Martin Luther’s famous early Reformation tractate on “Two Kinds of Righteousness” (personal vs. imputed) needs to be rewritten. (Perhaps the 500th Anniversary of Luther’s famous manifesto, “The Ninety-Five Theses,” in 2017 would be an appropriate moment.) This time around, the contrast would have to be between a falsely alleged “punitive, penal, wrathful righteousness” manifested at the cross of Messiah and the truly expressed delivering, liberating, rescuing righteousness manifested at his tomb. In this powerful contrast, God’s own character and reputation are in the balance.
Alternatively, one might contrast a righteousness that destroys Messiah’s murderers with a righteousness that restores Messiah’s own life with over-brimming bodily immortality! In this contrast the expectations of human justice are turned on their head.
In the first couplet above, the quality of righteousness/justice is at stake; in the second pair, the object of the righteousness/justice is in the balance. Both of these are objectively oriented to Messiah, whereas the Protestant Reformation’s obsession was subjective. [4/30/06]
The theory of so-called “substitutionary atonement” has displaced God’s own authentic victim-avenging justice and replaced it with a cheap, unworthy substitute that has nonetheless proved stubbornly durable through history. It is fair to say that it will never be vanquished by anything short of the veritable Truth itself.
All this is not to say that God’s higher justice is not retributive, for it most certainly is! But It is not retribution against (and therefore not repayment from) the injuring party; instead, it is RETRIBUTION FOR THE INJURED PARTY! Yet God did not take the overcompensation from the injurers in order to repay Jesus the damages they owed him, since in any event they were powerless to give back the life they had taken away (much less the overcompensation he was due from them as per the stipulations of the Law!)
Furthermore, it would not even have been right for the divine Judge to destroy the injurers and abusers and unjust executioners in this unique case because Jesus himself let them do it instead of dealing out justice to them, which would have been fully within his rights/authority. So he surrendered/gave up his rights to save himself and bore the injuries…like a Lamb, to the last bitter drop in the cup of their abuses, which the Father gave him to drink. [4/30/06]
In doing their own Messiah a terrible evil and tragic disfavor, the Jews did the whole world a wonderful good and marvelous favor (naturally, all unintended). We can be thankful it was not we who killed our own Savior, but in any case, now he belongs to all of us who trust him, whether Jews, nationals, slaves, free, males, females, whomever! “EUREKA!” [4/30/06]
We don’t need a “substitute” (i.e., an animal sacrifice) any longer; the real teacher has arrived! [4/30/06]
An “‘atoning sacrifice’ (ιλαστηριον, hilasterion) that fully satisfies the just demands of a holy and righteous God” does not exist. How did we ever get the idea that this was the function of the sacrifices God appointed? Calvin may think so; Leon Morris may imagine it; Richard Longenecker may believe the notion. But where does that stand Written?! IT DOESN’T! (See Richard N. Longenecker, “The Obedience of Christ in the Theology of the Early Church,” in Reconciliation and Hope: New Testament Essays on Atonement and Eschatology, ed. by Robert Banks [Exeter, England: Paternoster; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974], p. 144.) [4/30/06]
How and why can we be “conciliated to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10)? Answer: By His Son’s refusal to destroy his enemies whom God showed to be clearly in the wrong by raising him from the dead. This determination of Messiah, on orders from Higher Up that he carried out to the letter, to bear the injustice rather than retaliate, was God’s way of making peace with His embittered enemies and showing them concretely that He bore them no ill will, regardless of what they thought of Him or did to His very Son! [4/30/06]