Comments: Responding to domestic abuse

Of course I am just one person in the helping field, but so far I have yet to see the churches follow through very well on not only responding to the abuse, but also taking a deep and critically inquiring look into how some of these legacy presuppositions, frames, beliefs, values justify, maintain, nourish, and contribute to domination arrangements which tend to be the foundations of violence.

Yes the journey is long, and the journey is a large and blessed part of the destination.

Insights from inquiring into domestic abuse are useful for inquiring into other patterns of domination and violence.

This willingness to take a look and assume some institutional responsibility is partly what brought me to the church in the first place in college.

Guess there is still a bit of glowing ember in the progressive Anglican boiler rooms, after all.

Posted by drdanfee at Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 3:53pm BST

The patroness of my Episcopal religious order is Dame Julian of Norwich. One of the central teachings in her magnificent book is a very simple one: "There is no wrath in God". And yet, when one of our Oblates preached that truth at a conference, people got up and walked out!

If the Church persists in preaching an Old Testament wrathful, judgmental, and punishing God, there will be wrathful, judgmental, and punishing people in that Church! And that judgment, wrath and, punishment will be visited upon their spouses - even with a sense righteousness justified by an uncritical reading of Scripture and the antique liturgical texts.

Just as the C of E finally learned about the ordination of women from the Episcopal Church, maybe now they can also learn from our 30-year-old expulsion of the word "obey" from the marriage vows - and even, may I be so bold, might they come some time in the future also to learn from us about the full inclusion of ALL people in the life of the Church....

And, isn't it at least a tiny bit more difficult for a man to degrade his spouse's womanhood if pre-marital counseling happened to have been led by a woman in a collar? ...and the marriage solemnized by a woman in vestments?

Posted by John-Julian, OJN at Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 5:46pm BST

No prizes for guessing that I welcome this long overdue reform (I would still have retirement monies if this had existed and been heeded when I had gone to the church for help with boundary management in 1996). Mind you, there will be some dioceses who will still refuse to acknowledge or implement this kind of work until the threat of legal litigation offsets the displeasure of having to deprive their tithing/working sociopaths of their "rightful" rewards.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 6:01pm BST

"our 30-year-old expulsion of the word "obey" from the marriage vows"

We made it optional in 1928, and couples have to try VERY hard to have it included these days. Excision of the Ephesians reading from the list of lections would be useful, though.

I wish that folk would leave off the Marcionite 'OT = Wrathful God' though - there's plenty of NT wrathful God (the Apocalypse for starters), and plenty of OT non-wrathful. It's a bit lazy, don't you think, to make this radical distinction between OT and NT, not to mention rather insulting to Judaism?

Posted by mynsterpreost at Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 8:38pm BST

We vowed obedience to one another in our union ceremony, the others being fidelity, (essentially the Benedictine vows). Along with mynsterpreost, I think that if we read the OT and NT as our journey out of seeing God as wrathful, coming to see that the wrath is in us, not God, we'd do better. Otherwise, we come in danger of anti-Judaistic readings. But the same goes for obedience; we need to reclaim this word. And we need to reclaim Ephesians, perhaps reading it alongside the Johannine passage about friendship. Christ relates to the Church as friend, and we are all Church male and female, so how can there be a domination way of being together amongst friends following such a Lord as this? So many want to start with male dominance rather than Christ's kenotic relationship as the central portion.

Posted by *Christopher at Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 9:20pm BST

There's a song called "What a friend we have in Jesus", I like that title, and think that applies to the biblical God of the Book of Truth. For those who were unaware that sloppy scribes allowed the stereotyping between the OT and the NT, may I recommend that they go back to the OT and look for the gentle nurtuing God that they love in Jesus. The same God is there too e.g. Isaiah 4:2-4; Jeremiah 5:1, 31:28-40, 33:6-16 & 36:22-38, 50:17-20; Zechariah 13:1

The other thing that would help is if people better understood the metaphorical imagery of the bible e.g. Egypts stands for greed and materialism (not a nation), Edom for violence and self-absorption (not a tribe), Jerusalem for the heart of the home, Zion for the sanctuary from violence for all who seek refuge in the Lord's grace.

