Nadia Bolz-Weber on theodicy and atonement

17 Dec

NadiaNadia Bolz-Weber, the Lutheran (ELCA) “pastrix”, seems to be everywhere these days.  Rod Dreher, writing at the American Conservative has had two blog posts on her this past week alone.

Here is a clip from his most recent post:

I expected to hate the book, given how radical Bolz-Weber is, and I expected her to be liberal Protestantism’s flavor-of-the-month. That’s not what I found when I actually engaged with the book. Even though I will never agree with Bolz-Weber on some fundamental Christian dogmas and doctrines, I admire her heart, her voice, and her ragged humanity. From what I can tell, some on the Christian left were startled that a conservative Christian found anything nice to say about one of them, and some on the Christian right are appalled that I found anything nice to say about a pastor who upends so many orthodoxies (many of which I myself uphold).

I was thinking this afternoon about what it was, precisely, that makes me like Bolz-Weber in spite of the fact that we are on opposite sides of some important controversies. I think it comes down to this: she’s a radical. She seems to know, as so many ideological Christians on both the progressive and conservative side do not, that Christianity is not educated academics and/or the comfortable middle class at prayer. It is — it has to be — something far more challenging, and, yes, radical. Peter Kreeft spoke to this point about politics in a 1996 First Things essay in which he, a traditionalist, discovered he had more in common with a socialist friend than either of them had in common with their lunch partners who were a conventional liberal and a conventional conservative. It emerged in a discussion about architecture and aesthetics. (see here ; see here for three recent posts he has done on her)

In the post on Bolz-Weber before this one, Dreher had talked about her friendship with Chris Rosebrough, the confessional Lutheran apologist who does the daily show Fighting for the Faith.  On Issues ETC Rosebrough recently talked about how he got to know Nadia (she talks about him in her new book Pastrix), past experiences they had in common, and her theology, which he did a critique of.

The other day, I came across a podcast from the PBS program On Being where she was being interviewed (I listened to the extended version).  Here is her take on the atonement:

(around 38:30) To me, the greatest revelation of who God was was actually at the cross… because to me that’s not God’s little boy, like God is some sort of divine child abuser sending his own son, and, “he only had one…” … you know, like come on, give me a break… “God’s little boy…and he only had one….”  As this sort of divine child abuser.  As this cigar-chomping loan shark demanding his pound of flesh.  You know, he’s sending his little boy… what hogwash, right?  That actually is God on the cross.  That’s God saying “I would rather die than be in the sin accounting business you’ve put me in.” (applause)  From the cross… there is all this stuff about the final judgment.  You know what the final judgment is to me?  Its God dying on the cross and saying “Forgive them they know not what they are doing”.  That’s an eternally valid statement to me.  That is God’s judgment upon us.  And so, to me, if God could bear that kind of suffering and only respond in forgiveness and love, that’s the God who is present in a devastating hurricane… in that room with an abused child.  So to me God has come into the world and is bearing that, not causing it (pause and applause).

I might be wrong, but I don’t think all of that made it into the final interview – I briefly looked at the transcript online and did not find it.  As with many things in theology, often the problem with much of what is said is the things that are not said.  In this case however, I think we have even bigger problems than that.

But as can be seen from Dreher’s posts – she certainly has a wide appeal even among more conservatively-minded folks.  In fact, I wager that many would not even have concerns with what she says about the atonement above.  But let us remember, there is a wrath of God.

And I see this issue and the one presented in the picture above as going hand in hand.


Pic credit: Todd Wilken, found at Brothers of John the Steadfast

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Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Uncategorized


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