The New Christians

The New Christians


Why Jesus Died

posted by Tony Jones

crucifixion2.jpgIt’s Good Friday, the day that we Christians “celebrate” — actually, commemorate — Jesus’ crucifixion. For the last several years, in my little corner of Christianity, there’s been lots of talk about the atonement — that is, about what exactly happened, cosmically speaking, when Jesus died. In fact, the nature of the atonement has become the bête noire of emergent Christians and the cause célèbre of the resurgent Reformers.

I believe that Jesus of Nazareth was a real, historic human being who lived from approximately 6-4 BC to approximately AD 26-29.

I firmly believe, in unity with the Council of Chalcedon, that Jesus of Nazareth was both fully human and fully divine. This belief is key to one’s understanding of the crucifixion. If Jesus was a little less than fully either, then his death means something different than what I think it means.


One key to my understanding of the crucifixion is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. At about the age of 30, Jesus arrives at the Jordan River and is baptized by his cousin, John. He then retreats into the wilderness where, after a 40-day fast, he’s tempted. Really tempted. That is, the result of Jesus’ interaction with “the tempter” was not foreordained. Nor did Jesus know that he was divine in such a way that he wouldn’t cave in to the temptations before him. Had Jesus been cognizant of his divinity, he would not have been truly tempted.

Another key to my understanding of the end of Jesus’ life is what he did with the three previous years of his life. It seems to me that he did just a few things: 1) He taught about the Kingdom of God; 2) He performed miracles; 3) He developed a following that included 12 close followers and, by the end, hundreds of others.

The importance of 1) and 3) are pretty obvious to Jesus’ mission. The significance of the miracles, however, is sometimes misunderstood. They were not significations of Jesus’ divinity (as evidenced by the other magicians and sorcerers on the scene in Jesus’ day). Instead, they were little in-breakings of the new age that Jesus, as the Messiah, was inaugurating.

Especially in the healing miracles, Jesus touched the people who had been condemned as “unclean,” and thus unworthy of Temple worship — woman with an issue of blood, blind men, lepers, paraplegics, a crazed demoniac — and cleansed them. He upset the order of things by bringing the people who had been marginalized — now you can include tax collectors and whores — by the dominant religion of his time and place and making them “right” with God again.

So when Jesus’ three years of traveling, teaching, and miracles ends in Jerusalem, on a Roman cross, his death culminates the life that he lived. His execution amidst common thieves is his ultimate act of solidarity with every human being who has experienced godlessness and godforsakenness. In other words, every human being.

On that very day, a few of the human witnesses understood this at an intuitive level, mostcrucifixion.jpg notably the Roman soldier who, from the foot of the cross, said (probably under his breath), “Surely this man is the son of God.” And since that time, billions of human beings have found solace and victory in the fact that God rather,

…made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a human being,

he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!

Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.

Instead, Jesus death offers life because in Christianity, and in Christianity alone, the God and Creator of the universe deigned to become human, to be tempted, to reach out to those who had been de-humanized and restore their humanity, and ultimately to die in solidarity with every one of us. Yes, he was a sacrifice. Yes, he was “sinless.” But thank God, Jesus was also human.

The hope he offers is that, by dying on that cross, the eternal Trinity became forever bound to my humanity. The God of the universe identified with me, and I have the opportunity to identify with him.

Today, and every day, I hang with him on that cross.



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foxnala

posted April 10, 2009 at 9:46 am


I agree Tony. What you’re describing is truly relational, as opposed to a mechanistic “cosmic transaction.” And isn’t this the kind of Father that our hearts ache to worship (as opposed to a hungry machine that needs to be fed a divine sacrifice in order to formulaically eradicate it’s anger)?
I grew up around the latter understanding of the atonement, and for the most am still surrounded in my worship community by this understanding. What is it about human nature that is attracted to (or prefers) this latter understanding the atonement instead of the former?



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Chris Rosebrough

posted April 10, 2009 at 9:55 am


Tony,
Your ‘Solidarity Theory’ of the atonement is powerless to save anyone and purposely avoids using a very simple hermeneutical principle; Scripture interprets Scripture. Before you can claim that the Biblical Narrative doesn’t teach that ‘some cosmic transaction’ took place. Don’t you think it would be wise to actually lay out the fullness of what the Bible teaches regarding Jesus’ death on the cross?
The Gospel Narratives primarily tell us what Jesus did, but other sections of scripture tell us what His actions mean. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the eye witnesses to pen the four Gospels also inspired other Biblical authors to help us make sense of historical eyewitness testimony in the Gospel accounts.
Oddly enough when we look at what other passages of scripture have to say about Jesus’ death on the cross we find that they are utterly silent about YOUR ‘solidarity theory’ and very vocal about the view of the atonement that you ‘don’t find very compelling’.
Who are we to believe? Should we believe you or the men that God the Holy Spirit inspired to write these words?
Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded FOR our transgressions; he was crushed FOR our iniquities; UPON HIM was the punishment that brought us peace, and by his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has LAID ON HIM the iniquity of us all.
Romans3:21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
1John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Rom. 5:9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
Eph. 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
I find these passages taken from the Bible to be far more compelling than YOUR powerless ‘solidarity theory’.
You are in my prayers this Good Friday.



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Annie

posted April 10, 2009 at 10:09 am


We’ve all been dehumanized, as a result of the fall and the ravages of sin. Christ was the perfect image of God, as we are meant to be a clear reflection of that image, which was also implanted in us at our creation. In that respect, he was the most truly human of all people who ever lived.
While I don’t think a cosmic transaction took place where Jesus paid this for that, the death of Christ has cosmic implications because he was both human AND divine. Unless he was divine, his death could not have destroyed the power of corruption and death. And unless he took on human nature–not my human nature, not a discrete human nature of his own, but he whole sum of human nature–he could not have restored that nature to what it was originally intended to be.
In other words, the problem with mechanistic theories of the atonement is not that they overemphasize Christ’s divinity. It is that they misconstrue the nature of the problem. The problem is not that I have offended God. The problem is that humanity has fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death. If the former is the case, then the solution is a Christ who pays the penalty for that offense. If the latter, the solution is the incarnation of the Word, in order to break the power of death and restore humanity to its intended form–a shining reflection of the image of God.



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greg

posted April 10, 2009 at 10:31 am


Your description resonates with the truths articulated by the first Christians and touches on an alternative understanding of the atonement that is orthodox in the fullest sense of the word. May I recommend Athanasius’ On the Incarnation (a decent translation with an introduction by CS Lewis is still in print from SVS press) as a basic ancient text to further ground readers in how the ancient church viewed the atonement?



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garret

posted April 10, 2009 at 10:47 am


thanks tony…. appreciate this.
Garret



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Your Name

posted April 10, 2009 at 10:49 am


I disagree with Chris about the love of God for us humans by becoming one of us and sharing in our nature and weaknesses and struggles as being basically irrelevant to His act of saving grace on the Cross. Citing some Biblical text for the role of Christ as redeemer of sinful mankind takes nothing away from the importance of Christ’s ministry of love upon taking flesh from the Blessed Ever-Virgin, Mother of God (Jesus). I recommend the following article on the wrong emphasis on God as a cruel being exacting vengeful punishment of many in the West: THE RIVER OF FIRE by ALEXANDRE KALOMIROS (just google it).
I do take issue with one part of the original article, though. Jesus was fully human and fully man indeed, which necessarily means that in His Divinity our Lord knew everything, and it follows such knowledge was part of His human nature as well. However, this does not make His human experience any less effective.
We are weak by nature as a result of the Fall and despite all of our knowledge of the omnipotence of our God, we still naturally have fear when in the moment of scary events, like a major external temptation (the devil on the mountain tempting Christ) or frightening occurence (soldiers coming to arrest the Savior). While some view knowledge of future events as something that can make those events less scary, they in fact may be more scary as a result — knowing that soon you will be subjected to cruel and vicious treatment as Christ knew made our Lord in His humanity sweat blood in trepidation and yearning to have it pass. Christ’s knowledge in His Divinity did not make Him less human, for we in faith should have the same confidence about God’s deliverance as our Lord. It may have made His humanity more prone to fear because of a certain knowledge of His ultimate sacrificial suffering.
God Bless you all during this Holy Season of Lent and bring you ever closer to Him and His Truth in your lifetimes.
Palestinian Arab Orthodox Christian



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Scott M

posted April 10, 2009 at 11:03 am


Chris, ‘scripture’ doesn’t interpret anything, much less itself. Scripture sits there until someone interprets it. You’re simply describing an approach in which people find prooftexts to support the interpretation they have already decided is correct. The particular interpretation you are applying to the particular scriptural prooftexts you are providing is one that simply didn’t exist anywhere before roughly the 16th century. In a two thousand year old faith, that makes that interpretation less than compelling to me.
Although it is not and cannot be complete without the Resurrection (and I’m probably anticipating Tony here) what he has articulated is essentially the portion of the theories of recapitulation and ransom flowing from the Incarnation and the Cross. The other component, Resurrection, flows from what Tony affirmed at the beginning, the full divinity of Jesus. Identification – real identification – is what happens when God becomes fully human (and I would add that Jesus recapitulated the story of Israel and all humanity by being the completely faithful man, the completely faithful Israel). Death cannot contain or conquer God, however. And after identifying fully and completely with us, in full solidarity, God breaks the power of death (and thus the ultimate threat of evil and every other power) over man. As it is said he “trampled down death by death”.
Again, I’m probably anticipating and leaping ahead of Tony. But that flows from his affirmation of Chalcedon. Here he explored the fully human side. That’s the implication and direct result of the fully divine side. Tony may refine, extend, or rearticulate the theory. But what he has said here is utterly consistent with the oldest thoughts on the Incarnation and the Cross. And really the only orthodox train of thought until well after Chalcedon.



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pam

posted April 10, 2009 at 11:14 am


Tony,
I’ve always wrestled with understanding the “cosmic transaction” on the cross, even though I’ve studied it many times over and can quote the “right” responses about Jesus taking on the sins of the world, etc. The fully divine/fully human dichotomy and the verses you quote resonate more deeply with me. God made himself fully human and suffered with the rest of humanity. . . AND he revealed his full divinity through the resurrection.
Thank you for helping me put this into words.



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Jason

posted April 10, 2009 at 12:02 pm


Can you say heresy? Wow unbelievable



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Sara

posted April 10, 2009 at 12:10 pm


Journey of Lent (#1): “Crucifixion of Jesus as Unresolved Grief and Trauma”
http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/2009/02/lent-crucifixion-of-jesus-as-unresolved.html
Journey of Lent (#2): “Grieving the Crucifixion to Heal Our Memories of Jesus”
http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/2009/02/journey-of-lent-2-grieving-crucifixion.html
Journey of Lent (#3): “Healing Through Practical Application”
http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/2009/04/journey-of-lent-3-healing-through.html



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Dave Marriott

posted April 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm


Tony,
I’m wondering if you don’t find the substitutionary death of Christ as “intellectually compelling” for the same reason I read Hosea and view myself as prophet and not prostitute. Perhaps you are not the sozomenois in 1 Corinthians 1, but rather the hellenes, who seeks after wisdom.



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SirBrass

posted April 10, 2009 at 12:25 pm


I fully agree with Chris here.
Tony, your Jesus that you describe is not the Jesus the Christ of Scripture. Jesus said it Himself when He said that He came to seek and save the lost. Save them from what? From their sins, of course. Not to provide a good example or as a sign of solidarity. Such views are utterly heretical to scripture.
I won’t re-cite the verses alright cited by Chris, as they speak for themselves. Scripture is quite clear on the issue, Tony, and your view has been found wanting…..grossly.
Chris, keep it up. It’s not often that both a staunch Lutheran and a Reformed Baptist agree, but when we do and do so adamantly, then that generally means the doctrine which we are in agreement about it nigh central to salvation. Keep up the fight, brother.