God can be angry as Jesus demonstrated with the overturning of the tables at passover, but God longs to be compassionate e.g. Jesus feeding five thousand. OT examples of God expressing a desire for compassion include Lamentations 3:31-33; Isaiah 14:1-8, 30:14-26, 49:8-23. 51:1-8, 54, 60:10-22, Jeremiah 12:14-17, 31:19-28, 39:23-29; Hosea 2:14-23, Jonah 3:8-10, Micah 7:14-20

There's heaps of others, and I am sorry the list is so long, but one of my peverse pleasures is demonstrating that mulitiplicity of liberal theology. It annoys the ultrapuritans as it refutes their claims by demonstrating a depth to our scriputural interpretations.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 3 October 2006 at 10:47pm BST

Depending on which version of the Bible one uses, of course... in mine a quick scan reveals some 140 occurrences of the wrath of God in the OT and some 40 in the NT. I will try to find a concordance to the Vulgate and see what Julian of Norwich managed to overlook.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 1:23am BST

It's not simply a matter of what Scripture says or doesn't say about God, but what the Resurrection reveals about God and Who God is revealed to be overtime with his people Israel, for they are one and the same God. A God that forgives even after we have put His very Image and Likeness, Son, Beloved, to death is not the vengeful, vicious deity so many seem not only to write into theology using bits of Scripture, but it also shows up the depth our own images of God as someone requiring blood and payment.

We can misidentify our own wrath for God in so many ways; any wrath that is God can never be wrath as humans understand it but is rather our experience of God's love having turned completely inward upon ourselves, at least that's what the depth of Eastern Christian teaching and folks like William Temple would propose. James Alison's work on this matter, among others, is quite helpful in not seeing what is the Heart of God revealed to us in Christ. Here is one interview.

Posted by *Christopher at Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 4:10am BST

If some of the descriptions of an irrational, wrathful God in the Hebrew Scriptures are to be read literally, then coun't me among the enemies of this deity!

It has been a commonplace of Scriptural interpretation from the earliest times that we are dealing with human understanding of the events that occurred and that the motivations ascribed to the deity are from a limited human perspective (most perception is projection).

James Alison has indeed done some extremely insightful work on this (& has visited our monastery -- very fine speaker).

Posted by Prior Aelred at Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 2:43pm BST

Here is the link:

Posted by *Christopher at Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 4:45pm BST

Christopher, the abc link didn't work :-( Could you check the html please?

Prior, I agree with your concerns. One of the interesting things are the examples in the Old Testament where God has a dialogue about what is or is not righteous. There are examples that show God will relent to prove his true justice where righteous souls can be found e.g. Abraham's discussion with God before the angels went into Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:17-33); the repentance of Ninevah in the Book of Jonah; Jeremiah 18:8; Isaiah 48:9. Then there is Jeremiah 5:1 "Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city."

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 5:09pm BST

"God had so much wroth for the world that he gave ....." etc

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 6:24pm BST


It worked for me in Firefox, but here it is again:

Also, his website with various essays, etc.:

You can find the talk under "Talks and articles": Challenging deceptive sacrificial notions in Christianity

Posted by *Christopher at Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 9:46pm BST


My bad that's another article. If you can't access it, see my sidebar under "Reflecting". The article link is "Befriending a Vengeful God".

Posted by *Christopher at Wednesday, 4 October 2006 at 10:16pm BST

When Christ entered the Temple and saw the traders and hustlers misusing the House of Prayer for all Nations, did he not get angry and did he not make a whip and chased out (and probalbly beat the cr..p out of the) hustlers.

Surely, the God of the OT is no different from the God of the NT.

