Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Response to Loftus on Theory of atonement

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On the Debuncking Christianity blog, Loftus attacks my understanding of the atonement. But he demonstrates the totally disingenuous nature of his views:

Over at Metacrock's Blog Joe takes evangelical atonement theories to task and then offers his own, called Participatory Atonement. According to him "Christ died in Solidarity with victims." I both "love" and "hate" liberal theologies. I love them because they argue with me against evangelical Christianity. I hate them because they are used to maintain a faith that doesn't make a difference and cannot be rationally defended as being specifically Christian. Here's my response to his atonement theory....

This is disingenuous because he wants to present liberal theology as an alternative. but in circular reasoning, the alternative is still just er zots Christianity and fundism is the standard by which all Christianity must be judged. Then he uses circular reasoning to argue against liberalism. LIberal ism beats us fundiism, so far so good. then liberalism itself is picked off becasue it doesn't match up to the standard of fundism so now there's no Christianity that matters.A beats B but A loses because it isn't B. that's nuts!

As my brother once said, "Stalin was the best thing that ever happened to communism he had the right idea." The Tort he was arguing with said "but he killed all the members of the Comentern" my brother says "well they were just a bunch of no good commies weren't they?" Of course his assertions about Christianity are circular becasue he has presented no evidence of any thing, In fact they are disproved by liberal theology since they only apply to fundamentalism.

Your answer is cherry-picking and choosing from the Bible, it doesn't sufficiently answer the question why Jesus suffered, nor does it answer the problem of evil, nor does it answer the problems of the incarnation and the trinity.

I've already taken him to task for this. Calling my piece "cherry picking" is the lowest form of playing to gallery and the most unfair attempt to evoke fear of experts. I will present more data to indicate the breadth of my view, but Loftus presents nothing He makes the charge groundless and baseless and does nothing to prove it. As so many atheists, their main methodology is to construct a hermeneutic of suspicion, and to assert truth by stipulation after special pleading for the privilege of their view over all others. They never do anything to earn any of this they just assert it.

Cherry picking implies that one is just looking for the passages that support one's view and ignoring those that do not. Is that what I'm really doing? Of course Loftus presents no argument and no evidence to support that he merely asserts it because it's the atheist bromide that one uses anytime liberal biblical scholarship comes up. Its' their way of saying "we are not sophisticated enough to ddeal with real scholarships but we can dismiss this with a one liner.k"

The fact is all groups and schools of thought have a canon within the canon, a key set of verses that they use to define all verses. This is done in any body of literature where people have set views about differences of interpretation. The fundamentalists do it of course. I have never heard of an evangelical group that prays for the dead. Evangelicals use Paul as the key and not Jude or James which are probably anti-Paul. The problem is Loftus treats all forms of hermeneutics as though they are verbal plenary inspiration. He can't understand any other means of interpretation. He approaches liberalism as though it is just another version of fundamentalism. Thus, I think he expects every single verse to be dealt with in a literal fashion. Fundism is just as much "cherry picking" as anything. The whole concept of textual criticism requires that one seek the best reading and exclude wrong ones so that is "cherry picking." So what? Loftus does not come to terms with the passages I present and he gives no reason to reject them as the key to understanding.

"Cherry picking" implies a highly selective view which ignores other views. The participatory atonement idea that I discussed is not incompatible with most modern theological view points on the atonement, and I listed three major modern theologians who push it: Whiteley, Mostlmann, and Lamb. One really must read Whitely's book Theology of Saint Paul (circa 1965) especially the chapter on participatory atonement. It's a complex and brilliant chapter in which Whiteley (then one of the top Pupaline scholars in the world, based at Oxford) explicated the concept in dealing with almost all New Testament passages and major portions of the OT in terms of scape goat and blood sacrifice. he finds that the atonement is not continuation of blood sacrifice. The OT images of the sacrifice and the goat might be symbolic foreshadowing but the atonement is not an upgraded version of temple sacrifice. The same view has also been held by Origin and Clement of Alexandra. Similar views can be found in the works of N.T. Wright as discussed by Mark Home:

But why should “Messiah” bear such an incorporative sense? Clearly, because it is enemic in the understanding of kingship, in many societies and certainly in ancient Israel, that the king and the people are bound together in such a way that what is true of the one is true in principle of the other.

