Archive for August, 2011


Teenager Electrocuted – Christians Rejoice

August 30, 2011

Earlier today, Steve Douglas posted a video of Orthodox Archbishop Lazar Puhalo discussing Adam & Eve, original sin, and a host of other theological topics. Near the end of the video, Puhalo offered this critique of Western notions of the atonement:

The Western concept of salvation itself is violent and generates violence. It makes God the supreme child abuser, unable to forgive mankind without the torturous death of his own son.

This immediately brought to mind a video I came across last week, which is currently sitting on the front page of Godtube’s “Most Popular Videos”. Since I can’t seem to embed Godtube videos, here it is on Youtube:

Of the 75,000 people who have viewed the video on Godtube, over 13,000 have liked it on Facebook, which would seem to indicate that there is a large segment of American Christians who consider it an accurate or at least inspiring depiction of the atonement.

Personally, I find the video disturbing. Maybe it’s the depiction of Jesus as a hapless, frightened teenager being led to the slaughter like Isaac to the top of Mount Moriah. But even if Jesus had been portrayed as more of a willing participant, I still think there’s a troubling aspect to the depiction.

Would the average Christian’s reaction be the same if this were just a scene from a television show with no religious significance? ¬†If Jack Bauer decided to have his daughter gruesomely tortured to death in place of a terrorist, I suspect that most viewers would be shocked and horrified.

But when it comes to the cross, Western Christians are so accustomed to thinking in terms of penal substitution, that the image of an innocent teenager being electrocuted elicits comments like, “this video brought tears to my eyes” and, “Thank you Jesus!” I can understand rejoicing in the mercy extended to the condemned prisoner. But doesn’t the image of the teenager staring back at you from the electric chair scream, “Something’s wrong with this picture!”?

There’s something in this video that captures the problem with penal substitution theory. And I think Puhalo may have put his finger on it. Yes, let’s rejoice at the prisoner being set free. Let’s rejoice at his chains falling off (and his tattoos magically disappearing ??). But I can’t get my heart behind the notion that a violent torturous death was God’s¬†precondition for extending such grace.


Ode on a Grecian Return

August 27, 2011

This blog has been rather neglected over the past few months. I’m sorry. But I have a good excuse. This spring, I asked a beautiful young woman to marry me. Against her better judgment, she accepted my proposal, culminating in the most spectacular wedding ever (perhaps I’m biased) on July 24.

As we discovered, wedding prep is a full time job. Thus, the silence here on Cognitive Discopants. Following the Big Day, we spent 3+ weeks honeymooning in Greece. We had stints in Santorini, Crete, the Peloponnese, and Athens. It was a wonderful mix of beautiful landscapes/quaint towns for my photographer wife and amazing archaeological sites/museums for my nerdy Mediterranean-history-loving self.

I thought I’d begin my return to blogging with a few photos from our trip, some of which bear some relationship to the topics discussed on this blog. Enjoy…

Watching the sun set over the Aegean Sea from the rocks below Oia, Santorini

Crete's sacred skull of St. Titus and definitely not a random skull

Katrina making translation breakthroughs on the as-of-yet undeciphered Phaistos Disc, discovered in the Minoan Palace at Phaistos

Remains of a 6th century AD Christian basilica in Gortyn, the former Roman capital on Crete

View of Matala beach from inside a 1st century AD Roman cave tomb

The Bema (place of judgment) in Ancient Corinth where Paul was brought before proconsul Gallio (Acts 18:12-17)

The modern city of Sparta as seen from the hilltop of Mystras

inside a Byzantine monastery in Mystras

outside the monastery

Katrina standing on the Areopagus (Mars Hill) from which Paul delivered his famous "altar to an unknown god" sermon (Acts 17)

Yours truly hanging with Caesar Augustus. The emperor is the one on the left.