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September 27, 2007

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Brad

Atonement and reconciliation are virtually synonymous. They are only distinguishable by emphasis or focus, and even these are open to discussion.

The former may emphasize the 'how' and the latter may emphasize the result. OR the former may focus on removal of the barriers to relationship and the latter may focus on the restoration of the relationship itself. The difference is negligible to me.

The question is, "What is atonement?" or even "What is the atonement question?" The most common answer to this is, "How does the Cross save us?"

The first Christians said that our sins are atoned for by Christ's sacrificial forgiveness on the Cross and by redeeming us from the curse of sin, which is death.

The death was sacrificial, not in that God required a violent death to assuage his wrath, but that God-in-Christ chose love and forgiveness over wrath and this cost him his life.

The death was redemption in that a Redeemer was the firstborn of each family who would redeem (buy back) whatever was alienated from a family on the sabbath year. The death was also a ransom in that a Ransomer paid for the freedom of those who were enslaved (not to God! nor even to the devil, but to death itself).

The point is that Christ's death reconciled us to God by removing enmity between us and God through forgiveness of a violent race even unto death, not by the submitting to the violence of God as if he could only be satisfied through punishment (an invention of much too recent theologians).

Ademir Moreira

Atonement AND Reconciliation are part of the work of the Cross, as Adoption, Justification and Sanctification are part of our Salvation. It's not health to preach one and to forget the other.

Brad

Dear BJS,

I am intrigued by your understanding of thses things. Two things resonate most strongly to me:

1. You appear to relate Jesus' binding the strongman and plundering his goods with the harrowing of hades. Is that so? That sounds like something the early church would have preached. Could be very helpful.

2. You are onto something that I've been noticing about the ransom theme. Ransom is all about freeing us from captors or from prison or from slavery, etc. The trouble I have with penal substitutionary atonement is that it can make God the Father the one we are being ransomed from. I.e. the ransom is paid to the Father who releases us from his wrath, whereas the NT makes it clear we are being ransomed from Satan, sin and death.

Curious: you mention true pentecostals. Do you attend a faith community that teaches what you've shared? Tell us more.

gospel messenger

Packer and Calvin have included themselves in the "we" esteemed Him stricken..... just as the Jews (under their leadership at the time said "lets let the one man die for the Nation") therefore argue for the "atonement" (which simply means temporary covering over). Atonement is not a New Testament word. Reconciliation is, however. Peter's sermon from pentecost is: repent from atonement (or substitutionary, i.e. "lets let the one man die for us") and be "reconciled" unto God. This is further made clear under N.T. teachings of "ransom paid" (which is not to be confused with ransom owed). No kidnapper is owed anything. In this case, Jesus is speaking to the Father on the cross in "spirituals". The Holy Spirit assures Him He is in the center of His will and the Psalms of David. The captor of our flesh continues his sword against the Messiah of Israel (who came in the same likeness as our sinful flesh). He meets him in Hades. That is, He meets his "goods" and "spoils" them there. Judgment is passed upon his "goods" (prince and his princes). They crucified the "Lord of Glory". The people, however, said "let His blood be upon us, our children, children's children" i.e. for "atonement". They believed the Old Testament "blood atonement" or "covering over" of sin. But, the true pentecostal receives Peter's message, repent from temporary covering and be "reconciled" unto God. We must receive the same baptismS as Jesus in order to be "reconciled" rather than remain just "temporarily covered over" still (which of course is wonderful, but only a start). We must go on with baptismS. Thru baptismS we are "reconciled". Leave the Old Testament to Packer and Calvin and the Jews prior to pentecost outpourings of the "last days" beginning with Peter's timely sermon from Joel. Be ye also "reconciled" not just 'atoned for'. B.J.

Ingrid Kristine Lundeby

Thank you, Brad,
for taking my questions seriously and taking the time to clarify. I think this is an interesting discussion, and want to look more into it.

Blessings!

-Ingrid Kristine

Brad

Dear Ingrid (part 2)

It's impossible for me to say anything comprehensive here about the meaning of Jesus' blood, cross, sacrifice and "Lamb-ness", but we've tried to cover much of that ground in "Stricken?" Nearly anything I say will give rise to new "then what about" questions, which eventually led to a 525 page book. But let me try to make some brief statements without rewriting the book.