Wright elaborates:

In Romans 6.11, the result of being baptized “into Christ”… is that one is now “in Christ,” so that what is true of him is true of the one baptized–here, death and resurrection. This occurs within the overall context of the Adam-Christ argument of chapter 5, with its two family solidarities; the Christian has now left the old solidarity (Romans 6.6) and entered the new one. 6.23 may be read by analogy with 6.11; whose who are “in Christ” receive the gift of the life of the new age, which is already Christ’s in virtue of his resurrection–that is, which belongs to Israel’s representative, the Messiah in virtue of his having drawn Israel’s climactic destiny on to himself. Similarly, in Romans 8.1, 2 the point of the expression “in Christ” is that what is true of Christ is true of his people: Christ has come through the judgment of death and out into the new life which death can no longer touch (8.3-4; 8.10-11), and that is now predicated of those who are “in him.” In Galatians 3.26 the ex-pagan Christians are told that they are all sons of God (a regular term for Israel…) in Christ, through faith. It is because of who the Messiah is–the true seed of Abraham, and so on–that Christians are this too, since they are “in” him. Thus in v. 27, explaining this point, Paul speaks of being baptized “into” Christ and so “putting on Christ,” with the result that (3.28) [translating Wright’s reproduction of Paul’s Greek here:] you are all one in Christ Jesus. It is this firm conclusion, with all its overtones of membership in the true people of God, the real people of Abraham, that is then expressed concisely in 3.29 with the genitive [again translating]: and if you are of Christ… When we consider Galatians 3 as a whole, with its essentially historical argument from Abraham through Moses to the fulfillment of God’s promises in the coming of Christ, a strong presupposition is surely created in faovor both of reading Xpistos as “Messaiah,” Israel’s representative, and of understanding the incorporative phrases at the end of the chapter as gaining their meaning from this sens. Because Jesus is the Messiah, he sums up his people in himself, os that what is true of him is true of them (pp. 47-48; boldface added).

Wright's view is not exactly like mine since the assumes assumes of ancient Hebrew Christians in a literal Adam and starts the whole process form the stand point of Adam as a literal figure. But the point where he and I are the same is in the notion of participation. We participate in Christ's hope and future, as he participates in our suffering and death. We in his death and he in ours, we in his resurrection and he in our new life.

Moreover, the bible reflects many different views of atonement. Lofuts is approach it i as a fudnie when he expects just one view to be reflected in all verses. If this is not what he expects then what the heck does he think he's saying when he speaks of "cherry picking." But the Bible never issues a single metaphor for all ideas of atonement. At times Paul uses all of the major views as illustrations, which is where most of them come from. Financial transaction is embedded in the notion of redemption (to buy back) and Paul uses propitiation (turn away wrath) and solidarity. We are free to pick our metaphors because it's not an inerrant memo form the boss.It's a reflection of human encounters with the divine. We approach inspiration from the author's side of the street, not from God's side. We see the inspirational through the eyes of a human author who doesn't understand any more than we do. Its' a testimony not a stone tablet. We are free to pick our metaphors especially since Paul used so many of them.

John does actually attempt to deal with some issues:

The best way for God to show his solidarity with victims is to do for them what he commands YOU to do, and that is to help them out of their misery rather than to suffer with them.

This is actually a pretty good point, of course it's also begging the question because it doesn't take seriously any sort of testimony, of which Church is over stocked, of how God actually does help people. I have already proposed a pretty plausible theory as to why God doesn't just call a halt to the whole mess and make everyone's life beautiful. My theory of Soteriological Drama explains that God can't really just call off the world and make everything good because the original point of creation would be thwarted. The original point being to create free moral agents who willingly choose the good. But to willingly choose the good we have to search in our hearts otherwise we would resent God's imposition upon our free will. We must internalize the values of the good, which can only come with a search in the heart for truth. Given that the world has to be this way (see the link) what God does makes the most sense. He gives us ways to find help and find truth and interline the values and be at peace. Loftus can't appreciate the complexity of the situation. He can only think in terms of the blatantly obvious:

If I chose to go to jail with you in order to participate in your sufferings, for instance, then how does that help you? It might make you feel better about your sufferings, but it should instead make you question my sanity. Can you actually imagine my helping any victims in tangible ways by suffering with them, especially if, like God, I had the power to alleviate their suffering and didn't?

