Monthly Archives: March 2013

God Expresses Appropriate, Timely ‘VIOLENCE’ in Accord with His Covenant

EASTER SUNDAY–March 31, 2013

God is not nonviolent, in principle, regardless of the strange insistence by many theologians (especially from the peace traditions) that He is.  Or what about the Deluge, or Sodom & Gomorrah, or the Ten Plagues on Egypt, or the curse lists of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-28, or Psalm 136, or the Exile, or the Destruction of Jerusalem and Second Temple in 70 A.D., or the Lake of Fire?  And I’m just getting a running start!  (Here see Caleb F. Heppner’s article, “A Covenantal View of Atonement,” accessible online using my “biblioroll” at the right.)  Of course God is “violent”…when he needs to be!  The overreaction of Anabaptist authors is quite understandable, but simply indefensible from Scripture (eitherTestament”).  Their overreaction, however, actually threatens to discredit the whole thrust of their argumentation, which would be equally unjustified.  Such overreaction, it seems to me, mush be viewed as sinful—a failure to honor all of Scripture fairly and evenhandedly.

The covenantal structure of all Scripture clearly apportions God’s actions in response to those of mortal, fallible human beings, and is intended to discipline them in righteousness and wholesomeness.  Covenantal logic will keep us straight on the matter of God’s employment and perfectly righteous control of both good and evil.  [5/16/06]

Raymund Schwager’s notion of “self-aggression” by Jesus if he “participated in his own death” is invalid.  It surely results from an overreaction against God’s use of violence, legitimate violenceThis overreaction then proceeds to blind him to the fact that Messiah blood is indeed sacrificial, in continuity with the Old Testament sacrifices, and that Messiah did indeed acquiesce in the violence done to him (although not as if to endorse it—by no means!).  For in its RESURRECTIONARY REVERSAL on the third day, “according to Scripture,” GOD SWEPT THE ENORMITY OF THE CRIME INTO OBLIVION!

This is all that was necessary to exonerate both the Father and the Son of any complicity in the wrong committed by Israel and the Romans (cf. John 10:17-18, 19:11, 2 Thess. 1:4-10).  (See J. Denny Weaver’s discussion of Schwager’s position, The Nonviolent Atonement, 2nd ed. [Eerdmans, 2011 (2001)], pp 57-60.)  [5/16/06]

Regardless of the error of “penal satisfaction” in relation to the cross of Messiah, we may yet speak of “judicial satisfaction” by what shortly followed.  For God could never be ‘satisfied’ to allow the penal verdict and punitive sentence against His just and sinless Son to stand without objection and correction.  So He RADICALLY REVERSED IT…AND JUST IN TIME FOR EASTER SUNDAY!  FOR TRUE JUSTICE HAD TO BE SATISFIED.  And so it was.  [5/16/06]

Leave a comment

Filed under The Atonement

Christ’s Descent to Hades between “Good Friday” and Resurrection Morn–Foreshadowed in the Scapegoat Ritual?

Does the scapegoat ritual in Leviticus whereby “all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins” are driven away into the wilderness on the head of a scapegoat “bear[ing] on itself all their iniquities to a barren region (Lev. 16:20-22) signify the descent of Messiah into the unseen?  This would explain why the goat was not slain–it had to picture and figure a journey to the “underworld” or realm of the dead.  All Old Testament shadows, by their nature and limitations, had to be partial depictions.  But add them all up and the calculation yields Jesus, Messiah.  [5/16/06]

It is clear from Hosea that God does not take any satisfaction from “the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats” but from those who are called by His name learning to “do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow (Hosea 1:11,17; see also Jeremiah 6:20; Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 40:7-8, 51:16-17).  (See also J. Denny Weaver, Nonviolent Atonement.  Eerdmans, 2001, pp. 58-61.)  [5/16/06]


