Posts Tagged ‘Cross’
I would encourage you to read John Stott’s book The Cross of Christ. This is one of Stott’s classic works and its thorough substantive handling of the atonement by Christ is worthy of perusing on a regular basis. One chapter that challenged my thinking (which I thoroughly enjoy when an argument is thoughtfully and fully laid out) is chapter six titled “The Self-Substitution of God.” In this chapter, Stott, suggests there is grave theological danger in making Jesus Christ out to be a third party in regards to the atonement.
We must not then, speak of God punishing Jesus or of Jesus persuading God, for to do so is to set them over gainst each other as if they acted independently of each other or were even in conflict with each other. We must never make Christ the object of God’s punishment or God the object of Christ’s persuasion, for both God and Christ were subjects not objects, taking the initiative together to save sinners. Whatever happened on the cross in terms of “God-forsakeness” was voluntarily accepted by both in the same holy love that made atonement necessary. It was ‘God in our nature forsaken of God.’ (Stott, pp. 151)
At first glance, this might seem trivial, but Stott explains himself further in the chapter and it becomes clear that he is fighting the tendency of many throughout history to adjust the penal substitution of the atonement for a more “acceptable” view. It has been the atonement, the death of Christ on the cross, that has contributed to the heretical view of the Triune nature of God called modalism. And it has been the penal atonement truth that has caused some to err on the other side denying the deity of Christ.
It is my belief that our human, fallible minds and hearts have difficulty connecting the truth that Christ died in our place for our sins. And this is why some well-meaning souls do err when it comes to the atonement. Some complain that penal (penalty) view makes God the Father a violent judge and Jesus must step in as a third party to appease his wrath. This is the error Stott is arguing against, hence Jesus is either being violently punished by His masochistic Father or else He is soothing the wrath of the Father and persuading a reluctant Father not to punish. This faulty understanding of the atonement is why some have scoffed at the penal, substitutionary atonement as illogical or “evil.”
I agree with Stott when he says,
We strongly reject, therefore, every explanation of the death of Christ that does not have at its center the principle of ‘satisfaction through substitution,’ indeed divine self-satisfaction through divine self-substitution. The cross was not a commercial bargain with the devil, let alone one that tricked and trapped him; nor an exact equivalent, a quid pro quo to satisfy a code of honor or technical point of law; nor a compulsory submission by God to some moral authority above him form which he could not otherwise escape; nor a punishment of a meek Christ by a harsh and punitive Father; nor a procurement of salvation by a loving Christ from a mean and reluctant Father; nor an action of the Father which bypassed Christ as Mediator. Instead, the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character. The theological words satisfaction and substitution need to be carefully defined and safeguarded, but they cannot in any circumstances be given up. The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.
So what do you think? Is this biblical?