Monthly Archives: December 2012

The “Eternal Law of Moses” vs. the Spirit’s Law of Life-in-Messiah-Jesus

If the whole work of Messiah really gravitated around the so-called “eternal Law of Moses,” then why is there such a controversy in the Gospels and Acts and Paul’s epistles about how, exactly, to interpret, apply, and practice the Mosaic Law? If it were really all that important, then why is Jesus always violating what the Jewish teachers were saying it meant and demanded? No. Much rather, the real issue was Messiah’s law of the Spirit versus Moses’ letter of the Law.  “A Greater than Moses” had made his advent!

Jesus asserted forcefully that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees! He warned his learners, “They sit in Moses’ seat, so do what they say, but don’t do what they do!” They were hypocrites, presuming to teach the Law but not doing it spiritually so as to really fulfill it. Only Messiah did that perfectly and then poured out his Spirit so that many others could emulate him, too. But the hypocrites, sensing the embarrassing disparity, destroyed this Prophet, Priest, and King rather than risk having to “eat crow” and obey him. (Rom. 2, 1 Tim. 1:3-11, James 1-5)  [4/12/06]

A PUNITIVE ATONEMENT DEROGATES FROM A JUSTIFYING RESURRECTION

If God had harbored even the least punitive attitude toward Messiah on the Cross, this would have derogated from, and thus sullied, the Son’s virgin innocence that itself was the “active ingredient” which so powerfully and wonderfully evoked his Father’s justifying of that perfect self-sacrifice via his glorifying resurrection!  Undoubtedly this subtle (maybe not so subtle!) compromise of Jesus’ integrity by a doctrine that imputes sin to him, has tragically sapped his resurrection of its native efficacy as Jehovah’s JUSTIFYING MOMENT.

A close reading of Isaiah 53 will abundantly repay us with clarifying insight.  It was not God who impted sin to Jesus or “reckoned” him “stricken, smitten by God [duh!] and afflicted” but the uncomprehending onlookers!  They had it all wrong!  But that’s okay because God Himself made it all right by raising the seemingly hapless victim of not only unjust actions but also unworthy, reproachful opinions!  For such abysmal misunderstandings were themselves part of the grave injustice done to Messiah Jesus!  And they too were, in principle–and it requires faith here too in order to see through the shroud–dissolved in the nuclear burst of Resurrection light!  These unworthy, ignoble, blackening insinuations concerning why a supposedly just God would allow (and hence seemingly endorse) such outrageous treatment of a sinless human were vaporized in an instant when what Jesus “rashly” prophesied about himself came true just as he said!  What an embarrassment to all his detractors!  What a come-uppance!  What exquisite satisfaction and joy he must have felt to receive such a celestial backup!

Yet our atonement theologies have not yet absorbed the truth at full potency but continue to waffle.  May God increasingly separate out the chaff as we humbly allow even adamant old doctrines to suffer meltdown and reformation by the Potter, and thereupon yield amenably to His authentic, captivating design of entrancing splendor.  [4/13/06]

THE TRADITIONAL WESTERN DOGMA OF THE TRINITY IS INADEQUATE TO EXPLAIN OUR PARTICIPATION IN THE DIVINE NATURE

The dogmatic orthodox Western notion of “The Trinity” is too rigid, exclusive, self-sufficient, self-contained, closed, brittle, and fragile to properly, adequately, fairly represent Biblical teaching.  For by commissioning His own Son, born “after His Kind” before the ages of time commenced at creation, to divest himself of his native divine form and assume the form of those now enslaved to sin and Satan, the Father announced His desire for children, sons, and heirs in His Kingdom over the creative works of His hands.  The work of the Son, in collaboration with the Father, was aimed at bringing mere creatures into full participation and unity with the contents of Deity–graciousness and truth–via partaking of God’s own Wholesome Spirit, which apostolic Scripture literally and figuratively represents as part of God Himself.  Therefore by immersing trusting human beings into the divine nature of the only-born Son via immersion in Their one common Spirit, the Father and Son have implanted and grafted us into Themselves!  What an identity!  What a legacy!  What a status!  (The Eastern Orthodox teaching on “deification” approaches this idea, but not with an apostolic pattern of sound explanation.  “Participation” and “unification” would be less liable to errant interpretations; “inclusion” would perhaps be best of all.)  [4/13/06]

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THE TEAMWORK OF THE FATHER AND THE SON ACHIEVED THE ATONEMENT

Without Messiah’s justification by resurrection, the so-called at-one-ment diminishes, at best, to a sadly deficient “at-half-ment.” Even the measureless love of Messiah Jesus exhibited at the cross then only amounts to an “at-most-ment.” For the rest of the story of redemption demands the righteousness of God!

Let’s make no mistake; the love demonstrated at the Cross was a unified product of both the Father and the Son. Yet it could never be seen as such until the Father played His own hand, baring His own arm of justice, and coming gloriously to the rescue!  God’s own part in the grand drama proved without doubt both the true love of Jesus—because it showed in purest light that this Jesus was truly God’s beloved Son after all, and therefore could indeed have called for twelve legions of heaven’s messengers on his own behalf to mete vengeance to his tormentors…yet refused, even at the cost of indescribable personal agony!—not to mention the Father’s own passionate love. Evidence only Christ’s heart of love in forgiving his Roman executioners! For he wanted their best. He wanted them to be persuaded to change their minds and trust him and therefore keep his directives and hence become mature sons by adoption and so inherit allotments in his Father’s coming Kingdom and gloriously reign together with him for the ages of the ages in complete joy, universal righteousness and unbroken peace! That destiny he wanted for everyone! And his resurrection proved that he was certifiably sane to suffer such horrifying, undeserved indignities for such a “dream”! What he taught on earth was no “heavenly” illusion! It is ours for the taking, too! That’s the deal! That’s the graciousness of Father, Son, and Wholesome Spirit! It’s ours by faith if we endure our own trials and tests and temptations faithful to the very end. [4/12/06]

