Posted by: rogermitchell | July 13, 2010

sovereignty, the cross and money

These are subjects that I have posted on before, but as I happen to be writing up part of my research that bears on this I thought it might be helpful to point a few things out as starkly as possible and benefit from any catalystic responses!

The idea of sovereignty has carried with it a sense of hierarchy and domination at least since the theological formulations of Eusebius of Caesarea in the fourth century made a direct correlation between God in heaven and the emperor. As he saw it the cross was the place where God’s offended sovereignty was appeased by the sacrifice of Christ, and the peace embodied in the Roman empire was bought. The atonement quite literally paid off God’s judgement and paid for the success of the empire through its wars and laws. Standard concepts of the atonement still carry this idea, whether the Roman Catholic idea of the repeat repayment of the regular mass or the Protestant idea of the once-for-all payment to be received by faith. It is comparatively easy to see what a rotten view of God this carries and how easily it still covertly justifies the idea that peace can be achieved through sovereign rule paid for by money.

It is this belief that lies at the origin of the debt based sovereign states that serve the global capitalist empire, that motivated the banks to encourage massive debt, and drove western governments to go further into debt to underwrite them. It is the same belief that is now urging the British coalition government to make swingeing cuts in services in order to get the national debt to a manageable size and then continue to pursue peace through money again. All this originates, as far as I can see it, with a false understanding of God and the cross. A seriously incarnational, Jesus view of God and the cross, reveals a God who is emphatically not sovereign in this normative sense and for whom salvation is a gift not a payment. Neither sovereign power nor money will ever bring peace.

More to follow, as usual, but this is just checking for first responses!



  1. Wow Roger, why not open a big can of worms and just dive right in!! Does this mean capitalism (as we know it and not trade between human beings) is really a result of a false understanding of atonement and God’s sovereignty? Love it! Its also a false understanding of human beings and the earth. I suspect all that is connected. Can’t wait for more on this. c.

    • Thanks for this response Cheryl and for the helpful distinction between capitalism and honest trade. I think that the false understanding of God and the atonement, and human beings and the earth certainly is all connected as you intimated. I will suggest some of the ways this works over the next week or so.

  2. Three thoughts really.

    (i) The idea of paying off an offended divinity is as old as the hills. Rain gods, sun gods etc. have been offered all manner of things to appease them. It seems part of our primal tendency to project our own attributes onto that which we perceive to be in control. I think we like to use the idea of God to justify things in a way that puts them beyond criticism. (It is consequently necessary, in the Judeo-christian tradition, to deal more carefully with the Noah narrative).

    (ii) I’m inclined therefore to see the root issue in capitalism as greed or avarice.

    (iii) It’s pretty nauseating that the life, death and resurrection of Jesus has been couched in such terms and debased as a supreme tribute to some emperor god of the universe.

    • I agree that its nauseating as well as rotten to pervert the meaning of the life death and resurrection of Jesus in this way. My point is that it remains a mainstream approach and if more ‘normal’ evangelicals were motivated to click my blog I would probably shock a bit or get some flack from. I’m not sure whether to be relieved or sorry that this is not happening at present. I don’t court controversy for the sake of it, but I do wish to subvert unhelpful mainstream theologies!

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