Monthly Archives: January 2015

The Backlash from Wasting a Perfectly Good Messiah

One of the key problems that entangles straightforward exegesis of New Testament texts concerning God’s and the Lord Jesus Christ’s roles as judge and avenger of the evils done to Their people is precisely whether such “violence” will actually be done at all.  Some theologians deny that “wrath” is a part of God’s “essential nature.”

The destruction of Jerusalem and Herod’s temple should have put this issue to rest decisively.  This is exactly the sort of condemnation anticipated by Romans 1-3.  Accordingly, the question is not “if,” but only “when.”

Regrettably, out of seeming overreaction, many of those who deny the existence of divine wrath or violence at the Cross (an entirely correct intuition) proceed to deny any wrath, avenging, or “violence” on the divine agenda.  Their attempt to be “consistent” has been a snare to clear exegesis of the rather more nuanced and authentic apostolic representation of the facts.  [3/23/09]

If the sacrificial system established by divine fiat through Moses was costly in the expenditure—indeed, a seeming “waste”—of perfectly good cattle, sheep, goats, and other animals, what shall we say of Israel’s wantonly WASTING THEIR OWN PERFECTLY GOOD MESSIAH?  [3/23/09]  The one is the prophetic ritual foreshadowing of the other.  But, moreover, the Gospel reveals how God super-compensated such a waste!  [11/29/16]

So-called “Good Friday” was good only because God did not show up in righteous indignation with legions of angels to avenge the viciousness of those who murdered His beloved Son.  It was good because the Judge did not utter a celestial command of condemnation to consign to death all those who deserved it for their successfully consummated treasonous plot against His commissioned Messiah and official mouthpiece.  By this act of “inaction” God was playing His first hand in a series of hands that publicly exhibited His conciliatory disposition toward a hostile humanity.

Furthermore, He was courteously silent also on the holy Sabbath that followed.  He was not in haste to “make an example” of the treacherous offenders so as to “restore His own honor” at their deserved expense.

It was not until the third day that He played His most delightfully unprecedented and shockingly magnanimous hand.  From His poker-faced visage all Friday and Saturday, no one guessed the kind of trump that awaited…that was even possibleunder the Law [of Moses].”  When the “trump of the Lord” was played, the condemned arose triumphant from his officially executed condemnation—alive from his grave!  He was back, and he was not mad.

This kind of divine righteousness, unprecedented though it was, nevertheless was “attested by the Law and the Prophets,” (Romans 3:21) which stipulated and illustrated the rightful restoration of lost fortunes in lesser cases.  So although the actual reversal of a wrongful death had never occurred in human history, IT IS YET THE EXACT JUSTICE ACTUALLY CALLED FOR.  Any other solution would only be a makeshift one—including capital punishment for the murderers, which, indeed, was only demanded because restoration from death was entirely beyond the resources of murderers to achieve, so the Law dictated their death in exchange for wrongfully taking something as valuable and irreplaceable as another human life.  [3/24/09]

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The Logic of the Atonement: JUDICIAL RESTITUTION

The sacrificial blood was symbolic of the resurrection life flowing from the wrongful death depicted by slaying a “spotless” and “flawless” soul on the altar. But the underlying, usually unspoken and tacit, element being assumed by the whole sacrificial system of prophetic rituals was the actuating JUSTICE of God, rectifying the ritual murder via vivifying the victim victoriously! The outflow of this powerful righteousness was a miraculous energy to heal, clean, and make wholesome. [3/21/09]

The logic of the Atonement is not “penal substitution” but judicial restitution.” At the cross, Jesus got what he didn’t deserve so that he would get what he did deserve at the resurrection, “pressed down and running over” in fitting abundance sufficient to enfranchise and enrich all who trust his good fortune! We’re rich!!! [3/21/09]

In New Testament conceptuality, the sinless Son of God did not “identify with sinners” (an all too popular misconception that inevitably shadows the dominant false concept of the Atonement), he became their neighbor even though it was costly, for in that role he could bear the expense of their recovery from the misfortune of sin. [3/22/09]

