Archive for the ‘Classic Theory of the Atonement’ Tag

Devotion for Holy Saturday, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Harrowing of Hell

Image in the Public Domain

The Light of Christ, Part I

APRIL 3, 2021

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 14:1-4 or Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-24

Psalm 31:1-4, 15-16

1 Peter 4:1-8

Matthew 27:57-66 or John 19:38-42

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To permit Jess to remain dead liturgically until late Holy Saturday or early Easter Sunday morning–until the Great Vigil of Easter–is spiritually helpful.  By doing this one will derive more spiritual benefit from Easter than if one rushes into it.  Spiritual peaks mean as much as they do because of the valleys.

The audience for 1 Peter consisted of Gentile Christians in Asia Minor suffering for their faith.  The call to witness to Christ in their lives made sense.  (It still makes sense for we Christians today), in all our cultural contexts, regardless of the presence or absence of persecution.)  In that textual context the author (in 3:19 and 4:6) referred to Christ’s post-crucifixion and pre-Resurrection descent to the dead/into Hell.  These references have led to several interpretations for millennia, but the linkage to these verses to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, that is, the Conquest of Satan, has been easy to recognize.

A note in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008), for obvious reasons flowing from Eastern Orthodox theology, affirms the descent of Christ into Hell.  It reads in part:

As Christ fearlessly faced His tormenters, death, and hell, so we through Him can confidently face mockers and tormenters–and yes, bring His light to them.

–Page 1687

That is a great responsibility.  To bring the light of Christ to others–especially our enemies–is a high calling.  We can succeed in it, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVS AND FOUNDER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/the-light-of-christ-part-iii/

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Devotion for Good Friday (Year D)   1 comment

christ-on-the-cross

Above:  Christ on the Cross, by Gerard David

Image in the Public Domain

Kyrie Eleison

APRIL 10, 2020

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezra 9:5-15 or Jeremiah 25:15-38 or 2 Chronicles 7:1-22

Psalm 88

Luke 23:(1-12) 13-49

1 Peter 4:(1-8) 9-11 (12-14) 15-19

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The readings for this day speak of fiery ordeals.  In 2 Chronicles 7, Jeremiah 25, Ezra 9, and Psalm 88, they occur because of faithlessness to God.  These ordeals–divine punishment–lie in the future for the first two readings and in the past and the present in the last two lections.  In the first three readings he sins are collective, but they are individual in Psalm 88.  When we turn to Luke 23 and 1 Peter 4 we find that the suffering does not constitute divine punishment.  Faith tells us that Jesus did not sin, and the predicted fiery ordeals in 1 Peter 4 result from one’s righteousness and the lack of righteousness of others.

God is unpleasant in the assigned readings from the Hebrew Bible.  Perhaps the most concise passage to this effect is Jeremiah 25:27 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

Then you shall say to them, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:  Drink, get drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.

I reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the idea that Jesus died for my sins.  That theory of the atonement portrays God as one in whom to stand in terror, not to love and respect.  It depicts God as one who says,

I will not be content until some people torture and execute my innocent Son.

No, I am closer to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor, of the Conquest of Satan.  This theory of the atonement emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus.  This makes sense to me because, without the resurrection, Jesus is dead.  Dead Jesus cannot save anyone from anything–sins or damnation, especially.  Actually, I propose that the entire earthly life of Jesus was the means of atonement.  I prefer to leave the mechanics of the atonement vague, in full Eastern Orthodox style.

Good Friday is among the holiest days of the year.  It is an occasion to reflect on the atonement and on social structures and institutions that kill the innocent.  Good Friday is an especially appropriate day to pray for forgiveness for the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf.  Innocent people still suffer at the hands of other people.  Scapegoating continues.  State-sponsored violence is not just a matter of the past.  The prayer of our Lord and Savior (“Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”–Luke 23:34a, The Jerusalem Bible, 1966) remains relevant.  Furthermore, sometimes they (we) do not know what they (we) are doing.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/kyrie-eleison-2/

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Devotion for Tuesday After Easter Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Yael Killing Sisera

Above:  Yael Killing Sisera, by Palma the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

Violence, Victory, Hatred, and Perfect Love

APRIL 23, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you give us the joy of celebrating our Lord’s resurrection.

Give us also the joys of life in your service,

and bring us at last to the full joy of life eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 4:17-23; 5:24-31a

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Revelation 12:1-12

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The reading from Revelation, told in the language of symbols, is about the persecution of Christians.  Martyrs in Heaven have conquered evil forces by dying, but their counterparts in the Church Militant remain vulnerable.  Their day to sing, in the words of Psalm 118:16 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979),

The right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

the right hand of the LORD is exalted!

the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

resides in the future.

Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite, knew how to triumph.  She used a mallet to drive a tent pin through the temple of Sisera, the Canaanite army commander, until the pin went into the ground.

