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 Post subject: The Resurrection
PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 4:32 pm 
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This is something I would like to discuss. Not the resurrection itself, that's just the name of the thread.

I wonder what would have happened if Jesus had not been killed? His life and death seemed - to me - to carry out God's plan.

Jesus, we are told, took upon himself the sins of us all, and paid the penalty.

How could that have been done if he hadn't been killed?

We are told that Jesus IS god, so he must have known. And yet he cried out that he had been forsaken -

With a great deal of due respect, I must say that the story as told in the various gospels is so full of contradictions that it's impossible for me to make them march together nicely.

How can there have been any "guilt" for those who tried, convicted, and executed Jesus if that's what was supposed to happen? If it wasn't, then what was? Can we speculate?

I'll delete this, if anyone is bothered by it. I won't be.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 6:10 pm 
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And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.

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Last edited by narya on Sun Apr 15, 2012 4:10 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:30 pm 
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Well, I'm not bothered by it :).

Two things you bring up are things I often grapple with in my mind. First, how could Jesus be both God and man? If fully God, why would he be worried about anything, but if he knew everything and had no need for worry, how could he be fully man?

Second, you bring up "God's plan." This phrase is used so often, and it is one of the most frustrating concepts to deal with for me personally. It's supposed to be a comforting thought... no matter how bad things get, it's part of God's plan, so it must be ok... but at the same time, if it's all part of God's plan, how could the impossibly bad things that happen fit in?

It's also impossible to separate the concept from the idea of fate in my head, and I do not like the concept of fate. To me, the idea of free will is paramount to the rationalization of human existence. Without it, I see no point to any of it. With it, there cannot be a concept of fate, because that would eliminate one's free will.

Free will can explain why bad things happen, even as part of God's plan, but that can also remove the aspect of comfort that you might get out of it... or at least that I might. Unless of course you consider "free will" to be equivalent to "God's plan"

And this can also be an aspect of what feels troubling about Jesus's actions, choices, apparent un-god-like behavior. If he was fully human, then his own free will was essential. He could have chosen not to die. With knowledge of "God's plan" as it were, he could have escaped. He could have led a revolution or lived on a mountain in peace. He could have ruled the world. But instead, he chose to die. He chose to offer salvation free to anyone that wanted. Was it a hard choice? I believe it was, but on the other hand, maybe it was easy. But as for why he felt "forsaken" it might simply have been that he had to make that choice and it was hard.

I don't know if that's think kind of stuff you were wanting other's thoughts on, but that's a short version of how it goes around in my head and how I do find myself able to work through the apparent contradictions you and other see.

That's not to say i don't find all of it hard to believe sometimes myself, but most of my life seems to be working though contradictions my brain seems to find on its own.

Now I'm starting to think of the concept of the Trinity, and it's making my brain hurt.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 08, 2012 7:45 pm 
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halplm, that's exactly the kind of response I was hoping for.

Thanks.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:16 am 
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I am posting from an iPhone, so this will be a rambly, not very ordered post.

Jesus crying out that God had forsaken him as he hung on the cross - Christians interpret that cry as a direct quote from Psalm 22:1. Christians also interpret his cry as something more visceral and powerful, a cry wrenched from his very soul - they interpret it as Jesus experiencing the most desolate of human experiences, of feeling abandoned and lost in a universe from which God has vanished. I don't know of any Christian who pretends to fully understand this aspect of Christ's suffering, any more than anyone fully understands the concept of the Trinity. ;). But they would definitely see it as part of what Jesus chose to take on himself.

I fully concur with what Hal says about disliking the concept of fate and believing in free will.

There is a tendency in some Western churches to see 'God's plan for your life' in rather self-indulgent terms. :scratch: I find a good antidote to this is to consider the lives of those I regard as heroes, e.g. Dietrich Boenhoeffer, the German Lutheran pastor who spoke out against the Nazis and was eventually executed by them for his part in the plot to assassinate Hitler. I'm sure Bonhoeffer had some pretty dark moments while he was in prison - who wouldn't?! But he wrote truly inspirational and challenging stuff on what it really means to be a disciple. His end was grim (yet merciful compared to the fates of millions of other victims of Nazi mass murder) but his was not a life lived in vain. People like him, who do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, not because it will bring them any reward, inspire me.

