jesus the Human-man
- Jesus was the God-man only in that he lived a Godly life as a human, ultimately sacrificing his life for others as was God's will
- We are not justified through mere belief in the historical event of Jesus' crucifixion (even Satan believes Jesus was the Christ), but only being spiritually 'in' Jesus and living a Christ-like life will atone for our sins and make us sons (daughters) of God.

I expect that some people, especially Calvinists, may have issues with your post because it implies that we have to be and do something (more than mere intellectual assent) in order to partake in (make effective) Jesus Christ's death and resurrection. I presume that you believe it is in within our human power to claim Jesus'atonement for ourselves. I assume you have at least a basic understanding of Calvinist doctrine -- how would you respond to a typical criticism of your view from their viewpoint (considering the five points of Calvinism in particular)? BTW, I'm not a Calvinist.

I just discovered your blog. It's good to hear an alternative point of view. Keep up the good work.

vynette

Paul, thanks for your comment.

You are correct in your understanding of my position, except perhaps that you think I ascribe to the "divinity" of Jesus, which I do not.

My position is that the doctrines of 'orthodox' Christianity are not based on the teachings of the Hebrew Jesus and the Hebrew apostles - on scripture - but on the misapprehensions of the post-apostolic, Hellenist-Latin 'fathers.'

Your remark re Calvinism raises many vital issues - too many to address properly here. So far, I've mainly dealt with creedal issues such as the 'Trinity,' and the 'Miraculous Incarnation' but certainly intend to blog on the many unnecessary complexities raised by the TULIP understanding of scripture.

Briefly though, Calvinism's doctrines of 'salvation by faith alone' and 'total depravity' completely overturn the testimony of the entire Bible, especially the teachings of Jesus.

They arose mainly through -

(1) a failure to recognise that neither the Greek word 'pistis' nor the English word 'faith' convey the same meaning to us as their Hebrew counterpart did to Hebrews. The Hebrew concept of 'faith' is not just assent to a proposition but implies persistence, loyalty, unwavering conviction and 'faithfulness' to 'someone.' This inward 'faithfulness' is demonstrated by outward good works and righteous behaviour, the type of 'works' on which Paul himself was fully engaged.

(2) a failure to recognise the Pauline distinction between the 'spirit' of the Law and the 'works' of the Law. According to Paul, salvation cannot be earned through keeping the ritual 'works' of the Law of Moses - the sacrificial system, keeping Shabbat, the dietary laws, circumcision - all the outward signs separating Jew from non-Jew. Jews did not enter the Mosaic covenant; they were born into it but expected to maintain membership by the works of the Law. Henceforth, membership of the New Covenant was not to be gained by the works of the law but by 'faith in Jesus.' In New Testament terms, to have 'faith in Jesus' is to believe that Jesus is God's anointed, God's human delegate on earth. As such, the 'way' of Jesus, emulation of his righteous behaviour, is the only way to God.

(3) a failure to understand the NT proposition that those who choose to emulate the righteousness of Jesus have become children of the Most High, 'begotten' of God, and sinless. It is a great pity that Paul's warnings to the leaders of different communities to be on guard against a sense of self-righteousness and works glorifying the self have become the servant of the 'we are all sinners' teaching.

Of course, these are all very complex subjects - one's I hope to analyse thoroughly in future posts.

Cheers
Vynette

Paul Robotham

Thanks for the detailed reply, Vynette.

In a way, I read what you say about Jesus as attributing divinity to him, but perhaps not in the sense that other Christians might attribute divinity to him. I'll read more of your posts to better understand where you're coming from. There can indeed be much subtlety implied in the term 'divine'.

I'm open to 'liberal' understandings of Jesus (e.g. Marcus Borg), but I remain skeptical of some metaphorical interpretations because they seem rather arbitrary, subjective and unreasonably hesitant to give a literal interpretation the benefit of the doubt due to exaggerated presuppositions. At such times, I fall back on a more literal/historical grammatical interpretation. Anyway, I'm still learning.

Cheers

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