All of your videos on “According to John” keep begging this question: Salvation from what and for what? It seems to me that whatever atonement theory you accept, it must answer this. For example, penal: “You’re going to hell; Jesus took your place; tell others.” I think Luke and Mark teach the “moral influence” theory that yields quite a different answer to from what and for what. You began to unpack an answer in yesterday’s session with the “lifted up” metaphor, yet it is still unclear to me what you think John is trying to accomplish. As with most “big ideas,” it takes time to build to the “reveal.” I’m looking forward to that moment.

Somewhere along the line, I read/heard that “Any religion that promotes fear of hell isn’t worthy.” I like Wm. Barclay’s view, “If there is a hell, its purpose is purely redemptive.” Hell is not a viable notion for me. So I reject any theory of being saved from hell. Except, of course, if you consider the various “hells” on earth. Now we’re getting somewhere. If congregations functioned with true community where each person lived for the wellbeing of one another, we would be saving people from hell on earth. Not only that, people would be flocking to our doors (as they did to the early church [see Rodney Stark]), but we don’t practice this and they don’t come. Therefore, the moral influence theory works for me, and it appears to be the only “taken for granted” view for the first few centuries. Then Greek categories took over theology, and we have Nicaea, Constantinople, and Augustine. I shudder.

Interestingly, without John, the Synoptics never would have given the Trinity a chance. Many, including John Robinson, have demonstrated that the Prologue of John could easily be understood without recourse to a literal incarnation, an understanding such as Philo and other first century Jews would have found compatible. If that’s the case, then John falls in line with the Synoptics. Michael F. Bird is certainly right in pointing out that many of John’s statement lead to Christological heresies such as Modalism and Tri-theism. He sees, nevertheless, that John provides the blueprint for the Trinity that needed the next couple of centuries to figure out, but there is one text that remains unequivocally insurmountable, in my view: “I am ascending to your Father and my Father, to my God and your God.” This is wholly in line with a Synoptic Jesus.

Too much of interpreting John is anachronistic—we assume the findings of the counsels and read them back into the gospel. I like what you are doing to help us see the struggle going on within the Johannine community to answer the question, “Who are we, now that we are no longer of the synagogue?” The answer just might help us discern who we are today.