Some basic premises: That God is love and that his way of restoration and salvation is through forgiving love and healing mercies. Ours is a faith based in the grace of God.

He is NOT legally bound to a form of legalistic justice or wrath that can only be satisfied through appeasement by violent punishment.

The Cross is a revelation of God's love in the face of man's wrath and, according to every gospel sermon preached in the book of Acts, man, not God, is the perpetrator of what Stephen outright calls a "murder." Jesus himself prophesies repeatedly that wicked people will kill him but God will raise him. Appeasement of wrath through more violence is nowhere in sight. God's wrath is removed by Jesus' willingness to love, forgive and intercede for his murderers when we most deserved judgment.

Now to specifics:

1. What is "the blood"? The blood of Jesus represents what Jesus accomplished through his life, death and resurrection. So when I say "there's power in the blood," I am referring to things like, (a.) Jesus' act of forgiveness for the collective sin of humanity even unto death; (b.) Jesus' victory over Satan by stripping him of all power through staying the course of love and mercy all the way to the grave; (c.) Jesus' victory over the Law which condemns by saying no to wrath, punishment and condemnation even when we were crucifying the Prince of Glory; (d.) Jesus' victory over death and the fear of death by facing it, knowing God would raise him up; (e.) Jesus' seeding his own life into the ground that would recreate humanity and restore to us the image of God (himself!). Indeed, there is wonder-working power in the blood. Surely this pleased the Father, but with no need to see it as "sufficient punishment such that God's wrath was satisfied."

2. What is "the Cross"? The Cross says all of the above, but it is also a two-fold symbol. First, the Cross symbolizes all the things that Christ came to confront: it is a symbol of shame, guilt, curse, condemnation, rebellion, oppression, and death. Every subject of the Roman Empire knew what a cross meant. And Christ came to confront everything it represented.

But second, after the resurrection, the Cross also represents to us that very victory--both what was accomplished and how it was accomplished. I.e. It represents the love, humility, forgiveness, mercy and conquest of God's kingdom through nonviolent, lamb-like means. He overthrew the oppressive political and religious domination systems through sacrificial love and service rather than violently overpowering them.

3. What do we mean by "sacrifice"? This is where we often get confused with the pagan sacrificial traditions which God-in-Christ utterly rejects, even in the Jewish tradition. The pagans, who lived in perpetual fear of their tyrannical and unpredictable Gods, sought to appease them and assuage their wrath by acts of sufficient violence (often to innocent victims). God abhors this and says so countless times throughout the Old Testament and esp. through the prophets (Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, Amos, et al). This is NOT what the Jewish sacrificial system was about, nor was this what Jesus sacrifice is about. Such thinking only crept into our theology when the theologians themselves had become sufficiently tyrannical, legalistic and violent (read "Martyrs Mirror" from the 16th century to see this in full-bloom).

God, on the other hand, treats the OT sacrifices as grace-gifts and hospitality meals that bring the community together with their God for regular expressions of reconciliation and forgiveness. God continually invites them to his table, saying "Bring your best Lamb and we'll share this feast. You'll find that I will forgive and offer mercy time and again." It was never about punishing enough Lambs to calm God's fury. In fact, when they treated it that way, he would reject the sacrifices altogether: "I want mercy and justice, not sacrifices!" (cf. Jer. 7).

So too in the New Testament: Note that Jesus death was an act of sacrificial love from God to us, NOT the other way around. Our violence against Jesus was not a sacrifice of appeasement to God. Jesus was God's offer of love to us and the sacrifice he made was that instead of receiving him, we rejected him. And God's response? He loved his Son and honored his sacrifice by answering his prayers for mercy on us and his prayers for deliverance (through the Resurrection).

As we've said elsewhere, he's a fireman like Saviour that rushes into the flaming house to save those inside but dies in the process. The ultimate sacrifice is giving his life to deliver salvation... but no one would say that the fireman is being punished to save us! Or that the fire chief who sent him gave the orders to go out of a need for appeasement. Sacrifice? Yes! Punishment? Never. This is about love trumping wrath; not fulfilling it.