At the Cross, Messiah (and “God…in Messiah“!) broke the cycle of violence that fuels retaliatory crime and war…in principle.  And the actual power to realize this potentiality in action was poured out on Messiah’s believing people 50 days later at Pentecost, so that we too can break the chain reaction of violence and trigger a chain reaction of kindness.  Rachel Joy Scott, the Columbine martyr, embodied this principle magnificently.  [5/16/06]

The pardon and cleansing away of sins is achieved not be any imagined “penal substitution: or punitive “satisfaction” of Messiah by the cross but purely by his thorough subordination to the desire of God whereby his obedient surrender to his (and therefore God’s) enemies, resulted temporarily in his horrendous and bloody death.  (We should note here that Jesus’ crucifixion, by the way, was even bloodier than usual for this extraordinarily cruel form of execution, entailing not only his being whipped to a pulp, being beaten on the face brutally, and being nailed to the cross through both hands and feet, but especially having a crown of thorns thrust into his scalp–a portion of the body noted for the most profuse bleeding when wounded–not to add his being speared in the side with an eruption of blood and “water” or plasma) emerged finally, via an appropriate response by God answering to his outpouring of life’s blood, in A GUSHING OF WHOLESOME SPIRIT FROM ON HIGH TO ACTUALLY SUBSTANTIVELY ELIMINATE SINS FROM HUMAN HEARTS BY “SUBSTITUTING” AGELONG LIFE INSTEAD!

Leave a comment

Filed under The Atonement


The heart of the atoning events that Christians commemorate this week is not that God punished Messiah Jesus instead of punishing sinners, but that GOD SAVED JESUS INSTEAD OF PUNISHING THE SINNERS WHO CRUCIFIED HIM! This is clearly kind of “substitution,” but with a very different ambience from the “penal” variety! What a total surprise was this denouement! What a colossal shift in the balance of power expected from previous earthly shows of force! This unearthly spectacle of celestial justice has no peer before or since! But what shall we call this type of “substitution”? Since the stroke of God was not penal or punitive but vindicating and exalting—not a handling of a club but a handing of a scepter—perhaps “restorative” or “overcompensating” substitution would be better. For Messiah was not punished by God for our sakes but RESCUED and SAVED and JUSTIFIED by God FOR OUR SAKES! NOT A REPRESENTATIVE DESTRUCTION BUT A REPRESENTATIVE SALVATION IS WHAT GOD WANTED TO DISPLAY IN MESSIAH! How on earth did this heavenly truth get cast down and trampled?

NOT COMPENSATORY VIOLENCE BUT OVERCOMPENSATING VINDICATION constitutes the heartthrob of the Evangel. These two positions are totally incompatible!

Even so, there is punishment enough in the Proclamation of Jesus, the Messiah, yet at the moments of his vindicating Resurrection and Exaltation, that was still forty years in the future—the Desolation of Jerusalem prophesied by him just before his own rejection there.

This succession of human and divine judgments places discrete elements along a narrative sweep rather than in some abstract aevum of theory.

There is a snare inherent in not following this narrative sequence as the Holy Spirit lays it out in Scripture. For then, e.g., we may faultily conclude that there is no evident punishment declared for those who reject the Proclamation of God. Far from it! All who play fast and loose with the graciousness of God unveiled in this Proclamation are in imminent danger of fiery extermination! This truth should hardly need to be stressed to anyone familiar with the New Testament but for its possibly getting eclipsed by the shimmering truth about the total absence of any Divine penal element at the Cross. Yet a potential overreaction against the vaunting of penal “orthodoxy” runs the risk of softpedaling the wrath of God’s final punishment altogether. Let’s try to get the sequencing and emphasis right once and for all lest any essential gets overlooked or misplaced as we joyfully recount the marvelous redemptive events of “Good Friday” and Resurrection Sunday. [5/15/06]

Leave a comment

Filed under The Atonement

Sorting out the Where and When of the Dual Outcomes of God’s Just Judgments

The imagined “objectivity” of a “penal satisfaction” is ephemeral. For it presumes that Messiah’s supposed penal suffering of God’s wrath “objectivelysatisfies God’s demands for justice and/or offended honor.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The suspicion only grows, upon close examination, that this punitive requirementmay itself be only a subjective imposition of these theologians’ own inner (not to add carnal) needfor vengeance. Which only shows that they have COMPLETELY MISSED THE POINT OF THE CROSS! This is an awesome and sad lesson that bears the most careful examination and has the potential of repaying powerful dividends in new, fresh understanding and divinely inspired action!

