Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Error of Vicarious Atonement

So which is true, does God out of his love for the human race seek to save us, or does God pour out his wrath seeking to condemn us as sinners? For in one case scripture says this:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16).

But in another case, as is typical in the writings of Paul, God seeks to pour out his wrath on sinners:

Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Rom. 5:9)

As is typical in Catholic and Protestant doctrine, the latter view is expressed more than the first, that God was this angry sort of God, but then sent his Son who becomes a "substitute" for all the wrath and anger he has against all of mankind. And somehow, the human sacrifice satisfies the anger of God, in a similar fashion to how the primitive Aztecs made bloody human sacrifices to appease the anger of their sun god. Forget God's commandments, just acknowledge this sacrifice and make a lip confession and you are all done! Right? WRONG.

As explained in the previous post, The False Belief of a Trinity of three beings: TRITHEISM, the first error of modern Christianity is the error of the tritheism of the trinity of three persons. I am calling it tritheism because it is what it is. It is called monotheism with the mouth, but in the idea of the mind there are three gods. So, when you have a tritheistic religion, you have to assign these different roles to each person in the pantheon. The problem is, it simply is not true. It goes against all logic and rationality, not to mention all of scripture. How should we understand this verse:

You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. (Ps. 2:7)

If you believe modern Christianity, this means somehow from eternity, there was this other person called the Son, who "was begotten, not made" - according to the Nicene Creed - which makes no sense! How did the original church understand this? They understood the only begotten Son as the son born to the virgin Mary in time, NOT from eternity. A "Son born from eternity" was unknown in the original gospels. The Son was born in time. Is the Son another person from Jehovah? NO. It is simply the incarnate form, the body, in which Jehovah descended to dwell among us. There is no "angry" God here who is "appeased" by the death of this other person. He did it out of love to save the human race: so far removed from heaven, it was necessary for him to appear in human form (why so I will explain later). The "Son of God" is simply his human form, not another person. As for God's wrath? That is simply an appearance to those who are in evil. Because every evil contains within it its own punishment.

For us, it is simply unusual for us, in our language and culture, to refer to our own body as our "only begotten." In our language, an only begotten son refers to another child that we have conceived. In the case of Jesus, he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and had no human father: the way he was created was the merging of God's spirit with human flesh, where God dwelt among us as the soul dwells in the human body. Did the ancient Hebrews refer to their own body as an "only begotten"? I have been translating the Psalms fixing mistranslations, and I came across a couple of mistranslations that took me by surprise. I thought I would take a break from that and share it, because I think these passages are significant. Here is the first mistranslation:

Deliver my soul from the sword;
My darling from the power of the dog. (Ps. 22:20)

Where is the mistranslation here? It is the word "darling." It does not say darling. Lets take a look at the New American Standard version:

Deliver Me from the sword, 
My precious life from the power of the dog. (Ps. 22:20)

Two mistranslations here. Soul is dropped and changed to "me", and now darling becomes "precious life." What is the actual correct translation?  It is this:

Deliver my soul from the sword;
My only begotten from the power of the dog. (Ps. 22:20)

That's right. It is not "darling" nor is it "precious life", it says only begotten. But we are not talking about another person here, the person is talking about himself. The "only begotten" is a word that can be used to refer to one's child, but in this context, the "only begotten" refers to ONE'S OWN BODY. Its an ancient Hebrew way of thinking that was been lost in modern times. Just as one's children become an image of your own self, so your own body becomes a reflection or manifestation of your own soul. Thus we have soul in the first line, and only begotten in the second. And what is more significant, the very first line of this Psalm has his phrase:

My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? (Ps. 22:1)

And this is the exact phrase Jesus uttered on the cross. He may have uttered the entire Psalm to himself: in which case, Jesus is calling his own body his only begotten. Why does Jesus pray to God as another person? Because in his human state, he was in a state of temptation, he was in a lowered state of being. Human like us, he still had to progress towards Divinity by degrees. This is because of what he inherited from his human side, from his human mother Mary. When he was in a state of union, he talks about being one with God, such as when he says all power on heaven and earth has been given to him. The confusion about that caused a lot of false theologies to arise, including those of the Jehovah's Witnesses. But I digress. Here is the other mistranslation:

Rescue my soul from their destructions, 
My darling from the lions. (Ps. 35:17)

Again, "darling" is incorrect. The correct translation reads as thus:

Rescue my soul from their destructions, 
My only begotten from the lions. (Ps. 35:17)

The "only begotten" is not another child or person here. It is one's own living body, begotten as the image of the soul. Notice how it is again paired up with the soul in the line before it. In most cases, the exact same word is used to refer to an only begotten child. Not so here: it is used to refer to one's own living body. I was sure getting tired of translating the Psalms, but when I hit these two gems, I thought it was worth continuing.

So, Jehovah himself became incarnate in the human form of Jesus Christ, whom he calls his only begotten: not another person, but his own human body. So why was the incarnation necessary? In Catholic and Protestant theology, there is this theory of salvation called "vicarious atonement" where somehow the punishment of all the sins of all humanity were "transferred" to Jesus on the cross. I once heard a minister thinking to himself in front of an audience, where somehow before a sin of the future was committed it was transferred to Jesus on the cross before it was committed. He was puzzled. It made no logical sense. Why? It makes no sense because it is not true. It in fact goes against free will. That is what they nevertheless continue to teach, and at a much younger age I recognized Jesus for who he was, but also recognized that the theology that the church was teaching MADE NO SENSE.

I want to make it clear: there is no such thing as "vicarious atonement" - which is simply stating where the punishment or guilt of the sins of one person are transferred to another person. It it not true, and scripture is very explicit about this: the entire chapter of Ezekiel 18 states that no person shall be punished or bear the guilt of another person's sins. And this is partly why Jews continue to reject Christianity: not only does scripture go against the trinity of three persons, it also goes against vicarious atonement. Moreover, scripture is very clear in that it regards human sacrifice as an abomination in the sight of God.