Paul explains this clearly in Rom. 12. We, like Jesus, are to present our lives as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable, offered in the worship of service. Is he saying that such sacrifice has anything to do with God's need for a victim or for appeasement or for punishment? Not at all... sacrifice is about loving service.

4. Finally, Jesus as Lamb. How so? There are many angles to this that don't involve punitive appeasement or penal substitution. Here are a few examples: Jesus was a Lamb in that he went like a sheep to the slaughter (as did Paul - Rom. 8), rather than stirring up a violent revolt. He is a Lamb in that he becomes the meal (think Communion) where we meet God for reconciliation. He is a Lamb in that his death was indeed a sacrifice of love from God to us. He is a Lamb in that his death led to our forgiveness. He is the Lamb in that his presence in our lives and homes protects us from the destroying angel. And so on... so many images of Lamb that have nothing to do with appeasement through punishment.

I'll close with this reminder: The Bible locates God IN Christ on Good Friday. Yahweh is the One pierced (Zech. 12), God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5), it is through God's blood that the church is purchased (Acts) ... this is not a violent deity looking for a blood-lust to be satisfied, but rather, someone who loves and forgives us even when we kill him. I.e. God himself practicing what Jesus preached. This is our Christlike God. And so rather than cowering in fear and shame (like Adam and Eve), we run home to him (like the prodigal son).

'nuff said,

bj

Brad

Dear Ingrid,

Thanks for your questions re: the blood of Jesus Christ. First of all, let me make some fairly categorical statements affirming the importance and power of "the blood of Jesus":

I believe that the blood of Jesus is absolutely necessary for the forgiveness of sin, victory over the devil, and the restoration of humanity. Apart from the work of Christ (including his life, death and resurrection), I believe there would be no access to God's welcoming love. In fact, the sacrifice of Christ has uniquely shown us the absolute extent to which God loves us. I'm not sure I can state it more strongly, but suffice it to say, the blood of Jesus has never failed me yet. I am utterly dependent on it across the spectrum--when I need forgiveness from my failings and when I need power to cast out demons. What is the solution to the ravages of Satan, sin and death? Nothing and no one but the Lamb of God, whose sacrificial death cleanses us from every condemning reality. I believe that where the Cross of Christ is proclaimed, the kingdom comes and the Spirit of God moves, so in our church, we make the Lord's Table available every time we meet.

Within that context, we come to your questions (more fully answered in "Stricken by God?" which you can get from my website). The questions are: 1. What do we mean by "the blood"?; 2. What do we mean by "the Cross"?; 3. What do we mean by "sacrifice?"; and what do we mean when we say that Jesus is "the Lamb?"

Perhaps I can post some answers to these questions, but for now, let me suggest that all of these questions do not require a model that requires God's anger to be satiated by punishment. That notion is only 400 years old. Hebrews does not need to be read through that grid. But I'll say more later.

thanks for writing,

bj

Ingrid Kristine Lundeby

Dear Brad!

The view you are presenting is new to me, and I was just wondering what your thoughts are about Jesus being the Lamb of God carrying the sins of the world (John 1:29)? And in Hebrews 9:11-10:18 when it says that Jesus was the ultimate and sufficient sacrifice for sin. What is it that make His blood the reason that we can enter into the Holy of Holies (Hebr.10:19) if it is not that He took our punishment? If God didn`t need Jesus` blood to be poured out to forgive our sins, why then is the cross so essential?

Forgive me if I am asking questions that I should have found the answers to in what you`ve already written...

Blessings,
Ingrid Kristine


Brad Jersak

Dear Doug,

Thanks for weighing into this with sincerity and integrity. I trust your heart.

I think it's best for me to refrain from further confounding the issue of what Calvin and Packer were saying in context. I gave that my best shot and mustn't speak further for them.

However, I can at least speak for what I would and wouldn't say. I don't recall stating that P.S. divides the trinity. I understand that Reformed theorists see this transaction as "in house," so to speak. Father and Son were united in their mission to save us. That's what I emphasized as a P.S. teacher. My basic objection is to the idea that the Father HAD TO punish the Son in order to forgive us.

