November 22, 2017

Questions about Penal Substitutionary Atonement

6287993210_7ff1318dc4_zNow before I became a Christian I was under the impression that the first thing Christians had to believe was one particular theory as to what the point of [Jesus’] dying was. According to that theory God wanted to punish men for having deserted and joined the Great Rebel, but Christ volunteered to be punished instead, and so God let us off. Now I admit that even this theory does not seem quite so immoral and silly as it used to; but that is not the point I want to make. What I came to see later on was that neither this theory nor an other is Christianity. The central belief is that Christ’s death has somehow put us right with God and given us a fresh start. Theories as to how it did this are another matter: A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work.

• C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

• • •

In recent years, there has been a lot of serious pushback against the most common evangelical understanding of why Jesus died. This view is often called “Penal Substitutionary Atonement” (PSA). Thomas Schreiner, a proponent of this understanding, explains it like this:

I define penal substitution as follows: The Father, because of his love for human beings, sent his Son (who offered himself willingly and gladly) to satisfy his justice, so that Christ took the place of sinners. The punishment and penalty we deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of us, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.

In brief, Jesus took the penalty of God’s wrath that we deserved because of our sin. God punished him in our place so that we might go free.

In a bit more detail, our friend Scot McKnight puts it like this:

Penal substitution contends that God is holy and that humans are sinful. God, because he is holy, can’t simply ignore human sin and be true to his own holiness. So there must be a just punishment (hence, penal). Jesus Christ, the God-Man, stood in the sinner’s place, absorbing God’s just punishment on sin and sinners (hence, substitution). Because God demands utter perfection for entry into God’s presence, not only are our sins imputed to Christ on the cross but his righteousness was then imputed to us (hence, double imputation). In this the mechanics are explained: God remains holy and just by judging sinners and, at the same time, forgives sin and justifies sinners by imputing Christ’s obedience to us.

• Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement

People have raised questions about this understanding of Christ’s death in a couple of ways. First, many have come to question the very concept. But also, for some who still see it as one legitimate theory of the atonement, they question whether it is truly the most fundamental and predominant metaphor to describe it. McKnight is one of those. In his book on atonement theories, he quotes I. Howard Marshall, who suggests that “penal substitution theorists could help us all out if they would baptize their theory into the larger redemptive grace of God more adequately” (p. 43).

Greg Boyd has come to the conclusion that the Christus Victor theory of Christ’s death should ground all other views. Click on his name, and it will lead you to a detailed overview of this perspective.

In coming to this point of view, Boyd first had to recognize the questions he had within himself about the Penal Substitution theory. I want to list the questions that came to trouble him about this common theory of the cross and have us discuss them today.

Here are Greg Boyd’s questions:

First: Does God really need to appease his wrath with a blood sacrifice in order to forgive us? If so, does this mean that the law of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is the ultimate description of God’s character? And if this is true, what are we to make of Jesus’ teaching that this law is surpassed by the law of love? Not only this, but what are we to make of all the instances in the Bible where God forgives people without demanding a sacrifice (e.g. the prodigal son)?

Second: If God’s holiness requires that a sacrifice be made before he can fellowship with sinners, how did Jesus manage to hang out with sinners without a sacrifice, since he is as fully divine and as holy as God the Father?

Third: If Jesus’ death allows God the Father to accept us, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that Jesus reconciles God to us than it is to say Jesus reconciles us to God? Yet the New Testament claims the latter and never the former (e.g. 2 Cor. 5:18-20). ). In fact, if God loves sinners and yet can’t accept sinners without a sacrifice, wouldn’t it be even more accurate to say that God reconciles God to himself than to say he reconciles us to God? But this is clearly an odd and unbiblical way of speaking.

Fourth: How are we to understand one member of the Trinity (the Father) being wrathful towards another member (the Son) of the Trinity, when they are, along with the Holy Spirit, one and the same God? Can God be truly angry with God? Can God actually punish God?

Fifth: If God the father needs someone to “pay the price” for sin, does the Father ever really forgive anyone? Think about it. If you owe me a hundred dollars and I hold you to it unless someone pays me the owed sum, did I really forgive your debt? It seems not, especially since the very concept of forgiveness is about releasing a debt — not collecting it from someone else.

Sixth: Are sin and guilt the sorts of things that can be literally transferred from one party to another? Related to this, how are we to conceive of the Father being angry towards Jesus and justly punishing him when he of course knew Jesus never did anything wrong?

Seventh: If the just punishment for sin is eternal hell (as most Christians have traditionally believed), how does Jesus’ several hours of suffering and his short time in the grave pay for it?

Eighth: If the main thing Jesus came to do was to appease the Father’s wrath by being slain by him for our sin, couldn’t this have been accomplished just as easily when (say) Jesus was a one-year-old boy as when he was a thirty-three year old man? Were Jesus’ life, teachings, healing and deliverance ministry merely a prelude to the one really important thing he did – namely, die? It doesn’t seem to me that the Gospels divide up and prioritize the various aspects of Jesus’ life in this way. (I maintain that everything Jesus did was about one thing – overcoming evil with love. Hence, every aspect of Jesus was centered on atonement — that is, reconciling us to God and freeing us from the devil’s oppression.)

Ninth: Not to be offensive, but if it’s true that God’s wrath must be appeased by sacrificing his own Son – or, if not that, sacrificing all other humans in eternal hell – then don’t we have to conclude that those pagans who have throughout history sacrificed their children to appease the gods’ wrath had the right intuition, even if they expressed it in the wrong way?

Tenth: What is the intrinsic connection between what Jesus did on the cross and how we actually live? The Penal Substitution view makes it seem like the real issue in need of resolution is a legal matter in the heavenly realms between God’s holy wrath and our sin. Christ’s death changes how God sees us, but this theory says nothing about how Christ’s death changes us. This is particularly concerning to me because every study done on the subject has demonstrated that for the majority of Americans who believe in Jesus, their belief makes little or no impact on their life. I wonder if the dominance of this legal-transaction view of the atonement might be partly responsible for this tragic state of affairs.

You can go to Boyd’s article, “What do you think of the ‘Penal Substitution’ view of the atonement?” and read more.

In addition, you might look at:

• • •

Note: I am not endorsing everything I’ve recommended for you to read. This is a live issue in the Church today and I think we ought to discuss it.

Comments

  1. Eckhart Trolle says:

    Okay, you’ve convinced me. Let’s chuck penal substitution, the Trinity, and other nonsensical dogmas.

    • If you’re looking for a religion that makes plenty of sense, you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree.

      • Christiane says:

        Hi MIGUEL,

        well, maybe Eckhart is up IN that tree trying to observe from above us all

        brings to mind St. Luke’s story
        ” 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass through that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, hurry and come down . . . ”

        sometimes Eckhart actually comes down and joins in the conversation, and contributes to it;
        and sometimes he just goes back up that tree and comments from ‘above it all’ . . .

        each of us is at a different place ‘on the journey’, and we’ve all likely been up a tree sometime, yes

  2. Jesus took the penalty of God’s wrath that we deserved because of our sin.

    I’m not so sure if that’s right, whether or not it’s traditional PSA. I thought the penalty of God’s wrath for sin was eternity in hell. Jesus surely isn’t taking that one for us, even it he takes it from us.

    • I think it became eternity in hell in modern Christianity, probably fullblown after Sinners in the Hands. Before that, wouldn’t it be fair to say it was more “death” and non-resurrection?

    • Also becomes a case of Jesus saving us from The Father. Literally, dad is gonna kill you if I don’t die for you.

      Which then becomes “I’m going to save you from what I’m going to do to you if you don’t accept me”, as the common refrain tends to go.

      And before long, it’s a System of a Down song.

      • –> “And before long, it’s a System of a Down song.”

        Oh gosh…that’s good!

        • I need a new album so bad. I remember well enjoying the heck out of those two cds they put out in 2005…before things got dark and I went back into christianity, lol.

  3. Christiane says:

    some thoughts . . .

