Last Tuesday, a group of us headed out to The Wiltern in LA for the latest stop of The Gods Aren't Angry Tour. Now I had heard Rob present in this format on the Everything is Spiritual Tour, so I had at least a little preview of what the evening could be like. While both events were great, The Gods Aren't Angry struck me as Rob was going for a different response than with Everything is Spiritual.
The main thread moving through Rob's teaching was this - God's interaction with humanity needs to be read through the lens of how other Ancient Near Eastern religious traditions perceived of the gods. While other religious traditions saw the gods as something far removed and essentially as forces which could be appeased, the God of Israel was inviting humanity into a new and revolutionary way of living in relation to the Creator. This new way moved beyond the issues of sacrifice as appeasement and toward sacrifice and devotion as something from the heart, something that did not appease God, but something that primarily affected the sacrificer.
What I found fascinating how Rob interweaved learning about ancient near eastern cultures, religious cultic rites, and the scriptures in a way to present a way of seeing and embracing a fresh [and I would say a more balanced] atonement theology - all without using technical jargon. I loved his take on the cross and the sacrificial system - all of which is incredibly accurate when you explore more deeply the world and worldview behind the text.
A money thought from the night was this:
The sacrificial system had less to do with God and more to do with us. It was not as if God needed the sacrificial system in order to forgive us. We needed it in order to be reminded of what God was already doing. It was a metaphor, a way of physically connecting with the forgiveness that God was already offering.
This is pretty radical. He also wondered out loud why we perceive of a God who has to pour out wrath and destroy something in order to show love. Again this touches on the issue that the problem is not based in God, as if he needed to be appeased or is captive to some law that is above himself. The problem resides in humanity, not in God.
He linked this with the need it seems of some people to still see God as needing to be appeased, which is nothing more than harkening back to the ancient near eastern religions. If we do anything to try to earn God's favor, or appease him, or somehow get in better standing with God - we need to ask, are we merely returning to the guilt and ambiguity of ancient near eastern religious systems? Are we truly inviting people to experience freedom?
Interesting. Still pondering and chewing on what was said...
All in all it was a great night. Got to see some people I haven't seen in quite a while, which was sweet. It was also great to get a few minutes with Rob and catch up afterwards.
[UPDATE - A friend tipped me off to some really good notes on what Rob said, much better than I could have done. Check them out.]