What's Mine's Mind - vol.1

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BEING PUNISHED, not SUFFERING: that is another thing altogether. It is an eternal satisfaction to love to suffer for the guilty, but not to justice that innocence should be punished for the guilty. The whole idea of such atonement is the merest subterfuge, a figment of the paltry human intellect to reconcile difficulties of its own invention. Once, when Alister had done something wrong, my father said, 'He must be punished--except some one will be punished for him!' I offered to take his place, partly that it seemed expected of me, partly that I was moved by vanity, and partly that I foresaw what would follow."

"And what did follow?" asked the mother, to whom the least word out of the past concerning her husband, was like news from the world beyond. At the same time it seemed almost an offence that one of his sons should know anything about him she did not know.

"He scarcely touched me, mother," answered Ian. "The thing taught me something very different from what he had meant to teach by it. That he failed to carry out his idea of justice helped me afterwards to see that God could not have done it either, for that it was not justice. Some perception of this must have lain at the root of the heresy that Jesus did not suffer, but a cloud-phantom took his place on the cross. Wherever people speculate instead of obeying, they fall into endless error."

"You graceless boy! Do you dare to say your father speculated instead of obeying?" cried the mother, hot with indignation.

"No, mother. It was not my father who invented that way of accounting for the death of our Lord."

"He believed it!"

"He accepted it, saturated with the tradition of the elders before he could think for himself. He does not believe it now."

"But why then should Christ have suffered?"

"It is the one fact that explains to me everything," said Ian. "--But I am not going to talk about it. So long as your theory satisfies you, mother, why should I show you mine? When it no longer satisfies you, when it troubles you as it has troubled me, and as I pray God it may trouble you, when you feel it stand between you and the best love you could give God, then I will share my very soul with you--tell you thoughts which seem to sublimate my very being in adoration."

"I do not see what other meaning you can put upon the statement that he was a sacrifice for our sins."

"Had we not sinned he would never have died; and he died to deliver us from our sins. He against whom was the sin, became the sacrifice for it; the Father suffered in the Son, for they are one. But if I could see no other explanation than yours, I would not, could not accept it--for God's sake I would not."

"How can you say you believe in Christ, when you do not believe in the atonement!"

"It is not so, mother. I do not believe what you mean by the atonement; what God means by it, I desire to accept. But we are never told to believe in the atonement; we are told to believe in Christ--and, mother, in the name of the great Father who hears me speak, I do believe in him."

"How can you, when you do not believe what God says about him?"

"I do. God does not say those things about him you think he says. They are mere traditions, not the teaching of those who understood him. But I might believe all about him quite correctly, and yet not believe in him."

"What do you call believing in him, then?"

"Obeying him, mother--to say it as shortly as I can. I try to obey him in the smallest things he says--only there are no small things he says--and so does Alister. I strive to be what he would have me, nor do I hold anything else worth my care. Let a man trust in his atonement to absolute assurance, if he does not do the things he tells him--the very things he said--he does not believe in him. He may be a good man, but he has not yet heard enough and learned enough of the Father to be sent to Jesus to learn more."

"Then I do not believe in him," said the mother, with a strange, sad gentleness--for his words awoke an old anxiety never quite at rest.

Ian was silent. The darkness seemed to deepen around them, and the silence grew keen. The mother began to tremble.

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