    Christus Victor, at least, shows the great love of God for His fallen Creation . . . Aslan’s voluntary giving of his own life to the White Witch in order to save Edmund Pevensey . . . the death of Clint Eastwood’s character in the film ‘Gran Torino’ . . . that kind of love that makes a marine sargeant fall on a live grenade to save his comrades . . . yes . . . but greater still because GOD, in the PERSON of Christ, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, gave Himself for sacrifice . . . out of love, most definitely and most effectively although the great mystery of it may not now be fully understood by our kind . . . we can understand ‘love’ when it keeps us from harm’s way at the cost of another’s suffering, yes

    and then there is something VERY appealing about the way that the Orthodox celebrate the Incarnation as vital to the salvation of our kind . . . ‘what was not assumed cannot be healed’ (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, of whom Benedict XVI wrote, this:
    “Gregory gave great prominence to Christ’s full humanity: to redeem man in the totality of His body, soul and spirit, Christ assumed all the elements of human nature, otherwise man would not have been saved. Disputing the heresy of Apollinaris, who held that Jesus Christ had not assumed a rational mind, Gregory tackled the problem in the light of the mystery of salvation:
    “What has not been assumed has not been healed”

    and then the idea that ‘in Him, with Him, and through Him’, we are led out of death and into life, a ‘transformation’ as ‘process’ in the Catholic sense, I suppose . . . but also not that far from including the Orthodox recognition of the Incarnation as a part of our salvation . . .
    ““See where you are baptized, see where Baptism comes from, if not from the cross of Christ, from His death. There is the whole mystery: He died for you. In Him you are redeemed, in Him you are saved “ (St. Ambrose)

    All insights into the Paschal Mystery interest me, and there is only one I cannot relate to, which is of course the the one about the Wrathful God . . . why? because Our Lord Himself, in the PERSON of the second Person of the Holy Trinity, God, was on that cross, giving Himself for our sake . . . some of the views expressed by the ‘Wrath of God’ folks discount that ‘God’ died on the Cross in the Person of Our Lord . . . I reject that view. I don’t believe in Patripassionism (the Father died on the Cross), no . . . but I acknowledge that Our Lord, as a Person, was on that Cross and in His Personhood was fully God and fully Man . . . and in His Person on that Cross, He was forgiving and blessing and saving

    do I fully understand the Paschal Mysteries? no, I don’t, and I don’t think anyone can fully grasp these mysteries

    but I trust in Our Lord, and with the Body of Christ, I can pray:
    “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us”

    • Eckhart Trolle says:

      Christus Victor, as used nowadays, boils down to an admission that soteriology cannot be clarified beyond the level of the purely symbolic (unless one is willing to interpret Christ’s triumph over death and hell with unusual literal-mindedness). Originally Lutheran (as articulated by Gustaf Aulén–of course he read it into the church fathers), it seems to be at least partly a reaction to the difficulties associated with Ransom and Satisfaction (or as you call it, Penal Substitution) theories so beloved of evangelicals and the makers of atheist memes. (It seems also to have found some traction among the Orthodox.) Of course all three of these could be read symbolically, or even accepted all together as alternative symbolic systems. The problem with a symbolic reading is that with such a murky theology, it is hard to express why Christianity should be accepted at all.

      • Christiane says:

        yes, it IS hard to express why anyone would want to ‘pick up their cross’ and follow Him . . . at least by the logic of THIS world . . .

        but it happened . . . most of the Apostles went to their martyrdom refusing to deny Christ . . . there is a very long history of this kind of ‘illogical’ behavior among Christ-followers, Eckhart . . . and yet it happened, it’s still happening, yes

        the word ‘martyr’ means ‘witness’
        . . . witness to an event that defies ‘reason’: ‘He Is Risen’

        • Nice post. We are not irrefutable logistical speakers, WR are witnesses to the resurrection. Some will see and hear, some will laugh, mock, and say ” It thundered”.

          • And most will hear thunder, and some will cower and say “the gods must be angry at us”.

            But it’s just thunder.

            It’s got to be something more than that tho, doesn’t it? Deciding that certain things are actually signs? I hope so.

  4. The Father, because of his love for human beings, sent his Son (who offered himself willingly and gladly) to satisfy his justice, so that Christ took the place of sinners. The punishment and penalty we deserved was laid on Jesus Christ instead of us, so that in the cross both God’s holiness and love are manifested.

    There’s lots of assumptions being made here. I grew up hearing PSA, and in fact, never attended a church that did not believe or teach it. But I’d ask Thomas and others to pretend I hadn’t, and unpack those assumptions. The time to just accept them as is has passed. Ethos pathos logos…prove it me. Convince me.

    Jesus took the penalty of God’s wrath that we deserved because of our sin. God punished him in our place so that we might go free.

    Start here I guess. “We deserved”. We did? We do? Why? How? What sin? Why did God’s wrath have to occur? What penalty? How did Jesus take it? Why did Jesus take it? How did God pour wrath on himself? Why did God punish him? How are we free? Are we free? We ‘might’ go free? Was the punishment not enough? Was the punishment not strong enough? Did the punishment not count?

    etc

    And one snarky question…

    How could a perfect holy God who cannot abide being in the mere presence of sin not only live on this earth surrounded by sin and sinners but somehow manage to take upon himself ALL of the sin that has ever occurred, past present and future, into his body, and was it his whole body, both God and man, or just the man part, or just the God part?

    • Hmm. After reading through this entire post again, guess there’s one question really:

      How could I ever keep accepting PSA?

      #5 alone…

      • #5 has been THE one that is most obvious IMO. I’m not sure how anyone can look past this one. I mean, what sort of substance does the word “forgiveness” have in the context of PSA? So far as I can tell, none. There is only payment of legal debt in pain and suffering. If that’s the case, so be it. But then stop using the word forgiveness.

        • Guess #5 just now hit me. I’ve never considered it or thought about it like that before. But maybe subconsciously I have…

          • I’ve noticed that many of the theologians who have REALLY entered into the details of PSA more or less toss the word “forgiveness” in favor of “remission”. “Remission” permits some kind of a payment mechanism.

          • That seems honest. The remission of sins.

            It’s never a free gift either. Sure, works don’t earn grace. But everyone sure expects you to pay back what you owe to Christ. Since, you know, he died for you, bought you with a price, etc. It’s the least you can do.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      There’s lots of assumptions being made here. I grew up hearing PSA, and in fact, never attended a church that did not believe or teach it.

      It IS pretty much Universal in the Evangelical Bubble. (Just like The Rapture.)
      I never heard anything else until I was in the Post-Evangelical Wilderness.

      • Oh it absolutely is universal. To the point where it’s TRUTH, and alternatives are suppressed.

        I’m always waiting on iMonk for the random “wow some of you were so burned by fundamentalism” comments that happen from time to time. As if there is any form of Christianity outside fundamentalism…

        /s

      • As universal as penal substitutionary atonement is among Protestants (largely ’cause John Calvin promoted the idea) we’ve all heard alternative theories—’cause C.S. Lewis introduced us to Christus Victor in the Narnia books. I admit it may be a subconscious reason why I lean towards that particular atonement theory above the others.

        That, and the utter lovelessness of the way penal substitution is presented by many a Protestant evangelist. It’s why Tony Jones decided to ditch it in his book Did God Kill Jesus? which I’ve read recently. Jones also listed all the other theories he could find, and I realized I was introduced to most of them despite my Fundamentalist upbringing. Seems lots of Protestants were subtly slipping their dissenting views into the popular culture. It’s just we don’t notice; penal substitution is so prevalent.

        • One thing I’ve wondered about is what are the other theories. There are several, but I can’t name or describe them off the top of my head.

          • Off the top of my head, here are a bunch, in no particular order. I know I likely didn’t get ’em all.

            • Penal substitution: Sin means somebody’s gotta spill blood for it. Jesus adequately satisfies God’s bloodlust.

            Christus Victor: The devil, sin, and death reigned till Jesus, who came to defeat the devil’s works. He did so by resisting temptation, not sinning, and conquering death.

            Expiation: In defeating sin and death, Jesus made it so now we can reacquire humanity’s original characteristics, i.e. having God’s image. “The Divine became man so men can become divine,” as eastern Christians put it.

            Ransom: In sinning, Adam and Eve handed creation over to the devil. To get it back, God handed over Jesus so the devil could kill him. Except God kinda cheated, ’cause Jesus didn’t stay dead. [As seen in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.]

            Recapitulation: Adam and Eve bungled the job of ruling creation. So Jesus, the second Adam, was sent to try again, and this time succeed. [As seen in John Milton’s Paradise Regained, and sorta in Lewis’s Perelandra.]

            • Moral exemplar: Jesus modeled how we ought to live, how we ought to die, and how we’ll live again.

            Satisfaction: In sinning, Adam and Eve put themselves in debt to God, who demanded payment, i.e. death. In order to restore the giant imbalance, Jesus sacrificed himself, paid it back, and then some.

            Governmental: Like penal substitution, sin requires a consequence. Unlike penal substitution, Jesus didn’t suffer it, but instead provided an alternative to it.

            Scapegoat: Just like the ancient Hebrews laid their sins on a goat then turned it loose, humanity’s sins were laid on Jesus and his death effectively destroyed them. But his resurrection means he, and we, live anyway.

            Incarnational: God desires a relationship with humanity so much, he became one of us—and in so doing, absorbed our sin into himself, and undid it.

            Solidarity: Jesus’s death shows just how much he identified with the suffering and needy—he died with them, and as a result we’re raised with him.

            Healing servant: Jesus heals the sick. Sin is sickness; he heals that too.

          • Great list! Most of those, however, sound remarkably Lutheran to me. I guess we’ve just become good in recent centuries at integrating multiple simultaneous theories.

          • Wow. Thanks for sharing that list!

  5. As to the fourth and sixth questions, I think the reason they present themselves is because Christians seem to be in the habit of taking things down to two or three bite size bits so that we can understand it more easily. And then usually throwing out everything else that is of value.

    The problem, like with so many summaries of the Gospel, is that the popular reading of PSA leaves out the actual story of Jesus. It’s about concepts and balance sheets. Jesus has a generalize ‘moral perfection’ and the the Father strikes out at him instead of us immoral folks so that we don’t have to go to hell when we die.

    Did Jesus need to be Jewish in this construction? Did God need to be anything other than a sort of invisible omnipotent power off in the distance somewhere who polices behavior occasionally? Not really. It’s a platonic God punishing an non-Jewish Jesus.