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Colin

posted April 10, 2009 at 12:26 pm


If someone doesn’t know how to say the work heresy, they can use a dictionary or an online pronunciation tool. I’ve known how to say the word heresy for quite some time now. Luckily, when I looked up the pronunciation, I learned the definition and read about all sorts of heresies. In other words, I also know what it means. Do you?
Chris, your post starts on the wrong foot by assuming that any atonement theory has the power to save.



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Concerned

posted April 10, 2009 at 12:27 pm


That article is so wrong on so many levels. Jesus wasn’t divine at the time when He was tempted? EH?! And his responses to the tempter could not have been foreordained? WHAT?! Put the two together and you end up with some heretical mish-mash of Gnosticism’s separating of Jesus’ divinity and humanity as if He had to be possessed by the Christ … Read Morein order to be divine along with open-theism’s claim that outcomes cannot be fore-known by God.
I certainly hope Tony doesn’t eat of the bread or drink of the cup until he repents and trusts TRULY in Christ for His salvation, else he eats and drinks judgment upon himself. His Jesus cannot save, as Chris rightly pointed out. His Jesus didn’t die on the cross as a propitiation for our sins. His Jesus only identifies with us with his DNA ID card only, not by any salvific works, just nice humanitarian aid to usher in the “new age.



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Colin

posted April 10, 2009 at 12:39 pm


“Jesus wasn’t divine at the time when He was tempted?”
That is exactly what Tony did not say. This he did:
“I firmly believe, in unity with the Council of Chalcedon, that Jesus of Nazareth was both fully human and fully divine. This belief is key to one’s understanding of the crucifixion. If Jesus was a little less than fully either, then his death means something different than what I think it means.”
“Nor did Jesus know that he was divine in such a way that he wouldn’t cave in to the temptations before him. Had Jesus been cognizant of his divinity, he would not have been truly tempted.”
The fact that people are freaking out about Tony’s old and orthodox view just shows the inability to understand and deal with church history and comprehend something beyond a sunday school theology.
Hello! Council of Chalcedon. Tony, I can’t believe you even both blogging, you are just a target.



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Betty

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm


Tony said: Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.
So then, Isaiah the prophet is not a true prophet? Read Isaiah 53. “It pleased God to crush His Own Son.”
Romans 3: 25: “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiationi in His blod through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, …”
“He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3: 36
Tony said: Had Jesus been cognizant of his divinity, he would not have been truly tempted.
Jesus said, “This (Himself) is the bread which came down out of heaven..he who eats this bread shall live forever.” John 6: 58
“For judgment I came intot his world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind.” John 9: 39
“I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father. ” John 16: 28
“I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again,a nd going to the Father. ” John 16: 28
Stop this nonsense. Repent and believe the Gospel ! http://www.hellsbestkeptsecret.com



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Ted Seeber

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:13 pm


I had to go back and read Chris’s post before writing this. For once I agree with Tony- and the Council of Chalcedon (I try to stay relatively within communion of all the ecumenical councils, right up to Vatican II). To deny Christ’s human side is nothing more than gnosticism.
If Christ wasn’t tempted by sin, his victory over it is meaningless. Just as interpreting the Bible outside of Tradition (“Scripture defines Scripture”) is a tautology.



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greg

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:16 pm


Apologies for posting again, but Concerned seems to be implicitly articulating monothelitism (in addition to challenging Chalcedon). Both are in the truest sense heresy. Forgive me if I misunderstood.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monothelitism
In any case, I wanted to point out in followup to the subthread that seems to be appearing, that the full text of On the Incarnation appears to be available here (including the Lewis introduction).
http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/ath-inc.htm
The Lewis introduction itself is published in full here:
http://silouanthompson.net/library/early-church/on-the-incarnation/introduction/
Lastly, as a followup to the Palestinian Christian, there is a far less “partisan” piece in the spirit of River of Fire here, that I think gives a nice introduction to the Patristic thinking that Kalomiros draws on:
http://silouanthompson.net/2008/08/27/river-of-god/
Oh, and for the record, I am not Orthodox. At least not officially.



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Tom W.

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:20 pm


Tony, you wrote: “Nor did Jesus know that he was divine in such a way that he wouldn’t cave in to the temptations before him. Had Jesus been cognizant of his divinity, he would not have been truly tempted.”
At what point, in His ministry, do you suggest that Jesus became cognizant of His divinity?
Please answer using God’s word, not merely your opinion.



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Scott M

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:35 pm


Guys, words supposedly mean things. At least we seem to be very much shaped by language to the point that language shapes our perception of the nature of reality. (There are some very interesting studies on that, btw, but that’s a rabbit trail.) Within modern Christian pluralism, I’m not even sure how or if the idea ‘heterodox’ can be applied. It means you have made a choice for a different or other worship. But the idea that you have chosen something different carries with it the idea that a reasonable person could know what was the right worship. And the myriad and contradictory ideas in modern Christianity have so muddied the water of the faith, I’m not sure that’s possible.
Now, because of that, I’m not sure I’m willing to call those who perceive the only problem as a problem primarily for God ‘heretics’. It is very commonly taught today that God cannot forgive without payment a debt we cannot pay. And so God arranges it so that one person of God pays the debt we owe that God cannot forgive to God on the Cross on our behalf, resolving God’s problem with forgiveness and incidentally freeing us from the debt we could not satisfy. This is the grand “Cosmic Transaction” theory Tony rejects. While I would not quite be willing to call it heterodox (or other worship) because of the problem I mentioned above of radical Christian pluralism, I will point out that it owes a whole lot more to Enlightenment ideas about Natural Law than anything in Scripture. And it is treading on very thin and dangerous ice both by ascribing a problem to God and by setting persons of the Trinity, if not in actual opposition, at least on opposing ends of a juridical transaction. Those are serious problems, not light or cosmetic issues.
However, whether or not you have paused to consider those ramifications, you can hardly call Tony a ‘heretic’ merely for rejecting one of the most recent theological innovations about the atonement and returning to a line of thought that is at least consistent and continuous with the oldest teachings about the atonement within Christianity. This was after all, the only thread of teaching anywhere in ‘orthodox’ Christianity for most of the first millenium of the faith. I suppose you can call embracing that line of thought overly traditional if you want in its refusal to embrace innovation in the faith – at least in the central matter of the atonement. But you can hardly call it heterodox.



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Drew Tatusko

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:40 pm


This is why I think Jesus had to die:
Jesus has to die because of who he was. Throughout the Scriptures those who speak for God and render judgment are the same who the very Chosen people of God reject. Those who serve God fully are rejected not only by whatever form “the world” might be, but even those who believe they have the right to receive God’s Kingdom by who they are and what they do. As Jesus says in Matthew 21:
“Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’”
It might seem radical but it is not a stretch to suggest that when God enters into our presence and disrupts what we believe to be order, that our instinct is to kill God. To get rid of that which is causing the disruption. Jesus had to die because humanity inherently disobeys God. It is the logical outcome of what sin does. The Jews wanted him dead for blaspheming the Law, and the Romans mocked him while his closest followers stood by, watched, and tried to avoid any connection with him. Jesus, the true human, the human being that God had fully assumed, was grotesque and disruptive to all that is human: religion, social class, economy, behavior, psychology, politics, gender, race, etc.
http://notes-from-offcenter.com/2009/04/10/sin-kills-god-why-jesus-had-to-die/



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Jon Reid

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:43 pm


The notion that Jesus, while fully divine, did everything he did out his humanity, is an important teaching in the Vineyard movement. It explains many things, such as his temptation. Even his sacrifice makes cosmic sense if you look at it in terms of, “Humanity screwed things up, so the only way to fully restore things was through a human. Which was impossible, since we’re screwed up.” Jesus broke that log-jam.
And finally, from a Vineyard perspective, the challenge is that all of the miracles were performed not from his divinity, but from his humanity, perfectly following the leading of the Holy Spirit, looking for “what the Father is doing.”
So thank you, Tony. And I appreciate your continuing challenge to the “one size fits all, we have it all figured out” perspective of the atonement, as if we had managed to boil it down in our test tubes for complete analysis. The mystery draws me in deeper.



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sds

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:47 pm


Actually, Tony, you DON’T hang with Christ on that cross. He did it so you wouldn’t have to, and that’s exactly the point.



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roger flyer

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm


This is a clear and hard fought conclusion, and I for one, deeply appreciate the humility and forthrightness of the author’s conclusion.
Thank you, Tony.



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Joshua Reich

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm


Wow. There is a lot here. A lot to chew on.
Definitely don’t agree with all of it, but I appreciate having my thinking stretched.



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Chris Rosebrough

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:48 pm


Scott M,
You Said: “The particular interpretation you are applying to the particular scriptural prooftexts you are providing is one that simply didn’t exist anywhere before roughly the 16th century”
Sorry Scott but that is pure Urban Emergent Myth. I suggest that you do some better scholarship before you say that again. That is a Myth that has been busted. Here’s a nice primer for you on the topic.
http://piercedforourtransgressions.com/content/category/5/15/52/



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Your Name

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:55 pm


Tony, you also wrote:
“Today, and every day, I hang with him on that cross.”
My understanding of justification is that it was my sins that, in effect, caused Him to be nailed to the cross.
I was spiritually baptized into His death (Romans 6:3); however, according to the very next verse, “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4)
So, if our standing before the thrice Holy God is solely based on Christ’s divine righteousness credited, or imputed to my account (as in 2 Corinthians 5:21), what possible purpose is there for you, or anyone for that matter, to, as you put it, “hang with him on that cross today and every day“?



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David

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm


So Tony,
For my further exploration, what theology, and systematic theology, books would you recommend that might build upon this view.



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Larry

posted April 10, 2009 at 1:57 pm


Actually, Tony, you DON’T hang with Christ on that cross. He did it so you wouldn’t have to, and that’s exactly the point.
Then why did Paul say that he had been crucified with Christ, indeed that _we_ have been crucified with Him? The Biblical them is not Christ being a substitute for us, but us participating with Him. Hence Paul’s concern that we be found “in Christ”.



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Andy

posted April 10, 2009 at 2:02 pm


Tony, let me get this straight: You think mankind, forsaken by God, needed God to come to them and express “solidarity” with their forsakenness?
Interesting. It’s directly contrary to the books of Romans, Ephesians, Hebrews, etc… but still, interesting.
I can just imagine how that message went down on Paul’s missionary journeys. “Good news, brothers! God sees your miserable state and He has *solidarity* with you!”
As opposed to, you know, the *actual* good news: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”



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Michael

posted April 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm


You know, it’s a compelling argument for understanding the crucifixion, but one that’s built on (as you cite) a fundamental assumption that Jesus was divine.
The most compelling understanding of the crucifixion I’ve encountered is seeing his execution as political assassination. Christ, as a man, a figure of social change, a humanitarian working to bring community and equality into an oppressive system, that’s a person everyone can relate to. Unlike a Dr. King, or Malcolm X, or JFK, or a Ghandi, or anyone else who was or almost was assassinated by a lone gunman, Christ was put to death by the State, and by the people, and publicly.
400 year later, sure, they put a narrative together to give the story significance and to transform the story into a tool, but at the very moment of the crucifixion, it’s undeniable that believers and non-believers could easily identify that Christ died in order to expose the social problems of the day, the fallibility of the system, and the drastic vacuum of mercy and understanding he fought to fill in the day’s society & culture.
And that compelling argument doesn’t require any “leap of faith” or gigantic, spiritual concession to understand. You didn’t have to be a disciple to see the brutality and unjust nature of the events being played out. It resonated with everyone. Still does.



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Dan Hauge

posted April 10, 2009 at 2:34 pm


It’s interesting–I find that I can affirm pretty much everything that Tony affirms about the incarnation and atonement, and yet I also affirm that Christ’s death and resurrection had much to do with our own sin, as so many Scriptures do say. (And if people have good alternative interpretations to the Scriptures that speak about Christ as an atoning sacrifice for our sin, I am open to hear them.) I think it is fair to remember that much of the reason that we all in some way experience oppression and disenfranchisement is precisely because of the sinful, oppressive behavior of people like me. We are both victims and perpetrators, and the cross of Christ deals with both aspects of our humanity.