God’s wrath is never represented by Scripture as saving to its recipients but only as destructive. Therefore, the perception of the Jews that Jesus must have suffered under the wrath of God because he was officially condemned, embarrassed, dishonored, and ultimately executed on a Roman cross (a “tree”—xulon) and so experienced even a curse of the Law of Moses (and hence presumably of God Himself)—that whole massive weight of misperception was overthrown by his resurrection from that condemnation, thereby unmasked as not God’s condemnation, not God’s wrath at all! Our salvation is by fleeing under the wings of Christ’s protective shelter (hilaster-).


It is not accidental or coincidental symbolism that the lid of cover of the ark of the Covenant was overshadowed completely by the wings of guardian cherubim whose wings actually touched so as to leave no unprotected space. Moreover, the blood of the slain goat on the annual Day of Atonement that was spattered on the solid gold cover of the ark was also termed a “protective covering.” What sense does all this make? These three elements combine to corroborate the coverage concerning the damage caused by sin. They mutually reinforce the reality of God’s proffered means of protecting us from the buildup of our accumulating sins. [3/22/09]

The body of Christ” in the sense of the church is precisely an overcompensated version of the body of flesh that was unjustlystripped off” of him at the Cross; thus his body the church was bequeathed or allotted (kler-, Ephesians 1:11) him as his rightful desert! This is simply the flip side of our “right [exousia] to become children of God” (John 1:12). By immersion, of course, accompanied with faith and the coming of the Spirit, we are included in this super-compensatory new reality made possible by the crime of the Cross rebounding, by the irresistible impulse of God’s covenantal righteousness in the Messiah’s resurrection, and more! [3/22/09]the Messiah’s resurrection

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“What Christ has not assumed he has not healed.”

Gregory of Nazianzus declared, “What Christ has not assumed he has not healed.”* Quite so! But the reason is to be credited to God’s righteousness by which He judged His Son to be worthy of super-compensating restoration of all that was wrongly taken from him after he assumed it. Thus as a matter of divine justice, God expended super-abundant spiritual power to heal whatever the Lord Jesus Christ possessed that had suffered injury, harm, loss, and destruction by Satan.

Vincent Brümmer, Atonement, Christology and the Trinity: Making Sense of Christian Doctrine (Aldershot, Hampshire, UK; Burlington, VT, 2005) p. 81. [3/21/09]

The “penal substitutionary” doctrine that God in a wrathful movement broke through the spheres of heaven to land on the Cross where His beloved Son hung writing in the blood and agony of an unjust conviction and segmented that abuse with a yet more devastating, and this time celestial, gesture of displeasure that COMPOUNDED the misdirected momentum of kangaroo court condemnation can only be likened to the pre-Copernican theory of RETROGRADE MOTION that cropped up in the shadow of the top-heavy Ptolemaic model of the heavens. Such an action by the God revealed in all Scripture would amount to A RETROGRADE JUDICIAL “MOTION”! The errant “epicyclic” motions of the Jewish and Roman court systems are quite understandable, but TO COMPOUND THOSE JUDICIAL MISBEHAVIORS WITH ALLEGED ENDORSEMENT IN AND FROM THE HEAVEN OF HEAVENS IS TO SPIN WILDLY OUT OF THE ORBIT OF DIVINE BEHAVIOR SKETCHED OUT IN THE OLD TESTAMENT. It is truly a RETROGRADE THEORY deserving of a long overdue forced retirement and obsolescence.

The currency of this faulty theory was not attained all once. A sort of “celestial drift” of notions led up to its solidification, coincidentally, exactly during the era that saw Copernicus closing every rationalized avenue of escape from the revolution that his discoveries and calculations had made inevitable, though not visible in his lifetime.

