I’ve been reading the Nonviolent Atonement by Denny Weaver and I have to admit it is an eye opener. In today’s post I’m not going to go into the assertions and conclusions that Professor Weaver makes, but I assure you I will be writing on his work in a number of upcoming posts.
What I would like to write about today is the idea of assumptions and preconceived ideas. First of all I know how hard it is to break out of the mold that we have been cast in. For many of us we have been raised since early childhood to believe certain things and those things become so ingrained in our minds, thoughts, and actions that we can barely shake them loose even after they have been proven false.
I remember first learning there was no tooth fairy and how devastated I was because I had a lot invested in loosing teeth and collecting fifty cents for each tooth. I knew my mom was right when she explained to me that the tooth giver of quarters didn’t exist but I wanted to believe because I wanted the money. When the rest of my baby teeth fell out and the money still appeared under my pillow in the morning I no longer cared about the tooth fairy not being real because I still received the reward for loosing a tooth.
It is the same with theology for many of us. We come to a place in our lives where our studies, conversations, reading, praying and common sense tells us something we have believed all our lives is wrong but we have so much invested in those fallacies that it is difficult to change our views, at least publicly.
For me, because of the system of theology that I was brought up on, studied, and taught for so many years it was fairly difficult to come to a place where I had to rethink all that I believed.
I want to say an aside here for a moment. Most of us believe we have truth and that other people do not. For us it seems silly that those people will not change their minds and believe what we believe. That is what I believed for many years about people who rejected the message that I presented. I kept thinking, “How do they not see the truth of what I am teaching?” Maybe it is because they are closer to the truth than we actually were. It is possible that they see through the gauze that covers our misunderstanding of the Gospel because they do not have invested in those views what we have invested. We need to cut some slack to people who we theologically look down upon because they haven’t accepted the “truth” we have, but instead understand every person is on their own path with God as their guide.
Over the years I have had to change many things about my belief system as the Holy Spirit has revealed Himself to me through my studies. This has not been easy for a number of reasons. It is difficult to believe that something you believed with all your heart you had wrong. It is difficult to believe because you are interconnected to so many other people who believe the same as you do and it is hard to let them down. It is also difficult because you want so much for your belief to be right because it is a comfort zone.
Growing in Christ, however, is the most wonderful experience in the world. To open up the Bible and have God pour out the joy and grace of His word is worth everything we have. Jesus is the pearl of great price and we only discover that when we are willing to take the blinders off and be open to the leading of the Spirit even if at times we feel like we are dropping off a cliff into the swirling mists of the ocean below. In that fall, however, there is a euphoria of joy at the freedom we are experiencing in letting go of beliefs that strangled and haunted us throughout our lives.
There is a freedom in discovering new truth and new patterns and understandings about the Bible that elate us with the joy of God’s love, forgiveness, and acceptance. For many of you who are reading this post, you know what I am saying when I say that when I finally let go of the legalism and dogma that controlled my every action and plunged into the mist I felt liberated and freed from shackles that constantly pained me.
I was talking to some friends recently about all the changes that have taken place in our lives and we all had to admit that where we are now theologically is a long ways from where we started. Some of the changes in our thinking were only made possible when we stopped kicking and screaming against those changes. Others were eureka moments when the Bible seemed to open up into one giant highway of understanding and everything came together and made perfect sense. Such is the highway that we all walk when Jesus walks by our side. We never know what He will reveal to us next and open our hearts and minds up to His never-ending desire to lead and guide us into truth.
So, back to the Nonviolent Atonement. The heart of the gospel is the cross, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. If anything should be set in stone it is the traditional protestant view of the atonement. When you pick up a book like Weaver’s some of those beliefs are going to be challenged and challenged hard. But Weavers book is not a tear apart and knock down type of essay, but instead a desire to present the Atonement through the grace, love and sacrifice of Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
As I am reading through this book I have to admit my heart is rejoicing in the wonder and love of God. Jesus, according to Weaver, didn’t die to satisfy the demands of law or bring satisfaction to God’s wrath. He died so the shackles of sin, death and destruction that hold us captive to the powers and principalities of this world (Satan) would be cracked open and we would come home to the Father. The cross is not about appeasing an angry and wrathful God who pours out His wrath on His son so we don’t have to receive it. The cross is about Jesus, our loving savior, freely taking our sins upon His shoulders so that we can be free to enter into relationship with the love of the Father.
The book is not an overly easy read because there is a great deal to take in and reflect upon. It is not easy to dismiss the book by flipping through a few pages and then casting it aside. To understand what he is saying means reflecting upon the material he presents, looking up the texts and opening your hearts and minds to the logic and theology that he endeavors to present. This is not a book trying to undermine historic Christian beliefs or pursue the historical Jesus to lessen the impact upon the importance of atonement. This is a book that is trying to return to what, he believes, were the teachings of the early church.
Order a copy for yourself and take the time to think it through. Pray about it and let the Spirit lead. Truth is progressive for those of us who are open to the leading of the Spirit. God is great, God is good, God is Holy.