    I don’t think the metaphor of God’s wrath being transferred to his Son can do as much heavy lifting as people seem to want it to do. If we saw it more as Jewish way of speaking about political and creational realities (with exile being the primary expression of ‘wrath’) then you begin to get closer to a proper atonement theory. Albeit, you still need to be able to embed the gentile narratives into the Jewish one somehow. Something like PSA can help in that context in order to use general language about a universal problem/need, but atonement can’t be boiled down to a tasteless mash and maintain any nutritional value. This happens when we limit the vocabulary too much. We have to come to our atonement theory through a complete reading of the story.

    One more thing I’ve become convinced of is that in sharing the Gospel with a non-christian, PSA pretty much has no place in the initial presentation of Christ. I mean, unless perhaps there’s a specific reason to emphasize the legal nature of the Gospel. But it is not “the thing people come to believe when they become Christians,” like the CS Lewis quote says.

    • “One more thing I’ve become convinced of is that in sharing the Gospel with a non-christian, PSA pretty much has no place in the initial presentation of Christ. I mean, unless perhaps there’s a specific reason to emphasize the legal nature of the Gospel. But it is not “the thing people come to believe when they become Christians,” like the CS Lewis quote says.”

      Yes. The main problem with this approach (and PSA in general) is that it leads almost inevitably to a transactional or contractual view of salvation. God and I have entered a contract, based on this ‘legal fiction’ and therefore all is good (for all time). I gave God my faith, and he took my sin and gave me his righteousness. Classic ‘Four Spiritual Laws’ approach. There are problems at so many levels with this approach that it begs for a fuller (and different) understanding of the atonement.

      I recently finished reading Douglas Campbell’s ‘The Deliverance of God’, which calls into question what he dubs ‘Justification theory’, a rather broad-brush understanding of salvation (or at least the process of coming to salvation, and the basis of that) in Protestant (particularly evangelical) traditions. He offers over 50 problems with the traditional approach and points out that it all hinges on a particular reading of Romans 1-4 (and that being a very culturally-influenced reading – 16th – 20th century Western culture in particular). While I don’t agree with everything he says, and I came away wondering exactly what to put in place of ‘Justification theory’, his exegesis of Rom 1-3 (in particular) is excellent. This book, if it were 600 pages shorter (it’s ~940 pages plus ~200 pages of end notes) and more readable (very pedantic and scholarly language, and requires a good knowledge of Greek and background in academic study of Paul) could be a very important contribution to the church.

      Campbell criticizes mainly the transactional/contractual nature of salvation found in ‘Justification theory’, suggests that it contradicts Paul in many other places, and he argues for a participatory view of the atonement. Again, while not agreeing with all he says (and his exegesis in Galatians is a little tendentious), I think this is a more biblically valid (and one could add, personally satisfying and fulfilling) understanding of the atonement (and the gospel in general).

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I don’t think the metaphor of God’s wrath being transferred to his Son can do as much heavy lifting as people seem to want it to do. If we saw it more as Jewish way of speaking about political and creational realities (with exile being the primary expression of ‘wrath’) then you begin to get closer to a proper atonement theory.

      So what’s the Yiddisha take on it as opposed to the Goyisha?

  6. Are sin and guilt the sorts of things that can be literally transferred from one party to another?

    Good question. I don’t know how it all works; if my redemption requires me to be certain of the way Jesus worked it, then I’m in big trouble, because I’m not certain, and my thinking on the subject swings back and forth between different models.

    But regarding the question above, I have another one: How is it possible for one person to forgive another person for all their sins, including those committed against someone else? The liturgies of reconciliation that many churches use involve clergy forgiving sins committed by penitents against other people; in the Lutheran church where I find myself every Sunday morning, there is a general confession at the start of most services, in which we confess and are absolved of all our sins (all our sins, not just those committed against God or the presiding clergy) by the minister in the name of Jesus. How is it that he, or she, or Jesus, can forgive us for sins we have committed against others? Is this merely a pleasant fiction, meaning that we are okay with God through confession, or does the Church really have the power to forgive all sins? If it’s the later, then the wording of liturgies should be changed, because that’s not what they say.

    • But if it is possible for someone, including Jesus, to forgive all our sins, including those committed against third parties, even though we don’t understand how, then it may also be possible for someone to take the punishment, the repercussion, of our sin for us, even though we don’t understand how.

      Otoh, if Jesus, and by extension the Church, can’t forgive us of all our sins, particularly those we commit against others, then maybe we’d better find another religion, one where we do the heavy-lifting, probably involving karma and reincarnation.

      • Shouldn’t the next question be “wait, what if we don’t have sins? What is sin anyways? What do we need forgiveness from?”

        Which, the answer to the last question for many seems to be ‘having been born’…because original sin and seminal inheritance.

        • Well, I’m a sinner, so this is my concern. Even if there is no such thing as Original Sin, my behavior from almost the first moments of self-awareness have involved me in destructive and trangressive behaviors. Nothing I say has any application to non-sinners; if you’re one, please disregard my comments.

        • I have a question for you, StuartB: According to the New Testament accounts, Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery. Did he have the right or ability to forgive her for actions that impacted others rather than himself? If so, why? Or was he way out of line, claiming to do what he in fact couldn’t? (Let’s leave alone the question of whether that account was in the original versions of the gospels, and just accept it as canonical.)

          • With those caveats…I would say yes, Jesus had the right and the ability. Was his ability tied up tho in his upcoming death? Was she “forgiven” before he died, or just waiting for it like anyone who trusted in the sacrifices? So…semantics, I guess; of course Jesus had the ability, he is God, but did he have the ‘ability’? I don’t know.

            When were we forgiven?

    • David Cornwell says:

      You (Robert F) said: “I don’t know how it all works.” I think this is the winning answer! It’s a mystery that human explanation will never adequately describe.

      Scott McKnight said: “In this the mechanics are explained.” McKnight may have explained one theory or the other through “mechanics.” However we will never understand. We concoct a theory to explain it the way we like, what satisfies our understanding. We fit an answer out, our “mechanics”, in an attempt to wrap our minds around it.

      All of our attempts at understanding come back to this: It is a mystery that we will probably never be able to understand.

      • It’s exactly because I’m so uncertain about these theological questions, and because my opinion is frequently shifting, that I’m sometimes attracted to the Lutheran idea that it’s the sacrament of Baptism that makes me Christian, rather than anything I think or do.

    • Robert asks if sin and guilt are the sort of thing that can be transferred. Without getting too deep into precisely what types of things they are (certainly not material objects), I think the answer is yes. There are plenty of immaterial things that can be transferred, including concepts that are related to the PSA model.

      Having an obligation to pay can be transferred. See the many insurance agencies which have taken on either our (non-government benefit programs) or the governments (medicare and medicaid and the like) obligation to pay our doctors for our medical care.

      Having the right to be paid can be transferred. If anyone has had an American mortgage in the last few decades, it is highly likely that the original lender transferred the right to be paid to someone else, and/or the mortgage servicing to a different third party.

  7. I clicked on the link and read Boyd’s article. There were a lot of good insights but there was one thing missing (or at least seemed to be missing to me) that Body did not really answer that PSA does answer. Why did Jesus have to die at all? Boyd affirms that Jesus died for our sins and that it was for the forgiveness of our sins, but doesn’t ever really say why Jesus died. The PSA theory, whether you accept it or reject it, answers that question. The wages of sin is death, there is no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood, in order for a sacrifice for sin to be acceptable it must be without blemish (as shown in the Law). Now many people ask, “Why couldn’t God just forgive us without Jesus having to die?” That is a good question and PSA has its answer even if you don’t think it makes sense. But I could also ask, “Why couldn’t God open our eyes to sin and turn us back to him, why couldn’t he just vanquish the devil and demons with one little word, why couldn’t he take us out of the kingdom of darkness and put us in the kingdom of light, without Jesus having to die?” I didn’t see an answer from the Christus Victor model. That doesn’t mean I reject the Christus Victor model. It is just that I am not prepared to do away with PSA until I see a satisfactory answer to why Jesus had to die.
    One last thing. Many people dislike the teaching found among many Reformed people that the truly saved will show the fruit of their salvation and that is how we know they are saved. I’ve heard it argued that this leads to a version of the gospel that is more law than grace. But if you read the last couple of paragraphs from Boyd’s article, it leads to the exact same thing.

    • You are assuming that Jesus *had* to die. I don’t believe that is correct. I believe that God/Jesus absolutely could have simply snapped his fingers and said “You’re all good now”, but that he chose to do it this way instead to show us how much he loved us. I think the incarnation of Christ was as much about revelation as reconciliation.

      • If he was able to tell people their sins were forgiven before He died…

        • “But the forgiveness of sins is an example of how Jesus is/knows he is God!”

          Back to square one. So he’s powerless to save everyone til he dies. Great God.

          And if my memory of the shady theology is correct, he was ALWAYS powerless to save sinners until he died, because people under the old covenant/sacrifices were “actually” saved until Jesus died and then ransomed them.

          So God isn’t all powerful? “No he’s God he has to be!”

          But you just said…

      • I agree. That makes the most sense to me, & I have had 60+ years to mull over the topic. I finally relaized one day, that God can do anything He wants to do–and He has.
        I also long ago came to believe that all too many Christians have an inadequate Christology. It’s very sad.