That mounting solidification of fated error led to a sort of unwieldy critical mass that consummated in an explosive and irresistible chain reaction within a century of Copernicus’s death. The wheels of theological progress have ground more slowly…but no less finely…and finally. [3/21/09]

The Copernican Revolution in astronomy did not actually consummate during the lifetime of Nicholas Copernicus. The reason appears to be that physics needed to be reformed first. This was accomplished by Kepler, Galileo, Brahe, and especially Newton. (Howard Zehr, Changing Lenses, Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1990, chap. 6.)

Similarly, the so-called Restorative Justice movement in criminal justice may not swell into a revolution until theology is reformed to match it. The theology of the Atonement is lagging behind such forward-looking developments in other fields, but when the “tipping point” arrives, the collapse of the old contraption and the eruption of the new creation will be heard around the world…with echoes and shock waves that ramrod the closed paradigms of tributary streams of thought in adjacent disciplines. [3/21/09]

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When Vindictiveness Substitutes for Real Justice

Penal substitutionary theologians have “justice” much on their lips, BUT NOT ON THEIR SIDE, MUCH LESS IN THEIR HEARTS. VINDICTIVENESS DOMINATES THEIR THOUGHTS, CLOUDS THEIR VIEW OF GOD. AND VISIBLY PERVADES THEIR TREATMENT OF THEIR OPPONENTS. Thus their faulty apprehension of divine behavior finds its natural reflex in their own bitter behavior toward others. From such behavior stems wars. [3/17/09]

Penal substitution theorists may run down so-called “moral influence” theorists all they want, but they will never exonerate themselves of the immoral influence that the penal substitutionary doctrine has spread through the earth. For they cannot ever do away with the deleterious public example of a God whose “love” was constrained and hedged in by a “justice” that woodenly demanded punishment of an innocent substitute, even (or especially?) though that happened to be His own natural Son. [3/18/09]


The so-called penal substitution interpretation of Christ’s Atonement all reduces to what may be characterized as “cheap wrath.” It sells short God’s antipathy to stubborn sinfulness and incorrigible wickedness. It undermines His hatred of sin by alleging that God’s wrath can be “satisfied,” “pacified,” “placated,” or “appeased” by a sacrifice. Even the sacrifice of His beloved Son is never viewed in Scripture as “quenching” His wrath; even that is “too cheap” a price for God to accept, nor would He ever ask it, nor would the Son ever expect it! This grotesque doctrine only found room to grow and thrive in the wake of oblivion concerning the apostolic understanding of the Resurrection in its judicial significance. It cheapens the work of Christ to appraise it as serving such a function. [3/18/09]

The “faith[fulness] of Jesus Christ,” in both the epistles of Romans and Galatians, is the covenantal counterpart to the “righteousness of God.” They are to be understood as correlative relations of the Son and the Father respectively, designating their mutual roles in a Covenant issuing in human salvation. [3/19/09]

Penal substitution advocates often run down their opponents as being “soft on sin” when the latter deny or even merely question whether God’s wrath was being manifest at the Cross. However, to disparage such doubts is actually a reflex of “cheap wrath” on the part of penal substitution devotees. [3/19/09]

Penal substitution is but a demi-gospel at best, even a quasi-gospel, or at worst a pseudo-gospel. Yet it might be preferable to line up with the apostle Paul and simply designate it a hetero-gospel, i.e., “different” gospel (Galatians 1:6) or teaching (1 Timothy 1:3, 10). [3/18/09; 11/17/16]

To insist that what Paul means in 2 Corinthians 5:21 is that “the One not knowing sin” (depicted by “flawless” sheep, goats, rams, bulls, turtledoves, etc., in the Mosaic economy) “became sin” is like saying that the flawless sacrificial victims of the Old Covenant similarly “became sin” in type. Much rather, they, like the antitypal “Lamb of God,” symbolized sinlessness. IT WAS THEIR (AND HIS) SLAYING THAT WAS THE SIN IN VIEW—THE SIN THAT GAVE THE OFFERING ITS VERY NAME! Any other view of the matter is confusion and darkness. The Lamb of God “became a sin-offering whereby “the sin of the world” was taken away from us and borne by him as our protective shelter, who alone and exclusively was deserving enough to win a virtually immediate rectification of the crime of the cross by way of its MORE THAN TOTAL REVERSAL IN RESURRECTION AND CELESTIAL ENTHRONEMENT OVER ALL NATIONS, INDEED, OVER THE ENTIRE CREATION THAT WAS MADE THROUGH HIM!

