GOD IN THE MIRROR: EVIL, SIN, AND SALVATION

By Marcia Montenegro (page 4 of 4)

A more subtle anti-sin interpretation of Christ's death on the cross is expressed by the mystic Julian of Norwich, who taught that Christ's crucifixion did not pay a price for humanity, nor was it reparation for sin, nor a propitiatory sacrifice, but rather it was a way for man to unite with or have "one-ning" with Christ [Hide, 112, 113, 133, 206]. The Fall was merely an interruption of God's "greatest longing" to make humanity his "dwelling place" [Hide, 122]. Since Julian believes that God does not blame man for sin and expresses no wrath on sin, but merely wants to rescue man, [Hide, 119, 120, 123, 206] it is not surprising that her view of Christ's atonement has no connection to man's sin.

A Christless view of grace is offered by Seth, the channeled entity. Seth explains that man was born in a state of grace, and that it is impossible for man to leave it [Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality, 157]. Man will die in this state of grace, with no need of "special words spoken" over him, or oil or water poured on his head, obvious references to certain Christian rituals. Seth advocates various techniques for one to realize and feel this state of grace [Roberts, The Nature of Personal Reality, 161-162].

Conclusions: Out of the Looking Glass

As seen from examining various New Age views on God, man, and sin, there is a consensus that man is basically good and divine; God does not judge man since man is part of God; God is changing or incomplete; God is part of the universe; God is love, but judgment on man's sin is not part of this God's character; sin is denied or defined as illusion; evil is rationalized as ignorance or as illusory; and man's salvation is not necessary, though his liberation from the material and/or illusory world is, and his need to awaken to his true divine self is a priority. This liberation or enlightenment rests on man's efforts to discover his true nature, through knowledge, understanding, lessons learned from reincarnation, and through various techniques such as mystical forms of meditation.

Julian of Norwich, who taught that man fell into sin by accident, and that God used Jesus to rescue man, presents an idea similar to an atonement view called the moral influence theory. Christ's death was an example of divine love, so that we would be softened and turn to God. Julian rejected the Biblical view of Christ being offered as a sacrifice for sins in order to take the punishment of God's wrath for us [Romans 5: 8-9; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:14-15; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:10]. Instead, Julian's view over-emphasizes God's love and diminishes man's accountability for sin so that God's attribute of love is exaggerated at the expense of His judgment and wrath on sin. Such judgment is clearly presented in passages like Romans 1:18, 2:5, 5:9, 9:22; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6. For the unrepentant, God's wrath "remains on him" [John 3:36].

In Matthew Fox's earth-centered theology (creation spirituality), one purpose for Jesus' visit to earth was to teach man lessons and to serve as an example for us so we could strive to set things in the world aright. This is nearest to the atonement theory that Jesus came to be an example for us. But the Jesus whom Matthew Fox discusses is not a Jesus concerned with man's sin against a transcendent, holy God, but rather with man's tormenting of the earth, which is given a central place in Fox's theology. Fox teaches a panentheistic God: God is contained in the universe and the universe is contained in God [Fox, 57, 117, 124]. Declaring that Jesus taught this view, Fox asserts that part of the "inbreaking" of God's Kingdom among us is the move from theism to panentheism [Fox, 70], that is, shifting from belief in a transcendent and immanent God to belief in a God contained in creation. Therefore, the earth with its creatures, because it is a vessel for God, becomes a "special word of God," and a feminized Jesus becomes a symbol for Mother Earth [Fox, 145-146, 147]. The crucifixion of Christ is transformed into the crucifixion of the earth, "the most poignant and urgent pain of our time," and the risen Christ serves as a call to humans to save Mother Earth [Fox, 83, 146-149].

Jesus may be an example and an awakener to Fox, but it is no longer the salvation of man at issue, but rather the salvation of the earth. The Biblical teaching on man's need for salvation is twisted into Christ coming to effect salvation for the earth. In contrast, God tells us that although nature is fallen, and the earth will be redeemed, its redemption will come only through Christ [Genesis 3:17; Romans 8:20-22; Revelation 21:1]. This is the redemption of God's created world, however, and not the redemption of a conscious organism indwelt by God.

