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July 10, 2007


Wes Groleau

I am thoroughly convinced that the crucifixion is an indispensible part of our salvation. I cannot be so dogmatic about any of the views mentioned here on the _mechanics_ of the event/process. Much of the arguing seems to me based on unwarranted premises (1) that we need to know more than the bible clearly states; and (2) that our feeble minds are capable of understanding more about God than He has chosen to reveal. Didn't the Fall start with the suggestion that we could and should know more than God was telling us?

I think it's OK to speculate beyond the "main and plain" things of Scripture. But I think putting too much importance on those speculations approaches idolatry.


One Big Reason I believe 'God Placed Christ on the Cross' was to express NOT His anger or any violent act, as you have said, but to show us His Hurt. His pain, His anguish. As His response to our sin.

I would go so far as to say this:

2 Cor 11:28-29 and Romans 9:1-3 and Exod 32:32

I've felt this way, even intensely so, hurting beyond what I could bear for those whom I wanted to be in fellowship with, but they would not ( Isaiah 30:15 ) accept the invitation. There came a point for Jesus ( Luke 13:34 Matthew 17:17 ) where His INTERNAL pain was so great and He was already so grieved over being rejected by His people, His beloved, that to hang His body on a Cross would almost be more relief than to hold all that pain inside. At least people would then be able to see that He was in pain.

Christ hanging on a Cross is God's anguish over His Creation's rejection of His love. God was yelling, "Hey everyone, I have feelings too. Not only do I want fellowship with you, but I am deeply grieved to the point of death over your many betrayals." As a spurned lover, this pain is more than I can bear. Pouring my blood out on the Cross is cathartic for me - at least all the pain and anguish I've been holding inside can now be released and given full expression for you all to witness.

The Cross is God Wounded by man. The Cross is what Love feels when rejected. The Cross is God's most vulnerable expression of a lover who was abandoned. The Cross is the expression of God's feelings after contending with Israel to no avail for centuries. And not just Israel, but mankind's free will to leave Him.

God hurts. In my opinion, what Jesus was storing up inside His soul as so many rejected Him, was enough pain already, that to be hung up on a Cross was nothing compared to what was already tearing Him up on the insides. "Surely they will listen to my Son." Matthew 21:37 The Cross was God receiving man's answer, and not just glibly 'stuffing' how that made Him feel, as if it never mattered to Him. Instead, He willingly is stretched out on a Cross - giving full expression to how it feels for God to be rejected by His beloved.

This external expression of the pain God was already holding inside for centuries was God being honest with us. We mattered to Him. It mattered. To just devalue us, and His longing for us, as though 'it meant nothing' - which is a classic human response to loss - to devalue the wife who choose another man and make her all bad and pretend it didn't hurt you. NO, Jesus would have none of that. "You mattered to me. I wanted you. It hurts that you left. You are still my beloved. I lost you. There's nothing more that I can do. You have caused me such pain, it kills me inside. If you don't want Me, then part of me has already died inside. What difference does it make if you flail me on the outside? It's already feels like that on the inside. Perhaps if the outside looks like it feels on my insides, it would be more honest.

That way when you look upon Me, you'll see what My words alone would not be able to describe.

God hurts. And on the Cross, He is expressing what the Divine Lover feels when He accepts that His most treasured creation has abandoned Him.

Makes perfect sense to me. If you have ever been madly in love with someone for centuries and centuries and they leave you for someone else, ya - climbing up on a Cross makes a whole lot more sense. Where else would you be? Any other place would be just a lie about how much you hurt inside. As if you are trying to hide it, or down playing how much grief you are in. Or pretending it didn't matter.

For Jesus to shrink away into the wilderness or just lament to Himself in some garden at night, or have one of his prophets write another poem on the subject, doesn't do justice to the Divine Grief inflicted upon Him by His beloved creation.