Posted by Spiro at Thursday, 5 October 2006 at 5:46am BST

Doesn't the Bible tend to operate like the Rorschach 'blotter' personality test ? We tend to see ourselves or aspects of ourselves therein.

'The life which is unexamined is not worth living' - Plato

We might do better to accept and face this.
Then we would have to face the truth of Julian of Norwich that 'the wrath is in ourselves'. -- the wrath, vengeance, lust --or whatever. No good trying to project it on to God or the AC !

It could be the making of us. We might grow through the agonising experience.....

Let Self examination begin !.......

Posted by laurence roberts at Thursday, 5 October 2006 at 12:10pm BST


If you read my posting of 3 October, you will see that it is acknowledged that God can be angry (and I actually refer to the same scene that you cited). The difference between God and humans; is that God chooses when, if and how to be angry. Whereas humans often become obsessive or narcisstic and lose control over appropriate boundaries to their anger.

This is an excellent article from The Economist While the topic is to do with Narcisstic bosses, the dynamics can apply to priests as well. It includes: "...highly narcissistic bosses tended to make bigger changes in the use of important resources, such as research and development, or in spending and leverage; they carried out more and bigger mergers and acquisitions; and their results were both more extreme (more big wins or big losses) and more volatile than those of firms run by their humbler peers."

In the religious circles we could subsitute the words welfare or reconciliation for research and development.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 5 October 2006 at 6:12pm BST

Gledhill: "Distorted Christianity ‘causing abuse’"

Spiro "chased out (and probalbly beat the cr..p out of the) hustlers."

Sounds like a case study.

Posted by Christopher Calderhead at Thursday, 5 October 2006 at 6:42pm BST

It is impossible to understand either the OT or the NT without grasping the forensic concept of justice which runs through from Genesis to Revelation. Sin has consequences which must be addressed, for it angers the righteous God whose loving purposes are defied by human disobedience. Sin is unjust and unrighteous and the sentence which it brings is justly passed by God who judges all human acts and thoughts.

The OT sacrificial system represents a temporary solution to the situation, one which it recognised itself could never finally take away the guilt which attaches to those who have broken God's law. The punishment meted out to the human race in the Flood exemplifies the severity of the plight of sinners.

Nor was the "ethical" alternative of legal observance or pietism effective in assuring people that the consequences of sin could finally be dealt with. Jesus has much to say to the Pharisees about self-righteousness.

One can not avoid the concept of divine justice in what the gospels tell us about the ministry and teaching of Jesus, especially the atoning character of the sacrifice which he offered for the forgiveness of sins. It was the religious framework in which he was brought up, it is the world of the Torah and the rest of the OT, and it was in the temple that his parents made the customary sacrificial offering in thanksgiving for his birth. (Luke 2.24) His first advice to all of us was to repent(Mk.1.15)- turn away from sin and turn instead to God.

One need not accept the evangelical credal statements about the atonement to recognise that this is the culture of the world in which Jesus lived and taught, and that he himself believed that sin would and should be punished according to the divine judgement.

If this is all discarded, then there is little left that is authentically Jesus. Fail to understand his own context and you are soon simply attributing to him views which are not his, but yours.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Thursday, 5 October 2006 at 8:01pm BST

"did he not get angry and did he not make a whip and chased out (and probalbly beat the cr..p out of the) hustlers"

Only in the Mel Gibson-made version, Spiro. ;-/

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Thursday, 5 October 2006 at 9:26pm BST

Cheryl contributed:
the dynamics can apply to priests as well. It includes: "...highly narcissistic bosses tended to make bigger changes in the use of important resources, such as research and development, or in spending and leverage; they carried out more and bigger mergers and acquisitions; and their results were both more extreme (more big wins or big losses) and more volatile than those of firms run by their humbler peers."

I would suggest that this may well apply to the megachurches and power evangelists: big congregations sometimes, huge disasters at others. A lot to be said for pottering away quietly in a corner trying to live the gospel and help other frail beings to do likewise.