Because Of course I didn't say God is just going through the motions of experiencing our pain. I said the atonement is a symbol of the solidarity between God and humanity.That solidarity includes risk and pain it is not limited to just feeling pain and that's the whole magic of it. Of course out of the solidarity's the ground of forgiveness is created. He's assuming that God can call off the "experiment" and change the fundamental nature of things regardless of the original logic of creation. But that is what we would say form our limited human perspective because we are suffering. But we have to consider the big picture, which atheists aren't willing to do. they want their way at all costs and they are more important than God, truth, justice, goodness or anything else!

If like Process Theologians your God doesn't have that kind of power, then neither does he have the power to help victims by suffering with them.

Process God does not lack the power to help people. That is the kind of bs understanding of process that comes form fundamentalists. That's not a process guy's understanding. God of process theology is not a big guy in the sky. "he" can't stop us from suffering because there is no "he" to understand. Its' more like a God principle than the God of the bible. Atheists are like children who want to experince growing up without falling off the bike or skinning the knee for the first time. They have problems considering complex answers to age old problems.

Why should victims care for God if all he can do is to suffer with them?

At this point we must observe that Loftus has merely reduced by views on the atonement to an easy to dismiss formula which distorts the actual ideas. He's gotten fixated on the concept of God suffering with us and that's all the can comprehend. I now where said all God can do is suffer with is. that is his twisting of the issues. Of course its his his usual m.o. of begging the question. He is merely ignoring the help that God gives, refusing to believe it and discounting all the testimonies. Instead he uses the opportunity to get a school boy giggle at an irreverent approach to authority:

He's impotent.(meaning God)

now hold on to your hats for some major question begging and circular reasoning. Loftus is about to show us what it means to make bold assertions!

Besides, he got us into this mess in the first place by selfishly creating us for his own pleasure with our evil tendencies. What good does it show you that God loves you if he cannot do anything for you except to suffer with you? Big deal, I would say. Do something about our suffering and then I'll be impressed, and then I'll care, and then I'll think God knows what he's doing.

God got us into this mess by giving us life and letting us live in the world. typical child's rejection of the parents "I didn't ask to be born." He boldly assumes that God created us for "selfish pleasure." Who says God created us for any kind of pleasure? Now he pretend to understand the mystery of mysteries. But of course leave it to him to think love is selfish. Of course this is all just imposition of his fantasy world. This is what fundie Loftus understood from the old time gospel hour rather than any kind of real biblical data. Atheists are always just imposing whatever view of Christianity they struggling with before giving up and assuming that is the ture way and the only ay to be a Christian.

It's obvious to me Joe, that you're working from within a given Christian tradition that if you weren't already inside of it, you wouldn't come to accept it in the first place.

You haven't the slightest idea where I've been or what I've been though.

This is so obvious to me. You initially became a Christian because you thought otherwise of the atonement, but with further study you rejected that initial evangelical atonement view, for good reasons. But rather than rejecting your faith, you try desperately to hang on to it by replacing it with something you never would've accepted in the first place.

You have no concept of what its' about. this is so hilarious. I showed you the link to my testimony on Doxa. Anyone reading that should be able to see that I was totally revolutionized by a life chaning experince that blew me away. this is why I have to laugh at talk like "God doesn't help us with our suffering" that's just crap. I have been helped by God with my suffering. You have no concept of anything.

Its' really stupid to think that the view of I've developed has anything to do with rejecting the idea of forgiveness of sin. Is ay quite clearly that it creates the ground upon which sins are forgiven. that's one of its strongest selling points. It actually explains in rational terms why and how atonement works to forgive sins. I don't see how you could miss that. Rather than being some kind of last ditch effort to hang on to faith it's the product of a vital strong growing faith. It's the outcome of close relationship with God and the hall mark of a superior theological education. I was riding tall in the saddle of theology and belief when I came up with that view point. I didn't make it up, it was the product of Matthew Lamb in his book Solidarity with Victims.

Do you notice he has not talked about any ideas of the view I discussed? notice he has done nothing but try to psycholgoize me and use third rate psychology at that. Atheists are so unable to think. They are such little mind raping brown shirts they can't actually deal with issues of logic, and all they can is try and manipulate feelings.

(1) it's all about feelings for them.

they hate God because they are angry and they want their way. So they think it all revolves around how you feel and if you get what you want or not.

