Thursday, November 13, 2014

Unedited, uncorrected bit of current research

            Paton addressed Jones’ rejection of New Testament authority in the November 1883 issue of World’s Hope. The New Testament is the basis for Christian belief, Paton wrote. If one rejects it or any part of it, then one rejects the very basis for Christianity and of belief in Christ:


To reject the New Testament as authority, as some are doing, seems strangely inconsistent for any one claiming to be Christian. We do not unchristianize anybody, though we have been accused of doing so, but we wonder how a man can be a believer in Christ who rejects the only written and authoritative testimony that the coming of Jesus Christ is fact. How can they who do not accept of the apostles and Evangelists as inspired teacher, have any real faith that what they say of Jesus, – of His saying and doings – is true. The very articles written to discard the authority of John, for instance, will, however quote John to prove that Jesus said, “Search the scriptures,” &c., thus endorsing the Old Testament. If the New Testament is not reliable, how do we know that Jesus endorsed the Old? –  or that Jesus ever existed at all?[1]


           We do not know how Jones answered Paton’s criticism. We do know that he attacked Paton’s Atonement doctrine. Paton tell us so by means of a brief paragraph found in the January 1884 issue of World’s Hope:


The editor of Zion’s Day Star, who ridicules the “middle ground” between the doctrine of Substitution and the complete rejection of the death of Christ as the basis of man’s salvation, does not know how solid that ground is, for he has never stood there. We rejoice in our position. The lengthy quotations he has given from The World’s Hope are the only articles in which he has ever expressed the idea of the Representative fullness of Jesus Christ.[2]


            The distinction between Christ as substitute for humanity and Christ as representative of humanity was an important one. Barbour, Paton, Adams, and now, apparently, Jones saw Jesus as man’s representative, leaving men in various degrees deserving of salvation in their own merit. God was obligated to save if they followed Christ’s example. Atonement theory based on Christ as substitute sees man as the recipient of a divine but undeserved gift. The heart of this issue rests in one’s approach to scripture. Russell remained a literalist. The others did not, leaving them free to escape plain meaning by spiritualizing. Paton confessed as much when discussing the cleansing blood of Christ. If he were to see remission of sin occurring as a result of the shedding of Christ’s literal blood, his theory would fall, so he found a “spiritual” alternative:

Does the literal blood of Christ cleanse from all sin? One says, “Away with so much spiritualizing: we must cling to the literal meaning of the word.” But we claim that the true Bible literalism requires the comparison of scripture with scripture, and the application of the rules, “First the natural; afterward the spiritual;” and “The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”[3]


            Neither of Paton’s citations lends itself to his exegesis. They do not say what he believes them to say. But his understanding allowed him to believe as he wished. The same was true of the others espousing what Russell called “no-ransom theories.” Paton’s reply to Jones seems weak. His claim is Jones’ understanding is poor solely because Jones did not see matters as he did. There is no scriptural argument.

            Though both Paton and Jones used the word “representative” to convey their Atonement theories, they did not mean the same thing. Paton addressed this issue early in 1884:


Some who regard Jesus as a mere man, and as a saved sinner, (though they do not think He was an “overt” sinner, or a very bad man) seem to think that The World’s Hope at one time leaned toward this doctrine. Such an idea has always, in the clear light of the Word, seemed obnoxious to us. It seems no less so now. They seem to think we use the word “Representative” in the sense of a sample, – as if when God saved Jesus (?!) from His personal sins and lost estate (?!) it was simply a sample of the way He will save others.[4]


            Without access to the earliest issues of Day Star, this is the best statement of Jones’ Atonement belief we have. [add wt material here]

[1]               J. H. Paton: Untitled article, World’s Hope¸ November 1883, page
[2]               J. H. Paton: Untitled article, World’s Hope, January 1884, page 56.
[3]               J. H. Paton: The Blood of the Lamb, World’s Hope¸ January 1884, page 52.
[4]               J. H. Paton: Untitled article, World’s Hope, February 1884, page 71.

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