Just some rambly thoughts.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 1:47 pm 
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You know, I just came back from NYC, where I saw the revival of "Jesus Christ Superstar." (On Good Friday - how apropos!) It's probably the only thing by AL Webber I like (well, that and "Joseph.") I think I like it partly because it was a huge part of my teenaged formative years, but also because it is essentially a modern passion play...with great rock riffs.

I think the song "Gethsename" captures some of how I feel about the conflict Jesus experienced. In the Bible, it says that Jesus asked God three times to please "take this cup away" - to release Jesus from the need to be sacrificed in such a horrible way.

Jesus was a man and a man has doubts and a man gets scared and a man feels pain. If he didn't, then he wouldn't BE a man. If Jesus didn't feel all those things (and all the other things a man feels) and just went waltzing happily to his crucifixion - what would be the sacrifice?

I think it was a very hard choice...and he could have gotten away and continued his mission. Or disappeared. But he allowed himself to be captured, knowing the outcome.

(In the provocative novel "The Last Temptation of Christ" by Nikos Kazantzakis, Christ goes through with the crucifixion, but then is tempted to allow himself to retreat into a comforting fantasy while on the cross, rather than fully suffer the pain.)

Anyway...here's the words to "Gethsename" from Superstar...and a youtube clip. This is from the original soundtrack - but the guy I saw on Friday was terrific.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2cCuadivpE

I only want to say
If there is a way
Take this cup away from me
For I don't want to taste its poison
Feel it burn me,
I have changed I'm not as sure
As when we started
Then I was inspired
Now I'm sad and tired
Listen surely I've exceeded
Expectations
Tried for three years
Seems like thirty
Could you ask as much
From any other man?

But if I die
See the saga through
And do the things you ask of me
Let them hate me, hit me, hurt me
Nail me to their tree
I'd want to know
I'd want to know my God
I'd want to know
I'd want to know my God
I'd want to see
I'd want to see my God
I'd want to see
I'd want to see my God
Why I should die
Would I be more noticed
Than I ever was before?
Would the things I've said and done
Matter any more?
I'd have to know
I'd have to know my Lord
I'd have to see
I'd have to see my Lord

If I die what will be my reward?
I'd have to know
I'd have to know my Lord

Why, why should I die?
Oh, why should I die?
Can you show me now
That I would not be killed in vain?
Show me just a little
Of your omnipresent brain
Show me there's a reason
For your wanting me to die
You're far too keen on where and how
But not so hot on why
Alright I'll die!
Just watch me die!
See how, see how I die!
Oh, just watch me die!

Then I was inspired
Now I'm sad and tired
After all I've tried for three years
Seems like ninety
Why then am I scared
To finish what I started
What you started
I didn't start it
God thy will is hard
But you hold every card
I will drink your cup of poison
Nail me to your cross and break me
Bleed me, beat me
Kill me, take me now
Before I change my mind

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:08 pm 
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That musical was a big part of my growing up as well. "Gethsemane" captures something that has always been essential to my personal understanding of Christ: that in being fully God and fully human, he was for that time limited by his humanity. Maybe he knew and understood things ordinary people don't, maybe he could perform miracles—but I don't believe he did those things from a perspective of omniscience and omnipotence. He wouldn't have been one of us at all if that had been the case. That's why he prayed, why he pleaded with God. I believe that's why he predicted things that did not happen (such as his return for the day of judgment while his followers were still alive).

God coming to humanity as a "human" who still knew everything about the future and about his own purpose and who could not suffer either pain or uncertainty—that's like Marie Antoinette playing a shepherdess in a silk gown, with cute little perfumed lambs, court musicians playing behind bushes, and a seven-course picnic at the end, served by liveried footmen.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:22 pm 
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Quote:
How could that have been done if he hadn't been killed?


