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Atonement vs. Bootstraps

Jun 04, 1998 01:04 PM
by K Paul Johnson

Darren referred, in a post about Chopra, to the difference
between the Christian view of atonement and the Theosophical view
of pulling oneself up by one's own bootstraps.  This reminds me
of what I thought when Lmhem111 posted the Catholic points of
true Christian belief vs. the New Age heresies: all these things
can be reconciled by taking them at different levels.

I'm just feeling my way in all this, led by Cayce and by all the
new research on the historical Jesus.  But here's one way to see
the atonement that does not conflict with the doctrine of karma.
In the case of Jesus, he was in a very clearcut manner an
advocate of *individual* freedom and judgment as opposed to group
norms.  The parable of the Good Samaritan, the comment about
plucking corn on the sabbath, the habit of public meals with all
sorts of "inappropriate" people-- etc. etc., all show him to be
saying in essence *your personal relationship with the Father in
heaven does not need to be mediated through all these collective
behavioral norms and thought patterns.  You can be directly
connected to the Father, as I am.*  All that stuff about the
lilies of the field, and so on, urged people to liberate
themselves from conformity to manmade precepts, etc.

Jesus was the first person in history that I know of who so
publicly and emphatically championed individuality vs. the
collective, and when he raised a ruckus in the Temple at Passover
he knew very well he'd die for it.  But perhaps he also knew that
he was leaving a lasting testimony made much stronger by his
martyrdom, and that religious and political power structures
would forevermore be a bit more suspect in people's eyes after
what they did to him.

So "Jesus dying for our sins" means, in my opinion, that he did
take on, and help toward overcoming, the major evil confronting
humanity, by the manner of his life and death.  The belief that
religious and state authority can dictate every detail of what we should think
and do, and have the right to take our lives if we don't conform,
was virtually unanimous in the ancient world.  Jesus was an
exemplar of liberation and enlightenment, his life and death a
gift which still has the power to lift people above the evil that
always threatens to destroy humanity.

None of that means that accepting his gift removes our personal
responsibility for our actions.

Thinking out loud,

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