Posted by David Rowett (=mynsterpreost) at Thursday, 5 October 2006 at 10:33pm BST

"The punishment meted out to the human race in the Flood exemplifies the severity of the plight of sinners."

Hm, it also points out that God can come up with plans which are failures. He wipes out all humanity bar a handful, and succeeds in doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to get rid of sin.

sorry to spoil the party, but this is pious claptrap which does little to honour the complexity, subtlety and insight of the OT.

Posted by David Rowett (=mynsterpreost) at Friday, 6 October 2006 at 3:32pm BST

Actually, Alan, no, there are two ways of understanding this. I'm linking to Lee's reading of Keith Ward for the other understanding in which sin is its own self-punishment and does not require a wrothful God to mete out justice because sin is to go against one's nature and carries with it automatic penalty because that's the way God has so ordered the world.

Posted by *Christopher at Friday, 6 October 2006 at 5:10pm BST


You might enjoy reading the Baylor University research into the four models of God interesting

Jesus tried to alleviate fears that there had been enough sacrifices and that humanity had matured enough to not need blood sacrifices to appease God's anger. God did try to convey the need earlier, but there were those who literally could not hear that truth. The tragedy today is that we still witness those who suffer from the same deafness. What we can do today is recognise that there are some souls who are deaf to the unnecessary death, suffering and torture of others and work to mitigate the likelihood of them being in positions where they can "act out" their dysfunctions on a mass scale.

Just to show this is biblical (and an excuse to share two favoured OT pasages ;-) ) Isaiah 48:9 "For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to cut you off." and Hosea 11:9 "I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man— the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath."

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Friday, 6 October 2006 at 6:51pm BST


The article and comments about sin being its own self punishment are interesting. It fits in with the idea of "as you judge so you will be judged", and follows through with the Baylor model that as you see God determines how you see God's response to your choices.

An idea worth exploring more is that God chose to have space in between, that being separated and forced to communicate through limited means enhances the refinement of thinking. I think some of what God has done is simply for the satisfaction it brings God. It pleases God to have a less-than-divine being able to apprehend that God exists and attempt to articulate what that means. It pleases God to see that relationship nurtured and allowed to mature.

This takes the context of sin out of an automatic black-white good-bad right-wrong model. It brings in the idea that God wanted separation, and accepted that this would bring fallability and hard learnt lessons; lessons that would refine consciousnesses and morality as the souls looked beyond the now to the bigger picture. It also explains why God rebukes the Accusser for demanding perfection.

Now some souls might not be happy about having to learn that they are "not perfect" and rant at Eve's complicity. The same souls also ranted when humanity was created, as I recall. The same souls would wipe humanity out to be returned to their "perfect" Eden. Such foolish souls should remember that Eve is not of humanity (but she is for humanity); and will be there waiting for them in whatever lifeform, time or universe it takes for them to learn to accept God's will and stop trying to sabotage God's unfolding Creation.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 7 October 2006 at 12:00am BST

I was waiting for Alan Marsh’s follow up on his Bible of the 180 Wraths of God, but instead I get an even more astounding post on “the forensic concept of justice which runs through from Genesis to Revelation”.

Not counting Revelation, which is a most peculiar case, the Swedish NT 1917 concordance (there isn’t one to the 1981 or 2000, because they are not concordant translations but “Dynamic Equivalence” ones) presents 9 “wrath” claimed to be “the divine wrath” – 5 of them in Romans – and 20 “other cases”.

In addition there are 12 vredesdom; “judgment of wrath” – half of them in Romans, all of them “improvements” – reflecting the Calvinist/Pietist outlook of the 1917 translators…

So Alan Marsh’s translation has got 40 Wraths of God where the Swedish 1917 one has got a mere 21 ;=)

John 3:36, Eph 5:6, Col 3:6 + Rom 1:18 (doubted) + 5 claimed to be (whereof one negated) + 12 vredesdom + 20 “other cases”.

