The Ooga Booga God and the Faraway Tree

In the stories of the Faraway Tree, there is a land called Topsy Turvy Land. I once addressed children with this story in mind and described how God is often “Topsy Turvy” to how we think. This post is going to take you to this land…..

Ooga Booga god is a term I came up with a few years ago to describe the “normal” view we as humans have of God. That is, like the cave man who made sacrifices to the thunder-god to keep themselves safe – we imagine a god that requires a sacrifice. We are more sophisticated, but the essential message is the same. The term “sin debt” is thrown around.  Jesus paid our debt to a god who righteously demands payment, if we can’t believe in time we are thrown into eternal torment. What I discovered is that this is the normal “human” way of thinking. Oooga Booga is not the god of Jesus.

Dear reader, you may be feeling a bit of discomfort now. This is normal – if you have lived in topsy-turvy land for a long time, turning right way up feels like upside down for a while. Trust me, enjoy the ride.

James Alison has a more sophisticated term than mine – he calls this god the “Aztec god”. A religion that has a sacrificial model based around animal and or human sacrifices. With the invention of “Penal substitutionary” theories of atonement we have returned to a natural anthropological view of God and salvation. Or if you understand Christianspeak…. we have a “worldly” understanding.

I want to share one insight James Alison has made into the nature of this debt transaction.

When John tells us the story about Jesus crucifixion he adds a small detail that leads us to the Old Testament. (John 19) 13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). Gabbatha means the “mound of Gibeon”

The story of the Gibeonites is found in 2 Samuel. A blood filled tale of Saul Duping the Gibeonites and many being killed. We jump to the reign of David and he says this to the angry Gibeonites who do not know whether this King is friend or foe. (2 Sam.)David asked the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? How shall I make atonement so that you will bless the Lord’s inheritance?”

The angry mob demand blood payment – the sons of Saul.

What Alison notes here is that the New Testament turns our way of thinking totally upside down. Jesus is not a sacrifice to appease an angry god, to pay off some cosmic debt. The direction of the transaction is totally opposite…  Alison says it better than I. Speaking of Pilate he says he is:

“…frightened of losing face with Caesar if he doesn’t execute someone. So he is represented as standing in both for David, handing over someone else’s convenient son to satisfy the wrath of the Gibeonites, and , entirely unwittingly, standing in for God, in being the person who enables God to give his own Son into the hands of wrathful humans to assuage their wrath. The whole purpose, flow and direction of the imagery is to point up that this is not a sacrifice being demanded by God of us, but on the contrary, an entirely benevolent generosity offering a sacrifice to satisfy our seething, human, vengeance-seeking wrath. That’s how the New Testament sees these things.

Welcome to Topsy Turvy Land.

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