Jacob M. Wright

This has been taken from here on Facebook.

People need to realize that when they become a Christian, depending on what sect they are Christianized into, they are given a certain grid, a contextual filter, through which their Christian worldview is formed. And this grid is not Christianity itself. It is a certain theological tradition that a particular sect of Christians has formulated over years or decades or centuries. It is easy to think that our grid IS Christianity.

Once, when I had the conversation with someone that I did not believe in eternal conscious torment, and instead believed in Conditionalism (a word I was not familiar with) along with the hope of what the early church fathers called “the restoration of all things” (universal salvation), this person told me that he didn’t see how my beliefs don’t take away from what Jesus suffered on the cross. What this person didn’t realize is that the reason he thought this was because he believed in the penal substitutionary theory of atonement which is that the torture and crucifixion of Jesus was Jesus bearing the wrath of God against sin. (In other words, God is angry enough at all of us that he would just as well have us all tortured and crucified to satisfy his wrath, but took it out on Jesus instead.)

In talking to this person, it was a light bulb moment for me. There is an entire grid that we are given through which we make sense of all of Christianity that effects every area of theology. We can’t make sense of Christianity outside of the grid we are given unless we are willing to rethink the whole system of thinking that we have believed IS Christianity. Penal substitutionary atonement, or God having Jesus tortured and crucified in his white hot wrath, goes hand in hand with God demanding the torture of humans forever (although there is a glaring inconsistency here since Jesus was not tortured forever but only tortured for a few hours). Thus they could not conceive of any other lens through which to see the “hell” passages because each doctrinal presupposition is interweaved into every other part which makes up a whole system of thinking. And this, to them, is Christianity. Once you pull one thread it starts effecting all other parts.

But little do they know that their grid is not THE grid. There are other grids through which to see God and the theological ideas of Christianity. Eastern Orthodoxy for one has a whole grid that is absolutely foreign to the penal substitutionary grid. It is one which I have found much more compelling, much more open to mystery and compatible with diverse views, and does not present a God that is a confusing schizophrenic tyrant who infinitely loves his creatures while simultaneously having the urge to torture them forever. I am not Eastern Orthodox (yet?) and may never be, but there is a rich consistent theological history there that goes all the way back to the church fathers that I have found extremely helpful in navigating my way through what can be the confusion of evangelicalism. It’s a whole different theological universe and yet the same scriptures being interpreted.

This was the first article by Jacob that I had seen. He seems to be a prolific writer on Facebook and I like a lot of what I have seen.

It was some days after finishing the update of the blog that I was looking at this article again. It reminded me of how much my thoughts changed during the course of 2012, prompted by a very close friendship with Dave Price that started in 2010 and ended in July 2012 when Dave died suddenly, maybe only an hour after sending what proved to be a very special email.
I have written elsewhere on the blog about Dave’s interest in Eastern Orthodoxy.

It was on 7th January that Julie Ferwerda shared a note on Facebook about her book Raising Hell that she describes as a heartfelt note to all her hell-believing friends. If you are not familiar with this book I suggest you follow the links and download the free PDF. Alternatively you can find a link here. I’d love to know what you think of it.