We must not deny the actuality of divine avenging, but the very point of the Cross is ITS HISTORIC DISPLACEMENT OF THE DUAL ASPECTS OF SUCH JUDGMENT—that is, ITS VINDICATING VERDICT DISPLACED TO THE THIRD DAY, AT THE RESURRECTION OF THE INNOCENT VICTIM, plus ITS CONDEMNING VERDICT DISPLACED TO 70 A.D., AT THE “ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION” AGAINST JERUSALEM (Mt. 24:15, Mk. 13:14, Lk. 21:20), against which the blood of all the prophets was continually crying out, “How long, O Jehovah?!

The Cross of Messiah clearly separated the two streams of divine judgment SO THAT WE COULD UNDERSTAND THE “STRANGE WORK” OF GOD. We must allow this amazing revelation to grip us by the illumination and power of the Holy Spirit! For it must be heralded far and wide, but first of all to “the house of Israel”—Christians, who ought to know this Proclamation thoroughly and clearly!

A subjective projection by theologians is a poor “substitute” for a truly objective atonement such as Jesus achieved by his suffering the abuse of the cross to its bitter end without complaint or retaliation. In this sign of willing self-sacrifice and abject humiliation, awaiting the Father’s own righteousness to be unveiled, the Son conquered. The byword of that cross should be “divide and conquer,” for it divided the two verdicts of judgment, the dual judgments of the covenant (blessing and curse) by executing them at different historic moments so as to make God’s character and ways clear!

Yet despite this care, the history of theology got it no more correct than Constantine did! By adding the point of his sword to the point of the Cross (as he supposed), he actually sullied the purity of “the Explanation which is of the Cross (1 Cor. 1:18) with the guilt of nationalistic avenging that has played out its evil hand in every Western nation ever since. [5/15/06]

Leave a comment

Filed under The Atonement


Theologians who glorify a so-called penal substitutionary atonement are fond of calling it, and it alone, “objective” since presumably God’s wrath fell on Messiah outside of us,” hence warranting the honor of such a designation. All other so-called theories of atonement are then relegated to the “subjective” category of actions that “only” happen to or in the human “subjects.” This is all too conveniently confusing since all will agree that the “object” of redemption is mankind (in whole or part), not Messiah or God.

However, I would contend that as “objective” as “penal substitution” may appear, yet it is not substantive, for it denies the “objectiveefficacy of Messiah’s blood (or rather, what it actually pictures or figures) in its application to the hearts of sinful human beings. P. P. Waldenström, for instance, argued for just such a substantive atonement in contrast to mere “forensic imputation” of a vaunted “objective penal satisfaction.” This latter theory underplays the actual sin-cleansing operation of the Wholesome Spirit won by Messiah’s fully “objective” (yet non-penal) achievement on the Cross (and, indeed, throughout his entire life and ministry career of faithful obedience, of which that ordeal was the thorny, crowning achievement!).

We cannot—must not!—accede to the kind of “objectivity” exclusively recognized by “penal atoners” at the expense of both a substantive application of Messiah’s blood (from which also follows a “high” view of the Lord’s Supper—as attested by, e.g., Waldenström’s teaching and practice within the Swedish Mission Covenant movement) and a fully objective achievement of non-resistance to unjust execution, that is, of non-self-avenging bearing of the Sin of the Messiah’s Crucifixion. This is the objectivity we must defend concerning the Cross, for it properly correlates with the substantiveness of the “subjective” application of the innocent, faithful blood, there shed, to the needy hearts of mortal human beings. [5/15/06]