The outflow issuing from the wrongful, wrathful striking of that “Rockby sinful human beings (Numbers 20:2-13) was those “seasons of refreshingfrom the face of the Lord (Acts 3:19)—the bountiful waters of the Spirit that erupted from “the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-13) to us who believe Christ’s words. [3/19/09]

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George Smeaton (1814-1889) on Who Was Treating the God-man as a Sinner

George Smeaton, distinguished Scottish Free Church theologian of the 19th century, author of a two-volume extended treatment of the doctrine of the Atonement, in his dilation on the rationalistic school, inquires, “Do they allege that it was unworthy of a sinless being to be treated as a sinner? I answer: Sin-bearing differs from personal transgression, and was so divine a work, that it could be consummated only by a God-man.”* In reply, I ask, by whom was he being treated as a sinner? If by human beings such as Caiaphas, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herod, Pilate, Roman soldiers, and the Jewish mob, then it was indeed unworthy and reprehensible in the extreme, CALLING FOR THE JUSTICE OF IMMEDIATE DIVINE OVERTURNING! On the other hand, if God Himself was treating him “as a sinner,” then we are faced with a problem of much greater magnitude and enormity, for that would set a precedent of moral incoherence with extremely damaging ramifications. In fact, such an unbelievably twisted logic could only be advanced on the pre-Copernican-style premise of “retrograde” notoriety that the Trinity was somehow “punishing” itself in wrathful condemnation in some “substitutionary” fashion that “satisfied” itself so it could forgive sins done by human. Even the voicing of this assumption strikes of blasphemy, but its champions are undaunted and unrepentant.

Even so, there can be no question that Christ’s being treated as a sinner by sinners was THEIR GREATEST SIN—A SIN THAT HE GLADLY BORE IN PREFERENCE TO CALLING MORE THAN TWELVE LEGIONS OF ANGELIC MESSENGERS OF DOOM TO MAKE THEM BEAR THEIR OWN SINS! FOR TO BEAR THE SIN OF ANOTHER IS PRECISELY TO FORGIVE THEM OF IT, i.e., TO RELEASE THEM FROM ITS RIGHTFUL AVENGING AND TO CARRY THE COST ONESELF! THIS IS WHAT LOVE DOES—SACRIFICING ONE’S OWN RIGHTS AND PREROGATIVES! Yet how can Smeaton allege that it is too “divine” a work to be consummated by any less than a God-man, since THE GOD-MAN COMMANDED ALL HIS WOULD-BE FOLLOWERS TO COPY HIM, IMITATE HIM, AND WALK IN HIS FOOTPRINTS?! This is a very serious part of the oral incoherence of Smeaton’s vaunted position of superiority over rationalists. Yes, Jesus bore sin as the One against whom every sin is ultimately committed, and, yes, his supreme sin-bearing WON FOR US AN OTHERWISE ENTIRELY UNATTAINABLE GRACIOUSNESS FROM GOD BY WAY OF JUST SUPER-COMPENSATION TO HIM, THENCE CHANNELED TO BELIEVING SINNERS, but this glorious evangelical fact does not relieve any of us of the reflexive obligation to TREAT OTHER SINNERS IN EXACTLY THIS FASHION! Smeaton’s position GUTS THIS TRUTH OF ITS DIVINE-HUMAN INTEGRALITY OF CONTENTS. His twisted notion of “penal substitution” utterly shatters what the apostolic Scriptures present as an inseverable unity. He thinks the Lord Jesus suffered abuse only “mediately from the hands of men,” in response to which no restorative justice need be expected from God, therefore, since, after all, that very same abuse came “directly from the hand of Godand was already a sort of “justice” executed with penal motive aimed at SELF-SATISFACTION! NO FURTHER JUSTICE (i.e., ONE RECOMPENSING HIM FOR that aggravated abuse!) was ever conceived of or contemplated by Smeaton or any other “penal substitution” advocate! THAT’S WHY THE LORD’S RESURRECTION HAS NEVER BEEN UNDERSTOOD BY THEM AS CONSTITUTING GOD’S PUBLIC EXECUTION OF RECTIFYING JUSTICE TO HIS BELOVED, INNOCENT, OBEDIENT, AND GROSSLY INJURED OFFSPRING IN GLORIOUS EXCHANGE FOR ALL THAT WRONGFUL ABUSE-TAKING! They’re pandering quite another and very different gospel that is NO gospel!

