Theology | Redemption, Freely Given

Redemption, Freely Given

©2022 by Vernon Miles Kerr and

My next door neighbors are Christians in the finest sense of the word. They walk the walk and only judiciously “talk the talk.” He is an MD and heads up a Christian-oriented version of Doctors Without Borders. I’m sure if he were typically materialistic, he could easily live in a far more upscale neighborhood than our blue-collar one.

Last night my wife and I visited their evangelical-like Sunday services. It was very touching to experience the amount of spiritual energy they devote to the traditional view that “man” is fallen, due to the first-mother’s encounter with a large snake.

Her act of taking that forbidden bite of fruit, condemned all of her subsequent progeny to spiritual death-row, unless, a sufficient sacrifice were made to re-connect humans to their creator.
Until the destruction of the Second Temple in First-Century Jerusalem, Jewish priests conducted a continual, daily round of gruesome animal sacrifices, to try to atone for Eve’s folly. These facts about the Temple are historical—and ones that any current Jewish Rabi will verify.

With the Advent of Jesus, (last night’s meeting was Advent services, by the way) the story says God came to Earth in human form and willingly walked into a gruesome death in order to make a final sacrificial atonement, for any human who was willing to accept HIS sacrifice. Done deal.

This paradigm was the basis for the staggering propagation of Christianity from Jerusalem into all the world, in just a few centuries. Thomas Edison said the key to successful invention is “Find a need and fill it.” Is the snake story an example of “Create a need and fill it”?

In the early 1930s my grandfather, Arthur Livingston Norris, a Presbyterian Deacon, left the church over its refusal to accept the findings of Darwin and others. He was an autodidact, probably carried an 8th grade education. The books on his shelf, in his little makeshift study, commandeered from part of the back porch of their little house in Birmingham**, made their way to our bookshelf in the entry to our home in California. I looked at them and through them all during my grade school, high school and freshman year of college: Principles of Geology, by Dana; Outline of History by Will and Ariel Durant; Critique of Pure Reason by Kant; Origin of Species by Darwin. It seems amazing that without any conscious effort on my part—rather, mostly buffeting by crazy life events, I should find myself a religious disrupter as Grandpa was, and as the historical Jesus was.

I hear Grandpa Norris was a writer too, keeping Early 20th Century “tweets” going into the Birmingham newspaper in the form of OpEds. My mother recalled being very embarrassed over it — I assume grandma was furious, because she stood by that same little Presbyterian church until well within my memories of her dragging me to services, when we lived in the neighborhood, years later.

The point: A new paradigm of worship is far overdue. The idea of original sin—with what we know of psychology, fractured genetics and other scientific discoveries—becomes not sin, but merely unhealthy and anomalous behavior by humans. It breaks no bond between us and God. It is part of our existing on a material plane (which we can assume, God created in the first place.)

Remove the concept of “sin” and you remove the “need” for redemption. Redemption is available for the asking, by a loving God who already partially inhabits each of us. The more of Him we ask for, the more of Him he gives us—from my recent experience—and in my opinion. VMK

** The house