COLUMBINE DAY—April 20th
This occasion of recollecting the bloodbath that transpired at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on that fateful Tuesday morning of April 20th, 1999 should likewise offer a reminder of the power of martyrdom for love of Jesus Christ. My own two research visits to Littleton in 2002 and 2003, along with reading books by parents of Columbine martyrs Cassie Bernall and Rachel Scott, and by Wendy Murray Zoba and Bruce Porter, among other readings, interviews, and influences, supplied a contemporary backdrop of spiritual immediacy to my continuing reflections on the nature of Christ’s atonement. By April 2008, the ninth anniversary of Columbine, my thoughts had distilled into a commemorative piece, “‘It’s the Gospel Truth!’–The Atonement Remixed,” marbled with images and expressions suggested by Cassie and Rachel themselves, and those who pondered the meaning of their lives. I have herewith posted it as a separate page at the top of this blogsite. The tragedy and hope found in tandem at Columbine are reflective of the central Events of our salvation. In what follows, I continue unreeling the thread of the premial justice of God that accounts for the workings of the Atonement.
The kind of justice (“righteousness“) that we should “seek first” (Mt. 6:33) is the kind that God revealed in His Resurrection of Jesus from a death and humiliation as deep as Crucifixion!
The justice of God (and not merely His “mercy” narrowly conceived as “in tension with” His justice–a travesty of the truth) conciliated (katalla-) His enemies precisely because it did not exact their deserts for wrongly executing His Son: their rightful destruction. It is this fact that makes absolutely essential our proclamation of Christ’s Resurrection, because it is this act of God that singlehandedly carries the weight of this grand truth of conciliation and peace: God did not destroy them, His enemies, for their enormity of transgression in slaying their just King, Priest, Prophet–Messiah! [11/12/95]
“…[A]nd what will the lord of the vineyard do? Surely he will come and avenge those murderers of his son, and will give the vineyard to others (“…a nation producing the fruits“). (Mt. 21:33-41, Mk. 12:1-9, Lk. 20:9-20) In such places Jesus prophesies that his Kingdom would be wrested out of the hands of the Jewish nation which would suffer the wrath and avenging of God for routinely slaying His previous prophets, culminating in the wretched murder of His Own Son. Christ forsees 70 A.D.–the “abomination of desolation” of Daniel 9. When carrying his cross to Golgotha he prophesied that ominous outpouring of divine avenging fury to the bystanders and their children. What an enormously significant event was 70 A.D.–the destruction of Jerusalem, its temple, the whole Jewish nationhood. And yet Jesus immediately afterward announces forgiveness to the Roman soldiers who crucified him! They were not aware what they were doing, so they would now start to receive the blessings of Abraham, unlike the callous Jewish population at large, who were about to forfeit them and suffer the curses of the covenant instead. [12/16/95; 4/19/12] The international “balance of power” would somehow be decisively altered. [8/30/16]
By displacing any significant demonstration of the wrath/fury/indignation of God beyond history as we know it, Dispensationalists/Evangelicals have given us a Jesus de-clawed–tamed and domesticated, meek and mild, despite their protestations to the contrary. But the God of the New Testament (not exclusively “of the Old Testament,” as Anabaptists and pacifists are inclined to teach) is the God who not only declared His mercy and kindness by resurrecting His hideously wronged Son from the grave and exalting him above all his enemies, declaring forgiveness to them if they would now trust that this Jesus was indeed their true Messiah/Christ (since the forgiveness at the Cross was only addressed to those in unawareness of his true anointing from God, a disposition now dispelled by the resurrectionary proof of who this Nazarene really was) but after giving Israel 40 years of probation to enter this merciful window of opportunity for salvation, poured out His wrath upon Israel/Judaea/Jerusalem with a vengeance that was positively nauseating to contemplate in writing, for they “knew not the era of [their] visitation” (Luke 19:41-44), although they had no excuse not to know! (The Jewish soldier and historian, Flavius Josephus, has famously recorded his eyewitness account in his chronicle, The Wars of the Jews.) Further, an irony remains in the monumental fact that even the very “abomination of desolation” itself–that is, the pagan Roman army that desolated Jerusalem and the Temple–were astonished at what those wicked Jewish factions had wreaked upon each other! It was a horror such as never befell that land before or since.
Surely a God who reveals His judgments from on high to be thus fearsome is not the eternally indulgent personage He is all too often depicted as being. Let us revise our theology without delay and take into account the Father of Jesus Christ as He truly is. For when the cup of Israelite (“after the flesh“!) viciousness was full, their God treated them to devastations of a kind greater and more appalling by far than even those He ordained that they inflict upon the Canaanites of old, when the cup of their wickedness had become full. God’s mercy evidently can run out; Jehovah is indeed a “man of war”! And woe be to those who test and try His patience! God has left an agelong memorial in history of His reaction to such conduct. Remember the planetary Deluge! Sodom and Gomorrah! The Exodus from Egypt! The Exile! These are the great historic landmarks that furnish the language God uses to describe prophetically also the horrific events of 70 A.D. That language is terrible indeed if we measure it by its common exclusive displacement to the so-called “final state” of the wicked beyond history. But even adjusting for later syncretism with pagan notions of “final punishment” (which enveloped the church and remain dominant even to this day), that description can only inspire fear and dread of what God can yet unleash within history. [12/22/95]