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The evolution of sin presents serious challenges to those who want to restrict considerations of the atoning work of the cross to human activities in isolation from human evolutionary history. While I am critical of the narratives employed by evolutionary psychologists, this does not mean that human persons are to be viewed simply as detached cultural units, sheared from their grounding in natural history. Rather, the implication is the opposite. Tendencies found in the human world are also characteristic of social animals more generally.

Further, once we view animals as having in some sense moral agency, then theories of atonement need to be widened and stretched to include creaturely ills. How far atonement also encompasses evolutionary ills that arise out of the processes of natural selection is a matter for some debate, though I suggest that objective as well as subjective accounts of the atonement need to be held together.

The qualifications associated with distinctions between moral and amoral suffering, and moral and natural evils, alongside what I have termed communal anthropogenic sin mediated through natural impacts, such as environmental harms, need to be born in mind in making the case for the atoning significance of the cross.

Drawing on ethological studies, the distinctions commonly set up between humans and higher primates are artificial in their construal of human uniqueness. I am not advocating a theory of no distinction; rather, humanity is perhaps best thought of as unique in its extent of various capacities, so that the depth of sin and betrayal possible in the human community far exceeds that in the non-human world.

We are left with a discussion of which theories of atonement, if any, are useful in such an analysis. In as much as theories of the atonement have either tried to lay the blame for casting the burden of evils onto Christ by a wrathful God or by accidents of human history, they have failed to convince.

Drawing particularly on Balthasar, in dialogue with other Lutheran theories, I have argued for the primacy of love in any considerations of the atonement, especially that which relates to the self-giving of the inner kenotic movement of the Trinity, rather than kenosis as understood in a primary sense as that between Creator and creation.

I have discussed this issue in much more depth in Christ and Evolution, Wonder and Wisdom Fortress, where references to the majority of authors I have referred here can be found. The fact that this later view does not cohere well with his earlier work that tended towards penal substitution theory seems to show some inconsistency. This post is part of a series of perspectives on how to understand the atoning work of Christ in light of evolutionary science. What is needed for atonement to take place is elimination of trust in false gods and creation of trust in the true God. Manage Cookie Preferences.

We want to encourage our readers to approach these ideas with an open mind, and even if you disagree, we hope it stimulates you to think more deeply about how to integrate science and Scripture in a faithful way. How should we interpret the Genesis flood account? How long are the days of Genesis 1? How should we interpret the Bible? What is Evolutionary Creation? Are science and Christianity at war? What does the fossil record show? What is the genetic evidence for human evolution?

Does the Cambrian Explosion pose a challenge to evolution? Are gaps in scientific knowledge evidence for God? Did death occur before the Fall? Were Adam and Eve historical figures? Enjoying our resources?

Of course, we are bedevilled once again by the question of definitions. If we define atonement as at-one-ment with God in the sense that there has been a deliberate turning away from purposes intended by God, then deliberateness implies a sense of freedom, which can only reasonably be found in an exhaustive sense in humans and in a more limited sense in some animals.

More broadly still, if we define at-one-ment simply in terms of the hoped for freedom from pain and unity with God in heaven, then atonement becomes virtually equivalent to redemption. There are undoubted difficulties in envisaging atonement if it means satisfaction of the wrath of a vengeful God. This may be one reason why many theologians prefer not to use the language of atonement at all when speaking about the non-human world, but instead rely on the language of redemption. This is certainly a more comfortable position to adopt in many respects: after all, redemption in its breadth of transformation can take up natural as well as moral evil, indeed, all the ills of the world in its scope.

It is much easier to avoid the more uncomfortable notion of atonement altogether, and speak simply of the cross of Christ as the means for the redemption of the earth. The question then returns, how and in what sense might the cross be salvific for all creation, and are atonement theories rendered redundant?

He must also be understood as the firstborn of the whole creation.

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He is present not only in the human victims of world history, but in victimized nature too. I find this a promising approach, though there are still difficulties with the way Balthasar conceives the event of the cross. Aulen recognised that the idea of an alien evil in the world is harder to accept today, but even if accepted, God cannot defeat such an evil by an external power. The significance of Aulen for Balthasar is that he believes that the conflict between God and evil needs to be expressed in such a way that it is neither monistic, nor dualistic, but dramatic.

Here he finds the struggle on the cross that Luther speaks about formulated in paradoxical ways.

Tim Keller - Human Race: The Pursuit Of More?

Balthasar says there is a struggle between opposites even within God, so that on the cross grace is embroiled with sin, and sin imbibed with grace. Hence, grace only appears in wrath, heaven is only reached by going through hell, and so on. Yet there is a tension here that Balthasar does not really fully address. For on the one hand if the cross is the initiative of God, then it implies a God who is vindictive, and Balthasar has been criticised for portraying God in such terms.

On the other hand if the cross is an outcome of human sin, it implies human initiative. In this respect it is perhaps more reasonable to suggest that more anthropological interpretations represent a genuine interpretation. He suggests, therefore, that the Trinity exists in self-surrender in the generation of the Son in an initial kenosis within the Godhead that underpins all other kenosis. Of course, Jesus, in his God-humanity, is also one who would share fully in human suffering to the extent that we may be able to say rather more as to what that solidarity with suffering implies.

Yet it is also equally possible to extend the existential burden that Christ understood as including not just human sin in isolation, but also the cumulative and negative weight of evils of evolved creaturely being as such. Without such extension the death of Christ becomes expressed just in terms of human weakness and human reconciliation with God. While the latter should not be minimised, I am arguing here for a more thoroughgoing compass to the scope of the atoning work of Christ, such that it takes up and includes the voice of all creaturely Nos, including and especially that of humankind.

The evolution of sin presents serious challenges to those who want to restrict considerations of the atoning work of the cross to human activities in isolation from human evolutionary history. While I am critical of the narratives employed by evolutionary psychologists, this does not mean that human persons are to be viewed simply as detached cultural units, sheared from their grounding in natural history.

Rather, the implication is the opposite. Tendencies found in the human world are also characteristic of social animals more generally. Further, once we view animals as having in some sense moral agency, then theories of atonement need to be widened and stretched to include creaturely ills. Yes, we believe in Jesus Christ.

The church isn’t even biblical, is it?

But even more, we look to him. God bless us, my bothers and sisters, one and all, to always have his Spirit with us, so that we will always believe, accept, and live his teachings.

10 Reasons the Crucifixion Story Makes No Sense | Bob Seidensticker

Then everyone will see and know that we are his disciples. Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:. The visitation to Joseph Smith of our Heavenly Father and his Only Begotten Son, was the greatest event that has occurred in this world since the resurrection of the Savior.


  1. Antigua - C Instruments!
  2. Removal of Sin's Cause and Reconciliation to God.
  3. 1. "Forever".
  4. A Response To Christians Who Are Done With Church.

Salvation will come only to those who are cleansed from all evil and filth. Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss? Would this discussion be better after talking with the head of the household before the visit?

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  1. Journalist Resources;
  2. DECIDUOUS FORESTS (Endangered Biomes);
  3. American Legends: The Life of Abner Doubleday.

I hope your homes reflect that same joy. We are modern witnesses to the truth that he lives. By his grace we become more like his divine personality. Therefore, let us strive to make our testimonies vibrant and strong. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion: 1.

Discussion Helps 1.