Evidently some exertions to prove that the so-called Atonement must be penal and substitutionary (and therefore “real”) have been predicated on the odd belief that such a crucifixion was necessary to “give meaning to the Resurrection (see documentation in Boyd Hilton, The Age of Atonement: The Influence of Evangelicalism on Social and Economic Thought, 1795-1865 [i.e., in England/Scotland], p. 296)! It would appear that the river is flowing backwards! For it is exactly the other way around, if we must ascribe a flow of meaning/glory (doxa) at all. The resurrection of Jesus from death—“even a death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8)—signified or glorified him as The Messiah without equal or peer! Thus this resurrection gave agelong, exalted, immortal meaning to that crucifixion. [4/12/06]

To ameliorate the harshness of “penal substitution” into a “penal representation” is to quibble about words, in the final analysis.  Here, Hans Boersma’s recourse (Hospitality, Violence, and the Cross, p. 177) is yet another desperate effort to retain God’s bad attitude about the Cross.  It’s a subterfuge that cannot be acquiesced in except at terrible and unacceptable cost:  God’s reputation!

Boersma declares, “God finally comes with the violence of punishment” (p. 177, emphases added).  How “finally”?  By the Crucifixion, of course.  But this is too early! Not 30 A.D. but 70 A.D. is when that holocaust “finally” appeared.  For in the meantime God ladled out mercy, kindness, long-suffering, and patience toward the murderous mob, additionally tolerating every further act of violence against His people newly-won from a mixed multitude of nations, and even halting one of these Jewish persecutors in his bloody tracks to make him a trophy of divine graciousness!

However, they would not desist from their wanton violence against the innocent (which was ultimately targeting the appointed Savior, as Jesus himself revealed to Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus on yet another errand of bloodshed).  It was only then that the God of Israel “finally” had enough, their cup of viciousness now filled to overflowing after 40 bloody years.  It was time to trample the grapes of wrath and splash their guilty blood all over Jerusalem—who “would not be gathered under the wings of salvation that Jehovah spread in Jesus.  [4/12/06]

Eschatology is a slippery enough subject that, by it, Hans Boersma hopes to fend off the objectors to his neo-penal atonement theory, allowing the future to take some of the blame or responsibility of guilt off his culpably errant defendant.  But this is subterfuge.  He might have succeeded if he had transferred God’s “violence of punishment” from the Cross to the Abomination of Desolation in 70 A.D., provided he did not try to keep back a little venom for 30 A.D.  But that would be too much to expect.  For not until a person fully absorbs the supreme, if totally surprising, justice of Messiah’s resurrection are they able to admit, confess, allege, assert, herald, and eventually wholeheartedly proclaim, undeceived, the total innocence of the Father from any ireful violence at the Cross.

Unsurprisingly, having chosen his fateful highway to horror, Boersma cannot get off until he escapes “rational arguments” (p. 178) altogether.  Having become blind to God’s historic theodicy = Messiah’s resurrection, he gestures off instead to the sweet by and by.  But surely this is irrational.  For if God has not already demonstrated precisely the ultimate solution to evil by RESURRECTIONARY  REVERSAL (i.e., JUSTIFICATION), any delay of the alleged solution to a dim “eschaton,” as they call it, attenuates expectation to the snapping point, creating a crisis of plausibility.  No.  We never again need to beg off until a dim future the “final solution” to sin and its consequences.  It was all lit up in neon lights at an empty tomb not far from Golgotha.  [4/12/06]

In yet another futile subterfuge, Boersma tries to pass off his hot potato of divine wrath at the Cross to the “mystery of the incarnation.”  How adroit:  “The mystery of the incarnation means that the violence in penal substitution is ultimately the violence of divine self-sacrifice, an act that stems from the pure hospitality that is the essence of God’s being.  God is therefore not a ‘bloodthirsty’ God who punishes his innocent Son” (p. 178, note 81).

Oh really?  By what alchemy?  If it looks like sado-masochism and sounds like sado-masochism and acts like sado-masochism, is it really cherry cheesecake?  Boersma’s logic—the very logic found throughout the whole grim history of defending this perversion—must bury itself in ancient mystery, enshroud itself in present inscrutability or absolve itself in apocalyptic eschatology, for it has not availed itself of “the revelation of a secret hushed in times agelong, yet manifested now through prophetic Scriptures besides, according to the injunction of the agelong God being made known to all the nations for faith-obedience—to the only and wise God, through Messiah Jesus” (Rom. 16:25-26).

