Who is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?

Is it the Jesus of popular Christianity? No, apparently not, because most Christians still live with sin and guilt as though it were still in the world. They live as though sins were not forgiven, as though Jesus’ death on the cross really did jack.

The lamb of God is… drumroll please.. da dadada… Friedrich Nietzsche – who railed against draconian Christian notions of sin and guilt, and directly and indirectly (through Freud, Heidegger, Franz Overbeck and others) influenced many leading theologians of the 20th century (Barth, Bultmann, Moltmann, Tillich to name a few). These theologians rejected oppressive notions of God as a vindictive tyrant and presented him as essentially loving and accepting. They did not ignore sin and guilt altogether, but their thrust was that God was no longer interested in sin as a metaphysical reality – that when Jesus gave up his spirit, that which was written actually occurred:

the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent

The death of Christ was a once for all, cosmic victory over sin. Sin is dead. Sin remains dead. And Christ killed it.

But Christianity mostly rejected this notion. Through flagellation, confession and hellfire preaching, Christendom has done its best to keep the beast alive and keep people in chains with guilt. Christians honestly believe sin is still in the world and that they must think about it and go through the motions weekly at church in order to satisfy a wrathful God. We ought to pity these knights of infinite resignation.

For Christians, Christ’s death was not sufficient for the forgiveness of sins. Thus another sacrifice was needed in order to rid  the world of the notion of sin.  That came in the form of The Antichrist. Nietzsche had a significant influence on theologians of the 20th century in rejecting the traditional Christian God as a spiteful, vengeful despot. They took their cue from Nietzsche in proclaiming a Gospel of human liberation, an eternal* Yes! to life – as it was always meant to be.

*eternal in terms of magnitude, not time

Further reading: Nietzsche on the Origin of Sin

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11 Responses to “Who is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world?”

  1. Russ Says:

    The lamb of God is…

    The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! [John 1:29]

  2. beholdtheman Says:

    The early Christians struggled with the metaphysical issue of whether time was linear or recurring (as in Ecclesiastes). They decided on the former because recurrent time would mean Christ would have to die many times on the cross in order to forgive sins and thus his death would not be be ‘once for all.’

    Everytime a Christian asks God to forgive their sins they are electing to kill Christ again, because they do not recognise that God has already freely forgiven all sins. They don’t really appreciate what Christ has done.

    Russ, how many times have you killed Christ?

  3. Byron Says:

    God has forgiven us once for all, yet I don’t think that regular confession is necessarily an undermining of this reality. Quite the opposite; Jesus taught his disciples to pray “Forgive us our sins…”

    That said, I do think that Nietzsche was an (unwitting) modern prophet.

  4. beholdtheman Says:

    I hate to argue scripture, because I can’t be sure what Jesus really said and what was the early church, nor that my interpretation is ‘correct’ (and I am not going to pretend the Bible isn’t multivocal and doesn’t contain conflicting views). However, weren’t those Jesus’ words pre-Crucifixion? It was common for Jews to ask for forgiveness of sins, but post-Crucifixion/Resurrection might the Lord’s Prayer need to be seen in a radically different context? Don’t we forgive because we are already freely and gracefully forgiven – once for all? We don’t trade with God in the forgiveness of sins through prayer. It is the recognition of God’s forgiveness in Christ that leads to our own. That being said, I still recognise a seeming contradiction in that if we don’t forgive, we won’t be forgiven. I have my own imaginative theory as to how this works; basically it is about believing in a world where I believe forgiveness of sins is real and absolute. If I don’t forgive than I don’t really believe in a world where sin is forgiven. I honestly believe many Christians don’t believe in a world where sin is forgiven. They don’t see Jesus as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices; instead they sacrifice themselves with a life of resignation. I think constant confession can reinforce this by instilling a sense of guilt that can be very harmful and manipulative. Instead of confession of sins in order to receive forgiveness there ought to be only gratitude for sins already forgiven. We may need to mess with the liturgy a little, but screw the liturgy if its effects are detrimental. (Easy to say this when I am not a minister, I know).

    No sacrifice, no prayer, no fasting, no church attendance, no confession, no priestly temple, no sackcloth and ashes, no put-on, self-righteous humility, no sense of guilt, no thinking myself a worm. None of this adds up to anything. We are already forgiven. I could be super-cynical and argue sin is the fuel that keeps the institution of the church alive for its own ends, but I’ll leave that for another post. Certainly this has been evidenced in the past.

    Thanks for commenting, Byron. I am glad you are open-minded enough to see value in Nietzsche. I wish more Christians would look behind his excessive polemic (which was strategic, like Kierkegaard’s admitted one-sidedness) and see him as a potential friend, rather than enemy. I know you preach a lovey-dovey, life-giving God and probably are just as disheartened by some of the irresponsible, manipulative guilt-bashing that still passes for preaching in Christendom.

  5. Russ Says:

    …no confession…

    If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [Written by the apostle John after the resurrection]

    … no prayer…

    Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

    For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you…

    …pray without ceasing…

    Brethren, pray for us…

    All of these [and more] written by the writers of the New Testament after the resurrection.