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cp

posted April 10, 2009 at 3:15 pm


Wow. It’s nice that some people are so concerned about the minutia of what everyone else believes. Good thing there are so many people posting responses here who clearly know it all and can save my soul. I will certainly look to them for wisdom.



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Rev Dave

posted April 10, 2009 at 3:45 pm


Tony, thank you for this; very well said.
Michael – thanks for reminding us of the very real political dimensions of Jesus’ life. As you say, they still resonate very much today. And they force us to face those dimensions in our life.
Dan – good words about the both/and nature of the truth of Christian faith: we can never fully understand it for it is, as Pete Rollins says, not an object separate from ourselves; faith only exists when it is fully embodied. Which is why Jesus is the true human being.
Finally, what is so offensive and wrong about solidarity? “remember you were once slaves in Egypt so treat the outsider well” Sounds like solidarity to me. Having compassion for the marginalized, seeing and treating them as real true human beings is the essence of faith. To deny this is to deny Jesus, it seems to me.



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Scott

posted April 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm


Tony,
Interesting, provocative and moving thoughts. Thanks for sharing them. It inspired my own Good Friday blogging…http://tinyurl.com/cxg4ru.
Be well,
Scott



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Your Name

posted April 10, 2009 at 4:12 pm


Why does it have to be either/or?
Why not both/and?
On the Cross, Christ identifies with us AT THE SAME TIME becomes our Propitiation and atones for us.
Why can’t it be that simple?



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Makeesha

posted April 10, 2009 at 4:18 pm


beautiful Tony.



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Aaron M.

posted April 10, 2009 at 4:25 pm


Dan, I am glad to hear that you are “open to hearing” them. Here is a place to start, especially since not only is today Good Friday but last night was the first night of Passover:
Exodus 12: The Passover Lamb
The Passover lamb functions as a substitute for the firstborn sons of the Israelites to escape the wrath of God. Paul, in writing to the Corinthians, mentions that ‘Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.’ (1 Corinthians 5:7 ESV) Peter makes his appeal for holiness to whom he writes by reminding them that they ‘were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.’ (1 Peter 1:18-19 ESV) Both of these passages clearly see Christ’s sacrifice reflected in the substitutionary atonement of the lamb.
This is just one example but there are several others: the Day of Atonement as well as the scapegoat in Leviticus 16; the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52:13-53:12; the crucifixion narratives in the Gospels, in addition to the theological interpretations of them in the rest of the New Testament.
These and many more examples of the substitutionary atonement of Christ’s death are clearly and fairly articulated in the second chapter of the book “Pierced for Our Transgressions” by Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007) pp. 33-99.



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Mike L.

posted April 10, 2009 at 6:40 pm


Tony,
You lost me at “fully human and fully divine”. What definitions of humanity and divinity are you working with? It sounds as if you’ve started everything based on the the substance dualism of Descartes (via Plato). Can you expand a bit or at least provide some basic definitions to help us understand what you mean? You are right that the rest hinges on that one thing. In a Post-Cartesian world, the rest of your analysis is very bizarre.
Thanks in advance for expanding and thanks for all you’ve done to advance theological dialog within the church.



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Aaron S.

posted April 10, 2009 at 7:23 pm


Scott M. wrote: “The particular interpretation you are applying to the particular scriptural prooftexts you are providing is one that simply didn’t exist anywhere before roughly the 16th century.”
Scott, Chris posted this link in response to your comment above: http://piercedforourtransgressions.com/content/category/5/15/52/
You have not yet commented on the information provided there. I think we all would profit greatly from hearing your response. Please, if you want to persuade others and be taken seriously, interact with the historical evidence set before you.



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Jason Lewis

posted April 10, 2009 at 8:11 pm


The mere thought of Jesus not being cognizant of his own divinity doesn’t sit right with me and yet I might agree that if He were what real impact would temptation have for a knowingly divine being. Fanscinating thought to begin to ponder; rest assured, many further conversations this will inspire.



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Your Name

posted April 10, 2009 at 9:17 pm


This is not the Gospel that Paul preached. By preaching “another gospel” you incur the curse that Christ, through Paul pronounced upon this wickedness.
Gal 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!
I was not quick in posting this. I truly (truly) wept when I read what you said you believe, and what you wish others to believe. You wish upon yourself (and others) eternal damnation. And your chatty disciple Sara joins you in your hellish mission.



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Mr. T!

posted April 10, 2009 at 9:22 pm


Can you say atonement theories?
The Ransom Theory
The Satisfaction Theory
The Moral Theory
The Acceptance Theory
The Penal (a.k.a. Penal-Substitution) Theory
Christus Victor Theory
Narrative Christus Victor Theory
Non-violent atonement theories
See also:
Acts of Reparation to Jesus Christ
Blood atonement
Divine grace
Divine mercy
Forgiveness
Justification
Mercy seat
Pardon
Propitiation
Sacrifice
Scapegoat
Sin
Substitutionary atonement



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ryan

posted April 10, 2009 at 9:34 pm


He made him who knew no sin to be sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. 2 Cor. 5:21
I would also encourage all to take seriously the Biblical narrative; read Isaiah 53 today and realize that Jesus on the Cross for our sin, is the greatest love ever demonstrated in the history of the universe.



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nathan

posted April 10, 2009 at 9:54 pm


Ummm…
Can we simply stop saying that every time historical theology is cited that doesn’t fit with a certain strand of protestant thought it’s an “emergent innovation/myth”?
Just asking…



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nathan

posted April 10, 2009 at 9:55 pm


oh, yeah..
And then once that’s settled, can the people who insist on such blather actually go get some real training in historical theology?
Just asking…



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Barbara

posted April 10, 2009 at 10:05 pm


Tony said: Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.
Well praise God, He keeps His own counsel and doesn’t answer to man!



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Sara

posted April 10, 2009 at 10:20 pm


Hopefully thoughtful reflection and dialogue is cool!



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tripp fuller

posted April 11, 2009 at 2:43 am


Thanks for giving some testimony Tony.



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Palestine Christian

posted April 11, 2009 at 3:57 am


Greg. . .
Thanks for that Silouan Thompson site. And I won’t hold the fact you aren’t Orthodox yet against you for now ;-) — at least your heart seems to be moving in the officially right direction lol.



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Sara

posted April 11, 2009 at 8:03 am


I posted three comments with nuance and thoughtfulness. These comments were deleted. It makes me wonder if they were deleted because they were too long. If so, I would be deeply disappointed. The thing that is often missing in the media – blogs, radio, tv, etc. – is “thick” conversation. All too often it’s blowhards yelling at each other in their brief encounter. This only gives them a chance to say a soundbite and move on. Hopefully this can change in the future. We need a revolution of nuance, thoughtfulness, and detail.



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Aaron S.

posted April 11, 2009 at 10:34 am


Nathan wrote: “Ummm… Can we simply stop saying that every time historical theology is cited that doesn’t fit with a certain strand of protestant thought it’s an “emergent innovation/myth? Just asking… oh, yeah.. And then once that’s settled, can the people who insist on such blather actually go get some real training in historical theology? Just asking…”
Nathan, Chris posted this link to support his assertion regarding the oft-repeated, seldom substantiated claim that penal substitution is absent from the early church fathers: http://piercedforourtransgressions.com/content/category/5/15/52/
You have not yet commented on the information provided there. I think we all would profit greatly from hearing your response.
Please, if you want to persuade others and be taken seriously, interact with the historical evidence set before you. Your response above does not demonstrate a genuine willingness and ability to interact with the historical evidence in a meaningful way, and yet you unkindly refer to those with whom you disagree as “insist[ing]” on “blather.”
How is this at all helpful? How are you in any way promoting productive dialogue or conversation?



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Tony Jones

posted April 11, 2009 at 11:01 am


Yes, Sara, your six comments were far too long. Better to post those at your own blog and direct my readers there.
It’s true, as you say, that the blogosphere my inhibit robust conversation. But you also must recognize the limits of the medium and comment appropriately on someone else’s site.
To the rest of you, we seem to have locked horns on this dilemma: Is the penal substitutionary *theory* of the atonement the primary historical and biblical understanding of Jesus’ death, or not. Of course, the answer is that it’s not. It’s relatively recent, and it’s a minority opinion, historically speaking. Nor is it the only way that Paul understood atonement, though it is surely one of the ways.
A couple commenters have confused theories and written that pascal lamb, scapegoat, ransom-captive, and christus victor theories all back penal substitution/propitiation. They do not.
Finally, using Isaiah to reflect on the meaning of the crucifixion is fine, within limits. Surely the prophet established an alternate understanding of the Messiah’s trajectory, but that can hardly be seen as a theological justification for penal substitution.



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Larry

posted April 11, 2009 at 11:03 am


Nathan, Chris posted this link to support his assertion regarding the oft-repeated, seldom substantiated claim that penal substitution is absent from the early church fathers: http://piercedforourtransgressions.com/content/category/5/15/52/
Probably because there is no real information there, merely an assertion that some of the church fathers supported the idea of penal substitution. Now, I’ve read most of the people on that list, and the idea simply isn’t there. If you think you are seeing it is because you are bringing the idea with you and imposing it on the text. Note, for instance, that saying “Christ died for sinners” does not necessarily imply penal substitution, but, as you can see above from those using the Bible as a blunt instrument, that texts like this are often taken as “proof” that penal substitution is advocated in the Bible. If you impose an idea on a text you cannot then turn around and use that text as proof of the validity of the idea.



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ryan

posted April 11, 2009 at 11:04 am


Aaron S. is right.
In addition many passages of scripture have been put forward here demonstrating that included in the multi-perspectival understanding of the atonement, penal substitution clearly stands.
Of course then what we hear is the silly argument “your just proof texting” which is really just code for, “I don’t like what that says so I am just going to ignore it and then dismiss it when it is brought up.” Please please please, for the sake of meaningful conversation lets deal with what the Bible actually says and not just what you feel or prefer, or would like.



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Aaron S.

posted April 11, 2009 at 11:32 am


Larry writes: “Probably because there is no real information there, merely an assertion that some of the church fathers supported the idea of penal substitution.”
For anyone who is interested, the link provides eleven different brief excerpts, all from major church figures spanning the 2nd to 6th centuries. In each of these excerpts we find various articulations of penal substitutionary atonement. I am not sure what Larry means when he describes this as “no real information.” I am really not sure what Larry is looking for. This is just tiresome.
The point of the excerpts is not to demonstrate that the early church viewed the cross with the same clarity and uniformity as did the Reformers (progress does occur), but rather to give the lie to the common but false notion that none of the early church fathers viewed the atonement in this way.
Again, this sort of non-engagement, this sort of refusal to address valid points raised is tedious and not helpful.



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Ann

posted April 11, 2009 at 12:12 pm


I’m with “your name”…. why does it have to be one or the other? It surprises me how fast people are willing to throw out the heresy word. No one is denying that the act of Christ’s death on the cross is the reason that we are saved. We are just debating how it is that salvation actually works through that act. I think we cheapen the heresy word when we throw it out with out taking 5 minutes to think of what we are saying. Christ died for us and by His death we are saved. Period. That is all we really need to know. But it is wonderful that we want to know more because underneath it all, we want to know God more. There are several different theories and they each tell us something about who God is. Why should we qwell the desire to think about God in a new way…. it only helps us all know God better in the end.