I could grant some thwarted logic to the idea that “the forensic concept of justice which runs through from Genesis to Revelation” would need 40 Wraths of God to come off, but surely it is a different gospel.

Good Spell, Bad Spell, Evil Spell.

Posted by Göran Koch-Swahne at Saturday, 7 October 2006 at 6:39am BST

Writes Alan Marsh: "It is impossible to understand either the OT or the NT without grasping the forensic concept of justice which runs through from Genesis to Revelation."

Alan is so hung up on PSA (not the test for prostate cancer, but "penal substitutionary atonement"). It is interesting to check the indices of major systematic theologies (Wolfhart Pannenberg, Karl Rahner, Juergen Moltmann, Alistair McGrath, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Robert Jenson's, etc.) and you won't find any page references. Isn't that odd? All the great theologians named believe in salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps it is odd that the great theologians - unlike the hard core of Evangelicals - don't believe in a vengeful God but one who loved sinners so much as to die for them on the Cross. St. Anselm's theory of the atonement is so much time-conditioned, reflecting the feudal practice/custom of paying a ransom for the release of a friend/supporter and 'cheating' the opponent (in this case, the 'devil').

Posted by John Henry at Saturday, 7 October 2006 at 6:43am BST

David Rowett, you are entirely free to interpret any text, biblical or literary, in any way you choose, but the OT itself is accurately interpreted by Paul in Romans 6.23: the wages of sin is death. This remains true in the NT, but the second part of that verse now applies - "but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". Neither the seriousness of sin nor its consequences are in any way abrogated or mitigated: but God's grace, through the death and resurrection, offers as a gift the possibility of salvation.

I don't for a moment suppose that anyone else here views the atonement in the same light as I do, but it is worth considering that a sacrificial offering was precisely what Jesus expected when he instituted the eucharist, and precisely what was meant by the imagery of the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world.

There are varieties of interpretation of the atonement within the evangelical and roman catholic worlds (great similarities as well) but if OT and NT are read by someone wishing to receive their meaning as THEY intended it to be heard, it is impossible not to connect the two halves of Rom 6.23 as I have indicated. Justice requires a punishment for wrongdoing, and it has been borne for us on the cross by the gift of God's own son. Make your own mind up about the extent to which it is penal, but I think there is little room for doubt whether it is substitutionary or a sacrifice.

There is an excellent little book by Godfrey Ashby on Sacrifice which I would recommend.

Christopher, I heard those kind of arguments about self-inflicted punishment in connection with homosexuality and AIDS, and I think it is a dangerous line of reasoning, not least because true justice requires much more than automatic parking-ticket type punishment. The biblical model includes divine mercy and forgiveness which yours does not.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Saturday, 7 October 2006 at 1:50pm BST

Actually the idea that justice requires punishment is a Latin interpretation. The Hebrews and Greeks believed more in restorative justice. Thus the idea of things being brought back to their original state. Hence theories of atonement which have an element of the restoration or renewal of creation. Considering that Paul was Jewish, I would think his idea would be more restorative than punitive in Romans.

Posted by Ann Marie at Saturday, 7 October 2006 at 7:28pm BST

"Make your own mind up about the extent to which it (=the death of Christ) is penal, but I think there is little room for doubt whether it is substitutionary or a sacrifice."

I'm not sure that does justice to that little known Christian document, the Gospel of John. And there were plenty of Christians in the early centuries who managed quite happily without 'substitution' in that juridical framework.

At the risk of being exceeding boring, I would commend the masterly 'Dream of the Rood' as an authentic expression of Christian understanding of the death of Christ from (about) C7. The 'substitution' in that setting is only that of Christ as champion of the human race:
"The young hero stripped himself - he, God Almighty - strong and stout-minded. He mounted high gallows, bold before many, when he would loose mankind."

(Ongyrede hine þa geong hæleð, (þæt wæs god ælmihtig), strang ond stiðmod. Gestah he on gealgan heanne, modig on manigra gesyhðe, þa he wolde mancyn lysan.)