(2)their only defense is special pleading

they can't actually deal with the ins and outs of theology so all they can do is some major mind rape tactics like talk about theodicy and then everything after that is just manipulation.

This answer is picking and choosing from the Bible, it doesn't sufficiently answer the question why Jesus suffered, nor does it answer the problem of evil, nor does it answer the problems of the incarnation and the trinity.

Yea obviously it does. The idea of the message of solidarity explains explains totally why Jesus suffered. What's not to explain? He suffered to identify with humanity and human ends and goals. what's the problem with that? Lotus doesn't' actually try to argue it. He's just doing truth by stipulation again.

Loftus puts all his arguments in one tired refrain, that just suffering with us is not enough. Of course this has nothing to do with my view. He's just ignoring what participatory atonement is all about. He deals with not one single issue of any text or any concept other than this. He gives no arguments merely stipulations. He totally ignores all I said about us being in Christ's resurrection. We participate in Christ's hope and future. That's why resurrection is a metaphor for the glorious new life we find in Christ, complete with healing and power for living. All of this eludes Loftus completely. I don't think that as a Christian he had much of a concept of the life in the spirit or the power of God..

Talk about Cherry picking? He's just ceasing on one tiny aspect with which to propagandize and sloganize and totally ignoring what the piece was about. The difference between my view of atonement and the others is that mine turns not upon the actual killing of Christ preforming some quasi mysterious cleansing then in a half assed attempt to explain what that means one falls back upon simplistic human notions like buying back or taking one's place in an execution. But these views just can't explain why one should take one's place or what that would do for the guilt of the one substituted. With my view Christ's death is a statement due to the situation he put himself in, and we are not in need to explain some mysterious connection, but merely to except the straight forward meaning of the message stated: God is on our side, if we are on God's side we participate in Christ's hope just as he participated in lot as humans. This is exactly what Paul says:

...all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into his death.? We were therefore buried with him in baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in his death we will certainly be united with him in his resurrection.For we know that the old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we will also live with him, for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him; the death he died to sin he died once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God. In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.(Romans 6:1-5)

When we accept God's statement that he is on our side, we are on God's side. This creates teh ground of forgiveness and we are saved, we have new life we share in the resurrection life. This is well documented in scientific empirical studies, the trans formative effects of religious experince. Lofuts assertions of Christ atonement doin gus no good because God just sufferers with us and nothing more could not be further from the truth. It is a proven fact that religion is more than just dead unimportant thing that doesn't help you but that religious experience competently revitalizes one's life:

Research Summary

From Council on Spiritual Practices Website

"States of Univtive Consciousness"

Also called Transcendent Experiences, Ego-Transcendence, Intense Religious Experience, Peak Experiences, Mystical Experiences, Cosmic Consciousness. Sources:

Wuthnow, Robert (1978). "Peak Experiences: Some Empirical Tests." Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 18 (3), 59-75.

Noble, Kathleen D. (1987). ``Psychological Health and the Experience of Transcendence.'' The Counseling Psychologist, 15 (4), 601-614.
Lukoff, David & Francis G. Lu (1988). ``Transpersonal psychology research review: Topic: Mystical experiences.'' Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 20 (2), 161-184.

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Furthermore, Greeley found no evidence to support the orthodox belief that frequent mystic experiences or psychic experiences stem from deprivation or psychopathology. His ''mystics'' were generally better educated, more successful economically, and less racist, and they were rated substantially happier on measures of psychological well-being. (Charles T. Tart, Psi: Scientific Studies of the Psychic Realm, p. 19.)

Long-Term Effects


*Say their lives are more meaningful,
*think about meaning and purpose
*Know what purpose of life is
Meditate more
*Score higher on self-rated personal talents and capabilities
*Less likely to value material possessions, high pay, job security, fame, and having lots of friends
*Greater value on work for social change, solving social problems, helping needy
*Reflective, inner-directed, self-aware, self-confident life style


*Experience more productive of psychological health than illness
*Less authoritarian and dogmatic
*More assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient
*intelligent, relaxed
*High ego strength,
*relationships, symbolization, values,
*integration, allocentrism,
*psychological maturity,
*self-acceptance, self-worth,
*autonomy, authenticity, need for solitude,
*increased love and compassion