OK, that's my chief explanation for the Cross. Partly because I can feel that pain too when those whom I delight in don't accept the invitation to join us at the Feast! Yes, when you love someone, and they really DON'T want you, your 'ilk' or to be anywhere near the Light, not because some 'Christian' mis-represented Christ, but simply because 'Nope, they just are not interested and don't see any value in fellowship with you' - that hurts, and causes me much grief, and if I can feel crushed by their rejection of my offer for connection ('salvation' isn't even part of this), how much more does God feel crushed when we slap away His extended hand of fellowship?

I hope this makes sense - that's how I see it!



Hello Brad - I really enjoyed the Hellbound movie and your book "Her Gates Will Never Be Shut" just arrived in my mailbox this afternoon.

There is, perhaps you haven't heard, a definition of 'punishment' that comes from a multitude of Near Death Experiencers - they pretty much all say the same thing and say it with almost the same words, and these testimonies are from people who had their 'life review' on the other side and came back to tell use what the 'punishment' was for the bad things they have done.

Maybe you've heard this, maybe you haven't, but it is entirely consistent with 100's of people who have posted their testimonies of what happened to them in their Near Death Experience.

Here's the 'punishment': Empathy. You get to feel what you could not feel on earth. You get to feel / experience / be empathically connected to your victim - or the ones whom you choose to bless. Even if you just smiled at them and made them feel good, you get to feel that good feeling you shared with them. If you caused them to hurt, then you get to feel what that was like for them. Empathy - an empathic connection to those whom you treated well or not. This is both your reward, or your 'punishment.'

It is restoring the way it ought to have been. That every deed done in the flesh, every idle word spoken, every cup of cold water given in Jesus' name that results in an emotional response another human being - that is what you get to re-live. And sometimes even to the 2nd person who was affected by the person that you affected - you get to see / feel / experience the reality of your words, your violence towards, your blessing of others.

I wouldn't call them 'punishments' - I'd call them the 'very real spiritual, emotional, and meaningful consequences of how you treat your fellow human beings.' If for good, then that equates to joy and further blessing, if for evil, then those destructive words or curses pronounced on others, or violent acts, you get to feel - same intensity, just as the victim felt it.

Judgment and Rewards are the same - Empathic connection to others, so you get to feel how your actions impact those around you. Their reality while suffering / being blessed around you becomes your reality in the afterlife.

Now this is experienced simultaneously - side by side - with your own experience. In other words, BOTH sides of the relationship are RE-experienced simultaneously. Your anger, their hurt. Your desire to bless, their gratitude, your shared joy. Side-by-side - the ultimate lesson. How you made other people feel - you get to feel all these realities, and that's the judgment.

Very real, very simple, very enlightening, very instructive, very corrective, and very, very real. That's what strikes me about all the after-life stories I heard, all of them are real - nothing made up, no extra weight given to anything in particular, just 'what was the meaning of your actions in the hearts of those who were impacted by your actions' - according to them (not God, not some external standard, not some arbitrary version of justice). Very real, tied directly to 'what actually happens' between two people.

This 'unveiling' of the empathic connection to others that maybe we missed in this lifetime occurs mostly during the life review. Some pastors who lived their lives blessing others reported this resulted in extreme joy for most of their activities in this life. Others who were abusive described this as excruciatingly painful - mainly because they finally saw / experienced what they did not see / experience while in their natural bodies on the earth.

That's the judgement. Now there may be more, but that's seems to be the 'biggie' reported by most NDE'ers. The good news is that if you live empathically connected to those around you, then there won't be that many surprises when we get to our life review. Those who have been to the afterlife and back, having had their life review, lived totally different as a result of it, knowing that every person they bless, results in their blessing, and every person they curse, results in them feeling the curse. So they are typically full of gratitude for how instructive this experience was - and most call it - the life review - 'the best gift I ever could have received.' It directly impacts how they live the rest of their days on the earth.

So, in all evaluations of what this 'judgment' will be, remember this: It will be as REAL as you can possibly imagine - hear what I am saying - I'm not saying that it will be 'worse' than you can possibly imagine. I'm saying that there is real suffering on the earth, and to the extent that you willfully caused / mistreated someone you knew, face-to-face, and caused them to suffer, then you get to experience what you made them experience. That's all. Your 'judges' if you will, are the emotional impacts that you made in those who knew you.

