Here is an excerpt from the chapter entitled "Jesus as Rescuer: An Image That Has to Go"(which I read at 3:00am this morning in a fit of insomnia):
What would the concept of a primal fall of human life into sin possible mean to those creatures who only recently evolved into the stage of the world and who give no evidence that their stay will be permanent? How can there be a fall into sin if there has never been perfection from which to fall? What kind of deity is it who would require of us a sacrificial offering to overcome a chasm that is now understood to be non-existent? Why would anyone be drawn to an image of a divine rescuer who, with his self-sacrifice, would pay the price of sin? The traditional understanding of salvation history and the various theories of atonement all come tumbling down at this point, and this includes the interpretation we have traditionally imposed upon the cross of Calvary.
Wow. That is a mouthful. I can tell why this guy is controversial--about 4-5 years ago if anyone started telling me this stuff I would have likely stuck my fingers in my ears and yelled "lalalala I can't hear you!" It would have been such a negation of my worldview I wouldn't have stood for it.
He traces the "salvation story" of Christianity from the Garden of Eden all the way to the letters of Paul and the Gospels, as I've always heard it described. (Like I said, he has said nothing I don't already know.) Then he suggests that this is all interpretation that has been forced onto the biblical story and the life of Jesus by theologians from the first century to the present--that it is a story based in "pre-Darwinian superstition and post-Darwinian nonsense" and needs to go. But he also thinks that if Jesus had been therefore nothing but a "good teacher or a good example" that the devotion to him would not lasted nearly as long as it has.
Yet the Jesus portrayed in the creedal statement "as one who, for us and for our salvation, came down from heaven" simply no longer communicates to our world. These concepts must be uprooted and dismissed. If the Christ experience is real, then we must find a new way to talk about it.
Call it conditioning if you like, but I’m having a hard time separating Christianity from this salvation story he is calling “pre-Darwinian superstition.” This is one of the reasons I don’t believe in Christianity. The evolution of the human race means no literal fall, no literal original sin, no need for salvation from sin, no need for a self-sacrificing savior. It is very fascinating to me to see a Bishop honestly try to adjust his religion to be consistent with modern knowledge of the world. I’m only about half-way though the book now, and I’m looking forward to finding out what he has to say next.