Friday, February 4, 2011

The Curse and the Rupture Part 2

In my last post I suggested that a good way to look at the consequences of Adam and Eve's first sin is to see it as 'the rupture,' sketching how the curse of Genesis 3 makes sense when viewed as a frustration of a variety of relationships; that between a person and God, between fellow human beings, and between people and the cosmos. Danny wisely asked me to tease out the theological implications of this line of reasoning, and I will hit some of the major implications below.

The biggest implication is that it slightly refocuses and broadens our understanding of the atonement, because of the change in our understanding of what most needs fixing as a result of the first sin. Cole has aptly titled his book. The divine project is to bring shalom. Thus, I don't think that satisfaction is the chief end of the atonement. I think that often too much stress is paid on Jesus paying the penalty for our sins on the cross (I'm not saying this isn't important or that he didn't - I do, though, think that many, especially amongst the reformed, talk about Jesus work on the cross solely in that mode, and yes I know that there are other groups who don't see any element of satisfaction in the atonement which causes the reaction it does amongst the reformed). The atonement achieved much more than forgiveness (or even justification), it achieved restored relationships. At baptism we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection, which breaks down the barrier between us and God and between us and the rest of God's family.

I also think that there are interesting implications related to environmental ethics, implications which the Bible never works out. If the atonement overcomes the relational rupture of the original sin, then there must be a sense in which it overcomes our conflict with the environment. In other words, environmental ethics become extremely important, as now a part of our job in carrying out the divine project must be to realize those restored relationships now.

Lastly, I think that unity then becomes a much bigger deal. Currently, I believe that evangelicalism in general and conservative reformed groups in particular (for the record, I am reformed so I see the critiques of the reformed movement in this post as gentle criticism by a close cousin), don't want to work at unity nearly enough. They're happy to be united with other similar minded groups, but how many would do ministry together with United Methodists or Presbyterians (USA)? God sent his son to break down all barriers separating us, to restore us to communion with one another. Let us not rebuild what God has destroyed.