I do think too many Christians obsess about the God who demands his proverbial pound of flesh and doesn't seem to care too much where it comes from. And if the innocent is punished justice is most certainly not served: there is a fundamental flaw at the heart of the penal substitutionary argument which turns God into a monster out for blood, regardless of whose it happens to be, in order to soothe his offended divinity. NO wonder the ORthodox don't want anything to do with such a thoroughly debased theology!

Posted by David Rowett (=mynsterpreost) at Saturday, 7 October 2006 at 8:02pm BST

Thanks John Henry for spelling out what PSA means. The thing that fascinates me about the whole PSA and punitive justice thing is that it shows a fundamental disrespect for Jesus' sacrifice, because it says it wasn't enough. The other thing that amuses me is that States with excessively punitive justice systems often have worse problems with repeat offenders.

There's been some excellent work done in South Australia looking at trying to stop criminals reoffending, and using their time in jail to prepare them to be able to live as functional human beings in mainstream society. (When justice is overly punitive and pescriptive sometimes people reoffend because they are simply unable to cope with the responsibilities of "normal" living). Also, research into conduct disorders show that those at the more extreme end (e.g. cruel to animals as children) simply do not respond to punitive sanctions, but sometimes can be coaxed through positive reinforcement. So the punitive retributive model can actually exacerbate sin. Further, it doesn't lead to healing for the victims, I've witnessed incest and rape victims collapse AFTER winning a law suit against their perpetrator, who is now in jail. They have "won" but their internal anger and healing is still unresolved.

Justice is more sophisticated than a "one solution fits all", we need to look at healing the victims, reducing the offences (size and scale), and rewarding decent behaviours.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Saturday, 7 October 2006 at 10:06pm BST

If this isn't wandering too far off topic (maybe a dead thread anyway), several months ago I had a dream -- I was at some conference in Europe along with Presiding Bishop Griswold & I turned to him & said, "I believe that the doctrine of substitutionary Atonement is heretical."

At General Convention I had the opportunity to speak to ++Frank (for the first time since he has been PB -- I who MCed his first ordination, IIRC) & told him of the dream. He was quite aback, thought, smiled & said he liked it.

Posted by Prior Aelred at Sunday, 8 October 2006 at 1:39am BST

Ann Marie

I shall use the word "restorative" as much as possible, a much more beautiful and appropriate intepretation.

Sometimes bad things happen. The majesty and grace of God is being able to transform setbacks, tragedies and appalling circumstances into something wondeful and uplifting. The phoenix from the fire, grace rising up out of the ashes, life from death, hope from gloom, forgiveness from failure.

God not only redeems, God restores.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 8 October 2006 at 5:20pm BST


If such were the case, we'd have to say the same for all of the heterosexuals and AIDS as well; the point is that commandment and cannot be disconnected from flourishing, from becoming more like an image of God, Christlike which is in contrast to a Calvinist understanding that places commandment as something to be submitted to irrespective of a "why?" or nuance about interpretation.

I think a model that insists on divine punishment even more troubling, and one that is most often spouted off at homosexuals by evangelicals. That way, I guess they can justify their nastiness in the name of some deity. And I have to wonder if your understanding of true justice and God's justice are one and the same? God's justice begins in forgiveness, infinitity of grace, not a forensic exchange or forebearance, as far as I can tell. What your saying is that God requires a divine child abuse, and in that case, radical dismissers of the term "sacrifice" at all are correct in their criticism. Such a deity is not the God I recognize in the Resurrection, and unworthy of my praise.

The punishment Jesus endured on the cross was because of our own wrath not God's, but rather the gods of our own hearts; Jesus offered himself to us loving us to the end, even as we put him to death, he cries out "forgive". His resurrection reveals to us our own wrathfulness and God's grace beyond bounds, that terribly we could not accept in friendship and the price for our rejection of it was the Son of God.