God isn't even in the picture. And no arbitrary, external standard of justice is applied. Just human emotions. Feeling what you made others feel - that will be your reward or punishment. And that reality can be directly uncovered in this lifetime by walking in a manner that invites others to share with you their experience of you. I teach people to constantly ask those around them what it is like for the people with whom they interact with to be in relationship with them. In other words, get your 'feedback' now so that you won't have any surprises at the judgment.

I hope that helps add some context for this discussion! -Garret

Chris Welch

Adjustment: Against the Tide is a bio ABOUT Watchman Nee. Sorry.

Chris Welch

I look in occasionally and have commented before. It was good to meet you on our church weekend here with Peter Stott's church.
I came by for one purpose,but maybe I'll mention two others.
Firstly to encourage you and Eden to vote KMOO in your local political endeavours. http://080808onnowto.blogspot.com/2009/05/kmoo-rollout-has-been-success.html

to say the first Clarion I read covered Burma. Within a few days I was piano tuning in a little West Sussex village called Bosham. A chocolate box place of second homes for well-off Londoners see:
On the table in front of me was a whole pile of concert programmes for Dominic Miller,(Sting's guitarist)and his concert in New York to which George Bush or his wife had been invited.It was to raise awareness and money for a charity that is seeking to free Burma, and set in place infrastructure ready for its democratization.
Stunningly, Sting bought Dominic out at the last minute to appear with him at one of his American West Coast shows...so the Burma concert never happened.I was gob-smacked, considering how radical Sting can be in favour of unjust situations. The timing of Clarion in all this was quite crucial to me even bothering to listen intently to my client. I was amazed that quite an ordinary businesswoman client of mine was arranging all this from her little quiet choc box house in England.
So that brings me to this article.
As my blogtitle above shows I am shameless in my advocation that yes indeed a seismic shift in thinking is going on regarding the work of Christ.
If you read "Against the Tide" by Watchman Nee, you read that in 1966 this old servant of God who was feted on all the conference platforms of the world, having spent years in prison, felt the call of God to go back inside prison. The Cultural revolution we read about in Jung Chang's book on Mao was in full swing.Brutal times. By 1972 Nee's tongue had been cut out and later that year he died in prison.
Many talk of him as "the womb of the West" in his intercession. All I know is that a great wave swept many into the Kingdom that very year, my wife and I separately...and significantly large numbers were swept into charismatic expressions of the Kingdom.Things changed quite radically in the USA,UK and later Europe.

My blog is about the 3rd level. The identification level. The God so fusing with us level, that our decisions become His decisions. That He can set off atom bombs through us. I am grateful for Acts because it devotes so much attention to patterns of behaviour in Paul's ministry. And that's about all we have to go on. Apart from amazing phrases such as "being baptized on behalf of the dead"...which from the context is NOTHING at AT ALL to do with collecting genealogies together so we can baptize by proxy....but on the other hand , everything to do with being imprisoned, being beaten up, suffering extremes of hardship...that in our very bodies we "fill up that which is lacking in Christ's suffering". Imagine a combination lock embedded in your very flesh, which as it turns, tens, thousands , millions stream into the Kingdom. This is mimicked at best, at worst caricatured to an absolutley pointless extent by people surrendering to monasticism.
The third level is real. Organic. Not institional. We take the decision ourselves. We click the switch on our insides when we respond from the base of our being to the prophetic call from the Living Word Himself. And later. Maybe 10,20,30 years later, we find third level stuff unfolding in our lives, for others to read like a book.

Norman McIlwain

Dear Brad,

I enjoyed reading your article and find myself in agreement with much that you say. I am sorry that I have only now heard of you and your book. You may be interested in reading 'The Biblical Revelation of the Cross', pub. 2006. A revised edition is published online and includes notable additions to the original: http://bible-study-online.org/atonement/?page_id=7
The addenda presently includes reference to the Church fathers, beginning with Athanasius: http://bible-study-online.org/atonement/?page_id=23

Feedback would be most appreciated. Eventually, I hope to have the new edition published in print.