This is a devotion for Tuesday in Easter Week.  Liturgically the death and resurrection of Jesus are therefore recent events.  According to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor for short, the proper emphasis falls on the reality that Jesus was dead only briefly.  His resurrection thwarted evil plots, making clear the superior power of God, of perfect love.  Jesus was a sacrifice, not a person committing or condoning deadly violence.

As I have written online many times, I am not naive.  I understand that some evildoers will refuse to amend their ways.  I grasp that human sinfulness necessitates a rescue operation sometimes, and that such missions have body counts much of the time.  Yet I cannot imagine Jesus advocating for needless violence and militant religion.  He was, after all not a zealot, a member of that group which sought to expel the Romans from Palestine forcefully.

The call to love my neighbors as I love myself reminds me that even those who would destroy me are my neighbors.  Jesus interceded on behalf of such as these; should any of us who claim to follow him do any less?

The battle is God’s.  We have the right to defend ourselves against threats, but may we never give in to hatred, a greater foe.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/18/violence-victory-hatred-and-perfect-love/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Dead Christ

Above:  St. John the Evangelist, St. Mary of Nazareth, and St. Mary Magdalene with the Dead Christ, by an Anonymous Painter

Image in the Public Domain

The Victory of God

APRIL 10, 2019

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The Collect:

Creator God, you prepare a new way in the wilderness,

and your grace waters our desert.

Open our hearts to be transformed by the new thing you are doing,

that our lives may proclaim the extravagance of your love

given to all through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 3:2-15

Psalm 20

Luke 18:31-34

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Now I know that the LORD has given deliverance to his king;

from his heavenly sanctuary he responds to him,

sending his mighty power which always saves.

Some draw attention to their chariots, some to their horses,

 but for our part we draw attention to the LORD, our God.

They crumble and fall,

but we will rise and continue on our way.

The LORD had delivered the king;

he answers us when we call.

–Psalm 20:7-10, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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The book of the prophet Habakkuk wrestles with the difficult question of suffering and the seeming triumph of evil in the context of the existence and character of God.  The conclusion of that text of the evil will not evade the consequences of their wicked actions and that God will triumph in the end.  That summary applies well to the pericope from Luke 18, a prediction of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

I am old enough to remember the latter phase and the end of the Cold War.  I am not naive.  The Cold War was a dangerous time during which the human race almost faced the ravages of atomic warfare on many occasions, most of them not in the realm of common knowledge.  Although the leaders of the two blocs were not suicidal, human frailties came close on many occasions to rendering much of the planet uninhabitable.  Yet the Cold War world was stable compared to the current reality, which comes with many suicidal terrorists.

The hope to which I cling is that the wicked of the world will face justice in this life or in the next and that God will triumph in the end.  Whether God is on my side is not a question I should ask.  No, I should ask if I am on God’s side.  The standard for defining God’s side is Jesus of Nazareth, who violated social norms out of comparison, confronted corrupt religious leaders in cahoots with the occupying Roman forces, and rose from the dead.  One of the three oldest definitions of the atonement in Christian theology is Christus Victor–the Conquest of Satan.  This is, in fact, the Classic Theory of the Atonement.  The Resurrection of Jesus, the Classic Theory tells us, reversed the death of Jesus, thereby demonstrating the superior power of God.  Evil continues to exist and act, but its inferior power is obvious.  As St. Paul the Apostle dictated in an epistle while partially quoting Hosea 13:14 at the beginning of the quote:

“O Death, where is your victory?  O Death, where is your sting?”  The sting of death is sin, and sin gains its power from the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

–1 Corinthians 15:55-57, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Classic Theory of the Atonement has inspired Christianity-based movements for social justice.  It has been apparent in the writings of great men such as Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple (1881-1944) and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. (1939-1968), who sought to defeat institutionalized evil in their societies.

The victory of God will occur in time, if not according to any of a host of human schedules.  God is never late, but we mere mortals are frequently impatient.  That lack of patience is often understandable, but that fact does nothing to change the reality that God is never late.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERILL, ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/12/04/the-victory-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday after the First Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Crucifixion Icon Rublev

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

Struggling with Concepts of God

MARCH 11, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Chronicles 21:1-17

Psalm 17

1 John 2:1-6

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Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes behold what is right.

Weigh my heart, examine me by night,

refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.

–Psalm 17:1-3, Common Worship (2000)

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The stories of the plague God inflicted on the Kingdom of Israel bother me.  The account in 1 Chronicles 21 differs significantly from the one in 2 Samuel 24.  In 2 Samuel 24:1, for example, “the anger of the LORD” (as the New Revised Standard Version renders the text), somehow operating independently of God, incites King David to take a census in violation of God’s desire.  Satan replaces “the anger of the LORD” as the agent of incitement in 1 Chronicles 21:1.  That is just one difference.  My major problem, however, is an element of the two versions of the story have in common.  God is terrifying and cruel, sending a plague upon innocent people.  It seems that the author of Psalm 17 is not the only one with impurity.  No, God, who harms innocents, seems impure in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24.