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Larry

posted April 11, 2009 at 12:15 pm


I am not sure what Larry means when he describes this as “no real information.” I am really not sure what Larry is looking for. This is just tiresome.
It is a horribly designed web page. There are conventions for indicating when text is a link, you, or whoever created that page, should follow them if you expect people to interpret the page correctly. On its surface the page just looks like a list of names, there is nothing to indicate that the given names are, in fact, links.
Having said that, the texts that are pointed to support the idea of penal substitution only if you bring that idea with you when you read the text. Most of the texts are not supporting any kind of substitution theory but rather the idea of ransom, which would be clear if you looked at the authors in question in more detail, rather than just proof-texting. For instance, talk of “substitution” does not equate to “penal substitution”, Christ can substitute for us without it being penal in nature. This is the idea behind recapitulation, by living a perfect life Christ can substitute for us, but not in a penal sense, in a participatory sense, we share in Christ’s life (and death) by being found “in Christ”. So, Christ is a substitute, but it is not a _legal_ transaction.



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Aaron S.

posted April 11, 2009 at 12:53 pm


Re: Larry
Larry, thank you for your response. First, happily, we can both agree that Christ is also our substitute in the sense that he lived his perfect life in our place, and when we are “in Christ” that sinless perfection is imputed to us. Reformed theology has always insisted on this point over and against Roman Catholicism. However, this truth complements and completes the penal substitutionary aspect of Christ’s death; it does not overturn or contradict it.
Moving on to our disagreement, I object to your assertion that the excerpts do not explicitly teach penal substitution. Consider the following excerpt from Cyril of Alexandria (375-444): “The Only-begotten was made man, bore a body by nature at enmity with death, and became flesh, so that, enduring the death which was hanging over us as the result of our sin, he might abolish sin; and further, that he might put an end to the accusations of Satan, inasmuch as we have paid in Christ himself the penalties for the charges of sin against us: ‘For he bore our sins, and was wounded because of us’, according to the voice of the prophet. Or are we not healed by his wounds?” (De adoratione et cultu in spiritu et veritate iii, 100–102, in J. P. Migne (ed.), Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Series Graeca, vol. 68 (Paris, 1857–), pp. 293, 296.)
When Cyril says that in Christ’s death, Christ himself “paid… the penalties for the charges of sin against us” this seems to clearly mean that in the death of Christ the divine judgment due to us for our sin was laid upon Christ, our substitute, thus sparing us from the condemnation we deserved. Do you believe that this is not what Cyril intended here?
For the sake of time, I have only posted Cyril’s short quote, but I have looked at the others provided on the link and find penal substitution taught in them. Perhaps we will just have to let the readers decide for themselves. That link again is: http://piercedforourtransgressions.com/content/view/87/52/



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Darren King

posted April 11, 2009 at 1:01 pm


Sara,
I appreciate your desire to deepen the conversation with a longer, less “off-the-cuff” kind of post. Unfortunately, longer posts, as comments, don’t work so well. Some people – not saying you, but some – can be awfully long-winded. And there’s nothing more frustrating than going with the flow of a thread of comments, and then getting bogged down by a novella half way down. It just disrupts the flow. I guess genre awareness is key here. Like Tony said, once a post gets beyond a certain length – I’d say three or four paragraphs – one really should just post a link. That way people can, and here’s the key – CHOOSE – to entertain said novella.
And on Tony’s initial post, all I’ll say is there are many shades to atonement. Nuance is important. It doesn’t have to be a take-it-or-leave-it kind of thing that some of a more fundamentalist bent are suggesting here. The gospel is multi-faceted – a redemption engine, if you will, whose effects are broad-reaching. Personally I don’t resonate with the idea that God is some mathematician in the sky – scheming to find some way to complete a cosmic equation – who lands on the idea of son as sacrifice. Reading some thoughts here, one really does get the impression that some people think of God in such terms.



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ryan

posted April 11, 2009 at 1:14 pm


Oh Aaron don’t you realize your just proof texting Church Fathers? There is no way it actually means what it says, you are simply making it say what you want (sarcasm intended).
Simply put I am not sure how one deals with a clear indication from Genesis to Romans that the wages of sin is death. If Christ on the Cross does not pay that wage for us, and take the death we deserve, then there is no way to read the Biblical narrative without coming to the conclusion that we are still sentenced to death.
Yes Jesus did show his solidarity with humanity, but this was done in the incarnation (Christmas). The Cross is how Jesus saved us from death and separation from God.



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Jim W

posted April 11, 2009 at 1:37 pm


So, Tony, the whole Old Testament is not pointing to Jesus, the Messiah? It is only “alternative trajectories”?



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Palestine Christian

posted April 11, 2009 at 2:16 pm


I knew I would regret getting involved in this debate because it would require me to think more than usual and express those thoughts into written words lol. Here goes.
God did not allow the crucifixion because He was inflicting necessary punishment for mankind’s sins on a substitute. That idea is all the more a ridiculous thought because Jesus was totally innocent of any sin – you can’t make up for the lack of punishment for a guilty person by killing a totally innocent person instead. That’s like Mother Terresa coming forward and agreeing to be executed in the place of Charles Manson or Hitler in exchange for their release. That has nothing to do with Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross.
Christ’s death on the Cross was rather a sacrificial death in the sense that He so loved us, that He was willing to die a cruel death for us to convince us that the road in life away from God that we had taken starting with our first mother and father is wrong and should not be followed. He set up for us the example of the way Adam should have originally been, a loving, dedicated child of His Creator. He showed us by His life that no matter what temptations we endure, we need not succumb to them.
If we turn away from our sins and turn back to God, then Christ’s sacrifice not only will work to heal us spiritually but physically as well by enabling us to partake of His Blood and Body and to be renewed bodily as well. Our nature (both soul and body) will ultimately be transformed to that perfect state that the first Adam was meant for through our acceptance of and participation in the perfect Christ’s redeeming actions. When we partook of the apple in paradise, it transformed our body into a body of death (incidentally, for our benefit, otherwise our evil would have endured forever), but now when we partake of Christ’s Body and Blood, we are ultimately transformed into the new Adam’s perfect state and become sons of God by adoption.
The beautiful poetry of the Bible (as in Isaiah) is simply that, beautiful poetic descriptions of the awesome sacrifice of the Son of God for mankind – not support for a new theory of penal substitution by self-described 16th century reformers. If you really believe that it was the Father who crushed Christ on the Cross, you need to reflect deeply on where your extreme ideas have taken you. God neither desired nor took pleasure in seeing His Only-Begotten Son crucified by evil humans – for they were undoubtedly evil humans at the time that did this. The Father did take pleasure and many times expressed this in the Gospels, in His Son’s loving sacrifice of Himself for the sake of mankind’s salvation (not for satisfaction of some necessity of revenge in God’s nature, perish that evil thought!) – the loving sacrifice in enduring the most dreadful and humiliating death at the hands of His own creation that had stayed astray in doing evil, all for the sole, loving purpose of mankind’s salvation.
I can go on and on but the point is quite simple: God did not exact necessary substitute punishment on His own Son but rather accepted the loving voluntary death of His Son in the ultimate effort by God to return man to Himself (a totally gracious act, undeserved by sinning mankind, which is why the Fathers of the Church always emphasized the impenetrable depth of God’s love for us). As in the Garden of Eden, man still has the freedom of choice, repent and return to God, or reject Him and continue wallowing in your chosen evil state, this time for eternity.
Again, God Bless you all during this Holy Season of Lent and bring you ever closer to Him and His Truth in your lifetimes.
Palestinian Arab Orthodox Christian



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Charlie

posted April 11, 2009 at 2:53 pm


Our rector began a few sermons ago with a quote, perhaps from McLaren, that I think puts the fine point on all of this for me. It certainly was revolutionary to my mind. I’ve always had trouble with the depiction of God as being consumed with blood lust. It never has rung true with the more relational God of my Christian experience.
He said…
“Christ wasn’t crucified to change God’s opinion of you. He died to change your opinion of God.”
Well said, methinks.



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Thom

posted April 11, 2009 at 3:43 pm


Charlie –
That’s the entire thesis of Rob Bell’s “The Gods Aren’t Angry” DVD as well, if you wanted to explore the idea further. I think it’s pretty bankrupt personally but maybe it’ll resonate with you :)
T



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Stego

posted April 11, 2009 at 4:03 pm


Romans 5:8,9 But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
Glatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Heb 9:12 …he entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption.
1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree
Heb 13:12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
1 John 1:7 …and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Just the TIP of the ICEBERG.
You are correct in saying that Christ did not die for your sins. But he did suffer and die for my sins, and for the sins of all his people, the sheep of his flock. You do not hear the voice of the Shepherd because you are not his sheep. It’s really that simple.



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Larry

posted April 11, 2009 at 4:11 pm


Do you believe that this is not what Cyril intended here?
No, Cyril appears to talking ransom here, not penal substitution, the reference to Satan seems to point that way, as well. I could be wrong, of course, the passage cited is short and the work that it is contained in is obscure; I could not find an English version on-line to check its context. That you have to use such an obscure source, and one rather ambiguously worded at that, says much about the supposed use of penal substitution by the Church fathers. Cyril’s main concern was Christology, and I suspect that was his main concern here, he was not writing primarily about the atonement, so his language can easily be forgiven, but should not be used as any kind of defining statement about what he believed, either.



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Darren King

posted April 11, 2009 at 4:25 pm


Stego,
Whatever credibility you began with at the outset of your comment, you completely lost by the end. My friend you are a cult unto yourself.
And I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. I just really think your behavior/definitions are cultish.



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Larry

posted April 11, 2009 at 4:26 pm


Another thing, from other sources it appears that Cyril held to a ransom theory of atonement, from his Commentary on Romans:
Paul says: Accept one another as Christ accepted you, for the glory of God. Now accepting one another means being willing to share one another’s thoughts and feelings, bearing one another’s burdens, and preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This is how God accepted us in Christ, for John’s testimony is true and he said that God the Father loved the world so much that he gave his own Son for us. God’s Son was given as a ransom for the lives of us all. He has delivered us from death, redeemed us from death and from sin.



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Your Name

posted April 11, 2009 at 4:29 pm


How are we justified by His Blood? By accepting His sacrfice and changing our evil ways. God does not desire sacrifice but mercy. Instead of blindly citing Biblical passages, try to understand them. Don’t let the iceberg tip over and crush you ;-). Be careful about your judgmental pronouncements, for Jesus also made clear that one of His main metrics in determining whether you are truly reformed is your own meteric in dealing with your fellow humans.
Mind you, I’m not saying the literal Blood of Christ has no purpose. Unlike most protestants, we Orthodox believe that we actually partake of the Blood of Christ and this is a profound part of our ultimate salvation and becoming sons of God by adoption. We follow the Word of God as handed down by His Church.
Palestine Christian



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Aaron S.

posted April 11, 2009 at 4:51 pm


Larry writes: “No, Cyril appears to talking ransom here, not penal substitution, the reference to Satan seems to point that way, as well.”
The reference to Satan is invoking the idea of Satan as our accuser (see Revelation 12): Christ “put an end to the accusations of Satan, inasmuch as we have paid in Christ himself the penalties for the charges of sin against us.” Satan correctly accuses us before the God as having violated God’s law and thus being liable to just punishment (again, see Rev. 12). However, in Christ, Satan’s power over us is broken; Satan’s accusations against us no longer have force because, as Cyril puts it, “we have paid in Christ himself the penalties for the charges of sin against us.” The penalty for sin has been paid for us by Christ. I read that as penal substitutionary language; you do not. Given that he speaks directly and explicitly about Christ’s death as paying the penalty for our sins, I am at a loss to understand Cyril’s language as not pointing to penal substitution. At this point, I suppose we will have to let the reader decide which explanation makes more sense of Cyril’s quote.
As a side note, in Cyril’s quote (http://piercedforourtransgressions.com/content/view/87/52/) we have a wonderful example of the way in which penal substitution actually makes intelligible all of the other ways in which the Bible discusses the atonement. The defeat of Satan makes sense when penal substitution is properly understood as foundational. Without an understanding of Christ as our penal substitute on the cross people are often hard pressed to explain exactly *how* the cross accomplishes anything. They will insist that something was accomplished, but are less clear as to the mechanism by which that something was effected. Penal substitution does not imply that other understandings of Christ’s cross are to be disregarded or cheapened. Quite the contrary — with a penal substitutionary foundation we are actually enabled to speak of Christus Victor and Christ as our moral example, etc. in meaningful and powerful ways.