Short-Term Effects (usually people who did not previously know of these experiences)

*Experience temporarily disorienting, alarming, disruptive
*Likely changes in self and the world,
*space and time, emotional attitudes, cognitive styles, personalities, doubt sanity and reluctance to communicate, feel ordinary language is inadequate

*Some individuals report psychic capacities and visionary experience destabilizing relationships with family and friends Withdrawal, isolation, confusion, insecurity, self-doubt, depression, anxiety, panic, restlessness, grandiose religious delusions

Links to Maslow's Needs, Mental Health, and Peak Experiences When introducing entheogens to people, I find it's helpful to link them to other ideas people are familiar with. Here are three useful quotations. 1) Maslow - Beyond Self Actualization is Self Transcendence ``I should say that I consider Humanistic, Third Force Psychology to be transitional, a preparation for a still `higher' Fourth Psychology, transhuman, centered in the cosmos rather than in human needs and interest, going beyond humanness, identity, selfactualization and the like.''

Abraham Maslow (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being, Second edition, -- pages iii-iv.

2) States of consciousness and mystical experiences
The ego has problems:
the ego is a problem.

``Within the Western model we recognize and define psychosis as a suboptimal state of consciousness that views reality in a distorted way and does not recognize that distortion. It is therefore important to note that from the mystical perspective our usual state fits all the criteria of psychosis, being suboptimal, having a distorted view of reality, yet not recognizing that distortion. Indeed from the ultimate mystical perspective, psychosis can be defined as being trapped in, or attached to, any one state of consciousness, each of which by itself is necessarily limited and only relatively real.'' -- page 665

Roger Walsh (1980). The consciousness disciplines and the behavioral sciences: Questions of comparison and assessment. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137(6), 663-673.

3) Therapeutic effects of peak experiences

``It is assumed that if, as is often said, one traumatic event can shape a life, one therapeutic event can reshape it. Psychedelic therapy has an analogue in Abraham Maslow's idea of the peak experience. The drug taker feels somehow allied to or merged with a higher power; he becomes convinced the self is part of a much larger pattern, and the sense of cleansing, release, and joy makes old woes seem trivial.'' -- page 132

Lester Grinspoon and James Bakalar (1983). ``Psychedelic Drugs in Psychiatry'' in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, New York: Basic Books.

Transpersonal Childhood Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness: Literature Review and Theoretical Integration. Unpublished paper by Jayne Gackenback, (1992)

"These states of being also result in behavioral and health changes. Ludwig (1985) found that 14% of people claiming spontaneous remission from alcoholism was due to mystical experiences while Richards (1978) found with cancer patients treated in a hallucinogenic drug-assisted therapy who reported mystical experiences improved significantly more on a measure of self-actualization than those who also had the drug but did not have a mystical experience. In terms of the Vedic Psychology group they report a wide range of positive behavioral results from the practice of meditation and as outlined above go to great pains to show that it is the transcendence aspect of that practice that is primarily responsible for the changes. Thus improved performance in many areas of society have been reported including education and business as well as personal health states (reviewed and summarized in Alexander et al., 1990). Specifically, the Vedic Psychology group have found that mystical experiences were associated with "refined sensory threshold and enhanced mind-body coordination (p. 115; Alexander et al., 1987)."

(4) Greater happiness

Religion and Happiness

by Michael E. Nielsen, PhD

Many people expect religion to bring them happiness. Does this actually seem to be the case? Are religious people happier than nonreligious people? And if so, why might this be?

Researchers have been intrigued by such questions. Most studies have simply asked people how happy they are, although studies also may use scales that try to measure happiness more subtly than that. In general, researchers who have a large sample of people in their study tend to limit their measurement of happiness to just one or two questions, and researchers who have fewer numbers of people use several items or scales to measure happiness.

What do they find? In a nutshell, they find that people who are involved in religion also report greater levels of happiness than do those who are not religious. For example, one study involved over 160,000 people in Europe. Among weekly churchgoers, 85% reported being "very satisfied" with life, but this number reduced to 77% among those who never went to church (Inglehart, 1990). This kind of pattern is typical -- religious involvement is associated with modest increases in happiness

Argyle, M., and Hills, P. (2000). Religious experiences and their relations with happiness and personality. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 10, 157-172.

Inglehart, R. (1990). Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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