    …no church attendance…

    not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. [Also written after the resurrection of Jesus]

  6. beholdtheman Says:

    Russ, give me your interpretation of that 1 John 1:9-10 and how that interpretation relates to what I said, rather than prooftexting who knows what.

    Are you trying to say that forgiveness is of our own initiative, on the condition of confession? If so, please tell me how we are to confess – do we have to do it weekly at church or is it a one-off event, or…? How should we think of confession, as just part of the liturgy on Sunday morning, or something we do to momentary alleviate the tremendous guilt we ought feel for the rest of our lives, or…?

    Do you not think that we are already forgiven? If so, how do you interpret 1 John 2:1 and 1 John 2:12?

    I think John is being a good pastor in writing these things, but he is not diminishing Christ’s once for all victory over sin.

    The paragraph where I says “No sacrifice, no prayer…” is in regards to forgiveness, not the Spirit helping in weaknesses, etc.

  7. Russ Says:

    A person who is born of the Spirit of God is in constant communion and fellowship with God. There is a continual relationship between the believer and his Savior that includes continual conversation as there does in any close relationship. This relationship with Him is in spirit and in truth and does not require ceremony or liturgy. In this relationship there is honesty as there is in any true and lasting friendship here on earth and part of that honesty includes confessing the truth concerning our failures to live the Christian life. This is walking in the light as He is in the light. Confession of sin does not mean that I doubt God’s forgiveness or His sacrifice, it means that as the bride of Jesus Christ I am honest with Him as a bride would be honest with her husband here on earth.

    When I make a mistake in my relationship with my wife, I must be honest with her and tell her the truth if my marriage is to be of any value. My marriage is forever. It was sealed with vows on our wedding day before God. Sill, there is the day to day living that requires forgiveness from her to me and from me to her. It is a living relationship that did not stop on our wedding day but continues as long as we continue to be honest with each other and suffers when we fail to reveal all that we are to each other.

    If I have been living in sin (and we all do because we are sinners) and I am not willing to come to Jesus and confess the truth about my sin and I say that I know Him, John says that I am a liar. You can try to super spiritualize your relationship with God and appear to have come to some greater truth than the rest of us but the fact of the matter is that when I have sinned and offended God, I cannot move on in my relationship with Him until I have come and confessed my sin for what it is – sin – just as my wife and I cannot move on in our relationship with each other until she has told me all of her mistakes and I have forgiven her. Then, we usually have a little party!

    You can attempt to stand on some high theological mountain that avoids a true and living relationship with God but you robbing yourself of some of the joy that God has for you. Confession of sin does not mean that I flog myself over and over again and loathe myself every day of my life. On the contrary, it means that I trust God’s love for me and His sacrifice for my sin. I know that when I come to Him in truth He will restore me and forgive me. Confession of sin does not mean that the sacrifice of Jesus is not sufficient to cover all my sin or that I am adding something to the atoning blood of Jesus. On the contrary, I would not confess my sin without bringing a burnt offering unless I trusted that God has already made atonement for my sin . If His sacrifice was not sufficient, then I would need to offer up a burnt sacrifice every time I came to Him for forgiveness as Israel was required to do. Confession of sin indicates that I have complete confidence in the sacrifice of Jesus for my sin, not vise versa.

  8. beholdtheman Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write that, Russ. I won’t have time to reply properly until the weekend, so I’ll just leave you with a few comments and questions to ponder.

    – Has life in the Spirit for you ever meant that you have actually stopped being a sinner, at least momentarily?
    – Do you think Paul offers a vision for us beyond that of a slave to sin? (Romans 6).
    – Does God actually see us as sinners now, post Christ’s death and resurrection?
    – Does God fellowship with people he thinks are sinners deserving wrath, or does he do something for those people so that they are no longer sinners and can enjoy his fellowship?

    I know you can find a sentence in the Bible where Paul says we are all sinners, but I can find other sentences where he seems to be saying that this need not be the case. Obviously, we can’t rely on simple prooftexts to answer these questions.

    – Does God demand that people who offend us confess their wrong before we forgive them and move on in our relationship with them?

    I think not. Forgiveness, if it is real, is pure grace. Forgiveness is not justice and it is not rational. It takes *faith* to really see yourself as forgiven and to forgive. The anthropocentric metaphors you’ve used for God sound far too reasonable to me.

    Consider how irrational God’s forgiveness and love is (re: Prodigal Son)…

    1. [son plans confession]
    2. Father: *But* while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
    3. [sound make confession]
    4. Father: *But* the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
    5. [older son, with jealousy, complains about the sins of the younger son and how unjust is his father’s actions]
    6. Father: *But* we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.

    Question: how interested was the father in the younger son’s confession? Answer: not at all. Sorry to be so crude, but he doesn’t give a shit!

    Consider also,
    http://theconnexion.net/wp/?p=3708
    http://theologyforum.wordpress.com/2008/06/05/herbert-mccabe-on-forgiveness/

    Do also check out Byron’s series on Forgiveness!