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Mike Burch

posted April 11, 2009 at 5:09 pm


Darren King and “Your Name”,
I trust this finds you both well.
Darren,
I’d be interested in knowing specifically why Stego and his “behavior/definitions are cultish.” Can you, perhaps, flesh this out? Also, what say you concerning his/her actual points and Scripture references? Can you articulate what definitions and/or paradigms might be more appropriate?
“Your Name”,
I curious as to your insight concerning biblical hermeneutics. You state (concerning Stego’s response), “Instead of blindly citing Biblical passages, try to understand them.” Stego is obviously not privy to your biblical understanding concerning Christ’s blood, Cross, sacrifice, etc. and needs to be informed. If Stego is truly employing biblical passages in an irresponsible manner, this presupposes you are not and have a clear apprehension of the Scriptures he/she quoted. Can you help Stego understand them, lest he continue “blindly citing Biblical passages” in error?
I’m anxious for your responses,
MB



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ryan

posted April 11, 2009 at 5:12 pm


Reading the Biblical narrative and thinking that substitutionary atonement is not there, is akin to reading the Bible and thinking God does not have a heart for the poor; you really have to take a black highlighter to not only entire chapters but books of the Bible for that matter.
So the next time an emergent gets on their soapbox about the gospel being primarily social justice in nature, I will simply claim that they are reading into Matt. 25 what they want to read and it is really not there at all.



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Scott M

posted April 11, 2009 at 5:25 pm


ryan, you seem to be conflating ‘substitution’ with ‘penal substitution’. The former is all over the place in the Holy Scriptures. The latter? Nowhere unless you add to what is present. They are not the same idea at all.



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Your Name

posted April 11, 2009 at 5:42 pm


Baruch,
Yes, quite easily, the Church. But I suspect you won’t find that prospect very apetitizing. I do a lot of reading when I can on the Fathers of the Church, one of my favorites being St. John Chrysostom. From them and from the Church’s liturgical texts, etc., we find a wealth of wisdom and knowledge on the meaning of the Bible. Sometimes, synods/councils are convened to address challenges to the Church’s understanding of Biblical truths. Thus, they are also a great source of Biblical understanding.
Palestinian Arab Orthodox Christian



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ryan

posted April 11, 2009 at 5:45 pm


Not confusing them at all Scott M. 1 Cor. 15:3 tells us the Christ died for our sins, he is substituted in our place, for our sins. Then there is 2 Cor. 5:21 which tells us that Jesus became sin for us. The penal portion is inherent to the teaching of substitution we find it scripture. This is unfolded in the narrative from the OT sacrificial system, to the prophecy we see of a Messiah in Isaiah, to the life of Jesus.
In addition, your either being quite disingenuous, or ignorant to claim a penal concept of substitution is “nowhere” present in scripture. A simple word study of propitiation found clearly in 1 John and Romans refutes this point. I would recommend Leon Morris on the topic for your education.



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Larry

posted April 11, 2009 at 6:33 pm


Given that he speaks directly and explicitly about Christ’s death as paying the penalty for our sins,
But to who was the penalty/ransom owed? Given that we know from other sources that Cyril held, at least in part, to a ransom soteriology, it makes far more sense to interpret the passage this way, and say the ransom was owed to Satan, rather than the anachronistic notion that Cyril held to penal substitution.
Furthermore, the fact that the authors of that web site that you are so proud of did not mention the fact that Cyril believed in ransom theology does not speak well of their intellectual integrity.



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Kenneth

posted April 11, 2009 at 7:04 pm


“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, SMITTEN BY GOD, and afflicted.
But he was wounded FOR our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD HAS LAID ON HIM
the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:4-6
“And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet[Isaiah] say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” Acts 8:34-35
To not see penal substitution in the Bible is to not see the Bible.



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Aaron S.

posted April 11, 2009 at 7:22 pm


Larry writes: “No, Cyril appears to talking ransom here, not penal substitution, the reference to Satan seems to point that way, as well.”
The reference to Satan is invoking the idea of Satan as our accuser (see Revelation 12): Christ “put an end to the accusations of Satan, inasmuch as we have paid in Christ himself the penalties for the charges of sin against us.” Satan correctly accuses us before the God as having violated God’s law and thus being liable to just punishment (again, see Rev. 12). However, in Christ, Satan’s power over us is broken; Satan’s accusations against us no longer have force because, as Cyril puts it, “we have paid in Christ himself the penalties for the charges of sin against us.” The penalty for sin has been paid for us by Christ. I read that as penal substitutionary language; you do not. Given that he speaks directly and explicitly about Christ’s death as paying the penalty for our sins, I am at a loss to understand Cyril’s language as not pointing to penal substitution. At this point, I suppose we will have to let the reader decide which explanation makes more sense of Cyril’s quote.
As a side note, in Cyril’s quote (http://piercedforourtransgressions.com/content/view/87/52/) we have a wonderful example of the way in which penal substitution actually makes intelligible all of the other ways in which the Bible discusses the atonement. The defeat of Satan makes sense when penal substitution is properly understood as foundational. Without an understanding of Christ as our penal substitute on the cross people are often hard pressed to explain exactly *how* the cross accomplishes anything. They will insist that something was accomplished, but are less clear as to the mechanism by which that something was effected. Penal substitution does not imply that other understandings of Christ’s cross are to be disregarded or cheapened. Quite the contrary — with a penal substitutionary foundation we are actually enabled to speak of Christus Victor and Christ as our moral example, etc. in meaningful and powerful ways.



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Aaron S.

posted April 11, 2009 at 7:24 pm


Larry, this will be my last post so you can have the last word. But, before you publicly impugn the integrity of your brothers in Christ, I would urge you to carefully consider the point at issue: no one, not me, nor the authors of the website in question, are arguing that the fully developed penal substitutionary theory articulated by the Reformed tradition was represented consistently or completely by the early church fathers.
The point that we seek to establish is this: it is historically inaccurate to maintain that penal substitution emerged out of thin air in the 16th century, lacking any meaningful historical pedigree. The quotation from Cyril and the others present on the website referenced demonstrate that the idea of Christ paying the penalty for our sins was present among the early church fathers in some inchoate form. That’s it. It’s a modest point really.
Let me leave with you with three brief final thoughts on the nature of doctrinal development:
1) Doctrine has been developed by the church over time. Just because the early church couldn’t properly articulate the Chalcedonian formula doesn’t invalidate a two-natures Christology. It just means that people hadn’t put all the Scriptural puzzle pieces together yet. Support from the early church fathers can be found for all sorts of theological ideas including penal substitution. The development of doctrine was early at that point so this diversity should not surprise us.
2) The Roman Catholic Church does not teach penal substitution. Therefore, as their grip on the church strengthened, it became increasingly impossible for any sort of biblically sound atonement theory to emerge. The birth of penal substitution required a Reformation, and so it is not valid to use the doctrine’s late emergence as an argument against its validity. (P.S. Because this is my last post, I will anticipate now those who will undoubtedly protest, “But Anselm invented penal substitution and he was Catholic!” This is incorrect. Anslem, contra Tony Jones in his book and many others who should know better, did not teach penal substitution. He taught that Christ earned a surplus of merit and then distributed it to his people. This is called supererogation and it is not penal substitution. I know this will surprise many, but it is simply a theologically fact. For a fuller explanation check out Louis Berkhoff’s Systematic Theology, Part III, chap. V.)
3) The whole point amounts to little because our authority is Scripture, not a historical vote. I know that we all know this but it is worth remembering since those who deny penal substitution seem to make much of what they believe to be a lack of historical penal substitution advocates. Penal substitution was, in fact, taught by many church fathers but, at the end of the day, who cares?
Finally, a word to any Christian brothers or sisters who might be feeling confused amid all this controversy: don’t be discouraged! Go read a book that takes the Bible seriously like Pierced for Our Transgressions or John Stott’s The Cross of Christ. There you will find meaningful exegesis with the relevant biblical texts and you can judge for yourselves what the Bible teaches. Don’t listen to some random guy on the internet, myself or anyone else. If you actually study Scripture seriously, I promise that you will be encouraged by what you find. The Bible is God’s Word and it teaches a coherent message regarding the cross, one grounded in the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ. The case is overwhelming and I urge you to study for yourselves.



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Scott Cline

posted April 11, 2009 at 7:40 pm


Bravo, Ryan, Kenneth, and Aaron. God punished God to appease God.
If this doctrine were best described as “defensible,” I’d defend it; but, a better adjective is “obvious,” and I feel silly pointing out its conspicuousness.
Tony can find solidarity with Abelard in hell.



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Darren King

posted April 11, 2009 at 8:28 pm


Mike,
Somehow I get the feeling your position is similar to Stego’s, and that’s why you’re ready to pounce on an “orthodox” definition of cult – from within your narrow definition of “orthodoxy”.
Generally though, when Stego writes: “You do not hear the voice of the Shepherd because you are not his sheep. It’s really that simple…” he really is not allowing for any kind of dialog around issues that have a multitude of interpretations. Rather, he’s doing quite the opposite, he’s claiming sole possession of truth and probably condemning three-quarters of the Christians, let alone people, on the face of the earth, to his conception of a fiery Hell hole.
Now, a term like “cult” has numerous usages; some good, some bad. But I’m using it in the sense that one maintains absolute control by assuming divine rights. That’s basically what Stego is doing when he won’t even engage in a discussion on interpretation. Merely stating scripture verses, out of context, and without cultural, textual, interpretive tradition considerations, is a lot like something David Koresh might have done.



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Sara

posted April 11, 2009 at 8:36 pm


Why do privilege brief comments as apposed to nuanced ones? Seems kinda shallow.



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Tony Jones

posted April 11, 2009 at 9:29 pm


Because, Sara, you’re writing blog posts here, not comments. That’s why I’m deleting your “comments.” Also the time elapsed between the comments shows that you’re not writing them You’re copying and pasting them from elsewhere. Maybe a term paper or something, because they really don’t respond to my initial comment. They’re really posts unto themselves.
So, have at it…on your own blog.
And for those of you who think that *penal* substitution was clearly attributed by the Church Fathers, it wasn’t. Not even close. It grew in parallel with the Western legal mind. Why do you think that Anselm’s *Cur Deus Homo* was within about 100 years of the Magna Carta?
PSA theory has always appealed to the most legalistic minds. It still does.



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Larry

posted April 11, 2009 at 9:43 pm


But, before you publicly impugn the integrity of your brothers in Christ, I would urge you to carefully consider the point at issue: no one, not me, nor the authors of the website in question, are arguing that the fully developed penal substitutionary theory articulated by the Reformed tradition was represented consistently or completely by the early church fathers.
You worry about me accusing someone of being intellectually dishonest with good cause, but at the same time there are dozen or so posts on this thread impugning the Christianity of anybody who has any doubts at all about substitutionary atonement? Beam, speck, etc.
Tony is right about the development of PSA, it is mainly an attempt to formulate the gospel in terms of Roman law, but I don’t think Roman law (which was being re-adopted in the later Middle Ages during the time of Anselm) is a useful framework for understanding the gospel, and as far as I can tell neither did the Fathers. It was Roman law, after all, that crucified our Lord.