More specifically, in critiquing my own premises (I'll leave Calvin and Packer out of this, though I believe I learned it from them), here is what I now object to re: what I was taught and repeated to others:

1. I used to believe that God needs to exact full payment for sin as a prerequisite to forgiving anyone and that only violent punishment by death could achieve this. I believed that anything less would violate his need for divine justice.

2. I used to believe that in order to save us, God had to pour out onto Jesus (as our substitute) all of his divine wrath for all the sins of all humanity. I believed that Jesus had to suffer the equivalent of eternal punishment in his body, soul and spirit in order to appease the wrath of God that hung over mankind.

3. I used to believe that the above beliefs were "the Gospel of the finished work of Christ" (confirmed by his resurrection) and that one MUST believe these things to be a Christian.

For the reasons I outline in "Stricken by God?" I no longer believe this.

To rephrase the problem in Orthodox lingo, my personal shift re: the "how" of redemption and the meaning of the Cross was from "Juridical Vengeance" to "Co-Suffering Love." We've included an article by Metropolitan Antony on Clarion today for your perusal (remembering that this is Antony's take; not a mirror image of mine).

blessings,

bj

Brad Jersak

This comment from my good neighbour and excellent theologian, Doug Beattie:

Dear Brad J,

Thanks for the ongoing discussion on Penal Substitution - your raising some good questions and stretching me to really think through what I believe. I figured I might as well wade in from the other side of the street - both figurately and literally.

In defense of those that hold to penal substitution I would submit that while there may be different opinions regarding the "forsakenness" of Jesus on the Cross, I can think of no-one within Reformed Theology that has actually ever said that somehow the Trinity had divided. The Trinity is, always was, and always will be, One God in Three persons. So while acknowledging that there is deep mystery here, all we can say is that Jesus himself, from the depth of his heart, felt abandoned by the Father and yet called out to Him. To quote Calvin, yes Calvin,

"Yet we do NOT suggest that God was ever inimical or angry toward him. How could he be angry toward his beloved Son,"in whom his heart reposed"? How could Christ by his intercession appease the Father towards others if he himself were hateful to God? This is what we are saying: He bore the weight of divine severity since he was "stricken and afflicted" by God's hand, and experienced all the signs of a wrathful and avenging God." Institutes II.XVI.11 (emphasis mine)

"For feeling himself, as it were, forsaken by God, he did not waiver in the least from trust in his goodness". Inst. II.XVI.12 (emphasis mine)

Is this not exactly what Packer has said?

Doug

Brad Jersak

Thanks for the comments Brad H.

I've addressed much of what you've shared here in our latest book, "Stricken by God?" and hope you'll consider getting it... actually, there's an excerpt (only an excerpt) of my chapter here on Clarion. Worth reading if you'd like to see why many of us are abandoning "penal substitution" as THE message of the Gospel.

For me, the whole project represents the process of weighing and testing something that I believe I heard in prayer. In interaction with the Father, I believe he spoke this ('allegedly' spoke it until it's been weighed):

"On the Cross, I was NOT punishing my Son. Stop telling people that. You are misrepresenting me."

I realized that this was in direct contradiction to my understanding and portrayal of the Gospel, but in pursuing a vigorous course of examination, I discovered that lay-people and theologians around the world are hearing that same message.

It appears to me that the old paradigm of God's need to vindicate justice through violent retribution is crumbling under the weight of the Father's heart revelation that's been poured out since the mid to late 1980's. As we've encountered the heart of the Father and looked at the texts of Scripture afresh, we're seeing cracks in our premises.

For example, the assumption that God is beholden to justice may be true, but it cannot be true in a way that violates love. If his justice must be satisfied, in no way must this satisfaction be necessarily retributive... This is precisely the message of Hosea. In that book, God's wrath is turned aside, not by violence, not by judgment, nor by sacrifice ... not even by repentance or obedience. It is accomplished rather by God's own unilateral compassion. He is able to forgive and restore without retribution and it apparently did not violate his justice. That is because his definition of justice is not bound to penal categories. It is about "making things right," and this can be effectively accomplished through grace, mercy and forgiveness that actually produce the repentance and transformation he's looking for.