This is a central question, in my view. We are told that the central godhead ("God the Father" in Christian terms) is all-powerful, capable of all things. Of necessity, this means that s/he/it is capable of forgiving sins without exacting the death of anyone as a penalty. The choice to require death (a torture-murder, no less) nonetheless seems condemnable to me - especially if, as I read Prim's and Jewel's posts to suggest, Jesus was not a full manifestation of an omniscient god, but was more straightforwardly human.

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Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:43 pm 
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Just bouncing of nel, and them some general comments...

The way I understand it a blood sacrifice was required because God at one time said it had to be so. After a while it became apparent that one could engage in the practice in a legalistic way without changing any behaviours that made it necessary in the first place. This lead him to say "I desire [you to show] mercy, not [merely to engage in] sacrifice." (Psa?)

Anyway sacrifice was part of the covenant and the purpose of Jesus (a first born without spot or blemish) being made a scapegoat was to end the practice for once and all time. I see this as a merciful end to a practice that always must have seemed unpleasant to say the least.

The Trinity is a head scratcher that perhaps best can be described by way of analogy. Say there's a person. This person, like all people, is one being. However there are 3 distinct aspects of that person: body (flesh), mind (intellect), and spirit (personality). When we speak of this person, although we call them one person, we can also speak about their aspects as also being them. I don't see any contradiction here (and I'm not just saying that... I used to struggle with the concept mightily).

Jesus was fully human, otherwise his suffering would have been meaningless. When tempted in the desert, if he was not fully human, his example would be shallow. As well, because he was human, he relied heavily on the scriptures while explaining the ins and outs of God's way.

Although Jesus was fully human, he was also God. After he was no longer here in the flesh, he sent the Holy Spirit to be with those who accepted him. After they received the Holy Spirit, his disciples went on to do the things written about in Acts. But it wasn't them who did those things, it was God in them (more precisely the aspect of God called the Holy Spirit) that did it. When someone becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit resides in them (though is closer or further away from them depending on what they get up to at any given time).

The feeling of separation is easy to observe in ourselves (though obviously not often at the same magnitude) even without the Holy Spirit. For instance, take someone who smokes (or overeats) but would like to stop: their body craves that which their mind knows is bad for them and the longer they struggle with the addiction the more potential for their spirit to despair.

Having said all this it is likely that most of what I've said will seem as foolishness. I've mentioned a verse a few times that I have experienced on both sides of the equation: "... the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Consider also the idea that believers corporately are the "Body of Christ" indwelt with the Holy Spirit, with the mind of Christ also. Students of anatomy will get the analogy of the body easily enough. But it takes belief in such a thing as the spiritual realm, and then the ability to accept that the mind is more than chemical reactions to get the rest of it.

ETA: uh I see the context for my blood sacrifice comments has disappeared... suffice it to say the above is how I interpret my reading in the Old and New Testaments so far. As always mileage may vary.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:47 pm 
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When someone becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit resides in them


Now, as someone who (tries to) practice the principles of Quakerism, I believe that there is "that of God in every Man" and one does not have to be a Christian for the Holy Spirit to reside within.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 11:20 pm 
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Yeah sorry about that... it's just what I read somewhere. It's a challenging proviso, similar to something I read only moments ago: "it is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring."

This probably isn't helping Vison with her question though.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 11:30 pm 
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Just a quick comment to put Sir D's remarks into context - my post had originally used "blood sacrifice" and "torture-murder" to refer to Jesus' death somewhat interchangeably. That is, that death would be a blood sacrifice vis-a-vis the Christian being known as "God the father" and a "torture murder" vis-a-vis this world and humanity. However, I decided that my first few sentences were too strongly worded and edited my post in an attempt to soften it. If I had known that someone had intended to respond, I'd have left the remarks unchanged. Sorry about that.

Anyway, when you write this:

Quote:
The way I understand it a blood sacrifice was required because God at one time said it had to be so. After a while it became apparent that one could engage in the practice in a legalistic way without changing any behaviours that made it necessary in the first place. This lead him to say "I desire [you to show] mercy, not [merely to engage in] sacrifice." (Psa?)

Anyway sacrifice was part of the covenant and the purpose of Jesus (a first born without spot or blemish) being made a scapegoat was to end the practice for once and all time. I see this as a merciful end to a practice that always must have seemed unpleasant to say the least.