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Michael Stephan

posted April 11, 2009 at 9:50 pm


Penal Substitution came from the Bible, plain and simple. Paul taught it, the writer of Hebrews taught it, the OT law demanded it, the sacrificial system demonstrated it, and the Prophets foretold it. It is an “Eastern” concept because the Bible is an “Eastern book” (at least written by eastern minds brought along by the Holy Spirit).
If it is legalistic because God demands obedience to His law. He wrote it.
If we hang on the cross then we are doomed.
Thank you God for hanging in my place, as God and man, and for making Jesus Lord and Christ. He is the only way we can be saved because our punishment rests on Him. By His wounds we are healed.
Mike



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Sara

posted April 11, 2009 at 10:05 pm


It’s time we let our atonement theologies emerge – as they have been emerging for 2,000 years. Tony has presented a pretty standard postmodern evangelical perspective. That’s fine. But I think we need to dig even deeper. The “Christ event” was a major event and the crucifixion was a deep trauma for the disciples. The person they knew as he person they variously knew as rabbi, liberator, friend, son, brother, Son of God, Son of Man, Immanuel, etc. was executed by the Roman authorities. It would have been very difficult for the disciples to live in the immobilizing bog of endless questions, which in turn probably had endless possible answers. They had to find and/or create meaning out of this event in order to come to some level of emotional, psychological, and spiritual clarity and resolution. Humans are meaning-making creatures. They had to make this tragic event into something positive. They had to make something bad look like something good. So, over time, various models of atonement were developed to explain how the execution of Jesus could be beneficial for those who followed him. And with those atonement theories, the trauma of the crucifixion was resolved for some people. It now made some sense. Jesus died for a reason. Jesus died for us. Jesus died for me. This is understand, I would argue needs to be rejected. We need to remember and commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus as a tragic, unjust, and un-ordained event. It could have been different. It should have been different. But it wasn’t. The Roman Empire killed Jesus. He wasn’t killed for our sins. He was killed by the sins of the Roman Empire. He was killed for following God’s will instead of Cesar’s will. Therefore, the cross should be remembered as a symbol of state sponsored terrorism, instead of a symbol of the saving work God has done for us. As Flora Keshgegian argues, “Trauma that is not remembered and dealt with appropriately finds expression in distorted relationally and arrested living. So too with the cross.” So we must face the trauma of the cross in order to effectively be Jesus’ Resurrection Community. The sins of greed, imperialism, tyranny, etc. killed Jesus. And they still do. But living according to God’s values of love, justice, mutuality, etc. brings us face-to-face with the resurrection anew. Let’s face the trauma of the cross so we can embrace the resurrection ever more deeply.



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Michael Douglas

posted April 11, 2009 at 10:12 pm


But Tony, if what you’re saying is true, what then do we do with the Bible? If Christ didn’t come to take the place of sinner, what of the whole Bible? What of the scapegoat that is mentioned in Levitical law? What of the lamb sacrificed for sin? If Christ didn’t take our place on the Cross, if He didn’t die in our place, I’m still in sin because my sin hasn’t been paid for. If I still die, what good does it do that Christ died? To hang out with us? To see what it’s like? To make Jesus’ humanity any more than his divinity is to make God less God, which would be sin. And that God would feel the need to identify with me is idolatry. That makes God seem like He doesn’t quite have a handle on what’s going on, which denies both God’s omnipotence and sovereignty.
So Tony, I ask again, if Christ doesn’t die for sin, what do you do with the Bible? For instance…
“He was wounded for my transgressions. He was crushed for my iniquities.” Isaiah 53:5
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” II Cor. 5:21
Tony, I respect your commitment to the Christian faith, but for God’s sake (I mean that, by the way), please don’t take out parts of the Bible you simply find “distasteful” or ” [not]intellectually challenging.” It is or it isn’t. God doesn’t give us the choice.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Michael Douglas



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Larry

posted April 11, 2009 at 10:25 pm


If Christ didn’t come to take the place of sinner, what of the whole Bible?
What of it? Nobody is denying that Christ was in some sense substitutionary, but the does not necessarily imply _penal_ substitution. Saying “Christ died for me” does not imply penal substitution, there are many other ways of understanding it.
It is interesting that you mention the scapegoat, since Rene Girard has a completely different understanding of the atonement based on the idea that Jesus was provided by God to be a scapegoat for us. But this is still not penal substitution.
I think the problem for those who see PSA everywhere they look in the Bible, is that PSA isn’t in the Bible so much as it is a hermeneutical principle or paradigm that is used to systemize much of what is in the Bible. Since you are viewing the Bible through PSA “goggles”, you see PSA everywhere. This is a problem with paradigms, they tend to be self-validating. Try reading the Bible using different “goggles” and you might be surprised what you see. I know I was, and still am.



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Michael Douglas

posted April 11, 2009 at 10:45 pm


Well, I’m just a young guy who grew up in Alabama, so throwing out names like Rene Girard (whoever he is) doesn’t mean much to me nor should it… (even though I consider myself a pretty smart guy, fairly well-read… after all, I’m am medical student, how dumb could I be?) I kind of tend towards reading, I don’t know… the Bible. And hundreds if not thousands of years of orthodoxy disagree with you, Girard, and every other individual who, in the name of not offending people, deny penal substitutionary atonement. So in the effort of being on the same page, let’s go through it, spelling bee style…
penal – punishment. “Could you use it in a sentence?” “Because of His crime, John was sentenced to prison in the federal penal system. Tiger Woods was penalized for his slow play in the Masters”
substitution – replacing one for another. “Could you use it in a sentence please?” Because John was tired, his soccer coach made a substitution and replaced John with Tim.”
atonement – wrong is forgiven ‘C Y U I I A S, P?” “Christ’s death made atonement for our sins.”
Larry, what am I missing? And please, don’t ever say “What of it” about the Bible. Obviously it means less to you than it does to me (letting Girard discount what it says). But please, if Scripture isn’t enough for you, Don’t call yourself a Christian. IT does a disservice to Christ and confuses the issue.
Yes saying “Christ died for me” says PRECISELY Penal substitutionary Atonement. Died = penal (Christ was punishment by having to die); Christ… for me = substitutionary … doesn’t get much clearer than that.
And to semantize this discussion (viewing PSA through your PSA goggles) does a disservice to both our points
SDG!
MD



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Larry

posted April 11, 2009 at 11:22 pm


But please, if Scripture isn’t enough for you, Don’t call yourself a Christian.
No, scripture is _not_ enough for me, not even close. If its enough for you, please don’t call yourself a Christian, you are a Bible-worshiper.
Yes saying “Christ died for me” says PRECISELY Penal substitutionary Atonement. Died = penal (Christ was punishment by having to die); Christ… for me = substitutionary … doesn’t get much clearer than that.
No, it doesn’t. Look if you were drowning, and I rescued you at the cost of my own life, you, and others, would likely say that I died for you, but my death would be in no sense substitutionary. If you think that saying “Christ died for me” equates to penal substitution, there is nothing that I can say that more clearly demonstrates the goggles that you are viewing scripture through.



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ryan

posted April 12, 2009 at 12:21 am


Micheal don’t get to worried, as someone who read a lot of Girard during seminary, your not missing much.
The curious thing is that emergents are quite loud hypocrites, who simultaneously demand justice for the poor, abused, oppressed, and marginalized, while denying God the same justice by the humans he created to perfectly worship him.
Larry’s example of saving someone who is drowning is not congruent with the Biblical narrative. The wages of sin is death Rom. 6:23 and all who sin are given sentence of death and separation from God.
A PENALTY of death is upon us all, sorry Larry but this is as penal as you get. 1 Cor. 15:3 tells us that Christ dies for our sins. Not his sins, not the sins of cultures, or corporations, but rather humans, each and every one of us. 2 Cor. 5:21 tells us that Jesus who knew no sin, becomes our sin so that we might be reconciled to God.
Dance all you want and continue to pretend that this all due to my lense of looking at scripture but PSA is as clear as day in the text. There is no innocent, non-guilty person who Jesus pulls out of a lake. Rather, there we are humans with a death sentence which Jesus takes upon himself.
Isa. 53:5 “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”
This is not the Reformers Larry, this is the writing of God’s chosen people, and if you were to talk to a Jewish scholar today they would tell you that the OT sacrificial system was unmistakably Penal and Substitution in nature. I should know I am looking right at a Jewish commentary right now.



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skoog

posted April 12, 2009 at 12:43 am


Jesus did pay the penalty:
Rom. 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
Heb. 9:12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.
Heb. 9:22 And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
1John 1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Rev. 5:9 And they *sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
I also believe that there was not just one reason for the cross. The atonement is the cornerstone, as the Bible gives it the greatest emphasis, but it was only the beginning. ”Christus Victor,” ”Eternal Kindness shown throughout the ages“ and many other incredible truths that are in my estimation quite wonderful and worthy of eternal contemplation and grateful praise to God.
However, there are a few things that we must believe, otherwise we do not believe vast sums of scripture.
To put it in relational terms, as we really believe that this is a relationship, if you do not think that God was intensely angered at your sin, then you do not know who God is. It is hard to have a relationship with someone who you fundamentally do not know.
This is why the Bible, and key doctrine are actually important. It does not give us everything, but it does give us the key things that we do need to know to enter into a relationship with God.
Just as we see in a mirror dimly, we can’t make out everything, but we can make out a few for sure, this being one of them:
without the blood of Christ we would suffer the wrath of God.
Thank God forever for Jesus.



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Zach

posted April 12, 2009 at 2:37 am


God created us, knowing we would be imperfect. Sends his literal son, Jesus, to die a miserable death in order to reconcile his imperfect creations back to himself? And we wonder why Christianity in the Western world is nose diving.
It’s like a man who wants to be a father but only if his child will live a mistake free existence. And when the child makes his or her first mistake, the father loses it and is filled with wrath for the child for the rest of the child’s life. How lovely.
Somehow as a father of two, this is seems to me to be complete nonsense.



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Jim W

posted April 12, 2009 at 1:16 pm


Yes, Zach, it is nonsense. God Himself, said it would be to those who are dying. Yet it is the truth. If you don’t believe it, you are among those dying.



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Korey

posted April 12, 2009 at 2:35 pm


It’s interesting how the events of Holy Week are not as contentious as the meaning of those events. I was taught that Jesus’ divinity and His resurrection were the cornerstone of Christian faith (Romans 10:9). This thread sometimes makes it appear as though the meaning of the resurrection (or maybe death as Tony’s new post puts it) is the real cornerstone. It is too constrained for me to subordinate various meanings of the atonement to a single view or to reduce the events to one meaning. Despite all this debate, I’m convinced a multi-layered understanding is compatible with Scripture and for me penal substitution is not the necessary cornerstone. I’m still hopeful there can be reconciliation and communion amongst Christians who subscribe to one or more of these meanings or even to only one, but this sort of conversation makes it plain why Protestant Christianity is so divided. But I can still hope.



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Luke

posted April 12, 2009 at 3:00 pm


Tony, I don’t know how you put up with such uncivil and uncharitable reactions to your thinking, but thank you for daring to challenge the somewhat stagnant norm. I am grateful for your work.



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brian

posted April 12, 2009 at 5:54 pm


“The hope he offers is that, by dying on that cross, the eternal Trinity became forever bound to my humanity.”
What does this even mean Tony?!? This post is not at all in keeping with the biblical narrative…



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Rick

posted April 12, 2009 at 6:12 pm


Tony,
I think it would be great to have a recurring blog between yourself and those who differ concerning Church History (creeds, councils and the like) so that instead of making sweeping statments concerning your version of the story, we can see it from different views.
I’m in if you are.
Greace and peace,



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Sara

posted April 12, 2009 at 7:08 pm


Tony:
When you say “Jesus’ interaction with “the tempter” was not foreordained,” how is this different than Open Theism?
When you say the the miracle healings that Jesus performed “were little in-breakings of the new age,” how is this different then the God of the gaps who acts capriciously in the world? Would this be a moral exercise of divine power?
When you say the crucifixion was “his ultimate act of solidarity with every human being who has experienced godlessness and godforsakenness,” how is that different then liberation theologians that argue that God knows the suffering of the poor because Jesus suffered on the cross as a poor person? Are they some people who experience godlessness and godforsakenness more than others (e.g. rape victims)? Is it helpful to talk about every person in such a blanketed way? Doesn’t eliminating distinctions serve an imperial end? How might this show your own white male privilege?
Is it helpful to lift up the idea that Jesus was “obedient to death – even death on a cross”? Should all people be obedient to death? Should we be Christlike in this way? Should anti-choice activists be obedient unto death in their cause? Should women in abusive relationships be obedient to their husbands unto death? Should social justice activists be obedient to death in the decaying urban and rural places in the USA? Some people use the idea of picking up their cross to justify all sorts of pathological things. What does is the ethics of this kind of theology?
What do you mean by the phrase “eternal Trinity”?
Can God only “be bound to [our] humanity” by “dying on that cross”? Does this mean God wasn’t bound to humanity before the crucifixion of Jesus? Does this mean God wasn’t bound to Jesus’ humanity? Does this mean that God wasn’t bound to the humanity of the Jews? Does this mean that God isn’t bound to the humanity of Muslims?
How can we identify with God? Didn’t Paul say we “see through a glass dimly” and “know only in part”? Isn’t God the enigmatic “I Am Who I Am”? Shouldn’t we “stop helping God across the street like a little old lady” (if you’re confused with this question, listen to U2′s new album)? Are you treading into the waters of certainty here?
How do you hang with Jesus on the cross? How do you do it daily? How can you relate to such gruesome torture, pain, and humiliation? What are you saying? What are you not saying?