    • Dana. Ames says:

      checking things while on vacation – briefly, the best answer to the question is St Athanasius’ “On the Incarnation” in the opening chapter he says that that’s his purpose in writing the book.

      Dana

  8. Chris Perry says:

    One of the best presentations I have seen regarding PSA is the “The Gospel in Chairs”, by Brad Jersak.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0BUFR9wSko

    The first five minutes explain the reasoning behind the presentation, and where he got it from, and the rest is presentation itself.

  9. *cracks knuckles*

    Ok, I’ll give it a shot. But first, let me caveat that I do not think that PSA is the SOLE way to view what happened at the Cross – just an important one.

    1 – (Is) the law of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is the ultimate description of God’s character?: I would say that Justice *is* an ultimate description of God’s character. Just as Love is, too.

    2 – how did Jesus manage to hang out with sinners without a sacrifice, since he is as fully divine and as holy as God the Father?: First, He is patient. 😉 Second, God stands apart from time (which is also found in C S Lewis’ theology, by the by) and can see all of history through the Cross.

    3 – If Jesus’ death allows God the Father to accept us, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that Jesus reconciles God to us than it is to say Jesus reconciles us to God?: Sorry, but I don’t get the iportance of this semantical argument. *shrug*

    4 – How are we to understand one member of the Trinity (the Father) being wrathful towards another member (the Son) of the Trinity…?: Simple. We WON’T understand it. It’s a mystery. And remember, *you guys* helped teach me that mystery in theology is OK. 😉

    5 – If God the father needs someone to “pay the price” for sin, does the Father ever really forgive anyone? : OK, *this* semantical argument I get. 😉 I’ll have to chew on this a bit and get back to you.

    6 – Are sin and guilt the sorts of things that can be literally transferred from one party to another?: Well, that’s exactly the mechanic of the entire OT sacrificial system. IMHO, any view of the Atonement that would exclude penal substitution had better have a bloody (pun intended) good explanation for *that* (and “the ancient Hebrews were just ignorant savages” will NOT count 😛 ).

    7 – If the just punishment for sin is eternal hell (as most Christians have traditionally believed), how does Jesus’ several hours of suffering and his short time in the grave pay for it?: easy. He’s God, therefore infinite. Next!

    8 – If the main thing Jesus came to do was to appease the Father’s wrath by being slain by him for our sin, couldn’t this have been accomplished just as easily when (say) Jesus was a one-year-old boy…?: Just because something is the *main* thing, doesn’t mean it has to be the ONLY thing. I am too old an argumtentician to fall for such an easy trap. 😛

    9 – don’t we have to conclude that those pagans who have throughout history sacrificed their children to appease the gods’ wrath had the right intuition, even if they expressed it in the wrong way?: Well, isn’t it true that ALL religions and religious rites are motivated by some kernel of actual truth? And didn’t Abraham himself go along with the notion when God Himself commanded him to sacrifice Isaac? IOW, yes.

    10 – this theory says nothing about how Christ’s death changes us.: True. That’s what “sactification” is for.

    After all that, a lot of the fuss and bother seems to me to be about *over*emphasis on PSA in evangelical theology. I don’t think anyone will deny that (although many will deny that it could ever *be* a problem). However, you can’t deny the strong themes of God’s holiness, wrath against sin, and sacrifice in the Old Testament. If PSA isn’t to be allowed to have the only voice in discussions about Christ’s work, no problem. But it must still have a seat at the table.

    • Re: your #4 as “mystery”.

      I guess I want to confirm – it seems from your comment that you would at least agree with the assertion that PSA does necessitate that one member of the trinity is being wrathful to the other? That part of it isn’t a mystery the way that you view it, right?. The mystery (the way that I’m reading your comment) is only the “why” or the “how” the father is wrathful to the son?

      Effectively – “I don’t know how it all works, but I DO know that the cross is the father being wrathful towards the son”?

    • Mystery shouldn’t be an excuse for just accepting something as is, in regards to #4. As Mike H has in his “effectively” line, the next question is “How do you know?”

      And don’t say mystery, wishy washy, timey wimey, “because”. No. How do you know?

      • I mean, eliminating mystery all together is not only foolish but impossible. But I’d just like to know, for the sake of discussion, which things in PSA are considered “mystery” and which are it’s true non-negotiable pillars and can be discussed (even if they are “mysterious”).

    • Can we agree on what a definition of mystery is in terms of theology? I’d propose mystery should be reserved for two contradicting statements or ideas that still work. Like frozen hot chocolate.

      Mystery however should not be something that can’t be explained yet so we throw up our hands and say mystery.

      Mystery should be the beginning of the search for knowledge, not the end.

    • Well, that’s exactly the mechanic of the entire OT sacrificial system. IMHO, any view of the Atonement that would exclude penal substitution had better have a bloody (pun intended) good explanation for *that* (and “the ancient Hebrews were just ignorant savages” will NOT count

      Are you familiar with the work of Rene Girard? He offers an explanation that says the OT sacrificial system moved humanity away from being ignorant savages.

      http://www.jamesalison.co.uk/texts/eng73.html (The first part gives a 50,000 ft view.)

      We would still look back on the OT and say that it was savage – e.g. eye for an eye – but as a step forward it was a civil advancement – “eye for an eye” probably replaced “both eyes for an eye.” These sacrificial systems were created and they saved civilizations from destroying themselves, but the bloodlust was always human, never the divine as revealed in Jesus. That’s my dos centavos, anyway.

      • +1

        IF the OT sacrificial system was indeed a (futile) systematic way to appease God (angry God before bloody sacrifice, happy God afterwards having vented wrath on sacrifice) – there’s still the question of whether Jesus affirms this sacrificial principle (saying that humans were right all along to try to appease God and could indeed earn favor and forgiveness through various violent sacrifices, but humanity just didn’t have the right sacrifice until Jesus) or whether Jesus subverts this principle and instead exposes as myth the idea that God needs such death and doesn’t forgive freely. Who needed blood, God or humanity?

        • Exactly.

          And regarding your last question, my answer would be “Blood is the symbol of the gap between God and humans. It’s a chasm so vast that only firstborn blood sacrifices can try to close it, and it’s too hard for humans to achieve, though you’ll try. I’ll make the way.”

          • Well, who’s claiming that the “chasm is so vast that only firstborn blood sacrifices can try to close it?” Is it God or humans? The way I see it, the God revealed in Jesus “closes the gap” at incarnation, and the bloodshed is a backlash against a God who would close a gap so peacefully.

        • Right, Mike.

          This is why there’s this pushback against PSA. PSA affirrms that sacrificial principle, while the subversion is incompatible with PSA.

    • “It’s a mystery” works when I draw that conclusion myself. I’m okay with “It’s a mystery.”

      “It’s a mystery” does NOT work when someone uses it like a magic wand and says I should be okay with “It’s a mystery.”

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        At which point, they are no different than a DM caught by his players wildly handwaving their questions away with “IT’S MAGIC! IT’S MAGIC! IT’S MAGIC!”

        (As someone who’s written fictional magic, even magic has to have some consistency; it needs to follow its own set of internally-consistent rules.)

  10. Jesus said what I do you can’t do. God said I will do it myself. I will demonstrate my love for them and be angry with them no more. God being Holy and Divine had a right to be angry with the creation he breathed life into who always seemed to be rejecting Him for the things that don’t remain in a fallen creation that He fore knew from the beginning.

    Jesus always was. He was never an after thought. Jesus overcame in the human form Identifying us with God making us one in the way He walked and love is what overcame sin not penal substitution even when it seems that this could be a cause it doesn’t make less the love. It was love that first called me and love that calls me now and love that will call unto me for evermore.

    We like to make theories. Theology and study Him. Put Him in a box we can understand. We will understand someday if not here there in the twinkling of an eye. Most Americans just believe and try and live a good life and God looks down no longer in righteous anger but with joy to see a life he now has lived too. This didn’t happen until Jesus even though it always was in God. Try to understand that, like love, and tell me an explanation to love because for the life of me I never could.. What is this feeling that overcomes me as I realize it is privilege and honor to feed the cats on the mountain and touch their heads and now it is transferring to even humans.

    I’m tired I hurt all the time. Physical pain as well as my heart hurts. Tears are my company. I almost left last week in a car accident almost 40 years to the day I almost left because of a car accident. I was there when they took one of the pieces off and 2 monarch butterfly wings fell to the ground. One fell to the ground in the middle of winter once to me between my feet as I just finished praying. I said to the old gruff mechanic I’ll take those I have a place for them and that is what I have been looking for. The poem in the bag that I put them in and didn’t know was there until later was titled You hear me. I wish I could explain the panic attacks that last for hours now but I know he hears me. It is love at first sight like the mother who sees her child for the first time. If I could just return it so……He said it is finished. I believe Him. For me it is not so finished but I await a day that I say, Father it is finished.

    • I would rather read one comment by w than listen to the rest of you incessantly argue back and forth, however erudite, however logical, however carefully crafted.

      But that’s just me.

      • Yup.
        All this arguing about mysteries makes me wonder if this is what Jesus meant:
        “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. ”
        Go outside and take a breath. Pray. Love. Have a positive impact by bringing the aroma of Christ for every person you meet. Like our brother w.