*George Smeaton, The doctrine of the Atonement as Taught by Christ Himself, Introduction by Wilbur M Smith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953), pp. 481, 482. Emphases added. [3/17/09]

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The Invincible Rationale Underlying God’s Historic Behavior toward Humanity Revealed!

The protective cover (hilasterion) that God has provided powerfully and ever so memorably illustrates by graphic demonstration how and why God can forgive sins, past and present. That is to say, it in no way “influenced” or “pacified” or “appeased” or “placated” or “satisfied” or otherwise persuaded, manipulated, or maneuvered God into practicing forgiveness and pardon. Rather, it brilliantly lit up the truest, deepest, most intrinsically characteristic impulse of the Creator’s personality—the invincible rationale underlying His abiding behavior toward sinful humanity, in combination with the power that sustains it. RESURRECTION FROM A DEATH OF THE CROSS says it all most eloquently. [3/13/09]

If René Girard’s so-called “scapegoat mechanism” reveals anything valid, it is the phenomenon of sinful overcompensation. Insofar as it may be transposed to the cross of Christ, it is demonstrably countervailed by his resurrection from the dead, which is God’s redemptive answer by way of righteous super-compensation! God overmatched the ganging up against His beloved Son by exalting him forever over them and beyond their malicious reach and, moreover, inviting their obeisance and voluntary submission lest he get angry with them and exterminate their future prospects and very memory from the earth. And so, if God’s kindness does not lead them to repentance, His wrath kicks in with a vengeance. Their move. [3/15/09]

Penal substitution” is not likely to die a natural death from old age; it will have to be put to death with gentle, if resolute, determination. For a great many innocent people have been taught this guilty theory and deserve to be treated with great care as God’s people. [3/16/09]

One of the subsidiary beneficial functions of the restored, resurrectionary Gospel is that it teaches discernment concerning God’s “hand in history” and, more particularly, within our individual experience: discerning His judgments, wrath, patience, mercy, kindness, punishment, correction, severity, silence, sorrow, gentleness, longsuffering, graciousness, indignation, etc. In short, the Gospel truly understood enables us to know God, i.e., to know what to expect of Him under varying conditions of human behavior. It helps us perceive His attitude toward us. The value of such personal, relational knowledge can hardly be overestimated.

It scarcely needs to be added that the theory of “penal substitution” has greatly distorted the knowledge of God and must be accompanied with a crippled ethic and devotion. [3/16/09]

Has anything you learned in college contradicted what you learned in kindergarten? No? Then why would we live all our adult lives glorifying the “universality” of“kindergarten” (ten commandments) as the means of bringing people to “full maturity”?! And would we single out enthusiastic college recruiters as being “anti-kindergartians” for disdaining the idea of forcing every adult to carefully study kindergarten subjects all their lives? And would we round them up and burn them at the stake? Yet the equivalent of this absurd savagery was verily practiced diligently during the Reformation era, and not by Roman Catholics either, but by pious Protestants! This outrage is some measure of the darkness our forefathers stumbled around in. Did I say “forefathers”? Then what shall we make of the continuing antipathy to “antinomianism”? Perhaps if those forefathers hadn’t killed off so many recruiters… [3/17/09]

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The Father’s Justice Recompensed the Son for the Earthly Possessions Stolen from Him