Really now, what credit can we possibly give to the rehabilitating of “mystery” on behalf of a misty, musty theological phantom?  Boersma (indeed, this whole benighted tradition) has pulled God apart—a humpty-dumpty that no one wants to admit cannot be put back together again.  [4/12/06]

Boersma cannot seem to decide where to hide his hot potato next.  Past?  Present?  Future?  The councils of eternity?  All are tried, all are found wanting.  He limps not between two opinions but among a host.  This is truly Olympic, world-class limping.  [4/12/06]

Boersma’s metaphor of “hospitality at the Cross” is not apt.  (Unless we are hyper-focusing on God’s refusal to get mad at the guests not only soiling the linens and stealing the sterling, but also lynching the Manager of the bed-and-breakfast in the bargain!  Or what shall we call it when the Son of the vineyard owner knowingly submits to getting impaled by the tenants who conspire to enjoy the amenities of the vineyard long-term?  “Hospitality”?  Then why did the Owner get so sore about it and decide to bloody up the vineyard with those squatters?  [11/1/06])  For not the Crucifixion but the Resurrection is the capstone of God’s self-defense (both of Himself and His Messiah) and the Announcement of His hospitable openness to receive all who believe—from every family, tongue, land, and nation, whether Jew, Greek, barbarian, male, female, slave, or free—yet its ultimate empirical proof is the immersion in Wholesome Spirit “with signs following”!  This was a stumblingblock for the Jews, that the languages of the nations were spoken by this Wholesome Spirit that was alleged to originate in Israel’s God!  Here, then is the genuine locus of divine “hospitality”–not at all a prominent term in the chosen vocabulary of wholesome Scripture, by the way.  (This is yet another subterfuge of Boersma’s, adopted from post-modern authors although unwarranted by chosen apostles.)  [4/12/06]

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How can you find a GRACIOUS GOD in a WRATHFUL CROSS?

To read the New Testament and still be able to ask the strange question, “How can I find a gracious God?” as Martin Luther did, reveals a curious blindness that must have been inbred by way of some more popular or more official theology and practice based on alien assumptions. The authentic Proclamation of God’s graciousness must have been successively, gradually subverted and overturned during the Middle Ages, for the resultant question almost sounds like impertinence, a strangely obtuse query indeed. [4/12/06]

OVERCOMPENSATING THE VICIOUS

That God should overcompensate the vicious for their viciousness against the innocent, even as He overcompensates the innocent for the abuse they suffer at the hands of the vicious, should come as no surprise at all. For the overcompensation He exacts from them is only the overcompensation they owe to the innocent whom they have injured, but of course refuse to own up to, much less pay back to them voluntarily! The vicious are gratuitous sinners, harming others for the fun of it. Therefore, since they have hardened themselves in this habitual practice and refuse to change their minds and do right, they will be tormented gratuitously by a just God who recompenses accurately “according to acts” and judges “without partiality.” We reap what we sow—“some 30, some 60, some 100-fold.” The harvest of viciousness will be terrifying beyond imagining, and ultimately will go out with a whimper and a puff of smoke ascending for the ages as a memorial. [4/12/06]

JUST OVERCOMPENSATION AND PARASYMPATHETIC REBOUND

The divine principle of just overcompensation has its echo even in the sub-realm of physiology with the phenomenon of parasympathetic rebound. The human body will eventually adapt itself to the effects of psychotropic drugs taken regularly even by prescription (although not without variously harmful repercussions, sometimes permanent ones). But attempts to withdraw from them, especially too rapidly, are often attended with physiological overcompensating and sometimes horrifying results (especially with SSRI–Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor–antidepressants such as Prozac and its “me-too” clones, Zoloft, Paxil, Luvox, etc.).

This physiological overreaction may have something to teach us about the natural psychological reaction that we experience when confronted with a perceived insult, assault, injury, or other injustice. [4/12/06]

The notion of the Cross as a “lightning rod for God’s wrath” against sin simply won’t wash, i.e., won’t atone! It is barbaric, brutal, savage, superstitious, ineffectual, and thoroughly unnecessary. But more to the issue, it is not taught in Scripture nor among the earliest church authors. This is decisive. The notion of a righteous God exhausting and thus “satisfying” His indignation against sin by ejaculating it upon an innocent victim—His very own “Spirit and blood”!—ought to strike us as blasphemy! What’s gone wrong with our theological sieve, the “heresyfilter?

The image–I saw it depicted on a flannelgraph board many times as a child in chapel at a fine Christian school–of a judge offering his own son to serve the sentence or pay the fine of a convicted criminal has been represented as “the Gospel truth.” Is it?

Peter’s first epistle is eloquent on the nature of graciousness, and it doesn’t come within a light year of teaching substitutionary penalizing as a means of somehow transferring divine graciousness or eliciting it. “For this is graciousness, if, because of conscience toward God, any one is undergoing sorrows, suffering abuse unjustly. For what credit is it if, sinning and being buffeted, you will be enduring it? But if, doing good and suffering abuse, you will be enduring, this is graciousness beside God.” (1 Peter 2:19-20)

So here, clearly God’s graciousness is awarded to those who suffer abuse although righteous. And who is the paragon of this truth, the supreme paradigm of this pattern? That is precisely why the apostle continues…why he can continue: “For for this were you called, seeing that Messiah also suffered abuse for your sakes, leaving you a copy that you should be following up in the footprints of him who does no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, getting reviled, reviled not again; suffering abuse, threatened not, yet gave it over to Him Who is judging justly, who himself carries up our sins in his body on to the pole, that, coming away from sins, we should be living for righteousness; by whose welt [unjust though it was!] you were healed. For you were as straying sheep, but now you turned back to the Shepherd and Supervisor of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21-25)

And it follows as night the day that if it was just for God to punish our copy and paradigm with penalties that we deserved, then it is yet more “just” for Him to punish us sinners penally for the sins and injustices of others as well, for we “follow” in his footsteps! So where does graciousness show up in this twisted scenario? If God’s favor can now be shown to us because His anger was shown to Messiah, then can His favor be shown to our abusers because His disfavor gets vented on us? Did I miss something? This is a dangerously short-circuited logic if ever there was one! Even if theologians are not so bold as to out with it, yet this conclusion festers subcutaneously, ready to burst forth to the disgust and embarrassment of all, not least, God Himself!