A panentheistic God, that is, a God contained in the earth, cannot really save anyone, even earth, because God is then part of what needs saving, and is thus not the transcendent or perfect being he must be to save. He is a victim as surely as earth is, and what kind of God is that? And what is the point of any salvation, if there is no absolute perfection by which we are measuring the need for that salvation? In other words, what are we being saved to, or what is earth being restored to, if God is part of what is corrupt and victimized? If injustice is being declared, then there must be an absolute justice somewhere to know there is injustice.

God tells us in Romans 3:23 that sin is falling short of God's standard. God is the standard for goodness, kindness, mercy, justice, and love. All men, viewed in God's eyes, not only fall short of this, but also cannot ever match the standard on their own merits or efforts. God's perfect judgment on sin demanded a penalty of death for sin, which is eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:14, 15). Man needed a way to be reconciled to God and avoid the penalty; the solution for this was Christ's incarnation and death on the cross (Romans 4:25, 5:9-10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Hebrews 9:12, 10:12-14), which paid for that penalty.

In the New Age views of God, man, and Christ, man is at the center of the story as God or as a godlike being. In this way, everything is inverted so that man does not need God, much less salvation. God is devalued to an energy, to being contained in the universe, or he is strained into a pantheistic soup where he becomes indistinct and malleable, while man is elevated to divine status so that sin is a non-issue. The force of Christ's atonement is blunted since the concept of sin is lessened or dismissed. Christ is presented as just another spiritual teacher who serves as an example for attaining the divine consciousness available to all mankind. [See "Who is Jesus?"].

The New Age mirror showing man to be God is shattered, however, when we examine ourselves through God's word, seeing that as sinful people we are deserving of God's wrath, yet are offered redemption through the atonement of Christ. Far from being impatient with us or cruel, God waits for man to turn to Him: "He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so he is giving more time for everyone to repent" [2 Peter 3:9].

Jesus, Not An Esoteric Teacher

Jesus was not playing mind games when he said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except by me," (John 14:6). He was not hiding an esoteric doctrine in these words, and he was not talking about rising to a higher consciousness. Jesus was plainspoken. He meant what he said, that only through him, the one who suffered the penalty of sin on the cross and rose again, can you come to know God. Jesus was Christ eternally, even before he incarnated as man.

The bodily resurrection of Christ shows that we are not here to transcend the material. There is nothing evil about the material world, as the Gnostics asserted. It is not more spiritual to deny the material and try to dwell in a non-material state. There is no trick being played on us that we should believe that what we see as real is an illusion or mere projection of our thoughts; we do not need to mistrust our senses about the material world we see and touch. Our bodies and the earth were formed and fashioned by God and are something to cherish. When sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin spread its deadly infection, tainting the earth, our minds, our spirits, and our bodies. This brought decay, killing, and death. But one day, just as Christ defeated death on the cross by rising again, so will death and decay be thrown out.

Believing in Christ is not an external system as many charge; it is both an external and internal process, because while Christ is objectively real and outside of man, he dwells within us when we turn our lives over to him. We become transformed from within, but not through our own efforts, though we must cooperate. Believing in Christ is the only true holism, encompassing salvation of body, mind, and spirit, from an outside point of time at the cross and from a real external God, and then within through inner transformation wrought by God.

Jesus said:

"Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light." Matthew 11:28-29.

"I have been heard by people everywhere, and I teach nothing in private that I have not said in public." John 18:20

"And I came to bring truth into the world. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true." John 18:37b

"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day." Luke 9:22

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Revelation 3:20

Hebrews 9:12 says:

"When Christ went through the tent and entered once and for all into the Most Holy Place, he did not take the blood of goats and bulls to offer as a sacrifice; rather, he took his own blood and obtained eternal salvation for us."


WORKS CITED

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