I never anywhere said that my understanding of God is without mercy or forgiveness. That is your reading of what I wrote, and your reading is not the only biblical approach, to say so is to dismiss most of patristics who were not about substitutionary atonement--neither are the Creeds formulated on that model, which is all it is, a model. On the contrary, my understanding begins with the fact that the Crucified One forgives in the Resurrection--forgiveness and the spaciousness of grace are at the center and that to which we respond in the Spirit. This is where I begin to theologize about God.

David Bentley Hart has done some interesting work pointing out that actually St. Anselm's model is really a condensed patristic understanding then reinterpretted through the Reformers.

Posted by *Christopher at Sunday, 8 October 2006 at 9:42pm BST


You are starting to sound like a Jew! They believe that matters of Torah interpretation are not just dicussed within awake human consciousness but at "higher levels". If you are interested let me know and I will see if I can find some online examples. I've read a couple of good examples where there was a debate about how to read a portion of the Torah and then in a group meditation a dead teacher came and described that both perspectives are valid, it just depends on how you are defining space or relative location. For example there is the lineal space-time continuum as we know it, and then there is the Jacob's ladder of levels of consciousness from earth to heaven. Up and down has slightly different connotations depending on which nomenclature you are using at the time.

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Sunday, 8 October 2006 at 10:14pm BST

I'm sorry Christopher, I wrote a considered follow up to your posting, but it has not appeared here, and I unfortunately did not keep a copy.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Monday, 9 October 2006 at 4:53pm BST

As your comment well exceeded the 400 word limit, I emailed it back to you. As always, you are very welcome to resubmit in briefer form.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Monday, 9 October 2006 at 11:08pm BST

Thank you Simon. Now in 354 words -

DR, I know the A/S "Dream of the Rood" very well, but the quote you provide does not support your argument, neither does the rest of the poem. And it is not a biblical text. The point is that the bible has its own explicit understanding of the Cross.

Substitution is at the heart of the Jewish sacrificial system, such as Genesis 22's account of Abraham and Isaac, and the alternative offering provided by God. The OT spells it out in Leviticus 16. Atonement is made by the substitutionary offering of blood, both for personal trangressions and for the sins of the nation.

Hebrews 9.14-15 makes the direct connection with the OT system: "14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance,
since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant."

This is hardly a Latin interpretation: it is the biblical system of sacrifice and atonement. It also finds its expression in John's gospel,
6.51: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I
shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

The Orthodox view seems to me to be well expressed as follows: "...we were enemies of God through sin, and God had appointed the sinner to die. There must needs therefore have happened one of two things; either that God, in His truth, should destroy all men, or that in His loving-kindness He should cancel the sentence. But behold the wisdom of God; He preserved both the truth of His sentence, and the exercise of His loving-kindness. Christ took our sins 'in His body on the tree, that we by His death might die to sin, and live unto righteousness' (I Pet. 2:24).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lectures:Lecture 13 no. 33)

Posted by Alan Marsh at Tuesday, 10 October 2006 at 12:41am BST

Cheryl --

Thank you.

As Pope Pius XI said, "We are all spiritual Semites."

Posted by Prior Aelred at Tuesday, 10 October 2006 at 5:32pm BST


Yes and the whole point of Jesus sacrifice was to end that phase of humanity's development for once and all times. Anyone who still advocates the punitive God requiring sacrifices for fear of punishment insults both Jesus and God.

Plus you need to remember faith and forgiveness, which cover a multitude of sins e.g. Hebrews 11, Isaiah 1:11-17, Proverbs 10:12 "Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs."

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Tuesday, 10 October 2006 at 7:17pm BST

Cheryl, Nobody is advocating any further sacrifices. What Jesus offered was "a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world" in Cranmer's words, but that does not mean that sin came to an end on the Cross or our need for redemption.

On the contrary, the eucharist is "a perpetual memory" of his offering which he commanded us to continue in the bread and wine of holy communion, the Church's paschal offering of the new covenant, recalling the paschal lamb of the old testament. It is an offering made for the sins of others.