But is this the way it worked with Job? Did the abuse he suffered provide any favor from God for his tormentors? Not by a long shot! In fact, God exacted sacrifices from them for righteous Job as payment for their foolish presumption! Whoa! Caveat accusor!

Much turns on getting this exactly right. Was there the least penal or punitive motive in God’s permitting Satan to try Job? Any wrath or anger or indignation in God’s heart? Any “offended honor”? None to speak of! And where did God’s favor show up, both narratively and historically speaking? At the end! For it was there that, having successfully passed the test of faith and righteousness, graciousness finally appeared to award him in overcompensating superabundance. Voila! “Wherefore, girding up the loins of your comprehension, being sober [as Job surely was throughout!] expect perfectly/maturely the graciousness which is being brought to you at the unveiling of Jesus Messiah.” (1 Peter 1:13)

The next objection that pops to mind is, “But wasn’t it the will of God that Messiah suffer abuse and die?” Yet Peter answers that too: “For it is better to be suffering abuse for doing good, if the desire of God may be desiring, than for doing evil, seeing that Messiah also, for our sakes, once died concerning sins, the Just One for the sake of the unjust ones, that he may be leading us to God.” (1 Peter 3:17-18) So the answer is, “Yes.” But does this mean that God Himself was disposed in His heart to abuse Jesus for our sins? Well is that the way it worked with Job? Did God have some secret penal, punitive motive or vicarious mechanism of exchange in His very open and evident desire that Job should suffer abuse and great sorrow and staggering loss and bodily pain? The notion is ludicrous, not to add, offensive! Yet we cannot escape putting the whole matter this way, because Job is one of the most forceful and clear types of Messiah that we see in the Old Testament–a partial type, to be sure, but solid in its revelation.

Now it’s true that God stayed Satan’s hand from taking Job’s life itself (or how could God depict his grand denouement by repaying him in excess, thus proving His graciousness and, moreover, His righteousness/justice in desiring Job’s abuse in the first place?). And God did not issue this restriction order in the case of Jesus. You can see where I’m going with this. It was exactly in letting Satan go all the way this time, yet also in providing a sinlessly innocent victim this time around, that God could likewise go all the way! Jesus led us all the way back to God (see Heb. 9): “Being put to death, indeed, in flesh, yet vivified in spirit…immersion is now saving you also…through the resurrection of Jesus Messiah, who is at God’s right hand, being gone into heaven, messengers and authorities and powers being subjected to him.” (1 Peter 3:18-22)

Thus was Satan tricked fair and square by his own historic momentum of bad habits! He never took the hints scattered throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. But we should. It is still in Satan’s best interests to muddle this Message and make God look like an egregiously vindictive warlord wreaking vengeance to satisfy His “wounded honor” and overbearing superego. Such caricatures deserve only lampoons. Yet they are with us still, and many an unfledged theologian has tried to earn his stripes by tilting at the long string of critics lined up for the lists.

Why, oh why are these errors so persistent? Why are the ostensive champions of evangelical orthodoxy so dead set on defending these unbiblical notions? It is certain that Satan has deceived us into representing matters so unflatteringly to God. But what’s the rest of the story? [4/12/06]

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THE VICARIOUS SACRIFICE OF CHRIST WAS NOT PENAL

Jesus did, to be sure, suffer abuse “vicariously” on our behalf–the Just One on account of the unjust multitude.  But even more surely, this vicious abuse was not at the hand of God but of Satan, the “Great Dragon” who wishes to destroy the Son of Mankind and his seed!  God’s Chosen and Anointed One bore the humiliating crime of the cross, instigated by the Adversary, so that his Father could openly demonstrate in the most persuasive and endearing manner conceivable the overwhelmingly overcompensating magnitude of his righteousness by rescuing Jesus from the inveterate foe of humanity and yanking his stinger out forcefully.

Viewed from this apostolic perspective, we can finally clearly grasp and precisely fathom what this “vicariousness” shields us from:  not the wrath of God but the fury of Satan.

By “paying” such a “vicarious” ransom to our diabolical captor, Jesus effected a de facto exchange that Satan by no means intended, but which his foolishness could not forestall:  we went free!  Hallelujah!

However, the exact mechanics of this liberation bears closer scrutiny.  By suffering this radically unjust abuse and death, Jesus won for us, as our divine champion, the compensatory award (δικαιωμα) of agelong life, including the present, phenomenal down payment of that future allotment:  the promised Wholesome Spirit.  This charisma (χαρισμα), in all its variegated splendor (especially against the backdrop of a creation in the throes of remorseless entropy) is the empirical right of all those who by mere (!) faith are honored by a just God with the status of sons and heirs in His future Kingdom.  It is precisely this gift (δορημα) of agelong life, including its foretaste in Wholesome Spirit, that liberates us from Satan’s authority because it both frees us from slavery via fear of death and furnishes an internal power source to resist Satan’s corrupting blandishments.

This means that the divine solution to the “problem of sin” comes by way of the reversal of the death sentence against our sin, as fully and satisfactorily proved by the pouring of agelong life–along with its undeniable evidences, including the performance of signs, miracles, powers, and healings–into the hearts of all who get sprinkled with the innocent blood of Messiah, by faith.