      • Just a little pushback from one who does see value in talking about this…..

        I get why people don’t want to talk atonement (or any) theology. It can be divisive and pointless, harmful and paralyzing, etc. I feel like I need a PHD in Greek to keep up. Most of all, God sometimes seems less real and more distant – more an idea or a puzzle to be solved. It’s left me feeling empty at times. Can’t I just read John 3:16 and move on?

        But the claims of PSA are just too significant and far reaching for me to ignore. To me personally, atonement theory isn’t about nailing down the mechanism or systematizing everything or dissecting religious data to form DOCTRINE or eliminating mystery (appeals to mystery are fine, except when it’s used to shield inquiry or critique). To me it’s about both the character and nature of God and how we define words like justice, love, forgiveness, wrath, holiness. It’s not just about a solution to a problem, it frames the problem itself – in the case of PSA, it presumes a legal problem and offers a legal/transactional solution. For those of us who critique PSA, it isn’t a matter of not getting the “foolishness of the cross” (although I’m quite sure that I don’t “get it”). I’m pretty sure that Paul wasn’t referring to the logic of PSA when referring to “foolishness”.

        Apologies for the rant. I just think that it’s worth discussing. It matters.

        • Mike I appreciate this talk very much. I only was trying to participate in what has happened to me and what He first said was I am the one who saved you and I love you. I think He was a sacrificial Lamb of God made by God for God so He could say right to us I love you. He was freed on that cross just as much as we were. ONE………….You know what I mean. It is okay to feel and to think……One…… I like your take on things too.

          • I didn’t mean to imply that you or anyone else was shutting anything down, w. If I implied that, many apologies. It was more about the comments that followed yours. Even those though, I’m not trying to be critical. I get the comments. To me, though, the conversation is hugely important and can coexist with a lived and personal faith.

        • I agree, Mike H.

          At the same time, I appreciate w’s comments for their immediacy and poetry.

    • peregrin7 says:

      “Jesus always was. He was never an after thought. Jesus overcame in the human form Identifying us with God making us one in the way He walked and love is what overcame sin not penal substitution even when it seems that this could be a cause it doesn’t make less the love. It was love that first called me and love that calls me now and love that will call unto me for evermore.”

      Amen, w.

      If we change the focus a bit and remember the penalty, that is, “the wages of sin is death”, it becomes a little clearer what God might be doing in Jesus. He came to undo death. We sin(ned), we die(d). End of story. Except that Jesus shows up on the scene, like he was promised in Genesis 3 right from the start, and as ‘the firstfruits of all creation’ he gets himself killed, just like the jewish prophets said would happen, but because you can’t kill Life, only death, he didn’t stay dead and he one-upped his enemies by not only conquering death for himself, but for all. It’s amazing. Hang in there. Life is real and death is the temporary spectre. Don’t be afraid.

      • I think you hit out of the park when you said don’t be afraid. Man do I feel that. I have to go through death to a place I don’t know and to tell the truth it seems hard to me at times and I am so glad someone went before me. Amen

        • They used to say an earthquake shook
          The dead awake when You rose to look
          For the one who did the best he could
          To care for you
          They’d locked him in a living tomb
          Like You, sealed in Your silent room
          He was scared, and didn’t know You
          When your love broke through

          ‘Who are you, Lord, who walks out of my grave?
          Who are you, Lord, who shakes my shrouds away?
          Lord, Who comes to rescue me?
          Who bursts my bonds,
          Who sets me free from fear and death,
          Who shouts in victory?’

          They used to say that Hades cried
          With anger when You stepped inside
          His walls; he knew he was no match
          For Innocence
          To think his hellish bars could hold
          The King of Life, the God of old
          And darker days, was foolishness,
          So he laments

          ‘Who are you, Lord, Who walks into my grave?
          Who are you, Lord, Who shakes my shrouds away?
          Lord, who comes to plunder me
          Who bursts my bonds
          Who laughs to see
          My prisoners freed
          Who comes in majesty?

          They used to say that Satan lost
          The battle, that the highest cost
          Was payed by One Who gave his flesh
          To seal the doom
          Of him who held the keys of death
          Who snatched them from his grip, one Breath
          Of Life undid millenia
          Of chains and gloom

          Who are you, Lord, who walks out of my grave?
          Who are you, Lord, who shakes my shrouds away?
          Lord, Who comes to rescue me
          Who bursts my bonds
          Who sets me free
          From fear and death
          Who shouts in victory?

          “Who is this King of Glory?
          The Lord of hosts,
          He is the King of Glory!”

    • W, i hope you are getting medical,help for those panic attacks. It’s not something to let slide… nor is it something a person *has* to suffer through.

      • Sweet numo how glad I am to see your name. God is helping me to an end and beginning when the things of this place fade to be distant trace of the nothingness it really all is except for the life that he made. The panic attacks originate in the fact that I hurt others even when not meaning too and it becomes too hard to live with myself. It is then I need Him most in the reach that doesn’t always seem long enough on my part. I have to work through it. You know even then I do not give up hope. This word hope so akin to love. Boy I want to meet you someday. You are blessing.

  11. Another aspect of PSA that I find problematic:

    In the PSA legal/transactional model, what is the role of the resurrection? It’s seems a sort of add-on.

    I’d like to know how he was “raised for our justification” (using the legal 16th century understanding of justification). While true that “death could not hold him”, it seems to me that the framework of PSA would be entirely intact had Jesus stayed dead. God’s wrath problem would still be solved.

    • My understanding of 28 years in PSA is that the resurrection is proof Jesus was God, because only God could resurrect himself after dying and having been shunned by God who can’t stand the presence of sin.

      Which begs a few questions. Who resurrected Jesus, or which part of the Trinity resurrected Jesus? And was Jesus really truly, utterly dead? Because if he can resurrect himself…how was he fully dead? Or is it just a physical death that must be satisfied, and not an everlasting punishment in the lakes of fire eternal death?

      More houses of cards.

    • YEP!

      Last Easter my PSA church said that the cross was the payment, and the resurrection was… are you ready for this?… the receipt. The resurrection was… a receipt. A freakin’ receipt! You know that annoying slip of paper that shows I paid $2.14 for 4 tacos at Jack-in-the-Box? Yeah, that’s what the resurrection was. Are you freakin’ serious??? (SMH)

      (Sorry to rant.)

      • Sad.

        By the way, how long is the receipt good for? I mean, what if you want to return the cross for something else?

        • LOL! Or what if the receipt is printed on that thermal paper that either washes out over time, or blackens out in heat?

      • We don’t have Jack in the Box here, and I’ve never been to one.

        Que “I wish we’d all been ready…” as Banner walks slowly away.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          We don’t have Jack in the Box here, and I’ve never been to one.

          You are indeed fortunate.

          Of all the fast-food chains I have eaten at, they are by far the WORST.
          (Ever shot an onion ring off your thumb and forefinger like a rubber band?)

          • Eckhart Trolle says:

            That…probably WAS a rubber band. I hope you didn’t eat it.

          • Their tacos are truly a guilty pleasure. (The American cheese on them is kinda nasty. I add my own cheese and my own sauce.) A few of those with a vanilla or seasonal shake. Mmmm.

            I will agree with you about the rest of their menu, though.

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Question, everyone:

    Where and how did Penal Substitutionary Atonement begin?
    Were there precursors, and when and how did it reach its final form?

    (I suspect Calvin plays a role in its final form, directly or indirectly. The doctrine sounds like something a lawyer would come up with.)

    • Actually, if you want to pin the blame on anyone, blame Anselm.

      Seriously dude, Calvin is NOT the root of all evil. Cut him some slack! 😛

      • Christiane says:

        Hi EEYORE and HEADLESS,

        I think Anselm got the idea from the Anglo-Saxon system of the ‘Wergeld’ . . . a kind of feudal system that placed increased value on the ‘overlords’ and less on the peasantry, and also introduced the concept of ‘honor’ which could be offended and then had to be atoned for by the offended person having some kind of duel with the person doing the offense . . . a fight to the death, usually, so that the offended person’s honor would remain untainted

        I don’t think PSA shows up as so clearly enunciated before Anselm’s time, but I could be wrong.

      • Calvin more than anything took some very bad ideas and just made them worse, but had the best of intentions.

        I’m willing to give most people the benefit of the doubt that they have good intentions. Even people like Pelagius and Finney.

    • The modern form began w/ Anselm as the Satisfaction theory. It evolved in some significant ways and was finalized (for the most part) by Calvin.

    • Anselm and Calvin together don’t outweigh the damage Augustine did to the church. One of the highest achievements of the Eastern Church in my view is that they didn’t go for Augustine and his vile theory of original sin as laid on humans. Even the Roman Church had some reservations with Augustine, but the Reformers went for it hook, line, and sinker, and here we are today struggling to get out from under. Jesus, save us from these lawyers!

      • Right, I think Augustine planted the seeds for PSA through his formulation of original sin.

        • Which all come across as ranting or musing of a horn dog wondering why he is such a sinner and can’t get any anymore because of Jesus and his mother.

          It must be in his nature, of course.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Monica’s son Auggie brought a lot of personal baggage into his theology, and only some of it was sexual baggage. (His time in Platonic Dualism and Manichaeist Gnosticism would also have loaded him down.)

            And the historic church ended up buying it all as a package deal.