I hope to hear from you.

gospel messenger

Isa. 53:4 The 'reformers' still "esteem" (falsely consider) Him "stricken", "afflicted of God", as do all true catholic (Nicolaitan) minded. To 'conquer the laity' one must have a theology which begins with 'penal substitution', rather than simply "ransom" from our captors (who turn out to be also within the 'visible' church influencing our fellow humans living here in the likeness of sinful flesh also as we, and He). B.J.S.

gospel messenger

Could't be a more 'dizzy-ing' subject than this, and why not (since it involves true salvation vs. wishful thinking)! Can you tolerate a type of pentecostal input in all this? God was in the 'anointing' of Messiah, reconciling the world unto Himself. When on the cross He continued with "stammering lips and another tongue" in speaking to this people, AND for all this, they didn't hear Him. The Holy Spirit brought the 'interpretation' of His "stammering lips" (which, of course was the opening lines of David in the Psalms). No known language either then, or now, and we (along with those surrounding) thought He was calling for Elijah (except for the Holy Spirit "interpretation" of His "spiritual tongue"). So, we cannot rely upon the non-pentecostal approach while attempting to approve, or disapprove, of only a "theory" (by the way). Why do we attempt theories when the Scriptures teach "ransom"? He is clearly the Ransomer, we the ransomees. His flesh (in our likeness of sinful flesh) was His payment to the captor. God's wrath was satisfied by His payment to our, therefore His also, captor in His, our, deathS. The penal is against the captor for having received this payment. He took the bait. When we co-operate with the Ransomer, we also go free. It's not very complicated after all. It was a 'set-up', and in it all, we were also 'set-up' to be also 'risen-up', while the captor is left only with the payment of His likeness of our sinful flesh. We are 'brand-new' creatures in this same "Anointing" of His, while we co-operate with this successful rescue from our captors. The cross proves to be the line of demarkation (separation from the sin we are held captive in while in our earthsuits). To be saved, we must make the "resurrection", then the "rising" from the "resurrection" (even as He did in His deathS). Years of trying to explain and hang on to Balaamism (modern day today known mostly as Calvinisms' theory) has long been, even always remaining as antithesis to true pentecostal doctrine of the Early Church (and Latter Church) which comes down to us now, as rain, all in the first month of this Season of God's economy. Bottom line, there IS more than one baptism, but no one enters except thru the cross of Jesus the Anointed One. B.J.S.


Dear Quinn,

Thanks for your input and questions, which are not only insightful, but also important to faith, both personally and publically. I’ll address each of your questions as best I can with the caveat that the excerpts that you’ve seen are just part of a much longer chapter that I wrote in Stricken? which itself is just one of twenty essays given to these issues. The text is well worth picking up in my judgement.

1. First, you asked to hear my characterization of Paul’s theory of the atonement. By theory, as you’ve noted, we mean the HOW of Christ’s redemption. That you would ask re: Paul’s theory, as opposed to the perspective of Jesus, John or the author of Hebrews, is interesting. Perhaps it is because most messages we’ve heard or read re: the atonement are focused on the book of Romans. However, even if we are to narrow our NT theology of the atonement to St. Paul, we would do well to bear the following in mind:

a. Paul’s preaching of the Cross and Redemption throughout the book of Acts is consistent with that of the other evangelists (e.g. Peter and Stephen). Throughout the years of gospel testimony recorded in Acts, the message is summarized repeatedly as (i) God sent Jesus, (ii) you murdered him (iii) God raised him (iv) Jesus is Lord (v) repent, believe and follow him. If the Lucan kerygma (including Paul’s preaching) does demonstrate an atonement theory, it is entirely Christus Victor (see Nathan Regier’s essay in Stricken?).

b. Paul’s letters are come years after the content of gospel preaching is established. In his writing, we see both a variety and a progression in his understanding of redemption. Rather than trying to harmonize Paul’s teachings to reconstruct a single Pauline theory, I would follow the development of his thought and enjoy the variety of angles he takes. ‘Theory’ may be too strong a word until the time of Irenaeus anyways. But in Stricken? we note esp. the Pauline emphases on identification (e.g. Gal. 2:20, Rom. 5, 6, etc.) and victory (e.g. Col. 1, Rom. 8, 1 Cor. 15, etc.).