Thus our sins actually, amazingly, get indemnified and removed, erased, cleaned off, released/forgiven, by the very “stuff” from which our sins alienated us…life itself!  The innocent blood of the Lamb of God does everything for us!  It is God’s UNIVERSAL ANTIDOTE (i.e., to “give” “in answer/response” to, or counter, a poison)!  It solves everything redemptively.  It absolves of wrongdoing. It resolves alienation.  It dissolves opposition.  In the blood of Messiah is agelong life, salvation, justification, forgiveness, sanctification, deliverance, freedom, cleansing, erasure (of sins), peace, conciliation, ransomand more!  This blood is figured in the water, wine, and oil of immersion and the Lord’s Supper, and therapeutic anointing.  The life/soul is in the blood.  Thus in permitting the guilty shedding of his own innocent blood on our behalf, Messiah surrendered his Jewish flesh to injustice only to win it back again, glorified beyond ethnicity, along with a justly overcompensated surplus of life to give away gratuitously to whoever wants it, regardless of ethnic or national origin or any fleshly distinction whatever between human beings.

In sum, Jesus suffered the abuse of Satan’s full fury “vicariously” for us so that we might escape death, thus the fear of death, thus slavery to Satan and sin.  But did this effect an escape from God’s wrath, which burns against sin?  The answer to this “burning” question must be “yes and no.”  No, if you mean this “vicarious” fact “deflects” God’s indignation away from our sins (and we must be warned against mistaking God’s delay or stay of execution for “deflection“); but yes, if you mean that this “vicarious” shedding of innocent blood for guilty flesh effects removal of sin from the guilty sinner, thus removing the cause for wrath.

It is this simple distinction that accounts for the seriousness with which the early church took the Lord’s Supper.  For here they were collectively feeding on the flesh and blood of the Good Shepherd/Lamb of God who hereby takes away sin.  [4/10/06]

Yet for all this “vicarious” action by Jesus the Messiah on our account, there is not the slightest hint of a “penal” substitution.  “Penal substitution” is premised on a compromised notion of God’s righteousness that imagines it appearing at the Cross, though in fact God did not show up until three days later to play His hand by ipso facto CONDEMNING THE CROSS as a horrible miscarriage of justice…in fact, an out-and-out  mortal sin! Even so, nothing that can’t be corrected by a little divine power and timely action.

This was the secret hidden before all ages, now unveiled for our wonderment and salvation!

Yet in this connection, there is still one more piece of the “puzzle” that theologians have made out of “the atonement that, once we see how it fits, will take our breath away!

At the Cross there is not the slightest hint of “penal” or “punitive” action against Jesus’ enemies and killers.  This must be absorbed at full value before we can adequately appreciate Messiah’s abuse for what it really was:  SATAN’S SIN. For God all along knew who the ultimate enemy was.  Therefore He did not go after Satan’s pawns; He was laying a trap for big game.  After all, Jesus came to save the world, not to condemn it!  These are collateral benefits of destroying the works of Satan.

Vindictive human justice predictably would have ladled out reprisals, punitive overcompensations, penal “satisfactions” as the price of the crime of the Cross.  Christ’s enemies should have “paid for” their premeditated enormity!  God should have crushed them with brimstone and incinerated them with fire from heaven!  Whoa!  All in good time…

Are we disappointed?  Are we unsettled, un”satisfied” that God did not come forth with evident penal, punitive retribution to “fully satisfy” His wrath on those wretches?  Isn’t it enough that He fully exposed Satan’s intended trickery and forever crushed his head, shattered his authority over Adam’s heretofore irretrievably doomed offspring?  Must He also vent Himself on Satan’s wretched slaves and dupes?

What an injustice that would have been!  Petty reprisals are beyond the intentions of the Savior of the world.  Yet did we perhaps expect God, alternatively, to unleash that anger upon His own obedient Son as a “substitute,” somehow, for not doing it to his embittered, envious enemies?  How hideous.  The work of total obedience was completely finished at the Cross; all that was now called for–all that Messiah’s absolutely innocent blood (i.e., “just soul”) was “crying out” for was proper avenging!  This observation necessarily implies that no avenging of any sort–especially no penal satisfaction, no punitive action whatsoever–by his Father could conceivably have been present to sully the pure, stark, stunning faithfulness, obedience, subjection, surrender, or love of Jesus, openly, publicly, uniquely exhibited on that cursed tree…of…LIFE!  Yet to see the Cross as the key to agelong life we must see how it was indissolubly linked to the impending Resurrection that would actually set things right, restoring the harmony of the created universe disrupted by sin.  Once this cosmic fact is clearly grasped, every deficient impulse to compromise the purity of the crucifixion of Messiah with punitive, penal overtones will melt away in the beaming sunshine of divine love–both Son’s and Father’s–radiating Their saving wisdom.

So, Peter Abelard was right…but only half right; he was right about the Cross but wrong in his silence about the Resurrection.  Yet if he had that detail wrong (or out of view), Anselm was no less wrong.  For although he would surely have sensed Abelard’s explanation to be incomplete, yet he himself presumed to add words without knowledge and ventured far beyond the apostolic pattern of sound explanations.  (This, at least, Abelard did not dare to do at this point.)  Yet both suffered virtual blindness about the justifying significance of Messiah’s resurrection.  Even Paul Peter Waldenström, who perhaps came closest of all writers since the early Ante-Nicene church, and until the late 20th century, to understanding the nature of the atonement, did not fully appreciate this connection.