This effectively reads to me as though we are describing a god who evolved over time, towards behavior that was less bloodthirsty and vengeful and more forgiving. (Of course, this idea of divine evolution is also in tension with the concept of an eternal and unchanging divinity.) According to Christian teaching (with which I am somewhat uncomfortable not only on an atheist level, but also on a Judeophile level), the covenant with the Jewish people was effectively superseded in return for this new, universal covenant of forgiveness. In other words, God freely changed the original covenant terms, substituting others that were more to his liking. By definition, this new covenant repudiated as no longer necessary the mitzvot, commandments, that he had once decreed were necessary. If this repudiation were possible at all, it seems to me that the requirement of a blood sacrifice could also have been repudiated.

Of course, from an atheist perspective, what I see is not the evolution of a divinity from a less exacting and bloodthirsty approach to a more forgiving and loving approach ... but the evolution of humanity itself in that direction. Because I believe that humans create their god(s) in a human image, this evolution is attributed to the god(s) in question by the religious. But for the non-religious, this repudiation of individual physical punishment or death as necessary for the atonement of wrongdoing could instead reflect our societal "evolving standards of decency." This is a question with which modern society continues to grapple with respect to state-sanctioned capital punishment - a debate very much informed by people's religious views on the topic of what is necessary to forgive "capital" sins. (Sorry, this last paragraph jumbles a bunch of ideas together.)

ETA ... and to be clear, the positive evolution I describe in that last paragraph is reflected not only in Christianity, but also in modern Judaism.

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I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 09, 2012 11:51 pm 
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It isn't necessary for my peace of mind to wrestle the contradictions - or what I see as contradictions - into a unified and cohesive set of beliefs. But it must surely be necessary for someone who is a Christian.

nerdanel expresses much of what I think on the matter, but I am sincerely interested in the process by which a person does the wrestling.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:26 am 
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As another Quaker with limited capacity to "believe" things, though with a rather mystical approach to the world nevertheless, I'll add that the image of a God wanting to know what it is like to be human--what these little mortal beings have to suffer through!--is very powerful.

Sometimes I think of it this way: the universe, of which we are a part, is Everything. Is God. And we are the part of that universe that--like the foamy edge of a great wave--flings itself forward enough to curl back and LOOK at Itself, at the universe, through our own part-of-God-but-feeling-separate eyes.

It is a gift to be able to LOOK, but the separateness brings suffering with it too. And I'm sure all human beings sometimes want not to have to drink the cup handed them. sigh.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:45 am 
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In the text, blood sacrifice is traced back to Able... he did it and it was pleasing to God. God didn't tell him to do it. From the text it appears that Able just started to do it on his own. The act, like all human endeavour, was meaningless in and of itself, Able's intentions are what mattered.

Cain did something similar to Able and it was not pleasing to God. The difference between Able's sacrifice and Cain's sacrifice is Able's was a first born, spotless goat (or was it a lamb?) where as Cain's was some grain. Not the first grain he picked -- nor necessarily well formed without blemish -- but "some" grain.

Able's sacrifice was pleasing, Cain's was not. The reason wasn't because one was meat and the other was vegetables (or blood and non-blood) but because of the spirit in which the sacrifice was chosen and presented. Able gave his best, Cain just gave some.

Jumping now to Abraham, he was counted righteous by Grace, not law (he was before the Law.) God brought the Law in by request because simply waiting on his provision was difficult... people wanted something they could do to show they were interested in pleasing God. However as he said, he desires mercy not sacrifice... but people wanted something that they could do, that they could point to, so God went along with it. I believe he made the rules so detailed and arbitrary that no one would ever be able to keep them for very long, least ways not perfectly.

Anyway that is a very limited (and in no ways intentionally dismissive or critical) description of where blood sacrifice entered into sanctification. None of it suggests to me that God evolved. He gave people choice. They wanted to engage in rituals, he let them. A new sect sprang up after Jesus; that sect became highly ritualized, and he let them do that too. None of this means God changed, and it isn't a solid case for saying people (or religion, except in the details) changed either. God is the same as he has always been, and people are the same as they always have been -- free to choose and forever missing the point.

