Q & R: Christ and His Death
Here's the Q:
Hi Brian. Great work you doing, Bro. Hang in there.
A question about your Christology. Have read several of your books but can't really get a handle on your idea of the need for Christ and His death. If you don't believe in original sin, what do you think was the purpose of the cross then?
Thanks and will keep following yr blog.
Here's the R: This is an important question. The places I deal with this most pointedly in my writings are
A New Kind of Christianity: You're very perceptive to realize that Christ is valuable and essential in what I call the "six lined narrative" because his death solves the problem of "original sin." If you're working in that narrative, if you take away original sin, the whole thing collapses. What never made sense to me, though, is that Christ was truly important to the early Christians before the doctrine of original sin had ever been articulated (which happened in part through Irenaeus in the 2nd century and mostly through Augustine in the 5th century). I propose a different narrative or "framing story" - one more based on the Hebrew narratives of creation, liberation, and reconciliation - and in that story, all dimensions of Christ - his birth, life, teaching, deeds, death, resurrection, ascension, sending of the Spirit, etc. - are truly important, meaningful, and needed.
Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? You're right that I question the popular conception of original sin, but it's not true that I don't believe in original sin. In my most recent book, I follow the work of James Alison and others in reading the key biblical texts behind the doctrine - exposing "the desire to acquire," the tendency to rivalry (including rivalry with God), and our proclivity to achieve peace through violence as our original sin. In that light, Jesus' death is more important than ever before ... but in a radically different way. I deal with this throughout the "Doctrinal Challenge" section, but it comes to a climax in my "Liturgical Challenge" chapter on Eucharist as table of fellowship and reconciliation, not altar of sacrifice.