All penal, punitive theories of the atonement are dead wrong and have proven to be deadly for far too many discerning prospects who, sadly, even tragically, took offense.  Is this the Devil’s revenge?  Is Satan making a comeback by twisting the liberating Proclamation of God’s Kingdom into a dull, incomprehensible God-dishonoring caricature–a grotesque gargoyle, ironically, in his own infernal image?  If so, then theologians have been his most amenable agents in this crafty stratagem of disinformation.  They have insinuated penal motives and punitive impulses between the virgin lines of wholesome Scripture.  They see penal “satisfactions” and “divine wrath” around the turn of every page.  Such theological rigor is akin to rigor mortis.  It reads death into the words of life!

But, sadly, there is more.  By reading penal or punitive elements into the Cross they underplay, neglect, ignore, and suppress where such elements actually turned up on the historical stage, and by clear prophecies from both Old and New Testaments!  For Daniel the prophet as reiterated by Jesus himself in the Olivet Discourse pointed a long warning finger in the direction of 70 A.D., one generation–“this generation“!–away from the Cross.  Exactly 40 years after their execution of their Messiah, the citizens of Jerusalem below, Jerusalem “after the flesh,” having remained stubborn to the graciousness of Jehovah Who gave them this merciful reprieve, suffered the terrors of God’s punitive, penal avenging to a degree that utterly defies polite description.  The “abomination of desolation” exhibits the wrath of God in no uncertain terms, with bold and bloody strokes!  These pathetically doomed Jews had hardened themselves to the proffered graciousness of Jehovah in Jesus, their Messiah, during forty years of mercy, tolerance, patience, and kindness by Israel’s God.  Their cup of wrath was now full and brimming over.  When the Christians in Jerusalem saw what was coming, they fled in obedience to their Master’s warning a generation earlier, so they escaped the indescribably internecine slaughter.

For their murder of their own Savior Jerusalem paid with horrific suffering of brutal, merciless abuses that beggar sober description.  Josephus is our window into this unleashing of divine retribution.

Yet it did not atone!  Their national destiny was irreversibly cut off.  The covenant with Jewish Israel was over and done with, having been exhausted in the covenantal curses against her national ethnic disobedience and, finally, their inflicted coup de “grâce”–hangingthe King of the Jews” on an inglorious gibbet for all to mock, scorn, and shame.  This singular culminating crime sealed their spiraling doom.  God henceforth chose all who believe His Emancipation Proclamation concerning Jesus to be His new nation and inherit allotments in His future kingdom.

Here, then, was “penal” recompense or divine avenging, yet “satisfaction” hardly covers the goods.  Where do we ever read that such outpouring of righteous indignation are “satisfying” to God, (i.e., as “paying off” a debt)?  Such tragedies are only cause for mourning, for the staggering losses are irreversible.   “The indignation of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness.”  It may be mercifully delayed, but not averted from stubborn, unrepentant sinners.

What “satisfied” God was His Son’s obedience regardless of the torments inflicted by the ones his love sent him to save.  Satan was remorseless and hopeless, so will suffer for the ages of the ages the torments of the Lake of Fire.  Human beings who refuse to accept God’s appointed means for getting rid of their sins will also be tormented commensurate with their sins and be ultimately consumed by the fires of judgment.  This is no small loss.  Some measure of it can be gauged by the “weeping and gnashing of teeth” that attends the contemplation, while in the Unseen, of their own final extermination in light of what they might have had–agelong joy, life, glory, and rule over a new earth where no injustice will exist to diminish happiness.  What a loss!  What a destruction!  Yet how great a SALVATION is ours who keep on trusting and obeying!  [4/11/06]

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ONLY CHRIST’S RESURRECTION CAN PUT ALL THE PIECES OF THE ATONEMENT “PUZZLE” TOGETHER

It is crucial” to recognize, admit, even assert and herald that nothing saving happened on that misnamed “Good” Friday nearly two millennia ago.  Because if we do try to shoehorn a bit of resurrectionary salvation into the tragic and profane and cowardly and damnable miscarriage that was Messiah’s crucifixion, we steal from the magnitude and muffle the glory of God’s “incredible” rescue operation on the third day, right according to prearranged plan!  Then Cross and Resurrection get all smooshed together and their very different glories and distinct roles get confused.  God even gets blamed for brutalizing His own Son!  Blasphemy!  And the Devil gets off scot-free!  Then what do we have left but “another gospel,” an “indistinct sound,” a parodya “substitutionary” gospel that amounts to a cheap substitute for the authentic trumpet sound of Messiah’s victory and divine justification by triumphant resurrection from the grave and explosive escape from the unseen!

Get this right and everything else falls into place elegantly…locks into place seamlessly.  This is the keystone of the sweeping arch of God’s whole Explanation.  [4/10/06]

Only the resurrectionary Explanation of the cross of the Messiah provides the radically coherent and cohesive criterion for a proper blend of every valid feature from the “three dominant views of the atonement,” so-called.  Messiah’s resurrection harmonizes everything worth keeping.  Only with this crystal clear lens can the whole Truth come into focus accurately and distinctly.  This Explanation is the heavenly model, the celestial paradigm, that reconfigures every fuzzy factor, remixes all allusive approximations emergent throughout the history of this “puzzle” into a deeply satisfying unity.  [4/10/06]

Why did God choose the “stupidity” of faith as the means to appropriate salvation?  Because it is a common denominator and attribute of all human beings without exception–anyone can exercise it given the proof that it requires for adequate grounding.  Faith is not a function of skill, acquisition, education, aptitude, training, gender, authority, status, fame, virtue, property, age, social class, nationality, strength, beauty, eloquence, intelligence, wealth, health, or stealth.  Faith is a universal, increated, natural function or faculty–the necessary precursor to voluntary action.  It is an assumption of things expected, a conviction of things not yet observed. It is hence part of our reflection of God’s own image and likeness–necessary for exerting our God-given sovereignty and authority over creation.  [4/10/06]