ETA: Vison, if one does not see contradictions, wrestling with them doesn't even enter into it. There are doubts from time to time, but we all agree doubt is healthy and not necessarily the same as unbelief.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 12:52 am 
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Sir D, that is a very interesting interpretation - essentially, of God staying the same but allowing religion to evolve to suit human needs and development. I shall give this some more thought and respond later if I am able.

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I won't just survive
Oh, you will see me thrive
Can't write my story
I'm beyond the archetype
I won't just conform
No matter how you shake my core
'Cause my roots, they run deep, oh

When, when the fire's at my feet again
And the vultures all start circling
They're whispering, "You're out of time,"
But still I rise
This is no mistake, no accident
When you think the final nail is in, think again
Don't be surprised, I will still rise


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:21 am 
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I don't see the incarnation so much as God wanting to know what it is to be human, but more as God wanting to assure humans that God does know what we are and what we sometimes must suffer. People like me love a God who can say, "Come to me, all of you who work hard and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:35 am 
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Very interesting post, Sir D.

I have believed for quite some time now that the whole notion of blood sacrifice was of human, not godly, origin. We were the ones who valued blood, so we saw spilling it as the ultimate proof of devotion. By "we," I mean the various tribes of humanity, not just the people of the Bible. The ancient Israelites at least limited the slaughter to animals rather than people. (I think the story of Abraham and Isaac is at heart a story of their rejection of child sacrifice as a means to placate God.)

In my view, the sacrifice of Jesus was proof of God's willingness to experience the depths of human suffering -- even the suffering that comes from sense of abandonment by God -- rather than a blood payoff to settle accounts. Jesus told people they were forgiven before he was ever nailed to a cross. The forgiveness was always there, but we thought there had to be be blood shed to activate it.

Jesus' death only "had" to happen because that's what people do to prophets who upend the status quo. Those who already have power feel threatened by anyone who opens people's eyes to freedom, healing and love.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 11:18 am 
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Yes, I believe you are correct about the origin of blood sacrifice. Able did it; where he got the idea it does not say. God searched Able's heart and saw something pleasing, unlike with Cain.

Perhaps the story of Cain killing Able juxtaposed with the story of the first sacrifices was to suggest it was not the spilling of blood that God wanted, it was a right heart. Able fitted the criteria of a suitable sacrifice (first born, for all we know blameless) though Cain did not own him (which he candidly admits when he says am I my brother's keeper). Cain was motivated by jealousy and his sacrifice would be unacceptable no matter what it was. The power is not in the act, it is in the intent. It is quite complicated when it comes down to it. Sacrificing a human would always be infringing on their rights...

Anyway saying he "had" to be sacrificed does make it sound overly legalistic. I can't count the number of times I've heard "it had to be so" but honestly it is not something (especially its technical aspect or relation to the Law) I understand very well, if at all so I'm not sure why I felt the need to comment. :scratch: Just trying to keep the conversation going I guess.

What you say here is closer to my own view, at least, where my focus usually lays:

Quote:
In my view, the sacrifice of Jesus was proof of God's willingness to experience the depths of human suffering -- even the suffering that comes from sense of abandonment by God -- rather than a blood payoff to settle accounts. Jesus told people they were forgiven before he was ever nailed to a cross. The forgiveness was always there, but we thought there had to be be blood shed to activate it.

Jesus' death only "had" to happen because that's what people do to prophets who upend the status quo. Those who already have power feel threatened by anyone who opens people's eyes to freedom, healing and love.


The second part: It does seem that way at times, doesn't it?

Now I'm thinking about the OT again... about prophecy... yeah I think I'll stop talking until I've read a bit more...

Except to say, (to whomever said it) God could have done anything he wanted to, including finding a way around Jesus's death, but then we would have missed the example of the resurrection.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:33 pm 
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Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 1:31 am
Posts: 842
Location: Canada
So there is Hebrews 9 which is a fairly thorough teaching on the significance of blood in the first and second covenants. Verses 9-15 and 18-22 cover most of what I said; Verses 14-17 seem to capture what Wampus said about prophets being killed.

see also Hebrews 13:11-13.


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