The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it.1—Alan Jones, Episcopal contemplative priest
The New Age believes that the teachings of the East and of the West must be fused and blended before the true and universal religion—for which the world waits—could appear on Earth. In other words, all religions must come together under the umbrella of metaphysics (mysticism). While the average Christian would agree that this doesn’t line up with Scripture, the Christian church has been overtaken by this very concept, but in a deceitful, cunning manner. And it rejects the very thing that can save a soul—the atonement for sin on the Cross by Jesus Christ. He was a substitute, and He took our place. Without that atonement, we are lost forever.
This weekend, people throughout the world will be celebrating Christ’s resurrection. Even people who don’t believe in the resurrection are celebrating the weekend and wishing Happy Easter to others. But while that seems odd to celebrate a day when you don’t even believe in its reason, what is more odd is that so many Christians are remembering Christ’s death on the Cross and His resurrection three days later but are throughout the year promoting a spirituality that ultimately denies the atonement. And without the atonement, why bother thinking about the resurrection—it would mean nothing.
Some may be saying right now, “my pastor doesn’t deny the atonement.” Perhaps not directly or intentionally. But if he is promoting contemplative spirituality, in a roundabout way, he is denying the atonement. You see, the contemplative prayer movement (i.e., spiritual formation movement) has as its foundation the root of mysticism. And mysticism, by its very nature, denies the Cross, the atonement, and certainly the resurrection because its premise is “man is God and thus, does not need an atoning Savior for he is his own.” We have provided much documentation on this over the years. So to celebrate the resurrection and yet to embrace spiritual formation (i.e., contemplative) is a terrible contradiction.
Many contemplative proponents say they love the Cross and they consider Christ an example of a great servant who sacrificially gave His life for others, but they deny the idea that He was a substitute (i.e., meaning He paid the penalty that we should have paid because we have sinned). They say that a loving God would not send His Son to a violent death on a Cross to bear the sins of others. They say Jesus is their model but cannot say He is their Lord. By Christian leaders embracing spiritual formation as they are now doing in large numbers, they are inadvertently denying the atonement and are helping to usher in a world religious system that will attempt to snuff out the true Gospel.
In 1922, liberal pastor and theologian Harry Emerson Fosdick stated the following words in his sermon titled “Shall the Fundamentalists Win?”:
It is interesting to note where the Fundamentalists are driving in their stakes to mark out the deadline of doctrine around the church, across which no one is to pass except on terms of agreement. They insist that we must all believe in the historicity of certain special miracles, preeminently the virgin birth of our Lord; that we must believe in a special theory of inspiration—that the original documents of the Scripture, which of course we no longer possess, were inerrantly dictated to men a good deal as a man might dictate to a stenographer; that we must believe in a special theory of the Atonement—that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner.
Fosdick considered the doctrine of a blood atonement a “slaughterhouse religion”2
Fosdick (and those who adhere to this reasoning) rejects Christ as a substitute for our penalty of sin (“the wages of sin is death”—Romans 6:23).
During this time of the year, when so many churches are holding Easter services (in honor of the death and resurrection of Jesus), how many of these same churches are clinging to contemplative spirituality without even realizing what it really stands for. If Jesus’ going to the Cross and shedding blood was merely an act of service and sacrifice, an example for others to follow, and was not actually a substitutionary payment for the sins of humanity, then why celebrate Easter and the resurrection? It would make no sense. Those churches who cling to contemplative ideologies and practices should reevaluate this. While they cling to one (contemplative), they deny the other (the atonement) even if they don’t realize it.
Related Quotes by Those Who Promote Contemplative Spirituality and Reject or Belittle the Atonement
He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger—a God who is still all too familiar to many Christian—is a caricature of the true God. This God does not exist. This is not the God whom Jesus Christ reveals to us. This is not the God whom Jesus called “Abba.” (William Shannon, Silence on Fire, p. 110 – biographer of Thomas Merton).
[T]he god whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger . . . the god who exacts the last drop of blood from his Son so that his just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased, is not the God revealed by and in Jesus Christ. And if he is not the God of Jesus, he does not exist. (Brennan Manning, Above All, p. 58-59)
This is one of the huge problems is the traditional understanding of hell. Because if the cross is in line with Jesus’ teaching then – I won’t say, the only, and I certainly won’t say even the primary – but a primary meaning of the cross is that the kingdom of God doesn’t come like the kingdoms of this world, by inflicting violence and coercing people. But that the kingdom of God comes through suffering and willing, voluntary sacrifice. But in an ironic way, the doctrine of hell basically says, no, that’s not really true. That in the end, God gets His way through coercion and violence and intimidation and domination, just like every other kingdom does. The cross isn’t the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God. (Brian McLaren, in an interview)
“Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution was the name of this vile doctrine.”–Alan Jones, (Reimagining Christianity , p. 168)
“All hell is smaller than one pebble … smaller than one atom.”–Nicky Gumbel, creator of the Alpha Course
Too many theories of the atonement assume that by one single high priestly act of self-sacrifice Christ saved the world.–(Harry Fosdick, Dear Mr. Brown, p. 135)
“The church has been preoccupied with the question, ‘What happens to your soul after you die?’ As if the reason for Jesus coming can be summed up in, ‘Jesus is trying to help get more souls into heaven, as opposed to hell, after they die.’ I just think a fair reading of the Gospels blows that out of the water. I don’t think that the entire message and life of Jesus can be boiled down to that bottom line.”–Brian McLaren, emerging church leader, from PBS Special
Yet let me make something clear. The era of the Single Savior is over. What is needed now is joint action, combined effort, collective co-creation. (Neale Donald Walsch, New Revelations, p. 157)
You must realize that “atonement” is just that—it is “at-one-ment.” It is the awareness that you and all others are One. It is the understanding that you are One with everything—including Me. (Neale Donald Walsch, Friends with God, p. 92)
We are being moved, as a community, beyond theories about atonement, to enter into atonement itself, or at-one-ment—the new reality and new relationship of oneness with God which Christ incarnated (in life, cross, and resurrection) and into which we are all invited “for all time.” (Karen Ward, emerging church leader, Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Churches, Webber, p. 163)
Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world . . . To think that the central meaning of Easter [resurrection] depends upon something spectacular happening to Jesus’ corpse misses the point of the Easter message and risks trivializing the story. To link Easter primarily to our hope for an afterlife, as if our post-death existence depends upon God having transformed the corpse of Jesus, is to reduce the story to a politically-domesticated yearning for our survival beyond death.3 (Marcus Borg, former Distinguished Professor in Religion and Culture and Hundere Endowed Chair in Religious Studies at Oregon State University)
And then we bring Jesus into it. And what we end up with is a story that God’s perfect, he’s holy and he’s perfect. You’re not, so God has to kill you. He’s to kill you. He needs his pound of flesh. . . “…in the name of His justice and so he, he’s gonna kill you because he’s angry at you. But instead he’s gonna kill Jesus. And he takes out his anger on Jesus and then he allows you, after you die, to go to the good place and not the bad place. So you can sing forever the praises of the God who didn’t kill you.”4 (Tim Mackie, co-founder of the Bible Project)
And finally, the Word of God:
In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)
And he is the propitiation* for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
Atonement Rejected by Roger Oakland
Understanding the Difference: Biblical Atonement or New Age At-One-Ment? by Warren B. Smith
*Propitiation definition (Webster): appeases, the act of gaining or regaining the favor or goodwill of someone or something
(photo from istockphoto.com; used with permission)