Moreover, when we read the Gospels and EVERY instance of the preaching of the Gospel in the book of Acts, we find that neither Christ nor the Apostles make out God to be the active agent of the crucifixion. They consistently treat it as a murderous crime, inspired by the devil and enacted by evil men. The parable of the wicked tenants represents God sending his Son, hoping they will receive him. When they murder him, the King does not view this as a satisfaction for sins done previously, but rather, the ultimate escalation of sin. He's actually furious.

So too in the book of Acts. Every time the Gospel is preached, the message is consistent: "God sent Jesus, you killed him, but God raised him, Jesus is Lord and Victor. Repent and believe." There is no hint of penal substitution in their message. God sends his Son to earth as a missionary martyr, foreknowing these things:

1. That sending him would result in his death. In this the Father and Son were in perfect agreement. Bringing love to these people would require an obedience that would lead to death. (And this obedience, even unto death, is what truly satisfies the Father - Hebrews);

2. That the Cross would be the moment of ultimate sacrifice... not the pagan notion of sacrifice that required appeasement of an angry deity (e.g. Molech) but rather, the sacrifice of self-giving love for the very people who would reject him.

When Mayor Bloomberg recently honored New York fire-fighters who died saving others as having made the ultimate sacrifice, we don't assume that he meant they were being punished. So too Christ entered the flames of death and hell to rescue us from Satan's prison. That sacrifice was for the sake of our salvation, the torment involved was at our hands, his confrontation was with the devil ... no part of that implies or requires Jesus to undergo the Father's wrath.

3. That the Cross would be the ultimate moment of judgment for the world. Having murdered the Son of God, would the Father now pour his wrath out on the world or would he extend mercy to the world? The destruction or salvation of humankind hung in the balance ... and from the Cross we hear, "Father, forgive them." And the Father's response is to stay his hand, to say no to wrath, and to nail the law that condemned us to the tree. Mercy trumped judgment (James).

4. That the death of Christ would give Christ necessary access to the realm of death and hades, which he would conquer through his resurrection (Irenaeus). His descent into hell was not for punishment or payment, but rather, for conquest and victory (Chrysostom).

The big question for me is, "Where do we locate the Father on Good Friday?" Is he the one holding the scourge and the spear and driving the nails and turning his face -- tormenting and condemning Christ so that he can fulfill his own need to punish sin and release his anger? Calvin says yes. God loved his Son dearly, but yes. He had to do it. He had to punish Jesus so that the debt would be paid.

Against this, I am proposing that the debt was not paid by punishment, but, according to the Scriptures, it was altogether canceled by mercy.

Where was God on that day? He was IN Christ, reconciling the world to himself. Yahweh himself declares that we would look on HIM--God on the Cross--as the one whom we have pierced (Zech. 12). And in the face of our insane revolt, God chooses mercy rather than judgment, forgiveness rather than vengeance, and restoration over retribution.

As this relates to Dr. Packer, while he speaks for himself as to whether he has budged in his own views (apparently not), I think I demonstrated from his own words that he HAS budged from the classic Calvinist read of Psalm 22:1.

Penal substitution has traditionally stated (see quotes) that the cry of dereliction reflects an objective forsakenness ... i.e. As an act of wrath, God really did abandon his Son, turning his face from Jesus (contra Ps. 22 and 31). Packer RIGHTLY rejects this interpretation and declares that the Father was with the Son, loving the Son, never leaving the Son, even speaking to the Son. He RIGHTLY sees the cry of dereliction as an expression of Christ's subjective experience. He truly FELT what it is like to be condemned, forsaken and alone, but IN REALITY (Packer's words), he was not. (Amen!)

This is an enormous difference that perhaps Dr. Packer hasn't noticed(?): Did God objectively condemn and forsake Jesus in our place (Calvin) or did Jesus subjectively experience the feeling of condemnation for our sake (Packer)?

I would strongly agree with what Packer actually said that night. And that's where I was looking for renewed common ground in a debate that has continued with too much heat and not enough light. If the categories of us/them could give way to dialogue, then it would be on this point. It seemed to me that Dr. Packer had opened a way ... I'm not that hopeful that it will stay open. But I'm grateful that he replied. Thank you, sir.

