“The sacrifices of war are no longer necessary. We are now free to live free of the necessity of violence and killing. War and the sacrifices of war have come to an end. War has been abolished”
If we wish, then, we can use the language of Jesus offering himself as a perfect sacrifice to the Father, just so long as we remember that this is a way of describing not some private sacrificial intention of Jesus towards a Father who needed satisfying, but the whole obedient acting out by which Jesus came to occupy an all-too-humanly constituted place of shame, violence and death, and not hold it against us. There is an angry deity in this equation, and it is us, in whose midst God, quite without violence, manifests the depth of his forgiving love by plumbing the depths of, and thus defanging our violence.
And is the crucifixion, James, a religious overcoming of violence, or is it more of the same?
James Alison: It’s the subversion from within of the typical human sacrificial mechanism. If you like, it’s the undoing of religion from within. Now whether you call that religion or not is another matter, I mean the tendency of it is the possibility of the creation of what we would call a benign secular. I think that’s one of the key questions which we’re looking at now, in a world that seems suddenly to have got a lot more ‘religious’.
Your first book was an examination of original sin — not, for most people, a topic connected with joy. But the title of the book is The Joy of Being Wrong. What joy is associated with original sin?
It’s the joy of not having to get things right. The doctrine means that we are all in a mess, no one more or less than anyone else, and we can trust the One who is getting us out of the mess, who starts from where we are. If it were not for the doctrine of original sin, which follows from the resurrection — just as a parting glance at who we used to be follows from seeing ourselves as we are coming to be — we would be left with a religion requiring us to “get it right,” and that is no joy at all.
Abstract – What does it mean to say that Jesus died to save us? The traditional account of atonement “in which Jesus becomes a substitutionary sacrifice for human sinfulness” is revealed as problematic as long as it is understood as a theory. In the experience of Israel, atonement was not a theory at all. It was a liturgy whose goal was not to placate some otherwise non-forgiving God (the Aztec or pagan imagination) but the more subversive action in which Godâ€™s creative, saving, redeeming activity is poured out to us despite our human sinfulness. Rather than invoke the idea of sacrifice as something God demands of us, by becoming the victim in our place Christ puts an end once and for all to the human insistence for sacrificial victims. This is what makes the Eucharist a liturgical event with such profound ethical implications.
My explorations will proceed by way of showing the “ﬁttingness” of the rise of the modern social order with certain conceptions or misconceptions of sacriﬁce in the Reformation era. I will begin with an examination of Martin Luther’s critique of the Mass as sacriﬁce. Then I will show how Luther’s arguments on sacriﬁce —as well as those of his opponents—serve as a bridge from the medieval to the modern, speciﬁcally in partially reﬂecting the shift from an organic idealization of society to a contractual conception of social processes. Finally, I will conclude with some brief comments on alternative Christian conceptions of sacriﬁce which do not succumb to the modern logic of gift and exchange.