            Maybe it’s time to go back and look at his writings with a little more discernment.

          • Augustine the horn dog…… am I the only wretch that laughed at that ??? Buehler, Buehler…..

          • Still never seen that movie, lol

          • Stuart, for someone who was going to leave the blog and not comment anymore you sure have a lot to say

          • StuartB, I’m extremely glad you keep contributing your comments. Keep them coming.

          • It’s like an addiction, I keep coming back, lol. Believe me, I wish I didn’t care as much.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “Highest achievements of the Eastern Church…”

        “…the Roman Church…”

        Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum!
        I smell the blood of an Eastern Orthodox….

      • Ha! If anything, original sin/total depravity will be the LAST Augustinian/Calvinist doctrines I abandon, because there is so much empirical evidence for them.

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      Anselm may have articulated it more fully, but he certainly didn’t “invent” it. A friend of mine wrote an article on St. Athansius’ use of the same concept:

      http://www.tdaviddemarest.com/2014/04/19/ss-anselm-athanasius-yes-i-put-them-together/

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        So we’ve got the “Three A’s” — Augustine, Athanasius, and Anselm — first proposing the concept, then it simmered for a long time until finally reaching critical mass sometime around the Reformation, possibly assisted by the Calvinist wing of Protestants. Then it gets turned into its final form by the Great Awakening and Massachusetts Puritanism and spreads through American Evangelical Protestantism.

        Sounds like a route paralleling that of Pre-Mil Eschatology.

      • I was hoping someone would reference Athanasius because I think he sees things in a decidedly non PSA way. I’ve seen attempts to argue, through some selective quoting of legal language and “payment” in “On the Incarnation”, that Athanasius puts forth an informal argument for PSA. I do see where the quotes come from, but the entirety of On The Incarnation paints a very different picture IMO.

        I’d like to see how some from the Orthodox tradition read Athanasius.

        • Dana. Ames says:

          There is no PSA in Athanasius. To find it there, one has to read it in, and/or read Athanasius wrongly. On vacation, sorry no time to read Aidan’s friend’s post. But it’s not there. Substitution language with nuance can be found in some of the Eastern fathers, but no PSA.

          Dana

  13. Focusing solely on statements made by Jesus or statements made in the Gospels themselves, are PSA or Christus Victor more accurate or more in focused?

    How much was later piled on by Paul, or piled on by church history/tradition?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      After being immersed in PSA during my time in-country, these days I’m leaning more towards Christus Victor.

      (Though being on Finasteride and Flomax and having to get checked by a urologist twice a year, the acronym “PSA” can get confusing.)

      • 🙂
        HUG, you should make that a Public Service Announcement (my wife’s in radio; that’s in-house jargon).

        The claim that “a holy God CAN NOT look upon sin; that blood MUST be shed” seems to require something of God, as if he’s not fully God.

        I’ve come to look upon the cross as the engine that drives the universe, and from the very beginning. The cross is not a patch on a fallen world, it is the meaning of the world (apologies to Nietzsche’s ubermensch here).

        Something like what Dante said, that it’s (God’s) Love that moves the sun and the other stars.

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      “Now the ruler of this world is cast out.” (Christus Victor). “This is my blood of the covenant, shed for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Substitution).

      ^Not to say that those two verses exhaust the entirety of Jesus’ teaching, but I think they’re helpful places to start.

      • Definitely. And I suppose it’s also a little disingenuous to uphold the Gospels as the starting point, since they came after most of Paul’s writings and decades of discussion and theological development. So the gospels can’t really be put “first” in terms of importance, anymore.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Problem is, a lot of theology these days uses the Gospels only to back up Paul’s points and axioms. Paul dominates, not Christ.

          • Yep.

            I’m leading a men’s group through Colossians and I’ve challenged the guys to read it as if Paul is illuminating CHRIST and NOT as a support of theology/dogma/denominational stuff.

            I think Christians (initially theologians and leaders, followed by their flocks) tend to read Paul’s epistles as a support of theology and not as a further expounding of Jesus. That’s not Paul’s fault, that’s ours.

            Lord have mercy.

          • How would Christ dominate? Do you believe that the gospels give us Christ without interpretation? Wrong. The gospels interpret Christ from beginning to end, as much as Paul did. This idea persists that the gospels give us direct access to Jesus Christ in a way the rest of the NT doesn’t, but they don’t. They are convincing narratives, and make us feel as if we are meeting Jesus directly, but that’s the power of good story-telling; but they are not biography, and they are not history. They are proclamation. We have no direct access to Jesus; the access we have is mediated through the early Christian community, of which Paul was a member as much as the writers of the gospels (who we have no reason, beyond legendary tradition).

          • …who we have no reason, beyond legendary tradition, to believe were the Apostles..

  14. I think Jesus died because that’s what the world in it’s then (and now) state did to people who lived with that level of love, integrity and who challenged the system. I think Jesus knew that before he came. Death was inevitible because Jesus would not act in a manner contrary to his character. But in Jesus’ dying, and rising, he overcame death, perhaps the first time ever that way, and is showing us the way home. The atonement (at-one-ment) is bringing the whole of creation together, home. I don’t think we are intrinsically bad, just lost. The shepherd is come for us. In my view, God is infinitely patient and does not punish. I think that’s why the “between time” is taking so long. But the atonement has been set in motion and will eventually come to fruition. And possibly given the nature of time and eternity (illusory, relative), from God’s perspective, it is complete.

    • Also was a political revolutionary stirring up dissent and amassing large crowds of people following him who dared challenge the status quo and rulers of the day. Gotta put that down fast, send in the Drones.

    • Your thinking kinda fits with mine.

      I view all the OT rules and law as God saying, “Do you want to know how separated from Me you’ve become? Do you want to know how wide the chasm is? It’s so wide that you’d have to offer the blood of your firstborn to even hope to close the gap, and you’d have to follow all these rules about cleanliness, etc. etc., and you’d need to do it over and over and over again, and because you’ll turn that into a religion and lose sight of My love, I’ll send My Son Jesus to close the gap PERMANENTLY.”

      To me, there’s no NEED for God to punish anyone. He’s just told us how separated we are from Him, then sent Jesus to permanently close the gap.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        But some are not happy unless God exists to PUNISH! PUNISH! PUNISH!
        (and by proxy give them the Divine Right to do the same)

        • HUG, that’s extremely well said. It’s like they’re saying, “God HAS TO DO IT THIS WAY.”

          Wait a second. Why?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            My usual comment on such arrogance is “What would God ever do on J-day without (insert name) there to tell Him who is REALLY Saved and who is not? God will be SO lucky to have them!”

  15. John Thomas says:

    The only view of atonement that makes rational sense to me is Moral Influence or Moral Transformation view.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Which is?

      • John Thomas says:

        Being a moral exemplar for how to lead a righteous life obedient to God and his commands, teaching his fellow human beings to go beyond the commands of Torah to practice purity in thoughts, loving their enemies, not harming anyone, self-sacrificial love etc. There was a Jewish belief that just because of disobedience to word of God by Adam led to death coming to the world, obedience to word to God will lead one into eternal life where human beings will be restored to original glory (which was considered even above angels). Jesus exemplified that in his life. As Athanasius says, “For the Son of God became man so that we might become divine.”

  16. Aidan Clevinger says:

    Here’s my crack at answering Greg Boyd’s questions. Please forgive me if this is exceedingly long:

    1. N.T. Wright has very helpfully pointed out that the atonement and justification are, whether wholly or in part, about *God’s* justification before the world. I don’t know whether or not God *could* forgive without a perfect sacrifice (though we have to remember Hews 9:22, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins”), but, as Paul says in Romans 3, providing a perfect sacrifice enables Him to uphold His Law and justice while also having mercy on sinners: God “put [Jesus] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

    2. Jesus associated with sinners: A. In view of the perfect atonement for their sins which He was shortly to accomplish, B. In order to love and identify with them, which identification is part of the imputation of their/our sins to Him on the cross. Think about His touching of the lepers, and the exchange of His health and life for their uncleanness.

    3. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Scripture never talks about God being reconciled to us. That concept is implicit whenever the New Testament uses the language of propitiation, which in the Old Testament was a means whereby the Israelites could turn aside God’s wrath. When the people grumbled after God put down Korah’s rebellion, God intended to destroy them, but Moses commanded Aaron, “Take your censer, and put fire on it from off the altar and lay incense on it and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord” (Numbers 16:46). Likewise with the incident of the golden calf.

    Applying these observations to the New Testament, it frequently speaks of Jesus as our propitiation or sin-offering, which brings with it all the OT connotations of sacrifices for sins which placate/turn away God’s wrath. “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). The strongest example of this is Christ’s words regarding the Supper: “This is my blood of the new covenant, shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.” This is explicitly sacrificial language.

    We can also see God’s wrath from the point of view of uncleanliness/cleanliness/holiness. In the Old Testament, the ritual unclean defiled the sanctuary, and God punished and destroyed such pollution. Only by being cleansed through sacrifice and/or washing could people re-enter the presence of God without being destroyed. Jesus’ blood cleanses us perfectly from all sin, so that we can stand in the presence of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit without being consumed. “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:13-14).

