Wednesday, April 18, 2007

An Atonement Update

From James Alison's "Undergoing God: Dispatches from the Scene of a Break-In"

An Atonement Update:

"If you are undergoing atonement it means that you are constantly in the process of being approached by someone who is forgiving you... "

"The difficult thing for us is to sit in the process of being approach by someone. Because we are used to theory we want someone to say, 'This is what it is. Get the theory right. Now put it into practice.'

This imagines that we are part of a stable universe that we can control. But if the real centre of the our universe is an 'I AM' coming towards us as our victim who is forgiving us then we are NOT in a stable place. We are in that place of being destabilized, because we are being approached by someone who is entirely outside our structures of vengeance and order.... "

"What forgiveness looks like in the life of the person is 'breaking of heart'; and the purpose of being forgiven--the reason why the forgiving victim has emerged from the Holy of Holies offering himself as a substitute for all our ways of pushing away being forgiven, trying to keep order-- the reason he has done that is because we are too small; we live a snarled-up version of creation, and hold on to that snarled-up version of creation because we are frightened of death. "

"What Jesus was doing was opening up the Creator's vision, which knows not death, so that we can live as though death were not. In other words, we're being given a bigger heart. That is what being forgiven is all about. It's not, 'I need to sort out this moral problem you have.' It's, 'Unless I come towards you, and enable you to undergo a breaking of heart, you're going to live in too small a universe, you're not going to enjoy yourselves and be free. How the hell do I get through to you? Well, the only way is by coming against you as your victim. That's the only place in which you can be undone. That is the place you're so frightened of being that you'll do anything to get away from it. So if I can occupy that space, and return to you and say, "Yes, you did this thing to me. But don't worry! I'm not here to accuse you. I'm here to play with you! To make a bigger space for you. And for you to take part in making that bigger space with me." '

And of course the way Jesus acted this out before his death was setting up the last supper, in which he would give himself to us so that we would become him.

"... This is the risky project of God saying, 'We don't know how this is going to end. But I want you to be co-participants with me on the inside of this creative project. And that means I'm running a risk of this going places I haven't thought of because I want to become one of you as you, so that you can become me as me.' We get this in John's Gospel: 'You will do even greater things.' And we think, 'Oh Jesus is just being modest about his miracles.' No, he is being perfectly anthropologically. To the degree in which, by receiving this sacrifice, we learn to step out of a world which sacrifices, try to run things protectively over and against 'them', to that extent we will find ourselves doing greater things than he could even begin to imagine. That's what the opening up of creation does."

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