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Sara

posted April 12, 2009 at 7:25 pm


Luke:
I don’t think Tony is too much of a martyr. Sure he has to deal with criticism that is sometimes civil and sometimes uncivil, but that’s part of the gig when someone becomes a blogger. He put his thoughts on the internet for all to read and comment upon. What should he expect?
I think the real tragedy is when a blog turns into a “hate-love blog.” In a “hate-love blog,” there are only two types of comments: glowing praise (i.e. love) and malicious attacks (i.e. hate). In both cases there is a loss of thoughtful, nuanced dialogue. It would be totally groovy to stop all that drama and actually engage in a deeper conversation. Hopefully a more generative result would emerge.



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Lee Schlacter

posted April 12, 2009 at 9:33 pm


That’s what I grew up believing. Jesus died to show us God’s love and encourage us to be peaceful loving people. The idea of substitute is difficult to comprehend, and I prefer to think of Jesus as the Way-Shower,teacher, and guide, not as someone who needed to die in my place. I think we’ll all have to answer for our sins, and it would be unjust for someone else to take blame that we deserved. In the end, we do our best, and Jesus is right there to help us.



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JasonBlumer

posted April 12, 2009 at 9:34 pm


Tony-
I gotta say, you use such flowerly language (you’re a great writer) that I don’t know what you are talking about.
Boil it down for us so we’ll know if we should argue with you or not.
Peace and Happy Easter.
Thanks, Jason M. Blumer



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Tyler

posted April 13, 2009 at 12:32 am


What you articulated is clearly part of what’s going on at the cross. But certainly that’s not all of it. There is room for penal substitution. It has a rich and varied history throughout the history of the church you appeal to. What there is not room for is this petty little emergent/neo-Reformed bickering. Please just get over yourselves and move on.
I don’t find your glib dismissal intellectually compelling, but thank you for clearly articulating other aspects of the atonement (even if “your” understanding really belongs to Moltmann).



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Sara

posted April 13, 2009 at 8:48 am


Tyler is right about Tony using Jürgen Moltmann – especially Moltmann’s books “The Crucified God” (the God died stuff) and “Theology of Hope” (the eschatology stuff). I’d add Miroslav Volf too – especially Volf’s image of the Trinity as three inward facing mirrors, where a shattering happens at the crucifixion. It’s clear Tony has been influenced by his time at Fuller. And that’s fine. We all have our influences and foundations.
Tony’s theology in his last two posts sounds decidedly rooted in Bartian Neo-Orthodoxy. It’s what Mainline seminaries taught in the 1960s and 1970s. But theology has come a long way since then. Theologians such as Parker Palmer, Rita Nakashima Brock, Delores Williams, and Kwok Pui-lan have all offered fair critiques and reconstructions for us to consider.
I’d be especially curious to hear what Tony would say about the various kinds of Process Theologies. For example, in Process Theology generally, God doesn’t need to experience the crucifixion in order to be bound to humanity or be share our experiences. In Process Theology’s panentheistic understanding of the Divine, God is already present, relational, experiential, active, etc. Also, Process Theology gets rid of the “God of the gaps” problem by suggesting that God is always at work in our world, not capriciously active with a few miracles here and there.
While Process Theology began rather academically, it has now become quite practical in it’s application. It’s a way that pastors can affirm the Biblical ideas of God being present and active in human life, while also building ethical theological framework that is relevant to modern science such as chaos theory. In this model, God is always at work, beckoning the world to salvific ends. God and the world work together. God calls. We answer. Humanity has the responsibility to follow the call of God in our lives.
Easter never happened – it always happens. Easter is what God does all the time. God is constantly offering us second chances and resurrections each day.



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Jeff

posted April 13, 2009 at 9:22 am


I think it is a difficult argument to make — that the death of Jesus on the cross did not have an element of atonement. Certainly the author of Tony’s scriptural quote believed there was. But I would not argue against those aspects of Jeus life and ministry added to his message of love from God to us, but Jesus was much more than a teacher. I cannot agree with those who say that they reject the notion that Jesus died in their place. Jeus himself said that there is no way that we can show greater love for others than by giving up our lives for them. Jesus died so we can live. How it worked we can debate, but will not know until we know completely as we have been completely known.



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Liz

posted April 13, 2009 at 9:32 am


I wonder why we as Christians find it necessary to make the Romans into the scapegoat regarding the Crucifixion. Even using Pilate’s name in the Nicene Creed annoys me. Pilate kept stating he found nothing to condemn the man over. He washed his hands of it — literally and figuratively. It was Jesus’ own peers who made the choice. When offered the choice, it was the Jews, not the Roman governor, who chose Jesus over Barabbas. But then again, it is ew, his followers, who keep on hammering more nails into his cross even today.



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Joe

posted April 13, 2009 at 9:44 am


Interesting discussion. I agree with most everything you said, but I am not sure why the penal atonement cannot be just one aspect of the work of the cross… I certainly agree with the other aspects of what you said about divinity and humanity … but can’t the cross be a lot bigger than either the resurgent reformed or you are claiming? Can it not be “both/and”?



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rootsandruins

posted April 13, 2009 at 12:19 pm


I always think it’s funny that Christians will support the idea of vicarious redemption for sins and not understand how blatantly IMMORAL that concept is. If I really care about you, I can pay your fine if you do something wrong, I could even ask to serve the time in jail in your place, but one thing I could never do is take away your responsibility for your actions. Personal responsibility for actions is the only concrete base we have for human morality and Christians are so happy to give that away to Jesus on the cross. It’s weak. It’s immoral. It’s just plain wrong. Jesus didn’t die for your sins. He died because of other people’s. Serving a “god” who requires a blood sacrifice in order to forgive you is not only stupid, it’s dangerous. All hail the petty jealous genocidal god of bronze age Palestine!



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@AndyCatsimanes

posted April 13, 2009 at 1:26 pm


After reading several of Mr. Jones posts on this, I’m tempted to wonder if it’s because he finds a particular theory of atonement neither spiritually or intellectually compelling, that he also finds it not in keeping with the biblical narrative.
I also wonder if he finds any theory of the atonement compelling and in keeping with the biblical narrative.
Our subjective feelings toward any biblical precept have exactly zero to do with its truth or falsity.
I do agree with Dallas Willard that a certain theory of atonement – seemingly the same theory Mr. Jones finds problematic – has been promoted at the (perhaps unintended) cost of relegating discipleship to the “non-essential” category.
I also agree with those who observe that Mr. Jones at times appears more concerned with appearing provocative than with a clear exposition of his position.
What one would perhaps like to see from Mr. Jones is an unambiguous statement as to whether he finds room for any sense of atonement in the biblical narrative, whether or not he finds it intellectually or spiritually compelling.



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nathan

posted April 13, 2009 at 10:58 pm


Ok…it’s been a while.
All I’ll say is that I’ve seen that site that Mr. Rosebrough has pointed people to on other blogs as well.
If we want to have a “thick discussion” about the teaching of the Church Fathers with respect to the atonement, I’d be happy to oblige. We’d probably have to do it via email.



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nathan

posted April 13, 2009 at 11:04 pm


Aaron S, Ryan, Larry, et. al having the discussion about the Church Fathers…
Mr. Rosebrough has cited that website on other blogs elsewhere. And has been roundly answered. He never returned to give a response to the historical rebuttle that was given to him.
He can come here and start linking all he wants, but it’s just not the case.
It’s sloppy, dishonest and lazy to “bold” a couple sentences from the dense and nuanced writing of the Fathers taken out of their context.
If you want to assert the Fathers believed in PSA you’ll have to go toe to toe with some amazing scholarship and the facts of their historical context and the issues that shaped their writing.
It probably would all have to happen on email, as it is.



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nathan

posted April 13, 2009 at 11:10 pm


As a courtesy here’s the link where Mr. Rosebrough posted that site and was answered:
http://christianresearchnetwork.info/2009/03/23/atonement-repost/#comments
Also, here’s the rebuttle about the Athanasius and Cyril passages at that site:
the highlighted passages in Athanasius do not speak of PSA, but are speaking of “death” in relation to our corruptible nature and how “salvation” for the early church fathers was a matter of restored stability in the material body, not merely the ascent to the sweet by and by.
It is his articulation of the Logos’ creative salvation.
This has a lot to do with the hellenistic ideals about the nature of God and the new creative act of God by the power of the Logos.
Athanasius is making a case for the eternal deity of the Logos that is still in keeping with hellenistic articulations of God’s impassibility and self-contained perfection.
So…Fail.
Re: Cyril…
Cyril was the key voice to speak of the Logos not just merely taking on human form, but taking up all of humanity in himself.
His highlighted phrase is not PSA.
The early church never denied that God said in the garden that people would die if they turned from God.
Our physical deaths do hang over us since the garden.
The Fathers operated under the understanding that if our first parents had not sinned, humans would not experience physical death.
Again, we’re talking about physical corruption and instability as judgement.
that’s just for starters:



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Mark

posted April 14, 2009 at 2:56 am


“I firmly believe, in unity with the Council of Chalcedon, that Jesus of Nazareth was both fully human and fully divine… If Jesus was a little less than fully either, then his death means something different than what I think it means… Nor did Jesus know that he was divine in such a way that he wouldn’t cave in to the temptations before him. Had Jesus been cognizant of his divinity, he would not have been truly tempted.”
Please explain how Jesus can both be (a) fully divine and (b) completely unaware of this, if Jesus is divine in any remotely meaningful sense.



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Palestine Christian

posted April 14, 2009 at 2:58 am


Early on in this discussion I brought up The River of Fire by Alexander Kalomiros. I have since discovered a couple of interesting rebuttals that I feel must be considered. They are:
“THE RIVER OF FIRE” REVISITED by Vladimir Moss
http://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/articles/207/%E2%80%9C-river-fire%E2%80%9D-revisited/
THE NEW SOTERIOLOGY: (1) ORIGINAL SIN by Vladimir Moss
http://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/articles/258/-new-soteriology-(1)-original-sin/
The following article also deals with this issue:
http://www.stpaulsirvine.org/html/Justification.htm
While the issue of original sin is not the subject of this discussion, it is interrelated and The New Soteriology article is well worth reading on this. I would greatly appreciate other articles or comments on this from an Orthodox perspective, including directing me to a different blog where this might be the main topic.
God Bless you all during this Holy Season and bring you ever closer to Him and His Truth in your lifetimes.
Palestinian Arab Orthodox Christian



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Sara

posted April 14, 2009 at 9:05 am


And there was silence.



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Sara

posted April 14, 2009 at 2:04 pm


One of the most problematic aspects of traditional atonement theologies, from the standpoint of those concerned about the relationship between theological violence and “real” violence, is the notion that Jesus endured his suffering and death willingly. Many battered woman will persist in returning to increasingly dangerous relationships because of the idea of the “turn the other cheek” or “following Jesus’ example” theologies.



