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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter Five - The Fourth Initiation - The Crucifixion
How then is it that today we have such an emphasis upon the blood sacrifice of Christ and upon the idea of sin? It would appear that two causes are responsible for this:

1. The inherited idea of blood sacrifice. As Dr. Rashdall tells us:

"The various authors of the canonical books in fact were so accustomed to the pre-Christian ideas of an expiatory sacrifice and at-one-ment that they accepted it without going to the roots of the matter. But this vagueness was not to the liking of the early Christian Fathers. In the Second Century A.D., Irenaeus, and after him other writers, explained the doctrine by what is called the 'Ransom Theory,' which states that the Devil was lawful lord of [196] mankind owing to Adam's fall, and that God, being unable with justice to take Satan's subjects from him without paying a ransom for them, handed over His own incarnate Son in exchange."
- The Idea of At-one-ment, by H. Rashdall, p. 248.

In this thought we have a definite demonstration of the way in which all ideas (intuitively perceived and infallibly right) are distorted. Men's minds and preconceived notions color them. The idea becomes the ideal, and serves a useful purpose and leads men on (as the idea of sacrifice has always led men nearer to God) until it becomes an idol, and consequently limiting and untrue.

2. The growth of the consciousness of sin in the race, due to its increasing sensitivity to divinity and its consequent recognition of the shortcomings and the relative evil of the lower human nature.

We have seen that one of the factors responsible for the sin-complex of the West has been the development of the mind faculty, with its consequent aftermath of a developed conscience, a capacity to have a sense of values, and (as the result of that) the ability to see the higher and the lower natures in opposition to each other. When the higher self with its values and its range of contacts is instinctively contacted, and the lower self, with its lesser values and its more material range of activities is also realized, it necessarily follows that a sense of division and of failure is developed; man realize their lack of achievement; they become aware of God and humanity, of the world, of the flesh and the devil, but at the same time of the kingdom of God. As man develops, his definitions alter, and the crude so-called sins of the unevolved man, and the faults and failings of the average "nice" citizen of modern times involve different attitudes of mind and judgment, and surely different punitive approaches. As our sense of God changes and develops, and as we approach nearer to reality, our entire outlook upon life, ourselves and our fellow men is apt to alter and widen, and become more divine as well as more human. It is a human [197] characteristic to be conscious of sin, and to realize that when a man has offended he must, in some form or other, pay a price. The germ of mind, even in infant humanity, gives rise to this realization, but it took nearly two thousand years of Christianity to raise sin to a position of such importance that it occupied (as it still does) a primary place in the thought of the entire race. We have a situation wherein the law and the Church and the educators of the race are almost entirely occupied with sin and how to prevent it. One wonders sometimes what the world would have been like today if the exponents of the Christian faith had occupied themselves with the theme of love and loving service instead of with this constantly reiterated emphasis upon the blood sacrifice and upon the wickedness of man.

The theme of sin runs naturally and normally throughout human history; and the effort to expiate it, in the form of animal sacrifice, has always been present. The belief in an angry deity, who exacted penalties for all that was done by man against a brother, and who demanded a price for all that was given to man as a product of the natural processes of the earth, is as old as man himself. It has passed through many phases. The idea of a God Whose nature is love has battled for centuries with the idea of a God Whose nature is wrath. The outstanding contribution of Christ to world progress was His affirmation, through word and example, of the thought that God is love and not a wrathful deity, inflicting jealous retribution. The battle still rages between this ancient belief and the truth of God's love which Christ expressed, and which Shri Krishna also embodied. But the belief in an angry, jealous God is still strongly entrenched. It is rooted in the consciousness of the race, and only today are we slowly beginning to realize a different expression of divinity. Our interpretation of sin and its penalty has been at fault, but the reality of God's love can now be grasped and can thus offset the disastrous doctrine of an angry God Who sent His Son to be the propitiation for the world evil. Of this [198] belief Calvinism is perhaps the best and purest interpretation, and a brief statement as to that theological doctrine will present the concept in understandable terms.

"Calvinism is built upon the dogma of the absolute sovereignty of God, including omnipotence, omniscience and eternal justice - a common Christian doctrine, but developed by Calvinists with relentless logic to extreme conclusions. Calvinism is often summarized in five points. (1) Every human being as a descendant of Adam (whom all Christians in those times supposed to be an historical character) is guilty from his birth of original sin, in addition to later sins committed in his own lifetime. A man can do nothing to remove his own sin and guilt; that can only be done by the grace of God, mercifully vouchsafed to him through the at-one-ment of Christ, and without any merit whatever on his own part; (2) So only those certain persons can be saved (particular redemption); (3) To whom God gives an effectual calling, strengthening their wills, and enabling them to accept salvation; (4) Who shall, and who shall not be saved is thus a matter of divine election, or predestination; (5) God will never fail those who are his elect: they shall never fall from ultimate salvation (perseverance of the saints). Calvinists insisted with great heat, and endeavored with much subtility to demonstrate, that their doctrine fully provides for human freedom, and that God is in no way responsible for human sin."
- A Student's Philosophy of Religion, by William K. Wright, p. 178.

In view, therefore, of this emphasis upon human sinfulness, and as a result of the age-old habit of offering sacrifice to God, the true mission of Christ was long ignored. Instead of His being recognized as embodying in Himself an eternal hope for the race, He was incorporated into the ancient system of sacrifices, and the ancient habits of thought were too strong for the new idea which He came to give. Sin and sacrifice ousted and supplanted the love and service which He sought to bring to our attention through His life and His words. That is also why, from the psychological angle, Christianity has produced such sad, weary, and sin-conscious men. Christ, the sacrifice for sin, and the Cross of Christ as the [199] instrument of His death, have absorbed men's attention, whilst Christ the perfect man and Christ the Son of God have been less emphasized. The cosmic significance of the cross has been entirely forgotten (or never known) in the West.

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