Brad Huebert

I should also say that God is quite capable of achieving an entirely loving, just purpose through penal substitution, even though those who did the actual crucifying and torture were quite unjust to do so. This is just another expression of God's ability to work all things for good, for those that love him.

Brad Huebert

I agree with Packer's comments above. To posit justice as somehow in conflict with love is to misunderstand both.

Consider:

Love, in a nutshell, is to do what's best for someone because we treasure them. Agreed?

Justice & righteousness come from the shared root word in Greek (dike), which refers to the right treatment of something based upon its essential character, function, and purpose - ie, what must be done to uphold the character, function, and purpose of someone or something.

So it would be very unjust of me to stab your back with a pen, because that's not what is best for your back - not to mention the fact that it's inconsistent with the function and purpose of a pen. Love and justice are in full agreement here.

Seen in this light, there is no contradiction in saying that the justice of God would require penal substitution all the while affirming his love for both Jesus and humanity. We don't "need" God to be angry at Jesus to make the atonement work. But we do need Jesus to become sin for us, and so, through his death, to deal with the punishment that was coming to us all.

THis is quite just for God the Father to do - ie, it upholds & yet fulfills the character, function, and purpose of the law he established in the OT. And it's only unjust to Jesus if that's not what a Messiah is for. If, on the other hand, Jesus was born to do exactly what we've understood penal substitution to be, it is quite just as well - consistent with Christ's character, function, and purpose - and since the best thing for any of us, Christ included, is to fulfill our God-given character, function, and purpose, it was still loving for God the Father to give us Jesus to pay for our sins.

I also think the "child abuse" image pushes the Trinity image beyond reason. Yes, we've got a father and a son involved - but this is still one God. God wasn't just sacrificing his Son, he was sacrificing HIMSELF. And Jesus wasn't just being sacrificed; he was sacrificing HIMSELF.

THis discussion fascinates me. I don't think anyone would dispute the fact that Jesus HAD to die (even if we disagree on the reason). But if he had to die, and God knew it, and sent him anyway, whatever the reason, we still have to deal with God sending his Son to fulfill some purpose through an act of violence to his own person. We still have a father sending his Son as a sheep (among wolves, in one case - and to the altar, in another).

Those are my two cents.

Brad Jersak

In a round about way, a friend who wanted to set me straight re: the article managed to get a response to the article directly from Dr. Packer. Here are the two comments that he had for me:

1. I may have said things about the Father, Son and the Spirit at Calvary that Brad had not heard before, but I did not budge in the least from what I have been saying for half a century or so as I have tried to think through the cross in fully Trinitarian terms (which, granted, some evangelicals fail to do).

2. Brad seems to think that if God's love to sinners as expressed in the gospel is real love, it undermines the credibility of penal substitution as the way that, obeying the Father's loving will, Christ wrought our salvation; and, conversely, that if penal substitution was required so that God might save us justly, on a basis of justice done, this undermines the credibility of God's saving action expressing real love. As surely is clear when one puts it that way, this is groundless confusion, of a kind that we do NOT find in John, Paul, Hebrews or the words of Christ himself.

Blessings,
Jim Packer

Eric H Janzen

I wasn't responding you to directly, rather your post made me think and I jotted down my thoughts. In the end I think we come out on the same end of things.

cheers,
ehj

Greg Sharpe

Hello EHJ

Were you writing a response to my response? IF so ... I have not very clearly made my point or you may have misunderstood what I was saying.