So what is the answer here? The answer is that the reason why Jehovah took up a human form, lowly like us, is that although his soul was Divinity itself, the human body from Mary had inherited all the sinful tendencies of the human race. And when he became incarnate, the attacks from hell against this human form commenced. A battle ensued directly between Jehovah and all of hell, until he subdued every evil temptation that originated from the human body he inherited. He conquered every one, to the point where the human body of flesh and blood was replaced and transformed with a Divine Human. When he rose from the dead, he was no longer the son of Mary: the body was now a direct reflection of the Divine. And this is how salvation was effected. How do we know? Well Jesus himself said this:

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.
And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth. (John 17:17-19).

To be "sanctified" means to be cleansed from sin. And notice Jesus first says he must sanctify HIMSELF. It is because he had inherited these evil tendencies from his human mother Mary. How are we sanctified by truth? By living the truth, by living by God's commandments. YOU MUST acknowledge and confess your sins, and turn away from it. That is the only way sin can be removed. YOU MUST acknowledge that although you do this of yourself, that only God can help you to do it. How will God help? By sending the very spirit from the God Man who conquered all of sin in his own body. And that is how spiritual communion with heaven was restored. This is WHY the body is worshiped in communion or the Eucharist. Other than having the external Jewish rituals abolished, NOTHING ELSE HAS CHANGED. There is no free ride here. But you will be surprised at the spiritual transformation you will experience if you simply believe and try. It is a life long transformation through repentance.

So, some will probably be a bit shocked: much of modern Christian theology rests on a false foundation of tritheism and vicarious atonement. Excepted from this is the Orthodox church - although they also hold to the error of a trinity of three persons, they do not acknowledge vicarious atonement. They hold to a similar doctrine of what I just described here. The theory of vicarious atonement dates back to the 11th century or so. And by the way, the Orthodox branch is older than both the Catholic and Protestant churches. So what I am saying may be unpopular, but its the truth, and it happens to make rational sense in addition to having been revealed in visions and not dictated by tradition. So what is God's opinion of those who teach the doctrine of vicarious atonement? Or free salvation and grace without reforming one's life and repentance? Not good:

I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: They commit adultery and walk in lies; They also strengthen the hands of evildoers, So that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to Me, And her inhabitants like Gomorrah.
Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, And make them drink the water of gall; For from the prophets of Jerusalem profaneness has gone out into all the land.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the LORD.
They continually say to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You shall have peace"'; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.'" 
...I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.
(Jer. 23:14-17, 21-22)


  1. Hi Doug,

    Have you been able to pinpoint where and when the doctrine of the Vicarious Atonement entered into Christianity? Which human theologians or councils originated it?

    1. Yes, but it did not come from a church council. It came from Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury of the 11th century. The seminal work on this comes from a book called "Christus Victor" by Gustaf Aulen, who was some unknown Swedish bishop and theologian. The book was published in 1930 and has been in print ever since. See "A Better Atonement: Christus Victor" or look up "Christus Victor"

      I forget how I stumbled across it, I guess I never wrote a blog article on it. The Orthodox follow it somewhat, but they don't state the doctrine clearly. The original doctrine has been obscured by adoration of Mary, and separating the human and Divine natures of Jesus. I would say the work by Gustaf Aulen should be required reading in the Swedenborgian churches. I myself have not read it, because still Swedenborg states the doctrine in much more clearer terms.

      The other area that the New Church should explore are the Monophysites of the Middle East, who were declared heretics by the Orthodox church. Nowadays no one even knows about the Monophysite doctrine.

    2. Hi Doug,

      Thanks for the pointer on Anselm. That does seem to be the main point of origin for the doctrine of the Vicarious Atonement--though I guess his version is technically called the "Satisfaction Theory of Atonement." Looks like it was over 1,000 years before this became part of "Christian" doctrine and belief anywhere in the Christian Church.

      This plugs a hole in a page I put up recently on "'Christian Beliefs' that the Bible Doesn't Teach":

    3. Fascinating about Gustaf Aulen's book. The stuff about the Law is a bit off. But the rest is quite consonant with Swedenborg's teachings--and, of course, with the Bible.

      It's possible that Aulen himself was indirectly affected by Swedenborg. In an article in the introductory Essays volume of the New Century Edition of Swedenborg's works titled "The Influence of Emanuel Swedenborg on Scandinavia," Olle Hjern states that Swedenborg's theology had a profound effect on the Swedish clergy. In one particularly relevant sentence, speaking of the Swedish clergy in the 1800s, Hjern writes, "In particular, a common rejection of the idea of vicarious atonement produced a cohesive group of dissenters from the theology of the state church." Though it's purely conjectural on my part at this point, it's quite possible that Aulen was influenced by this group of dissenters, who were themselves influenced by Swedenborg's rejection of the Vicarious Atonement.

    4. The problem is, people nowadays do not acknowledge the spiritual world. Without knowledge of how the spiritual world interacts with the material, the work of Jesus makes no sense. One surprise that comes out of comparative religion is Christianity and Shamanism. Shamans of these tribes, when exposed to Christianity, understand it perfectly - they consider Jesus to be the "greatest Shaman." For Shamans to heal a person they must make a spiritual descent into the netherworld. See "Jesus the Shaman - Descent into the Underworld"

      I was aware of this, as well as the visions of Catherine Anne Emmerich, and one of the first things I did when I picked up Swedenborg was to look for any confirmation of this event of the descent into the netherworld. Swedenborg confirms it, but he did not witness it directly.


Comments, questions, corrections and opinions welcome...