Friday, June 05, 2009

The Atonement, Time Travel, and Loose Ends

Inherent in the idea of sacrificial atonement for sins or wrongdoings seems to be the idea that the sacrifice has died for sins that have already been executed or performed--someone sins, and only then or later does the priest offer a sacrifice. So if Christ was crucified for the sins of people alive in our own day and age, then these sins should still be relatively preterite sins--preterite as relative to the year in which Christ was crucified. This means that you apparently cannot have the substitutionary atonement of Christ without either time travel or at least a universe in which spacetime is not simply linear but rather has at least one wormhole-like loop or spur route.

Physists or what-not insist that time travel is possible in theory, and different possible methods of time travel have been mentioned in discussions of time travel. For example, apparently it is possible that there could be a wormhole by which one could traverse spans of space and time and end up back in, say, the year 33 AD. Granted: one would need a nearly inconceivably large wormhole to get a human being through undamaged; but the wormhole could still be a conduit to the past and we're not interested in sending humans through the conduit but rather actions, if the substitutionary atonement of Christ requires in some sense an actual tranfer of sins or guilt from futurate sinners to Christ.

Such a wormhole can exist because spacetime is not linear. The scientists have done an adequate job of demonstrating that the dimensons of space (as in classical x, y and z Cartesian lines) are not linear in a primitive Cartesian or Euclidian manner; physical objects have been shown to warp the space around them such that if one were to imagine a physical object as occupying a Cartesian plane of x and y coordinates with lines or segments connecting the coordinates (as in geometry classes), he should see the lines curve or warp around the physical object. Meanwhile, through experiments or demonstrations of time dilation vis-à-vis gravity and orbital rocket launches, the scientists have already shown that the nature of time is analogous to that of space. So, for all we know perhaps there is somewhere a spur route of spacetime by which if one stands at one particular location on spacetime he will find himself at a virtual fork in the road: to his right is straight path toward the future (as it were) though to his left is path having a terminal point at that fork and an entry at the distant end of the right end of the fork of the road. At such a location, a given particular event could be both relatively preterite and futurate at once.

Ultimately, biblical theology probably requires the existence of such a spacetime loop.


Meanwhile, what was the nature of sacrifices in the Old Testament? Apparently, the priest offers a sacrifice on someone's behalf, and that person is then and thus absolved of wrongdoing or let off the hook. But that means that when the foreshadows which were the sacrifices of the Mosaic Law were replaced by the once-for-all-time (per the book of Hebrews) sacrifice of Christ, it should be that those sinners for whom Christ was sacrificed likewise were then and thus absolved or let off the hook.

Of course, this opens a can of worms since in the pages of the New Testment one will read of divine forgiveness of sins (as opposed to justification) that apparently comes when one believes in Christ--yet how can one be forgiven for that which God has already forgiven and forgotten? At times like these we discover--or at least should discover--that no, the world is not a simple place and no, Christianity is not simple since the world which God has made and maintains is a very complex machine.

But, just imagine for a moment that you are a habitual thief and that one day the President of the United States of America issues a perpetual pardon for your crimes: the penalty for your crimes is no longer something you have to worry about, to put it crudely. However, the fact that you're off the hook does not mean that you aren't a thief. No, you're still a contemptible thief who arrogantly takes things that don't belong to you and you act like they're your own. You're thieving scum, and the Prez would do well to hold you in low regard and at least sentimentally to hold this thing against you.

I suspect that the New Testament is best understood in similar terms. Christians who are alive today had in some sense forgiveness of sins two thousands years ago; they received another form of forgiveness, along with a transfered property/quality of obedience to God's law, when they repented and believed in Christ.

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