I was watching the History Channel the other day, and they were doing a "documentary" on the DaVinci Code - I'm assuming because of the impending movie as much as the books' appeal. It was interesting, and presented a pretty fair picture once everything was said and done. Of course, some of the people that it chose as its "experts" looked quite shady. Especially the guy who had long hair, wore sunglasses throughout the interview and was constantly smoking. Not that any of those things are bad, but put together, during an interview... well, it was just a little shady. He looked more like a biker and not like an academic or a theologian. It's like getting advice from a Girl Scout on the creation of the Internal Combustion Engine - it just looks odd.
Anyway, as it continued on at nausium about the possibility of Jesus procreating with Mary Magdalene, I found myself searching the reasons why this didn't take place. "The gospel accounts in the canon don't mention it" - yes, but they don't mention Jesus going to the bathroom either and I'm quite confident he did. As I ran through this and others I began to wonder, would I come up with something definitive? Then I landed on it - the Atonement. Not only the question of Jesus' having offspring, but really, all of Christianity hinges on it, it is the central doctrine of the faith. What did Jesus' DO? What did Jesus come to do?
If you believe Jesus' was just another moral teacher, a prophet who taught something new, something novel, that Paul or others took his words and crafted an amazing new religion from them... then you can buy just about anything. But if you believe in the Atonement, that Jesus actually DID something in relation to humanity and God, forever changing the relationship between the two... in such a way that humanity now had the freedom that Jesus' proclaimed as his original message (Luke 4:16ff, from Isaiah 58:6 and 61:1-2). If you believe that God came to earth to enact this, then the idea that Jesus stopped off for a quickie with Mary Magdalene (or even a long romantic relationship)... well it just becomes silly. It's just another example of lifting sexuality to the highest place in human experience... but that's another story.
Either way this realization is not something of my own. I've been reading Lesslie Newbigin and Bishop William Temple and both of them contend that the atonement is central to Christian theology. I also heard a sermon last Sunday by my pastor at Allentown Presbyterian Church on the Atonement, in which he raised up God's love as the main way of understanding it - but ultimately as Jesus dying for our sins. It just continued to confirm that this doctrine is key.
I'm excited this semester about my classes and about what I GET to read. I'm taking only one class for a letter grade - The Missional and Ecumenical Theology of Lesslie Newbigin - (the other 9 credits are Pass/Fail) which will hopefully allow me to read some material outside of what is required and get a firmer handle on Newbigin's theology. Either way, I've already decided that come next year, I'm taking Dr. McCormack's Atonement class no matter what, you just shouldn't leave seminary without a firm grasp on the doctrine that our entire faith hinges on. Unless you just want to become a best-selling writer of fiction...