Last week I posted an email I sent to Rob Bell after seeing his The Gods Aren’t Angry Speaking Tour. He actually wrote back and we’ve exchanged a couple of emails over the last week. I wanted to share that exchange with you readers, particularly to get feedback on my own struggling with the Colossians text and the question of God’s need for a blood sacrifice.
Rob’s First Response – November 8th
thanks for the insightful, and more
importantly helpful, feedback. you
summarized my points better than
i said them in the first place! i
appreciate your question about the
colossians passage-how do you
understand the colossians passage?
i can see where you are saying that
my talking about it seems to be a
step in the other direction from
where the message goes. and yes,
i find the idea of God requiring a blood
sacrifce of Jesus terribly troubling as
well. how would you connect the
colossians passage? how would
you explain it? i would love your
insights and suggestions.
thanks for your time,
My Response to Rob – November 8th
Thanks for the quick email back. I appreciate your willingness to engage in this conversation. Thanks too for your questions back about my understanding of the Colossians text.
It is my understanding that Colossians was written by Paul (or someone in his name) from within the context of the sacrificial temple system. The author clearly understands the death of Jesus on the cross to be some kind of a final sacrifice. I am not convinced though, that this would have been a sacrifice that God required/intended. Psalm 50 and Micah 6 make it pretty clear that God does not desire blood sacrifice.
I am still tweaking/nuancing how I wrestle with the Colossians text, but currently it goes something like this…
I start with the baseline that God does not require blood sacrifice, that God is and offers to all of creation, unconditional love. With that as my starting point I understand the Colossians text to be more reflective of the position of the early Christian community than that of God.
Yet, I still believe that in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus something unique happens that does allow God and all of creation to be restored into right relationship once and for all. I wonder if the conversation/thought process for God might have gone something like this…
“Ok, ok, ok… I’ve told you and told you that I don’t desire blood sacrifice and you just don’t get it! And now, you’ve gone and killed my son who was doing such beautiful work to share my story of love and reconciliation. You killed him as a common thief because he challenged the systems that you had put in place. I want to end this system of sacrifice once and for all, and I won’t let the brutal murder of Jesus, be the final say.”
The resurrection then is God’s redemption of the horrible murder of Jesus. In the resurrection God says finally and ultimately, that it is not in the temple system of death that God and humanity are reunited, but rather that it is through God’s ability to bring new life from death. This understanding allows God to play an active role in reconnecting with humanity through the resurrection, but it does not imply that God required the blood sacrifice of Jesus.
I hope that these musings are clear enough. I would love to hear your reflections/feedback to the degree that you have time. Also, I would still be very interested in knowing if there is somewhere that you blog so I could read more of your thoughts/reflections on life and ministry.
Thanks again for your time!
Grace and Peace,
Rob’s 2nd Response – November 14th
okay, let me say right off the top
that you are a writer. i’m serious.
you are able to articulate things
in a very crisp, clear way.
a very rare ability.
i think your words are spot on.
i’ve been very intentional each night
when i get to the new testament
writers to talk about how they spoke
of Jesus and his death from within
the framework they were accustomed
to which is the temple and the altar.
thanks for the insights, the language,
the perspective. have you ever thought
peace from somewhere in a parking
lot in pheonix,
I wrote Rob back again last night, thanking him for his time and for the continued conversation.
If you’ve seen the show sometime after Chicago, I’d be curious to know if his information about the death of Jesus is coming across more clearly than it did for me that first night.
I’m also very open to your comments/thoughts regarding my wrestling with the Colossians text and the words/thoughts I’ve so boldly (and admittedly presumptiously) put into God’s mouth/head.