From the House of Bishops/House of Deputies Listserv:
A priest wrote a post presenting a portion of writing from Dr. John R. W. Stott (see below) on substitutionary atonement (which brings worth much consternation here at General). A second person commented on “substitutionary atonement” and the way we do theology. Here is his comment:
“> A substitutionary sacrifice … we are obliged to conclude …
When we apply logic to metaphor, parable, poetry, image or symbol, we oblige ourselves to conclude strangely. That God first loved us is not logical. It is counter-intuitive, counter-deductive and counter-cultural. My gut, my head and my world each “conclude” in their own way that substitutionary sacrifice makes more sense than the no-strings, upside-down Good News of God.
Substitutionary sacrifice, however, is neither Catholic nor catholic
tradition. It was enshrined in popular piety by a tradition of preachers, long before Mel Gibson, who discovered how easy it was to preach and to use in a manipulative way.
We do well to observe the traditional distinction between positive and speculative theology. The former seeks to discover creedal kernels of the church catholic, e.g., Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, Resurrection, Real Presence. The latter has to do with past and continuing attempts to gain some insight into those beliefs in our necessarily limited way. To canonize one or another way of understanding those beliefs is to conclude strangely.
“For us and for our salvation” I truly believe. That’s positive theology.Substitutionary sacrifice? That’s speculative theology… far from anything all are obliged to conclude… There’s a huge difference. Destructive divisions occur when people don’t get that.
Bill Lewellis, Communication Minister/Editor, Diocese of Bethlehem
Click below for the text of the origional post.
From the writings of Dr. John R. W. Stott
A substitutionary sacrifice
“When we review so much Old Testament material (the shedding
and sprinkling of blood, the sin offering, the Passover,
the meaning of ‘sin-bearing’, the scapegoat and Isaiah 53),
and consider its New Testament application to the death of
Christ, we are obliged to conclude that the cross was a
substitutionary sacrifice. Christ died for us. Christ
died instead of us.”
–From “The Cross of Christ” (Leicester and Downers Grove:
IVP, 1986), p. 149.