- Activist Feedback
- Substitutionary Atonement Theory and the Hebrew Sacrifices
- This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman
- Vegetarian Visitor: Where to Stay and Eat in Britain
1. Activist Feedback
Indefatigable Rick Hershey, who leafleted at Winter Jam in St. Louis,
I handed out 900 booklets, focusing on the younger people. 50% went
to younger teenagers, 40% to preteens, and 10% to adults. This is always
a polite, friendly and receptive crowd, and today was no exception!
2. Substitutionary Atonement Theory and the Hebrew Sacrifices
Defenders of substitutionary atonement theology often point to the
ancient Hebrew sacrifices as proof that God desires blood sacrifices for
sins. However, the Levitican sacrificial codes describe animal
sacrifices for thanksgiving as well as for sins, undermining the notion
that blood sacrifices fundamentally relate to punishment for sins. J.
Denny Weaver has noted that the Hebrews believed that the blood carried
the essence of life:
The Hebrew blood sacrifices involved a priest spreading the animal’s
blood over the altar, where God presided. Significantly, the person
offering the sacrifice identified with the sacrificial animal through
the laying on of hands, and consequently the lifeblood offered to God
constituted a symbolic rededication of the person’s entire life to God.
Weaver has written, “This ritual did not involve destruction of an
animal in place of killing a person. Rather, the life of the animal,
namely its blood, and with it the life of the worshiper, was given to
God” (The Nonviolent Atonement, p. 59). According to this view, neither
the animal’s blood nor the animal’s death was a penalty for human sins.
Along a similar vein, James D.G. Dunn (The Theology of Paul the
Apostle) has observed that the act of sacrifice denoted by the Hebrew
verb kipper aimed to eradicate the sin or the sinner’s propensity to
sin. (Kipper relates to “Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Hebrew
calendar and means “Day of Atonement.”) Dunn has written:
But in Hebrew usage God is never the object of the key verb
(kipper). Properly speaking, in the Israelite cult, God is never
‘propitiated’ or ‘appeased.’ The objective of the atoning act is rather
the removal of sin—that is, either by purifying the person or object, or
by wiping out the sin. Atonement is characteristically made ‘for’ a
person or ‘for sin.’ . . . Of course, the atoning act thus removes the
sin which provoked God’s wrath, but it does so by acting on the sin
rather than on God. (p. 214)
In my book Guided by the Faith of Christ, I discuss New Testament
passages that seem to endorse substitutionary atonement theory, such as
Romans 3:21-25. I offer alternative ways of looking at those passages
that, I think, are true to Scripture.
I want to emphasize that I am not claiming that substitutionary
atonement theory is wrong. Rather, I see it is one of several possible
explanations for Jesus’ death, and it is an explanation that (similar to
the many other explanations that Christian theologians have proposed
over the ages) is fraught with difficulties. We can and should try to
discern the intent of the Creator, but our limited human minds result in
evidently insurmountable barriers to our understanding. Next week, I
will start to explore these barriers. These barriers should not lead to
despair – humans can gain great insights with our minds – but they are
cause for humility. This humility, I will argue, encourages us to err on
the side of compassion.
Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.
3. This Week’s Sermon from Rev. Frank and Mary Hoffman
Learning to See the True Intent of Man’s Heart (Part I)
4. Vegetarian Visitor: Where to Stay and Eat in Britain, 2012 Edition
lists more than 400 accommodation addresses and cafés, restaurants and
pubs which properly cater for vegetarians and/or vegans. It is available
at amazon.com and through Independent Publishers Group (1-800-888-4741,
www.ipgbook.com) for $5.95.