Tag Archives: the Crucifixion

Ephesians 5 & Submission: I agree with Mike Huckabee and Michele Bachman

Ephesians 4:32-5:2 (NRSV)

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

The very first verse I learned from Ephesians was Ephesians 4:32, from the Jesus Alphabet that my mother taught. The second verse I learned from it came at a Christian camp for teens, as a teenager, Ephesians 6:5-9. The camp counselor, a white, 20-something male and Wesleyan-leaning evangelical, taught us that these passages about slavery had new meaning for today: presto-chango this was a command from God to not join unions when you go to work, to not complain or strike and to do everything that your boss told you to do. At the time, I was quite impressionable, and I never questioned interpretation.

My question today is: why is there such a practice in Christianity that separates (arbitrarily I would say) Paul’s atonement theology from the Christian life. And why in the world in my copy of the NIV 1984 is Ephesians separated into 2, from verses 1-21 and 22-33, while my beloved NRSV has 1-20, and 21-33? Anyone ever think about that? Does verse 21 say something offensive? Oh, BE SUBJECT TO ONE ANOTHER OUT OF REVERENCE FOR THE MESSIAH. But for persons who adhere to the non-gospel of the Gospel Coalition, submission is a one way street, right J K Gayle? Suzanne, do I hear a second?

I may get into the Greek later this week, but for now I leave you with the reception of submission, no not the dictionary definition which excludes the biblical and theological context, but with this quote by Mike Huckabee,

“Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who as an ordained Southern Baptist minister knows a few things about the Bible, explained it to me this way: “This is not about a woman being a doormat. It’s about mutual, reciprocal, selfless, sacrificial love.”

Kirsten Powers’ Stop Attacking Evangelicals at the Daily Beast.

Christus Victor in Galatians 3: The Messiah Conquers the Curse for the Gentiles


1. Disclaimer: Yes, I have read Gustav Aulen’s Christus Victor, and I do agree with his view of atonement, even though he has such a bad re-telling of Christian history and very little exegesis, but his work will not be quoted here. So that point is mute.

This post is dedicated to two friends, James Pate and T.C. Moore, who requested me to do a post on my view of atonement after reading/hearing how I understand Galatians 3.

There are already several arguments that scholars have made against Penal Substitutionary Atonement that I will not delve into here. Why? Because they are appeals to emotion, and they are the same points that opponents use to argue against any view of “blood atonement,” that is a theological interpretation of Jesus’ death on the cross of reconciling humanity with God and with others.

Instead, my rejection of PSA is on exegetical grounds. Before I begin my approach, I feel I must summarize the approach to the text by proponents of PSA. Normally, advocates of PSA are evangelical, and they tell me, at least, that in order to understand Scripture, the church must prioritize the New Testament Epistles first and then subsequently read the letters, so to speak into the Gospels and then the whole of the New Testament into the “Old’ Testament. Along with this hermeneutic, there comes along with a theological interpretation of concepts such as “The Curse” (see Galatians 3:13 NRSV) as something as being like sin in general or human iniquity understood in a universal sense. This approach seemed quite okay, especially since theologically, the Church was the New Israel. When I was a 4 point calvinist years ago, this was the way I read Scripture.

Today, however, I no longer hold that hermeneutic, and my reason is theological: if the Protestant doctrine that Scripture is the best interpreter of itself rings true (part of Sola Scriptura), then I do not think that even we as the Gentile members of the Church are the best capable persons for understanding what “the Curse of the Law” is without first seeing what curses are in the Law (in this case, the Torah, along with other passages in the Hebrew Bible). As I have grown in my spiritual journey, this has been the hermeneutic that I have come to accept as the most reasonable, to accept the text’s definition, for example, of what “the Curse” is rather than our theological post-suppositions.

Revelation both frees us to converse with God as well as talk about God; at the same time, it limits what we can say. The question put forth by atonement theologies is, “What is the nature of God becoming at-one (literally) with humanity?” Revelation, then, points us more in the direction of particularity rather than the generalities passed down to us by constructive and systematic theologians. In Christianity, Christ as the Logos from YHWH is revelation first and foremost, and then secondly, the canon, which contains God’s promises and law [blessings and curses]. The story of Paul and the Galatians starts with God and Abram in Genesis 15. Paul reminds the Judaizers, the ones who wish to impose circumcision on the Gentile believers, that God, that from the beginning, God had in mind to include the Gentiles into God’s economy of salvation (Galatians 3:8).