The cross does not end the seriousness of sin or its costly consequences. God is more likely to be appalled and angry at what humanity has done in the last hundred years, than in the first hundred years of biblical history.

Forgiveness is to be longed for and prayed for, but who is empowered to forgive the crimes against humanity of the 20th century, any more than they are competent to sit in final judgement on the perpetrators of those crimes? God alone can judge, condemn and forgive, and if what human beings have done fill him with wrath, from the murder of Abel onwards, his anger is righteous.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Wednesday, 11 October 2006 at 1:37am BST


Does your posting say that it is God's wrath and God's place to judge?

If so, then who are we humans to decide who should or should not seek out God?

Does not the bible also say that God calls His own to Him? If that teaching is true, then those who come to our doors have been called by God? Surely we then sin if we refuse to open our doors to them?

The bible warns us that we will not always recognise or be comfortable with whom God has called. For example: Isaiah 44:5 "One will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD'S,’and will take the name Israel."

I heard a minister say that some people would write it on their hand, because others would not recognise them as being called by God. Surely what we are seeing here is GLBTs and those that love them writing it on their hands, in their support groups, in their scripture, on the internet? King David acknowledges that even the rebellious are in God's train (Psalms 68:18)

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Wednesday, 11 October 2006 at 9:04pm BST

AM said
Substitution is at the heart of the Jewish sacrificial system,

Is it? It may comprise a part of it, but my memory of the OT is that there's more to (say) the 'minhah' than mere substitution.

On top of that, there is, I believe, significant discussion as to whether the (so-called) 'sin offering' in the OT is a substitutionary rite in the first place (see eg the thesis of Milgrom, who also points out that the word we translate as 'sin offering' — hatta't — is also used in situations where sin is nowhere on the horizon, eg the dedication of a new altar (leviticus 8 14) or the completion of a Nazirite vow of abstinence (Num 6 13ff).

Thus AM's comment conceals a mass of dreadful over-simplifications and fudgings which do disservice to the OT. (I do wish that some folk would remember that the OT wasn't written in English....)

As for the Cyril reference, I agree that Cyril (And John Chrysostom and Basil and...) talk in substitutionary terms - but it's important to note that their springboard is the mythology of the New Adam, where Christ appears as the representative of humanity. I don't pick that subtlety up in modern substitutionary theory.

Posted by David Rowett (=mynsterpreost) at Wednesday, 11 October 2006 at 10:23pm BST

Alan Marsh,
Before you go too far in youinetrpretation of the Orthodox understanding of the Atonement, I'd suggest you read:
It kind of puts PSA in its place.

Posted by Ford Elms at Thursday, 12 October 2006 at 6:55pm BST


I've forwarded the link for future reference and started to read it. It's a long one. You might find the Jewish model of tzaddik interesting. I find this a moving piece:

Posted by Cheryl Clough at Thursday, 12 October 2006 at 8:33pm BST

Cheryl, God does call his own to him. His word is "Repent, and believe the good news". Note that metanoia must come first. As Rowan Williams said recently, the church is to be welcoming - not inclusive.

Ford, I took a look at the link you provided, but it does not deal with the patristic teaching on the Atonement such as that provided by St Cyril of Jerusalem. I have not heard of the author or the organisation. (I am in the UK). There are many who call themselves "Orthodox" just as there are many who call themselves "Anglican".

David, It's hardly the place to deal in detail with an argument (400 words maximum, it seems) but there is no escaping the system of atonement (and substitutionary) sacrifice in the OT which comes to its conclusion with the Cross, or the terminology employed by Jesus at the institution of the eucharist.

You can if you like reinterpret or even re-imagine the biblical texts, but the New Adam is only one of a cluster of secondary images, while the prevailing concept is that of the Lamb of God, offered in sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Posted by Alan Marsh at Friday, 13 October 2006 at 1:51pm BST
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