Friday, March 14, 2008

Redemption of the World?

One of my former religion professors really didn't like the idea of propitiation. For him the concept of appeasing an offended God or dispelling God's wrath didn't make sense in the context of the New Testament. His understanding of God led him to embrace expiation instead--the idea of making amends or reconciling a broken bond.

Although this may seem like splitting hairs to some people, it really is a significant distinction. Propitiation evokes the image of an angry Old Testament God with a rapacious bloodlust--the only way to satisfy this God is through the ultimate bloodshed. By embracing expiation, my professor was effectively throwing out that Old Testament image of God in exchange for a God who blesses the peacemakers and seeks out the lost.

I understand God in a similar way. I believe in a God who is more concerned with reconciliation than retribution, who is more likely to pardon than to punish, and who cares more that justice is given to the lowly than that justice is served to the law-breakers. I believe in redemption.

But it recently occurred to me that I don't really know what redemption looks like. Growing up, I was taught that redemption had something to do with God forgiving me so I could get into heaven. Since we were fallen people in a fallen world, redemption meant being perfected (after we died) and living in a perfect world (heaven).

That's all fine and dandy, but is that all that redemption is? Is it really so individualistic? Is it only about me getting into heaven? What about the service of others in God's name? What about the reign of God on earth? What about the redemption of this life and this world?

I believe that the redemption that God has in mind is the redemption of the world--not just of individuals. It isn't something that clergy or conservatives or Christians have a monopoly over. It is God reconciling the world to Godself. Redemption is tied up intimately with the gospel of the kingdom: "Get ready! God's reign on earth is coming!"

But how do we get ready? What do we need to do? How can we contribute to a project (like reconciliation) that really belongs to God? What does the redemption of the world look like?

Can this world even be redeemed?


  1. Hi,
    I've struggled over the same things that you are speaking of. Redemption, salvation, justification, etc...the stuff that new testament proclaims....and most will tell you that believing gives you that benefit. But could it be that he did exactly what he said he was going to do.....that is, redeem the world without our help (belief)? Could it be that he did it all by himself? That would surely be grace wouldn't it.
    Just my thoughts.

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