Now, in this context, whether it is cultural, historical or theological, all signs points to Paul, when he is discussing the “Curse of the Law,” he is not referring to some abstract notion of being cursed. Rather, there are curses in the Torah, that pit the Judeans & Israelites against the Nations. This is similar to Paul’s (or pseudo-Paul, whichever one you believe) statement in Ephesians 2:11-20, where there was once a dividing wall of hostility, now destroyed by YHWH’s work in Yeshua’s flesh. But this dividing wall was not something that was imagined; think of the stories of Ezra and Nehemiah, in their strict interpretations of Deuteronomy, they forced divorces upon Israel’s leadership and declared, “No More Ruths”–(chk Nehemiah 10). The Curses of the Law not only include the ones in which Israel was judged as a nation for being disobedient to the Ten Commandments, but also the warnings for the “gentiles to be over and above them” if they did not obey God’s word (Deuteronomy 28:43). So, again, the Curse of the Law should be understood in the context of the Law.

The Law is not the problem; the Curse is the problem, for the Law contains blessings and curses, so Jesus the Messiah has to remove these curses through his obedience and death, conquering that principality, and therefore creating one humanity out of two groups. So when Paul admonishes the Galatian Gentiles to no longer depend upon the works of the (Gal 3:10), I join New Testament Scholar Brad Braxton in asserting that Paul has Deuteronomy 28 in view, and the works of the law that Paul condemns are the works that the Gentiles in the past had to do (be circumcised, for example)to be included in the covenantal community since Jesus’ effort had opened up the way for the Nations to join Israel.

When one upholds this interpretation in view, it is really not that possible to see Galatians 3:13 as a proof-text for Penal Substitution, but more likely an argument for an early type of Christus Victor, of Jesus the Messiah overcoming the Curse for the Gentiles. It is upon this victory that all Christian attempts at racial reconciliation must rest.

For more, please see Brad Braxton’s No Longer Slaves: Galatians and the African American Experience.

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Sunday Amens: Scared of the Eucharist?

So, the first Sunday of each month is Communion Sunday at the local United Methodist congregation where I work.  Nothing out of the ordinary usually happens.  Well, this week, something extraordinary did happen.

So, normally there are two lower elementary aged (kindergarten to second grade) children [a brother and sister]   who attend Sunday School, but are unable to attend worship.  The last time we had communion Sunday, however, they partook in the Eucharist for the first time.  It was a heartening thing to witness, and a moment to be proud.  Today, they slipped in early enough that I decided to abandon my duties on the projector slides for a second to encourage them to take Communion again, by going in the sanctuary before going to their classroom where they usually play games. The Brother, M1 was more than eager to take communion, as he skipped his way in through the hallways and into the sanctuary.  The sister, the youngest of the two, however, was quite reluctant, and at first I did not know why.  Then, as I watched her reactions as the pastor was addressing the church, I noticed something.  The pastor said, this is Jesus’ body, broken for us.  The sister gave a squeamish look, closing her eyes and twisting her mouth in disgust.  Then, the pastor said, this is Jesus’ blood, shed for us.  Again, she gave a look in horror, and then I realized why she did not want to join us in the sanctuary.  As we were in line for communion, she whispered to me, “I do not want to drink anyone’s blood.”

There you have it.  A reminder from a five year-old child.  Sometimes, we as Christians like to forget how horrendous our Lord’s being tortured and executed was.  In the mind of a child so young, the taking of the pastor’s words literally may seem funny to adults, but on another level, the girl’s comment may represent a few questions that normally go unasked by your average congregant. Does salvation have to be so violent and bloody? Is the death of anyone necessary so that others may live?  What does our partaking of the Lord’s Supper mean for those who suffer torment in the here and now, anyways?

I think this girl raises some good concerns, concerns that many feminist and womanist theologians have been asking for years, pertaining to the violent nature of atonement.  What would a liturgy look like that included a nonviolent approach to the crucifixion (the cross as an anti-torture/anti-terror event)?