Sunday, January 13, 2008

Edmund Hillary and a theology of atonement

Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mt Everest, died over the weekend. He was a man that perhaps best embodied “the spirit and essence” of New Zealand and will be honoured with a State funeral.

I used Edmund Hillary as an example in a sermon a few years ago. I was wrestling with the gap between the worldview of Jesus day and the worldview of our day, specifically how the world of Jesus believed that one person could represent all of humanity and thus first Adam, and second Jesus might be representative of sin and redemption. (My Bibical text was 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Yet when we approach the Bible, we do so from an individualized, Western worldview. In our world, one person does not speak or act for everyone. Which raises a crucial question for a theology of the atonement: How can Adam’s actions and Jesus as representative include independent, free-acting Western individuals?

And here is part of my sermon: Yet think with me a moment. Perhaps we do have our representatives? First, we do have representative New Zealanders. Look at our bank notes. On our $5 note is a portrait of Sir Edmund Hillary. When we think of Hillary, we think of toughness, focus, humility and giving, values that we believe might represent the best of New Zealanders. Hillary sums up many qualities that are representative of being a New Zealander. His values represent values we aspire to. There are times in New Zealand today, when one person does represent all of the people.

So might it be logical for us to see Jesus as on the banknote of Christianity, summing up all that is representative of being human. Jesus: loyal, healing, caring, deeply connected to God and people. Jesus is representative of human values.

So that’s my eulogy for Edmund Hillary, a man who in life offered a partial glimpse into what it means to be in Christ, to live life and live it to the full. (The sermon ended up in the a book, Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross.


For more on my chapter, go here
For more on atonement, go here.

Posted by steve at 05:39 PM

1 Comment

  1. I read the following quote from Sir Ed under a full page pic of him in the Sunday Star Times: “I have the vague feeling…that the world is so complex and so remarkable in many ways that there must be some sort of intelligence behind it all. But as to whether that intelligence is the slightest bit interested in a little person away down on Earth, I have my considerable doubts.” Do you think he is saying that there is a God and worshipping that God by implying he is nothing in comparison or do you think he has tragically missed the intense personal love of God?

    Comment by Jack — January 14, 2008 @ 3:04 pm

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