The concept of God in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24 is foreign to me.  Likewise, the idea that God was not satisfied until Roman soldiers tortured and executed Jesus (allegedly in lieu of each sinner, including subsequent ones, such as me) is familiar yet repugnant to me.  God, for me, is love.  Divine power resurrected Jesus, thereby defeating evil schemes.  Yes, O reader, I just repudiated Penal Substitutionary Atonement and affirmed the core of Christus Victor, the Classic Theory of the Atonement.  We who claim to follow God ought to exercise great caution regarding what we say and write about God.  Do we portray God as love or as a monster?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/struggling-with-concepts-of-god/

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Devotion for the Eighteenth Day of Easter, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

AgnusDeiWindow

Above:  The Moravian Logo in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

Living Jesus, New Covenant

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread.

Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-11

Psalm 134

John 21:1-14

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Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

you that by night stand in the house of the Lord.

Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary

and bless the Lord.

The Lord who made heaven and earth

give you blessing out of Zion.

–Psalm 134, Common Worship (2000)

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The daily realities and worldviews of biblical characters, being different from my own, require me to do some homework if I am to understand correctly what certain texts describe.  A case in point is Exodus 24, which recounts the sealing of the covenant between the Israelites and Yahweh with Moses sprinkling the blood of sacrificial bulls on the people.  Blood, in the worldview of these ancients, made life possible.  Thus, in this ritual act,

Israel now begins a new life of obedience, signified by sacrifice, the “book of the covenant,” and by the “blood of the covenant.”

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume I (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1994), page 881

We know how obedient many of that group of Israelites turned out to be, do we not?

The interpretive angle that blood makes life possible fits well into atonement theology, especially when one considers Jesus, both priest and sacrifice.  I recall to mind the image which the Gospel of John provides:  Jesus dying as sacrificial animals die at the Temple.  Jesus is the Passover Lamb; his death is the Passover meal.  The original Passover (in Exodus) protected Israelites from the sins of Egyptians, so any properly reasoned theology of atonement which uses Passover imagery must move beyond a tunnel-vision focus on one’s own sins.

The theology of scapegoating disturbs me.  Jesus became a political scapegoat, dying as one.  I agree with others who reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement; Jesus did not take my place on the cross.  Rather, the Classic Theory–the conquest of evil, completed via the Resurrection–is closer to my theology.  Actually, I propose that the entire life of Christ was essential for the Atonement.  And I interpret the death of Jesus as having several meanings, including the point that scapegoating does not work.

 My holistic understanding of the Atonement takes into account the vital role of bloodshed in the New Testament reflections on the crucifixion.  If the blood of sacrificial bulls made new spiritual life possible, even sealing the covenant, how much more does the blood of Christ affect those of us who follow him?  We have a New Covenant through him, do we not?  The imagery of blood fits well here.

More important, though, is the Resurrection, through which we have a living Jesus, not a dead one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/living-jesus-new-covenant/

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Devotion for Tuesday in Holy Week, Years A, B, and C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Candle_flame_(1)

Above:  Candle Burning

Image in the Public Domain

Light in the Darkness

MARCH 30, 2021

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The Collect:

Lord Jesus, you have called us to follow you.

grant that our love may not grow cold in your service,

and that we may not fail or deny you in the time of trial,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 30

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 49:1-7

Psalm 71:1-14

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

John 12:20-36

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A Related Post:

Prayer for Tuesday of Passion Week/Holy Week:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/prayer-for-tuesday-of-passion-weekholy-week/

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Do not cast me away in the time of old age;

forsake me not when my strength fails.

For my enemies are talking against me,

and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together.

–Psalm 71:9-10, Common Worship (2000)

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In our end us our beginning;

in our time, infinity;

in our doubt there is believing;

in our life, eternity.

In our death, a resurrection;

at the last, a victory,

unrevealed until its season,

something God alone can see.

–Natalie Sleeth, 1986

Copyright (1986) Holder = Hope Publishing Company

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The great task of being a light of God to the nations can be dangerous.  Jesus died, for elements of the darkness objected to him.  And a multitude of saints (canonized and otherwise) has died for showing God’s light in the darkness.

Too often I hear of many of my fellow Christians emphasize the death of Jesus so much that they either minimize or ignore his Resurrection.  With the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior we have dead Jesus, one powerless to save anyone from anything.  Of course, given my well-documented tendency toward the Classic Theory of the Atonement (Christus Victor), I emphasize the Resurrection of Jesus.  Death has lost its sting and God has demonstrated power superior to that of evil schemers.  This should encourage one in the difficult and potentially dangerous work of functioning as a light to the nations.  God will sin in the end.  The saints of God will continue to shine for God in the darkness after they die.  The darkness cannot extinguish the light.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 28, 2013 COMMON ERA

THANKSGIVING DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN THE YOUNGER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH PIGNATELLI, RESTORER OF THE JESUITS

THE FEAST OF KAMAHAMEHA AND EMMA, KING AND QUEEN OF HAWAII

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/17/light-in-the-darkness-2/

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