    4. This one is a pretty good critique of the over-anthropomorphizing tendencies in a lot of presentations of substitutionary atonement. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the Father was wrathful towards the Son. The Son experienced the Father’s wrath in the sense of experiencing the punishment due to sin, but one Person was never divided against another. John’s Gospel emphasizes that Jesus does only what the Father wills, and that the Father sent Him for that purpose. Indeed, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again” (John 10:17).

    5. I think we have to take “forgiveness” in the cultic sense: God releases us from guilt, shame, and uncleanliness so that we can be restored to a right relationship with Him and into His holy presence, without being destroyed. But I do take the point, and admit that it’s a linguistic difficulty.

    6. It’s not that sin and guilt can be “transferred” in an arbitrary sense. A better way to speak of it is in terms of incorporation. When the high priest made atonement, he put on his priestly garments. On his breastplate were twelve stones with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. Israel was incorporated into, included in, the high priest as he performed his ministry; they were *in* him as he confessed their sins over the animal to be slain. It worked the other way around too. When an anointed priest sinned, he brought guilt on all the people (Leviticus 4:3). We can see the same principle in the letter to the Hebrews: because Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek, Levi did so as well, since Levi was in Abraham’s loins (Hebrews 8:9-10). This is why original sin isn’t an arbitrary transfer of guilt from Adam to his children. Rather, we share in Adam’s corruption and guilt because we were *in* him, naturally and spiritually, united to him by a common nature, which we received from him.

    Jesus was able to take our guilt into Himself because He became man and took our nature. Because He became one with us, He was able to include us in Him when He went to the cross. As Paul says, “We have concluded thus: that one has died for all, therefore all have died” ( 2 Cor. 5:14). Of course, this is not to say that Jesus Himself, or His human nature, sinned. Rather, He incorporated sinners into Himself. We can see this in His baptism. The baptism of John was for “repentance for the forgiveness of sin” – but what sins did Christ did to be forgiven of? None of His own. By being baptized, He identified with *our* sins. We see this also with many of His healing miracles, in which He touched unclean persons (lepers, the woman with a discharge of blood). He gave those people His own health, and took their uncleanness to Himself, as spelled out in the Law.

    7. Because Jesus is God and man, His sufferings have infinite value. Though He suffered a short time, His sufferings were great enough to redeem the whole world. Beyond that, I can’t really say how it all works. This is a mystery.

    8. This brings out the fact that substitutionary or sacrificial atonement isn’t the *only* thing that Jesus accomplished. We can see many, many things that Jesus did in and through His life. He recapitulated Adam and Israel, David and Solomon, temple and tabernacle in Himself, fulfilling all things that were imperfectly done by our ancestors (Irenaeus). He cleansed our human natures of sin through His incarnation, and filled them with His own life (Athanasius and Cyril). He drove out the devil from those whom he was oppressing, and brought them into the kingdom of God through His preaching and healing and their faith. He revealed the truth of God, and brought light to our darkened minds. He walked among His people, beginning the fulfillment of God’s promise to be with His people in a more intimate way than in the temple. There’s more than can be said about Jesus’ life than we could ever find words or time for.

    9. They were certainly right that atonement needed to be made by sacrifice, and they seem to have had the right intuition that only human life can pay for human guilt, since God requires death for the transgressor. But their practices were abhorrent because, unless there’s a specific commandment and reason from God, killing your child is about as evil a thing as you can do. On the flip side, however, it would not have been wrong for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. But there we see God’s mercy, that He doesn’t require these terrible sacrifices, but made it Himself.

    10. If we understand substitution in the context I’ve outlined, the context of union and incorporation, then it can bear a lot of fruit for our lives – but not on its own. Christ’s death and resurrection transform us in many ways. Legally, His death satisfies and does away with the charges against us, and His resurrection is God’s justification of Him. We receive that justification when we are baptized. The example of His love kindles love in us, and inspires us to sacrificially love our neighbors. His death and resurrection also defeated the devil and death, and He gives us freedom from our oppressors and brings us into His liberty to live in love. By His incarnation, He cleansed our human nature, and made it again a temple for God. This culminated in His resurrection, when He received the fullness of the glory He had with the Father before the world was. Through faith in Him the Holy Spirit dwells within us and fills us with His holiness and, eventually, with His glory and power.

    Again, sorry for the length, but I thought it was important enough to address in detail. I think Greg Boyd has valid critiques of popular presentations of substitutionary atonement, and the warped version of it that is often preached in American Protestantism. But I think that substitution is a biblical way of speaking about Christ’s death, when it is seen in and with the fullness of apostolic teaching, which includes the Christus Victor theme, recapitulation, cleansing from ritual impurity, the sanctification of our natures, and the hope of glory in Jesus.

    • Aidan,

      I’m sure the conversation has moved beyond this post to today’s but…

      This is so well said. I was reflecting upon this this morning and thinking that no one theory captures all of what Christ accomplished in the Atonement. Thanks for bringing clarity to my scattered thoughts.

  17. Going to ask another unanswerable uncomfortable question.

    In light of Jesus’ repeated statements about the end of times, this generation passing, etc, and referencing Chaplain Mike’s comment the other day (today?) about viewing most of Jesus’ statements as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish people in 70 AD…

    Did Jesus just die to save his followers from the Romans bringing death? Political scapegoat? Sacrificial lamb?

    I’m starting to wonder if the legend of Jesus being literally God, besides just the Son of God, came about after people sat in a room in Jerusalem for days waiting for the “Comforter”. In a way, it reminds me of all that happened following the Great Disappointment.

    Jesus did return, but secretly! = he’s not here, he’s Risen and ascended! A way to make sense of what happened but also to hold on to what Jesus, that great teacher and political revolutionary, was doing during ministry…to keep the remnants alive and following the rabbi’s teaching.

    IDK, just a thought. Seems plausible. Too many bricks have crumbled for me.

    Guess this what happens when you dare question inerrancy lol

    • I don’t mind uncomfortable questions anymore. I like to see theologically minded folks try to come up with answers to them. Me? I have no clue.

  18. David Cornwell says:

    All the answer I need is as follows:

    ” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world “….

  19. OldProphet says:

    Romans 5:8. God recommended His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Works for me You know, I live theological discussions, but today’s is too deep for me, or too boring. Either way, have a good chin wag mateys! I think that I’ll skip the debate group in Heaven and join the wine tasting group instead! I wonder who else will be there? Robert F. Charles, maybe CM? Of course, Emmy Lou Harris music will be in the background.

  20. PSA. Sorry, but what a crock.

    “Hey, your daughter killed my dog on purpose. She MUST be punished. SOMEONE MUST BE PUNISHED. Tell you what…I’ll just beat my son instead.”

    Makes no sense on any level.

    • This hurts me more than it hurts you. Remember, you asked for this.

    • I hear ya. I’ve been hovering around this one for awhile. I’m somewhere between outright rejection of it, and submitting it to Christus Victor.

      Here’s hoping that there can be a version of PSA (maybe we’ll have to rename it altogether) which has more nuance, depth, and pays more attention to the words of Jesus himself, than the way most people currently understand it.

  21. I wrote this yesterday. PSA could fit into the middle of it somewhere.

    Amazing Is the Turn from Grace
    (Rick Rosenkranz, 2015)

    Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
    That saved a wretch like me.
    I once was found, but now am lost;
    Could see, but now I’m blind.

    Yes, grace once held my heart aloft,
    And grace my fears relieved;
    But then, over time, religion crept in,
    And the “should-s” became what I believed.

    Go to church, read the Bible, give ten-percent,
    Tell people they’re sinners doomed for Hell;
    Do more, try harder, if you grumble where’s your heart?
    I’ll know you by your works!

    Believe in creation and a six-thousand year-old earth,
    Who needs grace when you know the truth?
    Free will versus predetermination? Pre-trib versus post?
    God will judge you by your answer!

    Ah, Religion tasted good and took root in my heart;
    For it told me I’m right and others are wrong.
    Grace became for the weak and losers of the world,
    I thanked God I was no longer a dumb sheep.

    Woe to me, I forgot that grace was free,
    And woe to those who preach the add-ons.
    They’re lost and blind, like I now am,
    Dear Jesus, come rescue me.

  22. Marcus Johnson says:

    First, let’s resolve that Jesus died because He was killed. He criticized the Jewish authorities, instigated a social revolution that challenged systems of oppression and greed, and claimed to be the Messiah, a direct affront to Caesar. That’s why He died.

    I think another problem with PSA is that it confuses why Jesus died with what His death means. It also places greater emphasis on the cross than the empty tomb, when the Christian faith is firmly established on the latter. Basically, it provides the wrong answer to the wrong question. Believers should be focusing the conversation on “What does the Resurrection mean?” rather than “Why did Jesus die?”

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      That rather ignores the chapters preceding the crucifixion in John – “I came into the world to do the will of Him who sent me” and what transpired in the garden of Gethsemane.

      Nope – being put to death was pretty why he came, according to the narrative.

      And apart from what Marcus said here – other here begin to say it doesn’t matter, it’s love, we shouldn’t try to understand, it’s mystery, blah di blah….

      Bullshit.

