For readers who are interested, the following is a continuation of a conversation begun in the previous post. It will not make much sense unless you read that post and the comments in response to it. The questions below come from them and my responses are not definitive answers but a continuation of the conversation.
The question is; “Is the victory of the cross the victory of God’s grace over human evil rather than in relation to the human body?”
I believe the issue is not either/or but both/and. Moreover, I’m not convinced that the cross makes much sense unless it is bracketed by the incarnation and resurrection. That said, the cross is the victory over human evil, or sin if you will, not that it is erased from the human condition, but that it is demonstrated to have no ultimate power over one’s relationship with God that we call righteousness. And, it is also the victory over human finitude so that the fullness of life’s meaning is not determined by the few short years between birth and death. If this sounds familiar, it is true that I have been heavily influenced in my thinking by Niebuhr.
The question is; “How can you reconcile your emphasis on the generosity of love that has the grace to forgive from the cross when it becomes the ‘bloody miracle’ of the agony of the cross that itself promises forgiveness IF I just say yes to all that spilled blood – a quid pro quo?”
I am grateful to Anselm for continuing the exploration of the meaning of atonement, but I fail to see why we should be stuck in a thousand year old doctrine that has been twisted into macabre shapes by 18th, 19th and 20th century fundamentalists who delight in featuring an outraged God demanding punishment for sin in exchange for life. I admit that it appeals to a great many people who cannot conceive of a superabundant forgiving grace that demands no exchange, especially one calculated in terms of human lust for vengeance. That kind of thinking is fed not only by Mel Gibson’s atrocious theology, but also by most every action movie plot out there, which makes it hard to get away from.
Those of us who worship out of the Catholic tradition are also faced with Eucharistic language peppered with blood language that seldom gets explained, or at least explained the way I think it should be. It goes back to the early Jewish understanding that blood is a divine gift that gives life to all creatures. With that in mind, the blood of Christ is not simply a symbol of that gift but the very source of life itself. In using the word symbol I mean it to be understood both as representative of and participating in. In that light, the blood of the cross is symbolically an attempt by evil, in whatever form, to extinguish the source of life itself: the victory of death over life at its most basic and universal meaning. I do not see that as necessary but as inevitable, and not as a calculated scheme of the devil, but simply on the grounds that, sooner or later, the Romans and Sadducees would have to get rid of Jesus for ordinary political reasons, but political reasons that symbolize the original sin that is the human desire to be in control of all things, including destiny.
The resurrection is the symbol, in the way I mean symbol, that the very source of life and the superabundance of God’s grace cannot be overcome. Forgiveness comes not through bloody sacrifice but through grace, and human finitude is given meaning through the resurrection.
Obviously this needs some work, but it’s as far as I can go right now.