“The victory of the cross is not assured without the enlightening revelation of the Spirit of God” (Hans Boersma, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition [Baker Academic, 2004] p. 150) is a very strange statement indeed! It shows how very far the mind of the Reformation (and Western atonement theology generally) stands apart from the mind of Messiah and his Spirit—the spirit of the New Covenant. The victory of the “Cross” did not happen, properly speaking, at the Cross itself at all, but at the Resurrection!
The Cross was a manifest “failure” since it did not save the Savior from death and the unseen in the least! Jesus’ “Saviorhood” was not manifest at the crucifixion. By no stretch of a hallowed imagination can that tragic violence be construed as saving. Yet because it was ineluctably linked to previous and subsequent events by a molecular logic of cosmic chemistry, therefore the product was predetermined: VICTORIOUS RESURRECTION FROM AMONG THE DEAD! Messiah’s getting crucified was an act of submissive obedience by the divine Son to his divine Father; it could only have a divine outcome—the vindication of that obedience by Resurrection, enthronement, and the outpouring of Wholesome Spirit to seal the adoption of future heirs.
Therefore, properly speaking, Messiah’s cross manifested no victory that could be “assured,” as Boersma supposes, by so-called “enlightening revelation” of the Spirit of God” or by any other means whatsoever. We may better speak of the justification of the Cross becoming apparent in Messiah’s resurrectionary victory over death, Satan, sin, and every petty enemy. And that victory has been attested and proclaimed by his apostles. This is our assurance and this has already been corroborated and certified by “the Spirit of God” that long ago inspired wholesome men to write it all down in detail in the wholesome Scriptures of the New Covenant for all the wholesome ones (“saints”) who believe the message.
The impulse that moved Hans Boersma to write that opening sentence was, to be sure, the impossibility of seeing any victory in the Cross by any normal, rational means. But that fact should have told him something and advised his hesitation before invoking a “supernatural” crowbar to bust the lock on this “mystery.” In fact there is no longer any mystery about the proclamation of God’s Kingdom! It was intended for secrecy only until Satan showed his vicious, violent hand against the Son of Mankind, which he would by no means have done if he had known God would reverse his murder by irreversible resurrection!
God’s righteous anger against sin cannot be averted from it. Sins, rather, must be cleaned away from us so that we do not die in them. For unless this release from sins takes place, our wrongdoings will suck us down a black hole to God only knows where!
There is no “redeeming power” in the Cross! There is only liberating power in the heart of a strictly righteous God whose resurrectionary “avenging” the cross of Messiah evoked! The power all belongs to and issues from the God of unremitting justice who did not let the sentence of crucifixion stand without virtually immediate reversal and colossal overcompensation! HOORAY!!!
If the intolerable injustice of the Cross evoked the Resurrection of the Son by the Father, doesn’t this fundamental evangelical pattern also get reflected in the case of disease no less than sin? The application of the innocent blood of God’s Lamb to our sinful hearts effects the “avenging” of his wrongful death by the outpouring of new life into our hearts, thus giving us expectancy of agelong life in the impending age. Why wouldn’t the application of his blood (figured in anointing the sick with oil, which likewise symbolizes the Wholesome Spirit poured out on or “paid out” to us in compensation for Satan’s pouring out the blood of God’s own Son) also effect restoration of health as well? It naturally follows.
VIOLENCE OR ASSERTIVENESS?
I’d like to reflect for a moment on Boersma’s category of “violence.” When Jesus spoke of the so-called “violence” of those whom he commended as wanting into God’s Kingdom, he hardly meant “violence” in the Old Testament sense that God hates in no uncertain terms and condemns decisively. Rather, a comparison with the usage of this Greek family of words in the Septuagint Old Testament strongly (forcefully!) suggests that Jesus meant assertiveness, i.e., forcefulness. This translation makes profound sense in light of the string of assertive people whose stories are told in the preceding chapters, following the “Sermon on the Mount.”
Today we even hear of “assertiveness training” to help the timid become more bold, outgoing, outspoken, and courageous in public and forceful in relationships. “Violence?” I don’t think so. [4/4/06]
God’s “hospitality” is reserved especially for those within the covenants He made throughout history–that is, if we understand hospitality as God’s graciousness. But Boersma’s Calvinism, as expressed in his noteworthy book, has tied up this graciousness in endless litigation, speculating unjustifiably about its supralapsarian reservation for only a few “sovereignly,” “irresistibly,” and “irreversibly” chosen individuals, as if this is graciousness at all! Much rather, God’s true graciousness (“sovereign” is not even a biblical adjective!) allows all people onto the train of His covenant so long as they trust Him (as manifested by their enduring repentance and obedience). Otherwise they get thrown out of the train somewhere on route to the Kingdom, into outer darkness where there is no graciousness, but only anger–divine indignation. This is well illustrated by God’s “drowning Pharaoh and his army because His lovingkindness [to Pharaoh’s would-be victims!] endures for the age” Psalm 136:15. God exercises patience, toleration, longsuffering and kindness even to Pharaoh and others outside His covenant, including defectors! But His lovingkindness, covenantal troth, and graciousness are ours, alone, who keep trusting.
WHERE’S THE BLOOD?
Curiously, Boersma’s book does not have an index entry for “blood”! This is some measure of how far from the metaphors of Scripture one can stray even in painstaking scholarly elaborations. “Blood” is simply the most pivotal and pervasive word associated with every category of salvation in the New Testament Ponder that! [4/4/06]