If we would come to grips with the almost uncanny persistence of the penal substitutionary error, we must face off the persistent demands of justicedivine justice.  This, all penal substitutionary theologians have done…or at least suppose they have done.  So their conscience is clear.  No so for their opponents.  Imagining that the penal substitutionary image of divine justice was correct in terms of justice anyway, its opponents fetched around for some alternative method of atonement.  This was a decisive and fateful mistake.  Instead, divine justice itself should have been restudied at the source—Scripture itself, and particularly the Old Testament, where restorative, rewarding justice is everywhere in evidence…and in force!  [3/11/09]

What was needed in order to secure the cogency of the argument for the necessity of the Logos assuming human flesh truly so that flesh-and-blood human beings could be saved was some rationale for why God should include the rest of mankind in the scope of salvation on the condition that Jesus possess our fleshly makeup which would not prevail had he not truly taken a body like ours by natural birth.  And whereas [at least] the Post-Nicene teachers of the church did continue to hold its necessity, yet the cogency of their explanation lacks somewhat in persuasiveness.

The justice of God at the Resurrection of Jesus Christ supplies what was otherwise lacking.  For it was then and there that the Father recompensed the Son for WHAT WAS STOLEN FROM HIM BY UNJUST FORCE—HIS BODILY LIFE! GOD OVERCOMPENSATED JESUS WITH A NEW BODY OF FLESH THAT WAS PALPABLY HUMAN IN THE PROPER ADAMIC SENSE.  “‘Perceive my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.  Handle me and perceive, for a spirit has not flesh and bones just as you behold me having’.  And saying this, he exhibits to them his hands and feet.  Now, at their still disbelieving from joy, and marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you any food in this place?’  Now they hand him part of a broiled fish, and, taking it, he ate in their sight” (Luke 24:39-43).

Moreover, that new body had powers beyond the ordinary.  Yet still more, somehow after he was glorified in heaven and sat down at God’s right hand and They both (“filioque”) sent Their Spirit in fresh magnitude and power upon believing mankind, we too are INCORPORATED into the corpus Christi…with nothing left over except sin and corruption!  IT WAS A MATTER OF JUSTICE!  And thus did we “become the righteousness of God in him [Christ]” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  By getting immersed in the Spirit, we participate in the new body of Christ glorified, becoming sons and daughters of God by virtue of a resurrectionary sonhood that the Lord Jesus Christ won as his rightful award for all his wrongful abuse-taking.  HE GOT HIS BODY BACK…AND SOME!

In conclusion, the potent and cogent rationale for the necessity of the Logos becoming truly human so that other humans (sinful ones) could share in his own salvation from the death of the Cross is so that GOD COULD JUSTLY COMPENSATE HIM FOR EXACTLY WHAT HE TRULY LOST BY AN AGGRAVATED INJUSTICE.  For since God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS is superabundant and overflowing to the FAITHFUL in exchange for what they wrongfully suffer in OBEDIENCE, the historic CRUCIFIXION of Jesus became the absolutely ideal occasion for DEMONSTRATING precisely how this JUSTICE WORKED UPON THE MATERIAL OF THE CREATED UNIVERSE…so that we sinners, made of the same stuff, might have EXPECTATION OF REWARD AND HENCE LIVE LIVES OF VIGOROUS WHOLESOMENESS.  [3/11/09]

What was distinctively unique about the death of the Lord Jesus was its undeserved quality, due to his sinlessnessIT WAS THIS THAT APPEALED TO GOD’S SENSE OF JUSTICE WITH SUCH FORCE THAT HIS SURPRISINGLY QUICK JUDGMENT FLASHED FORTH ON THE THIRD DAY AND SHOCKED THE WHOLE UNIVERSE INTO AWARENESS AND BROUGHT SO MANY TO REPENTANCE AND CONCILIATION.  True, he was the Son of the living God, so had life in himself.  But that’s not the whole Story.  The dynamic of covenantal justice is what supremely explains the historic linkage between his cross and his resurrection.  This is what provides the Story its sense and thrust—its superlative dynamic.  [3/11/09]


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