      We are being given a narrative. We are told we are vile / make vile choices (depending if you are Augustinian, sorry, a horny Augustinian or not). The guilt builds. No comes the apex – this fellow, who is actually God, came to earth to die. Because God is angry and just. But also love. But if he is love, can’t he forgive? I do. Nope – he must have remission!!! Blood!!! Death!! (the penal model). Rather a bloodthirsty bronze age deity, ain’t it? Because the desire for death is stronger than love – to the extent that it comes to deicide (is that a word?).

      But no, says the other people, we have a Christus Victor Model / some other model. So why death and suffering? Why the hell-fire through which the majority of Christians have been terrorized through their childhood (and adulthood) for the last millennium and a half? Hmmm – they understood it wrong? No hell? The death was necessary but not really but really but look away while I wave my arms? Oh, ignore all that dogma, Loooovvvveeeee. Such nice love – (heads roll in Syria, hate, derision, more blood, more hate, hunger, disaster, unemployment) – oh but those are all human things, God is in Control and he llloooovvvveees. RRRReeally?

      And then you wonder why people walk away from the whole damn enterprise.

      Ends rant (for now).

      • Yea, it is pretty hard to believe most of the time. But the thing is, I actually do believe that Jesus was resurrected, and I’ve experienced his living presence in my life. Plus I’ve been programmed in many ways since I was a small child to take it seriously, and I happen to be the kind of person who can’t help but take it seriously….except for the times I don’t take it seriously. It’s pretty hard to believe most of the time. I hope my future felicity on the other side of death doesn’t depend on me being certain of anything, or having done enough things right. I hope that for my wife, too, and my family from which I’m alienated, and the woman downstairs who won’t talk to us and asks that we not talk to her, and for pretty much everybody.

        • I don’t believe Jesus resurrected. His resurrection is simply one more fact, another piece of the TRUTH I’ve always accepted as historical and universal truth and never had to accept by faith.

          Of course Jesus resurrected. Next you will be telling me grass isn’t green and the sky isn’t blue.

          And I honestly don’t know if I have experienced his living presence in my life. Just living terror when others invoke him into my life.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Living terror – now you are speaking!

          • When I experienced him, just one moment, but a moment that swept back and forth from its center across the expanse of my life, he came as Peace peace

      • I was going to comment but I just don’t know how. I just don’t know. Lord have mercy on us

  23. Dr Ben Myers recently gave a lecture called “The patristic model of the atonement” or “Atonement and the image of God”. Long, but well worth the time if you stick with it.

    Commentary on PSA and Christus Victor is there. As are evil words like theory, model, mechanism, and mystery.

    https://youtu.be/DzdgDdZkSOY

    • The bullet points at the beginning are slow, but it’s great if you can get past that. Learned a ton about early Christianity.

    • I appreciate some of the criticism regarding overuse and lazy use of the word “mystery”, but the word is built right into the sacramental and theological architecture of Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and all of the more sacramental versions of Protestantism. Based on what I’ve seen and heard, evangelicals actually use the word a lot less than the more ancient expressions of the Christian faith do.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Well, it took me some time to get over my chronological snobbery – both ways: While newer doesn’t necessarily imply better, neither does older necessarily imply better. Each claim or tradition shall stand on its own feet. While new error exists it is possible to do/belief the same wrong thing for a long time. And hand-waving can certainly be one of those things.

        • Agree.

          But not everything can, in fact many things can’t, be explained by a logical syllogism, or it’s vernacular equivalent. Some things can only be illuminated, revealed, shown, expressed by poetry, or language that shares the character of poetry. To demand of religious ways of knowing the kind of proofs offered by logic is to denude the world of many things, not just religion.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Yes and no. But the danger always exists that behind the beautiful or lovely words lies an emptiness or a world of hurt (been there, done that, got the T-shirt and the scars, many of them still festering). If one rejects any form of rational analysis (and by rational I don’t mean simple syllogisms only, but fully understanding the complexity of human nature and history etc), one has to wonder why?

            It is a thoroughly mistaken idea that rationalism is the same as Boolean reductionism. To be rational you have to take all factors into account, include language, anthropology, sociology, biology, chemistry, archeology, philosophy, mathematics etc and yes, simple logic. To deny reason is to deny any epistemology, including the knowledge, or the ability to acquire knowledge of all things Christian. It is a Moebius strip, my friend, and a deathly one at that.

          • I’m afraid my multi-disciplinary knowledge may not be up to your high standards. I deploy rationality where I can, but the fact is that I’m a creature driven by things within that are mostly beyond the reach of rationality. The largest parts of me existed before I ever formed a thought; that’s where most of me still exists. My reason can manage to impart enough light to allow me to get a sense for just how vast are the regions beyond its ken; it’s even informed me that it came out of that vast depth, and one day will return to it.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            I am no expert Robert, but that only encourages me to keep on probing the minds of those who are. To never stop asking, wondering, comparing, connecting, correcting, and doubting myself.

            The big questions are too important to be given up to handbwaving and shrugs. Sure we may not get exact answers, but we may start to get the shape of the answers…

          • I’m afraid I don’t have the energy what you describe requires, Klasie. I’m struggling to get by from day to day, and even the time and energy I spend here at iMonk is stolen from that struggle. As I get older, I see that I’m going back into myself; when I die, the journey back will be finished, and God will either draw me out of myself again…or not.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            I know about low energy etc. But the desire to know, to see, to understand, etc with me is a state of being.

          • No state of being here. Tremendous weariness, and the yearning for escape. Been that way, that yearning, since the time of my earliest childhood self-awareness.

            But in the midst of this, the one moment that came unexpected and unbidden, the intense, calm energy through my soul and body that my wife felt when I touched her in the middle of it without me telling her about it, and that breathed through my being into her Peace Peace, like Pascal’s moment of Fire, but no fire, self-authenticating and sweeping back and forth over the expanse of my life from the earliest moment to the future and anchored in the present….one moment, one moment, a life in one moment….Even so, come, Lord…

  24. For w~ Bill, I hope you see this. I’ve been outside working, taking advantage of this last nice day to get things done while I can. My heart aches for you and your situation. I could not begin to handle what you have to deal with on top of my own dealt hand, but I am finding a way to make the unthinkable acceptable. a way that most react to with scoffing and derision and intellectual denial. Evangelicals come up with a lot of silly word games but one they use occasionally, as today, that actually works, is at-one-ment. This was the basis behind this theological word atonement that has produced so much garbage in the church.

    Jesus prayed that we become One with him and God the Father. I am convinced that this is the core of his Kingdom teaching and ministry, his life and death and resurrection, that this is what he came to make possible and demonstrate. There have been a few people scattered over the past two thousand years who understood this, but the church as a whole has ignored it, even attacked it. I believe it is only now that people in larger numbers are ready for this understanding, and it is not an intellectual understanding, tho it can be approached that way.

    The best and easiest way I have found to attain this state of being is thru the spiritual practice commonly called contemplation. This does not refer to the use of that word that implies thinking deeply about something, in fact quite the opposite. It involves rising above thinking. as well as above feeling and believing and whatever else tends to go on in our heads. These things put aside, or released, or let go, allow one to experience the presence of God as having been present all along. It is a learned way of relating to God that can be practiced and studied and improved upon. It works.

    It can be used to deal with physical and mental and emotional pain. It doesn’t make them go away, it releases them so that you are not caught in their grip. You might have to release negative forces a hundred times in a day, a thousand, but you can learn to do this as they intrude and stay in a condition of Now. When I am stressed beyond my normal load I have claustrophobic dreams. Given where these dreams are heading, I would do anything to avoid it, I would kill you or anyone in my way, I would deny Jesus, I wake up in a full blown panic attack. It used to take me hours to recover. Using the contemplative technique of letting go I can usually gain my footing in a couple of minutes. If I was better at it, it would take less than 1/10,000 of a second, which is my goal. This doesn’t come overnight.

    If you choose to follow this Way, you will have to deal with people who don’t understand, people who scoff , people who explain it away and imply that you are off your rocker. There are wackos and ignoramuses ready to lead you astray but the information is out there from good teachers if you use your God given discernment and leading of Spirit. At this point at my age, all I see ahead is an ongoing deterioration in spite of all I can do to hold it off, and the only thing that lets me keep going is the knowledge that I can enter God’s presence here and now whenever I choose and remember to choose using these techniques learned in the practice of contemplation.

    I don’t mean to imply that I’m very good at this, but I’m working at it best I can and have every expectation of getting better at it in whatever time I have left. If I was going to die tonight, this is what I would want to tell you. ~Charley

    • Thank You, I know it’s Him and he is what I do contemplate on now in the middle of such heart wrenching times that can last too long. I am trying with all I got to love His way and walk through death at that moment to meet Him and look into those eyes.

  25. The OP:

    This is particularly concerning to me because every study done on the subject has demonstrated that for the majority of Americans who believe in Jesus, their belief makes little or no impact on their life. I wonder if the dominance of this legal-transaction view of the atonement might be partly responsible for this tragic state of affairs.

    Have you seen this (part of it mentions Christians specifically):

    Surprise! Science proves kids with religious upbringings are less generous — and so are adults
    http://www.rawstory.com/2015/11/surprise-science-proves-kids-with-religious-upbringings-are-less-generous-and-so-are-adults/

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I think I read that or a similar article at Daily Beast (probably referencing the same study).

      The impression I got was that those “religious upbringings” in question are too Righteous to be generous or altruistic.