So why is the Devil so furious against Christians?  Because Christ made him look like such an incompetent fool in front of the whole universe, especially to the Christian public who are commissioned to proclaim that embarrassing fact far and wide!  He took the bait like a dull-witted carp.  He abused the defenseless Son of his own Creator, probably expecting God to slaughter the Jewish and Roman tools of his own crafty scheming–small price to pay for snuffing his only Competitor.  But he slightly underestimated his Opponent.  And for that malign miscalculation he will pay with agelong torment in the Lake of Fire.  Oops.  [4/10/06]

Yet when, under Satan’s prodding, the Jewish nation sacrificed their own Messiah (human sacrifice [John 11:50]–an utter abhorrence before the face of God), he came back the Lord of all nations!  Israel thereby lost their king and their own sovereignty, such as it was.  But he gained a universal empire!  Thus can human folly, even one so abominable  as human sacrifice, be outmaneuvered by a God of infinitely resourceful restorative justice.  [4/11/06]

2 Corinthians 5:21 has never ceased puzzling theologians of “the Atonement.”  Perhaps this is largely to be accounted for by the simple observation that none of the prevalent “theories of the Atonement (as this genre of speculation is termed) view Messiah’s cruel execution sufficiently or basically or centrally as an out-and-out sin.  To be sure, the Septuagint (a Greek translation of the Old Testament, from the late 3rd century B.C., commonly abbreviated LXX, the Roman numeral for “70,” which refers to the number of scholars who translated it, according to tradition) provides us with strong presumptive evidence that hamartia in 2 Cor. 5:21 denotes a sin-offering since it is thus translated in multiplied scores of places throughout the Old Testament (exactly reflecting the usage of the underlying Hebrew term, chatta’ah), especially in Leviticus.  Why would Paul not have intended such a common interpretation of the word in such a context?  He certainly knew and often used the LXX.

Even so, the use of hamartia for sin-offering when, like its Hebrew equivalent, it also signifies simply a sin, is far too suggestive to pass over lightly.  For it makes perfect sense that the ancient, divinely enjoined sin-offerings pointed forward to THE SIN of all sins–the slaughter of a human being who was their actual, God-appointed and approved king!  But the translation of 2 Cor. 5:21 as “sin-offering” properly encompasses this other prophetic intimation, whereas “he became sin for us” does not quite compute unless and until processed in the above manner first.  Only then does all become clear.  Jesus’ becoming a sin-offering on our behalf was the fulfillment of the prophetic foreboding of the terrible COLLECTIVE SIN of Israel in murdering the sinless Lamb of God.

Yet this off-stripping of the flesh of this voluntary self-sacrifice called forth the New Creation of his body, immortal and glorified by the recreative power of justice divine.  God has chosen immersion, when submitted to by faith, as His preferential means for our entering into this legacy of Jesus, the Messiah.  [4/11/06]

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God “CONDEMNED SIN IN THE FLESH” by RAISING CHRIST’S FLESH FROM THE DEAD, not by punishing him for our sins.

How did God “condemn sin in the flesh” by “sending His own Son in the likeness of sin’s flesh and concerning sin [i.e., ‘as a sin-offering, cf. Leviticus, LXX]” (Rom. 8:1-4)? What was the precise mechanism or process or procedure? The common popular evangelical answer is that God “vented His wrath on His own Son at the cross,” thus condemning sin. But it’s not that way. Much rather, the sin of condemning the sinless Son of God—this overwhelmingly wrong deed of the Jews (leaders, populace, and disciples alike!), this fury of Satan and all his witting and unwitting henchmen and hangmen (Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod, Peter, the chief priests, the Roman soldiers, et al)—was itself openly, overwhelmingly, publicly demonstrated to be sin, wrong and unjust by the display of God’s righteousness in raising Messiah Jesus from among the dead (Rom. 3:21-26)! For in this very exacting manner all his opposition were swept away decisively and irreversibly and unanswerably. The Resurrection shut every mouth and opened every unhardened heart. It was calculated to melt all opposition that was not absolutely confirmed in viciousness. Yet every age has its Pharaohs who progressively reject every merciful moment God extends them, “bartering the graciousness of our God for wantonness, and disowning our only Owner [who, in that assigned role (!), bought us for God] and Master, Jesus Messiah” (Jude 4), and harden their hearts, stiffen their necks, the “unbelieving…who are stumbling also at the Explanation [of God’s undeserved, completely unexpected, and even unimaginable graciousness and mercifulness], being stubborn, to which [stumbling] they were appointed also [by their own self-determined, rigid unbelief/distrust]” (1 Peter 2:7-8).

In sum: God condemned sin by justifying Jesus in the Resurrection to agelong life so that we who simply trust this stunning message might inherit this same just recompense for Messiah’s sinless life, career, surrender, and submission to the vicious, murderous sovereignties and authorities of this age—namely, the same agelong life that his obedience won triumphantly for us and on our behalf! Thus did he triumph by his cross (Col. 2:14-15), condemn sin, and break open gratuitous life for us who are undeserving sinners! And all we have to do to enjoy this boundless boon is to be “in Messiah Jesus(Rom. 8:1, 2), which happens at immersion, by faith, which in turn accomplishes implantation (Rom. 6:5, 6) into his body.  [4/10/06]

So where does “divine punishment” fit into the picture of “atonement” within Scripture? It does not. Our salvation was not achieved by resorting to punishment for our sins. “Agelong punishment,” far otherwise, is the fate of all who reject a salvation so great that it did not need any divine punishment factor! It circumvented divine punishment altogether. The abuse suffered by Messiah was not divinely punitive in any sense, any more than Job’s was. The assault of Satan at the Cross was, to be sure, divinely appointed, but it had nothing whatsoever to do with divine wrath or the disfavor of Heaven. Jesus “tasted death”—“even a death of the cross(Phil 2:8)—in the favor of God (Heb. 2:9, Phil. 2:9).