    – Was Christ the continuation of the Jewish sacrificial law or its end? Did he intend to continue the priesthood or annihilate it? I don’t think he was much of a fan of the temple and its practices. Mercy, not sacrifice, is what he wanted. I see Christ death and resurrection as discontinuous with the Jewish sacrificial system. The metaphors of Christ as the lamb of God are still valid, but the sacrificial system is not.

    I am surprised that you seem to think I’m a spiritual tall poppy! If you called me a heretic I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. Do I sound pious? Sheesh, I hardly think of myself as pious, but you may be right.

  9. Russ Says:

    If I am counting correctly, you have asked me nine questions, given me at least two links to follow, and required me to respond to six more points concerning the prodigal son.

    This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” He did not say, “I was chief”, he said “I am chief”.

    Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

    Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

    So how about it? Are you willing to obey James’ word us believers? He says to confess to each other. If it is in the word of God then I am for it, so I will begin:

    I struggle with depression and anxiety. I used to be very steady emotionally. I used to be like a rock emotionally. No one could move me or shake me. The entire world could be falling in and I would stand strong.

    Then, when I hit about 40 years old or so, I began to struggle with these problems so I turned to the word of God and do you know what I found? I found that some of the greatest men in the Bible had some of the same problems. I have heard that Spurgen struggled tremendously with depression. David, the man after God’s own heart struggled with these things.

    I am weary with my groaning;
    All night I make my bed swim;
    I drench my couch with my tears.
    My eye wastes away because of grief;
    It grows old because of all my enemies.

    I am more interested in being real with God and my brothers and sisters in Christ then I am in sitting on some high theological hill and looking down my nose at everyone else who doesn’t have the great faith that I have.

    If we walk in the light as He is in the light, the blood of Jesus Christ continually cleanses us from all sin. What does light do? Light illuminates. It allows all things to be revealed. If the believer is truly walking in the light, he will be made aware by the light that there remains in Him, that is, in His flesh, sin.

    Paul was honest with his brothers and sisters in the Lord. He willingly confessed his true condition to all believers for all time:

    For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do… For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice… O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

    If Paul was willing to confess his struggles with the brethren and James conmmands us to confess our sins to each other, how about it? Are you willing to come into the light and be real with your brothers and sisters like Paul and David and James or are you afraid to come into light?

    “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”

    But I know that the above veres do not apply to you because I considder you a true brother in the lord. Lets just be more real with each other, ok?

  10. beholdtheman Says:

    I don’t require anything. How you choose to respond to me (if at all) is ultimately your responsibility and choice. You are under no obligations.

    1 Tim 1:15 – Paul is talking about his past life. He is not saying ‘now I sin the greatest’, but ‘I was once a great sinner’. You must consider the surrounding passages and context. e.g.
    1 Tim 13 – Even though *I was once* a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man…
    He is saying exactly the opposite to what you suggest.

    I don’t know why you quoted 1 Cor 11:27-31 …?

    James 5:16 – James thought physical illness was a result of sinning. Do you believe this Russ? e.g. Do you you think a newborn baby dies of a hole in the heart because it has sinned? John Calvin, one of the Protest reformers who emphasised sin and guilt seemed to think so. He and Luther were sick, hateful and bigoted men.

    James was a Judaiser, so it not surprising that his beliefs would be traditionally Jewish. Paul and James agreed on many things, but not in relation to the Law and the implications of Jesus death/resurrection. How do you deal with this conflict, do you ignore it and pretend that the Bible only speaks with one voice, namely God’s? Is the Bible like the Koran, which was supposedly dictated directly from God to Mohammed?

    James is talking about confession to neighbour, not God (see also Mattt 18:15). I wholeheartedly agree that when we have wronged a person we should admit it and apologise.

    Romans 7:14-24 is not Paul’s “true condition to all believers for all time”. You are completely ignoring Romans 7:1-6 and Romans 8:1-17, which follows your quoted passage. You are being completely one-sided and totally ignoring anything about having new life in the Spirit. You are effectively denying Jesus’ death and resurrection, judging us all as sinners instead, as those these events never occurred.

    Romans 8:1-4:
    Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in human flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

    The words I write are me being ‘real’.

    I suggest that you do not read Spurgeon because reading the words of a depressed man is unlikely to move you out of depression and anxiety, and more likely to have the opposite effect. Spurgeon was a guilt-obsessed man who couldn’t fully allow himself to embrace the gift of Christ that was offered to him.

    Every person I’ve talked to or read who has emphasised sin in their relationship to God, and the wrath of God, has expressed that they suffer from depression or other significant emotional problems. This is no coincidence. If one does not believe they can be forgiven of sin and can no longer be called a sinner, than they will suffer from guilt and other neuroses. If one sees the world and God as for them, rather than against them, than they will be set free to be loved and to love. They will no longer defensively guard the self but open to the gift of life. Think yourself judged not and you will not judge.

  11. Russ Says:

    The reason I quoted 1 Cor 11:27-31 was for this, “For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” It is not wrong to admit when you are wrong. It is wrong to not admit when you are wrong.

    You also said, “no prayer”. There are many verses in the word of God that instruct us to pray.

    For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you…

    …pray without ceasing…

    Brethren, pray for us…

    And many more.

    Can you find any verses that instruct us not to pray?

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