Warmly
gps

Eric H Janzen

I think that when Jesus calls out the words from Psalm 22 he was not expressing his own sense of forsakeness, but rather he was calling out to those witnessing his suffering. Many of the Jews present would surely have recognized the reference and also known the psalm in its entirety. The full context that Jesus is alluding to is important because the psalm only begins with those words and goes on from there. His hearers would, I think, have been either unnerved by his words or deeply moved. Right to the end the heart of Christ was turned towards humanity.
To suggest or think that he doubted his Father's love or commitment to him at any point, including on the cross, simply makes no sense given who Jesus is and what his life was like. If Jesus did not trust the Father completely, he never would have allowed himself to be led to the cross.

cheers,
ehj

Greg Sharpe

Hello Brad,

Here's another take on Psalm 22 and the apparent reference Jesus makes to it whilst on the cross.
1. Was David forsaken by God or did it feel as though he was under his circumstances at the time? Could the Psalm just be David's lamenting and also an incorrect belief about the character and action of God ... that is... of forsaking David?
2. If that cd be the case cd it also be the case that Jesus was not alluding to David's experience at all?
3. I have never accepted that Jesus uttered those exact words on the cross, regardless of my opinions on the nature and extent of the atonement. (By the way ... I do not believe that the need for meeting the demands of retributive justice is what the atonement was about, rather, that it was necessary for the demands of 'public justice' to be satisfied ... and they were... see Albert Barnes on this). In fact, when I read the passion story as a whole, including the narrative leading up to His arrival in Jerusalem, and when I read this in the context of His singleness of purpose, His vision, His toughmindedness, the experiences of the temptation and transfiguration ... I can't help but think that a translator or story teller got it wrong. I cannot believe that Jesus could be that mistaken. Surely, in spite of the 'moment' He could not believe in any sense similar to that of David, that the Father had forsaken Him.
4. Having said all this ... I was reading through an English translation of the narrative from the Aramaic (the Peshitta) and found that Jesus is quoted as having said something on the cross more like, "My God, My God, for this moment I was spared."

Now ... this makes more sense to me. This sounds like the clear headed, tough, mindful, and suffering Jesus who would not make the mistake/error of accusing God of having forsaken Him.

Thoughts?


fi calder

Thank you Brad. I found I could follow a lot of your article, and I liked what I read. It made sense of some things I’ve struggled to understand for many years.

It means a lot to me that you are so respectful of your fellow ‘thinkers’, whether you share the same views or not. I really feel that that kind of heart attitude is just as important as the issues being argued. Loving each other despite our disagreements matters a lot to God. I hope that other ‘thinkers’ can return the good favour to you when they find their views are contrary to yours.

I think the biggest question all my life has been ‘what is love?’ It has not been easy for me to understand. Many bad things were done to me and my siblings in the name of love when we were little. For years I tried to accept that this really was love, but a lot of it sure didn’t feel like love. Now if you asked me ‘what is punishment’ I think I have a pretty clear idea of that! It formed the backbone of my childhood.

My favourite Bible verse as a child was ‘God is love’ from John’s first letter. I so hoped it could be true. People in church told me that the way I could know God was through knowing Jesus and to read about Him in the gospels. Well, I liked Jesus. He seemed very gentle and kind, yet not afraid to stand up for Truth when appropriate. He seemed to like all sorts of people! Perhaps He could even like me!
But the cross was always a bit of a stumbling block for me. If Jesus and the Father were one, how come this loving Jesus was met with a brutalising Father. It seemed like a split in the Godhead. It was too hard for me to understand, so I’ve just had to trust God on that one.

Your writing shows me there may be more Truth locked up in the events of Christ’s death waiting to be uncovered, and I find it liberating.

I love how you highlight Jesus’ cry of desolation on the cross, ‘my God, my God, why have you forsaken me’. It brings huge consolation to my heart that Jesus understands how we can often feel that God has deserted us during our sufferings. Many times God does not prevent our tribulations (particularly at the hands of our fellow men), but He is faithful to remain with us through them … even when we can’t sense Him there. This validates a lot of my childhood feelings, but it also offers the hope of healing when the revelation comes that He was there with me.

Also, I find that compassion rises in my heart for those in my family who so loathe Christ. When I read your article it helps me to understand why their hearts might be so repulsed by a God who seemingly loves with the one hand, and crushes with the other.

I am a little afraid to send my comments to your journal because they reveal what a simple soul I am and how little I understand of the language of theological discussion. But seeing as the Kingdom is made up of billions of folks like me who are just trying to get through life a day at a time with God’s help, I felt that my thoughts have as much worth as the next persons. So here I am.

Thanks for listening.
Fi Calder.

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