In the meantime, those destined for adoption experience divine discipline, yet this is corrective, for our good (Heb. 12), so is inescapable for any of us sons of Adam who are now children of a heavenly Father whose goal is our maturity.   This procedure fits us to rule with Messiah in the age to come.  (Corrective discipline can be “atoning” only in a derivative and secondary sense.  See David Bercot’s “What the Early Christians Believed about the Atonement.”)  [4/10/06]

It was not while “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6) that God’s Son won our salvation, but only after becoming a human being.  It was in this form and after this fashion that he achieved full maturity of sinlessness, by learning obedience under the Law of Moses, submitting to sinful authority (it could not be otherwise–whether parents, Jewish leaders, Roman occupiers), getting immersed in Wholesome Spirit, performing astounding acts of miraculous power to free his fellow human beings from the enslaving tyranny of the Adversary and, at last, by being betrayed by one of his inner-circle friends and getting surrendered to his enemies, bearing their injustices patiently, not deserving their abuse, but giving it all over to Him Who judges justly.  In this flesh he got vindicated, the Highest Judge reversing the lower court’s decision.  As a human being he received overcompensating damages for his trouble, and that is precisely why he had the right to “give gifts to mankind” (Eph. 4:8, Ps. 68:18)–gracious presents and salvation and agelong life in his Father’s Kingdom, receiving these all from his divine Father as the Son of God, and bequeathing them all to his human brethren as the son of mankind–the true Mediator between deity and humanity.  [4/10/06]

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Jesus’ perfection expelled any fear that the CROSS was God’s punishment; he expected only God’s reward of RESURRECTION

The reason why, in the 2nd century Christian author Irenaeus’s “recapitulation” explanation of the Atonement, “not only the death of Christ but also the life/career of Christ has redemptive significance,” is simple.  What the Father overcompensates Christ for, in and by his resurrection and exaltation, is his life of obedient, righteous deeds which was unjustly dishonored and violently cut short by the sins of the Jews and failures of the Romans, under the inspiration of Satan.  Even a generous recompense is only in proportion to its base injury or “mass” of the infraction.  Damages are proportional to loss.  10 or 100, or even 1000 times 0 = 0.  Justice must have material to work with.  Jesus had a life of worthy activities conformable to his Father’s desire, and well-pleasing to Him.  This he sacrificed, likewise at his Father’s wish, to established authorities whose duty was to dispense justice to the poor, distressed, injured, humiliated, and cheated.  But those authorities defaulted on their divine duties.  The death takes on greater significance and virtue and value in the scales of justice, in proportion to the good that it wrongfully snuffed out.  God paid damages far, far outstripping Messiah’s loss.  He would not have been right to do less.  [4/9/06]

Fear is not in love, but perfect [telei-] love is casting out fear, for fear has punishment [kolasis]” (1 John 4:18), therefore love must not have punishment!  [4/10/06]  As God’s own Son is our Exemplar, he must have had no fear of punishment by God at the cross.  He well knew this event held no divine penalty whatever, but was “buffeting [kolaphiz-]from Satan (2 Cor 12:7-10, Matt. 26:67, Mk. 14:65, 1 Cor. 4:9-21, 1 Pet. 2:20-24)  and “contradiction [antilogia] by sinners” (Heb. 12:3), to be endured as filial “discipline” (paideia) from a loving Father (Heb. 12:5-9) in order to bring him to perfection (telei-) or maturity of wholesomeness (agi) and love (agape) (Heb. 2:10-11, 12:10-14, 1 Jn. 5:17-18) through his learning obedience (Heb. 5:7-9, 7:27-28) to God’s desire (Heb. 10:5-14), so that he might receive superabundant graciousness from God (Heb. 2:9, 12:14-15, 18, 1 Pet. 2:19-20, Rom. 5:15-21) because of his humiliation by Satan, his Adversary (1 Pet. 5:5-10, James 4:5-10), and all so that we too might be able to share in his wholesomeness, and hence his graciousness (2 Cor. 12:7-10), and likewise learn to do his desire and give God divine service (Rom. 12:1-8).  [8/26/07]

Jesus’ “honoring of the Law” by his true, spiritual keeping of the Law, paid whatever tribute was necessary to it.  But it must not escape us what this true obedience actually, phenomenally looked like!  This brand of Law-keeping was repeatedly condemned by the teachers of the Law—the scribes, Pharisees, elders, and priests of the Jews.  Their brand of “holiness” was brittle, fragile, breakablehighly breakable!  In stark contrast, true righteousness is supple, stretchy, conformable with the actualities of daily variations in real circumstances—the spirit of the Law was conformable to reality.  The letter of the Law refuses to adapt to human variations and needs, so it kills.  Jesus proved this—profoundly demonstrated what such abortive “virtual,” literal “Law-keeping” does to One who is actually a perfect, flawless Law-keeper.  By vindicating true obedience, Jesus outright condemned every misuse of Moses’ Law.  He came back to life—agelong life!—after wrongful Law-keeping condemned and executed him!  A “Greater than Moses” has come to light up the true way of life for us:  durable faith that justifies.  [4/10/06]

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