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Byron

posted April 14, 2009 at 4:56 pm


Nothing short of heresy, Tony; nothing short of heresy. And Sara, with all due respect, I find your words astonishing, I really do. Battered women who seek counsel from any responsible pastor or counselor would be told that the substitutionary atonement of Christ in no way, shape, or form can be twisted into “go back and turn the other cheek to your abusive husband, in order to follow Jesus’ example”.



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nathan

posted April 14, 2009 at 5:11 pm


Byron,
Would PSA even figure in that discussion in the first place?
Given the counselor is “responsible”?



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nathan

posted April 14, 2009 at 5:13 pm


Byron,
Why is seeing PSA as one part of a constellation of ways of speaking about the atonement wrong?
why is it wrong to say that we benefit from these different ways of articulating it, but not wanting to privilege one over others?
How is that heresy?



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Byron

posted April 14, 2009 at 10:22 pm


No, Nathan, I don’t know how PSA would figure into such a discussion. As to the second comment, it doesn’t seem to me that that’s what Tony is saying at all, that’s it’s “one part of a constellation”; Tony wrote,
“Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.”
Am I reading it wrong, or is that an out-and-out denial of the entire Biblical concept of propitiation? I don’t know how else to read that; perhaps Tony can clarify if I’m misreading him, but it would be heresy to deny propitiation.



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Stego

posted April 15, 2009 at 12:22 am


Darren, you said: “… [Stego is] claiming sole possession of truth and probably condemning three-quarters of the Christians, let alone people, on the face of the earth, to his conception of a fiery Hell hole.”
Actually Christ condemns those who do not hear his voice to the firey hole of Hell. If one denies the substitutionary death of Christ, that person proves what he is, a goat, and not a sheep. Christ’s sheep know his voice, and follow him, and will not follow another. Only “another” will tell us that Christ’s death was not for penal substitution, and those who listen to “another” are not Christ’s sheep. Where do those who are not Christ’s sheep end up? Could it be the firey hole of Hell?
Perhaps I wouldn’t have been considered so cultish if I’d added “Repent of your wicked heresy and embrace Jesus AS HE IS OFFERED IN THE GOSPEL, and stop erecting your postmodern idol, or you will indeed burn in Hell.”
Truly, I don’t worry too much if an “emergent” considers my thoughts on the cross of Christ as being ignorant, shallow, cult-ish or whatever. It’s sort of like having a kid who thinks babies come from the stork telling another person who KNOWS where babies come from that they’re delusional. Yeah.



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nathan

posted April 15, 2009 at 9:57 am


Byron,
I would say that Tony’s subsequent posts clarify that he just denies PSA “pride of place”.
Stego,
I don’t think Tony denies the death of Christ and it’s central significance for the whole universe.
We aren’t saved by mental assent to a particular articulation of the economics of atonement.
We’re saved by Jesus.



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Byron

posted April 15, 2009 at 1:34 pm


Then it would seem, Nathan, that at the very least, Tony is communicating his beliefs VERY poorly, because when the wording is as strong and as unqualified as he made it, such that it requires parsing various “other posts” to discern how he really feels, then it seems to me he needs to rethink his communication strategy. The cynic in me wonders if this falls into the Brian McLaren School of Communication, whereby something provocative/outlandish is stated, others call him on it, and then his response is, “why would they think I meant that? How did they get that interpretation from what I said?” McLaren has done this on enough occasions that I’m no longer interested in hearing him communicate much of anything, frankly.



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Theresa Seeber

posted April 15, 2009 at 6:11 pm


I am typing my first comment to this post with a broken heart.
Tony, you astound me, and ever amaze me. I read your post and was filled with peace and joy. I thought to myself, I will share this link on facebook and add the comment, “This is my favorite place to blog,” or maybe even, “To all of you critics-of-emergent, read this and be blessed by a fellow believer in and lover of Christ.” I thought, how can you argue with this? I actually felt much of the stress of my day ebb away as the Lord ministered to me through your words.
Then I saw the link that said “124 Comments” and my heart sank a little. As I read said comments my heart sank a lot. My eyes are wet and my heart is aching, as I seek to live a life steeped in God’s goodness, in his desires for unity and peace and love among his people. Yet here, in what really is my favorite place to blog, my favorite blogger is repeatedly bludgeoned by other followers of Christ who … who what? I don’t know what to say here. Who refuse to see the Father in Tony because they were warned that emergent is evil? Who don’t understand what it means to have a theological conversation about our understandings of the Scriptures? Who want to fight with anybody who disagrees with their ideas? I don’t know what. I guess we all have our own motivations for doing what we do. But I am grieving. And I believe God grieves with me.
Tony, I am ever beside you, praying for you, blogging with you, and thinking you are completely the bomb! ;-) I will choose peace and happiness, regardless of the attacks I have witnessed here (again) today. You must really have tough skin. I couldn’t provide the forum you do for such reactionary people.
Had half of you heard this as a sermon ten years ago in your church services, before ever hearing the term emergent, would you have torn your pastor apart the way you do Tony? Take him at his word alone, not at your fears or the lies you have been told about him. Please. Have a heart. We are Christians! We are supposed to be known by our love for one another.



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nathan

posted April 15, 2009 at 7:09 pm


Byron,
I can certainly understand your last point.
In general, when we know that any given issue is or can be a real flash point it is wise to make careful precise statements.
I know some people think “nuance” is a dirty word (not saying this applies to you), but I can say that it would be more helpful to have condensed the position into less posts. Thus avoiding some charges/problems and allowing people to see the shades that are being painted in Tony’s perspective.



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Barb

posted April 16, 2009 at 10:02 pm


I don’t understand the beef that some of you have with Tony’s expression of the meaning of Christ’s temptation, ministry, and death on the cross. I grew up in a very conservative evangelical Christian tradition, and I find his expression totally consistent with my understanding of scriptural teaching. I agree with Nathan and Theresa. I believe Tony expressed the gospel very well in his post, and I don’t understand why people are so ready to attack him –sort of like the scribes and Pharisees attacked Jesus!
Tony, God bless you and keep giving you courage to teach the world the gospel. I don’t care about what label anybody uses, and I don’t think God cares either. The important thing is the substance of the biblical message. And I notice that your detractors, while insisting on their own position, have not cited a single scripture in support of that position.
Keep preaching, brother Tony! Maybe eventually the modern-day scribes and Pharisees will see the light of God’s love and worship God instead of a particular ideology.



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Theresa Seeber

posted April 17, 2009 at 11:48 am


Barb, I don’t know you, but you rock.



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mike greiner

posted April 17, 2009 at 8:20 pm


Theresa, I’m sorry for your sorrow. But you are making a grave error. you are basing truth on whether you feel Tony is a filled with God’s goodness. That is a self-centered approach to truth. We must forsake even self to follow Jesus.
And, yes, had I heard this as a sermon 10 years ago from any pastor I would have challenged it. What Tony is doing is attacking historic understanding of the atonement. He is wrong. His accounting does nothing to remove his sin. To say Jesus died simply to identify with my humanity is to ignore the reality that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.”
Theresa, bewared the subtle ad hominen defense you are using towards critics on this post. You are assuming that all who criticize do so because they are pre-disposed to oppose the label “emergent.” To hold that position is unfair. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they are honest in their thoughts and not just “haters.”
Keep crying, but cry for Tony that he could not only be so wrong about a doctrine so central, but that he is leading many others away from the very blood that saves –including you.
Peace.



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mike greiner

posted April 17, 2009 at 8:25 pm


Barb, I’m sorry that you were able to grow up in an evangelical church and not properly learn about the atonement. Tony’s error is plain to see by all who know the basic doctrines of the cross. I am sad that your pastors and teachers did not so equip you.
I hope you will look to the scripture again and study the subject, for Tony’s new and strange opinion will give you no place for forgiveness of sins. Remember, it is “by His stripes” that you are healed. He “bore your sins on His body.” He did not die simply to show you that He shared your humanity. He was without sin, and He became sin on your behalf.



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Theresa Seeber

posted April 17, 2009 at 11:44 pm


Wait, Mike, there is another post of Tony’s you need to see before you throw out what he is presenting. It is a sort of missing puzzle piece. He isn’t throwing out atonement. There is more than one theory of the atonement. I just ran a search of Tony’s posts and am not finding the one I want. It isn’t the Ash Wednesday one, but it is one that has the major theories all laid out.
Tony, help me out here?
Anyway, I was not grieved (this time) because people are being mean to someone I care about. It is the whole disunity of the people of God. But I admit that to assume all of the critics here are bent against emergent is wrong. I give you that, and apologize to all. I just know Tony’s greater teachings because I read his books and listen to his podcasts and read his blogs (not nearly as much as I want to – you are a busy guy, Tony!) and I know he is not saying what he is being accused of saying. But he (frustratingly) isn’t one to come out and say where he has been misunderstood. I think if you have the chance to capture the greater picture, you will get it, and maybe Tony just knows that there will always be something else to argue about if he clarifies (after all, in the end I find people believe whatever they wish to believe, no matter what they are told). So maybe although he is very inclusive (more than I think I could be) to anyone who wants to join the conversation, maybe he just doesn’t have time to constantly clarify what is clear if you take him at his words without adding to them. That sounds confrontational as I go back and read it, but I don’t know how else to word it. My desire is not to confront. Hope you don’t misunderstand me. I desire the same peace and unity Jesus does among us, his people. Peace. :-)



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JB

posted April 23, 2009 at 10:41 am


Tony, you wrote:
“Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.”
Perhaps you need to become a bit more familiar with ‘the biblical narrative’ …
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:24)
“For our sake, he made him to be be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace …” (Ephesians 1:7)
“God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (Romans 3:25a)
“… just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” (Galatians 3:13 referencing Deuteronomy 21:23).
The entirety of the biblical narrative points not only to the person of Christ, but to the redemptive work of his sacrifice on the cross. I’m not sure how you could deny something so entirely central to every aspect of the Bible and still claim to believe and follow its teachings.



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Ron Henzel

posted May 2, 2009 at 2:13 pm


JB is right. This blog post is yet another in a long, long, long line of attempts to reduce the atonement to an appendage of the incarnation, rather than acknowledge its true biblical meaning.



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Jeff Kursonis

posted May 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm


Hey Tony,
Love the Gauguin painting of the crucifixion – the yellow Christ. The fields are yellow, Christ is yellow, the trees are red orange. The Breton women in their traditional garments from the Brittany region of France may appear to some to be Catholic Nuns wearing habits, but they are simply Breton women wearing their regional/cultural clothes. Notice the women are real, painted normal human colors with shadow, yet everything else is “not real”, painted to evoke emotion and thought. You and Gauguin are doing the same thing, trying to understand God and humans and Christ, and with a needed focus on real humanity. The art in Gauguin’s day was a “not fully real” image of humanity, he was trying to be real, be human. Later he depicted Mary with baby Jesus as a Tahitian woman and child, with an angel looking on – this was scandalous to white europeans. But he was making less than human people of color, fully human.
Knowing you, I think you believe many of the different views of the atonement which Christians have more recently focused on which all contain an aspect of the too large to fully grasp mystery of God becoming a human and doing the things he did, but because some aspects of the atonement have become big bullies demanding all the attention, and given the tragedies of social injustice these theological focuses’ have allowed the church to stand by and not scream out in protest against, it would appear that to become as fully human and as fully committed to the well being of our fellow humans that God wants us to be, that we need new and more full views of the atonement, and that’s what I think your focus in this article is trying to do – to emphasize a missing aspect.
I think attention to the aspect of the atonement that has to do with power – the all powerful God placing himself beneath the power of his own creation, allowing the less powerful to kill the more powerful – and thus showing us that love and power cannot coexist, that love requires the abandonment of power – will be another area needing special emphasis in coming days.
Jeff



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javad

posted April 9, 2011 at 7:00 am


why we must believe jesus as fully man and fully god?!!!



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javad

posted June 12, 2011 at 2:53 am


what ever I read in this writingv was saying I believe I believe never seen proof!!



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