Today I went back and read a few old posts, and a few things became apparent.
1.) I forget things. Thus every six months or so, I post the same posts over again and say the same things, in a slightly different way, forgetting that Geoff J or Blake or Jacob or somebody and I already had the argument and I lost the argument, but I wasnâ€™t 100% convinced, or I wasnâ€™t 100% clear. My mind canâ€™t focus on and recall all things that arenâ€™t clear and believable. There is too much data in the air for me to do that. Itâ€™s a shame that the Atonement, the most important thing in the universe falls in this category.
2.) Language is a major barrier to clarity and understanding. When we talk about the atonement, we often mean different things. Other words we use to break down the atonement also have the same problem. These words include suffering, penalty, sin, and love. There are probably others, but these are the ones I noted in relation to the atonement as sticking points. Without these clearly defined, we even canâ€™t get past what is or isnâ€™t penal substitution (ie- Christ suffers the transfer of sin-energy from us to him in Blakeâ€™s theory, is Sin-energy the penalty for Sin?) much less whether this is taught. This language issue is heightened via the internet, because language is all the relationship we have to begin with.
3.) Our Understanding of the Atonement, as the hinge upon which everything turns is dependent on our understanding of the plan of salvation as a whole. While we say that all other things are an appendage to the atonement, the atonement necessarily needs a framework in which to live. Framing the atonement with an ontological gap between God and Man, for example, changes how we think about the atonement. Progression between Kingdoms, Eternal vs. Organized Mind of Man, and our understanding of the fall as either literal or metaphorical can all hamper our understanding of the atonement.
4.) We often obfuscate the issue with analogies. We find something that fits close to our understanding of the facts, or something the â€œfeels goodâ€ and then we pore the atonement into the analogy. The problem here becomes not that the analogy is symbolic in nature, but it is more problematic in that the analogy is not a perfect fit, and so theological suppositions are taken away which dismiss the whole of the analogy as problematic. While analogies can help illustrate a point in a devotional sense, they often carry with them problematic components which at a net level, can do more harm than good.
5.) Nay Sayers always seem to pop up and muddy the waters. Every time it feels like I am getting momentum, some jackass (I mean that in the pastoral sense, and not as any sort of swear word, mind you) pops up to remind me that it is impossible to make sense of the atonement due to our finite minds (or some other such garbage). This completely derails the process, introduces contention, and generally has a tendency to kill the thread.
6.) We donâ€™t know what we donâ€™t know. Sometimes, while we are thinking about the atonement, our mind, of its own accord creates speculations and implications which we are not even aware of. This bias may come from other reading we have done, and it may just come from our own natural instinct to fill lacunae. So often, as we express our atonement theories, these base suppositions are shot down, and we struggle, flabbergasted that we canâ€™t find the source for what was previously so obvious to us.
7.) We do know what we donâ€™t know. On another level, we are often very aware of lacunae in our reasoning and develop hypotheses to test in these lacunae. The problem here is that there is no true way to test these hypotheses, and thus we end up either with a multiplicity of ideas, which can be intellectually frustrating, or we end up committing to one or many of these hypotheses, which can be problematic as it disables us from detecting the truth.
8.) We lack the time. As much as we strive to seek first the kingdom of God, we still have little mouths to feed, corporations that need our analyses, customers who expect our support, spouses who want to talk, kids who want to play, and lives that need to be lived. And we all can’t be online at the same time, so sometimes, we don’t respond to every comment, and don’t follow every lead. There just isn’t enough time.
So what can we do to make the situation better? Is there anything we can do? Do we just accept that these obstacles must exist and press on iregardless? (and are there any barriers to discussion I am missing?)