Leave a comment

Filed under The Atonement

Rene Girard’s Ironic “Mimetic Emulation” of Biblical Criticism

To, in effect, “psychoanalyze” the writers of the New Testament rather than extol the Written handiwork of their Divine Author is to go astray in understanding. This is a disturbing flaw even in the surprisingly luminous explorations of René Girard (e.g., I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, pp. 133-36). This is to pit one penman against another in diversionary lapses that distract from the central Message that God’s Wholesome Spirit is trying to highlight. It is also presumptuous and hence partakes (out of an ironically inconsistent mimetic emulation) of the historical-critical (so-called) and literary-critical fabrications of scholars who have uniformly stumbled on the Corner Capstone, the Lord Jesus Christ, and replaced him violently with their own imaginary effusions. We should expect better things of Girard himself, who otherwise has seen so much truth, including much that the humble Creator has hidden from violent, unsubmissive scholarship of the past and present…perhaps for just such a time as ours. [5/11/06; 10/27/07]

By means of “penal substitutionary atonementideology, Satan manages again and again to deflect from himself much real, significant, or substantive guilt in Messiah’s murder. This public murder was to be the centerpiece of his gloated victory over God and His Kingdom. Instead, it morphed into Satan’s own coup de grâce. The nails in the Savior’s hands and feet secured Satan’s own coffin. Yet even so, Satan has kept trying to outmaneuver this Message of his doom in order to sap it of its native potency. “Penal substitution,” at least in part, denatures and dilutes the full force of the apostolic witness to Resurrectionary Atonement; it substitutes God for Satan in the role of agent and perpetrator of Messiah’s crucifixion. Thus does Satan add crime to crime in his career of murder and deception. [5/11/06]

We might have little difficulty with the term “substitution” were it not for the incubus of its association with “penal” that so persistently weighs it down. This sullies its potential usefulness as a technical term. But if we must dispense with it, we must not grieve its loss since it does not appear in the Inspired vocabulary of Scripture and hence is inherently inadequate to bear the weight of the full Truth anyway. [5/11/06]

Leave a comment

Filed under The Atonement



You need a Savior? WOW, DO WE HAVE An orDEAL FOR YOU!!! Our Paschal Special includes LAMB AND STAKE with YOUR CHOICE OF TWO SIDES!  ONLY $7.77  (+ death and taxes, where applicable) WHILE THIS GREAT orDEAL LASTS!  (Sorry, no discounts apply during this special.)  Seating limited.  [5/10/06]

We human beings have to understand the meaning and definition of “sacrificeby reading the story starting from Jesus backwards! Yet God Himself could hear the blood/soul of His faithful, obedient, sinless witness, Jesus, calling out for His saving justification for millennia beforehand. And on account of that voice from the Cross, God passed over the sins of earlier generations of believing sinners (Romans 3:26). [5/10/06]

In this amazing and divine way, the Fatherly protective righteousness of God was displayed both before and after Messiah’s bloodshed on the very same grounds of that self-sacrifice, and ratified irreversibly and persuasively by his resurrection. [10/27/07]

What “satisfied” the Father in what happened at the Cross of His Son is what did not happen there that might have happened—Jesus DID NOT “SATISFY” HIS WRATH UPON HIS ENEMIES! HE DID NOT “SATISFY” HIS AVENGING JUSTICE AGAINST SINNERS, AGAINST THE VICIOUS FOES THAT HIS UPRIGHT CAREER HAD MADE FOR HIM! [5/10/06] For he came to save, not to damn. [5/20/08]

The so-called “penal satisfaction” theory of the Atonement more likely qualifies as a human projection onto God of our own need for “satisfaction” (such as it is!) of our own all-too-familiar and all-too-fallible “sense of justice”…which is a stark revelation of precisely how totally clueless we (and our leading Protestant theologians) have been for nearly half a millennium concerning what the Proclamation of God’s Kingdom is really about, especially its actuating core—its energizing heart, its leveraging fulcrum.

But once we grasp what really “satisfied” God about the Cross, we will never see things the same again. [5/10/06]

Leave a comment

Filed under The Atonement