c. Author Ed Strauss has also convinced me to beware of (i) reading penal satisfaction back into the “blood atonement” approach of the book of Hebrews and (ii) reading Hebrews’ theology back into Paul’s writings. The author of Hebrews brings a novel view of atonement to the table years after the gospel had already been preached for decades in other ways, even by Paul. What this model entails is debateable and in any case, we should read Paul on his own terms (esp. Romans) rather than through that lens.

2. Second, you mentioned some apparent inconsistencies in my essay that led to confusion: Specifically, at one point I wrote: "Justice is about making things right and Jesus' way of doing that was restorative and nonviolent," But at another point, you quote me as referring to the "divine avenging" of 70 AD and the fact that God lets people die in their sins, "which must be extirpated." You wondered how this reconciles with my aforementioned notion of God's justice.

Please note that the latter quotes were from Ron Roper’s comments to my essay, not something that I had written. Roper is putting things in much stronger terms than I would. My notion of God’s justice is that he makes things right by providing a restorative and nonviolent way—the Way—to follow through death, resurrection and glorification of his new creation in a new heavens and new earth.

However, divine judgement is another matter. When we reject God as King and depart the just path, there is a day of reckoning and a real experience of judgement. The wrath of God (as defined in Romans 1) is that he gives us over to the painful consequences of our rebellion. The judgement of AD70 is divine, but not in the sense that God actively incites the Roman troops to sack Jerusalem (with the horrors that included). Rather, it is designated as divine because: (i) the disaster was forewarned by God; (ii) the way of escape was prescribed by God; and (iii) the rejection of God’s way led to the disaster associated with his warning. The fall of Jerusalem was not the violence of God, but rather, the violent consequence of defying the warnings and saving ways of God.

3. Your third question relates to the alleged violence of Christ in the court of the Gentiles and in God’s fatherly discipline of Hebrews 12. Our definition of violence is very important to this discussion. Inherent in my definition of violence is the intention and/or action of doing harm. In Jeremiah 29, we find that God’s plan and intention is “not to harm.” Nor was this Christ’s intention in the temple confrontation (a dramatic prophetic act). Nor is this ever the Father’s intent in disciplining his children. His unwillingness to intervene and rescue from every trial we suffer is certainly inconvenient and confusing at times. But belief in his wisdom and goodness causes us to trust that his heart is not to do us violence or harm.

In my definition, even our words can be very violent (as with curses or hate crimes) while the use of force (e.g. restraining someone who is endangering themselves or others) may not be. Violence is thus confined to the intent / actions that harm. God as revealed in the life and teachings of Jesus is nonviolent in the sense that he shows us that he is about salvation from the harm of Satan, sin and death (not from God). Jesus was revealing and to a great degree, redefining God as we knew him.

4. How does this relate to the apparent violence of God in the O.T.? That’s too big of a question for this response, but I would begin with Christ as our center. As the perfect image of the invisible God in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt bodily, Christ alone showed us the Father exactly. He came as Son of Love and Prince of Peace to manifest the character of his Father.

The first order of business then is to read the entire OT through the lens of Jesus. At the end of the day, to be Christian is to understand God through the person, ministry and message of Jesus … all which made love and forgiveness the central feature of our God. As THE WORD made flesh, every other word, including the OT authors and prophets revelations of God, must bow to the presence of the Living Word when He came in person (cf. Heb. 1:1ff). Only in light of that can we begin to wade through the record of OT violence attributed to God.


Dear Brad, I am open to the possibility that at best we can only have "theories" regarding the "how" of Christ's redemption, (C.S. Lewis and George MacDonald put me onto this idea) and I appreciate people, such as yourself, who open to discuss this. I would like to hear your characterization of the Apostle Paul's "theory" and how it relates into yours. Also, at one point here, you write: "Justice is about making things right and Jesus' way of doing that was restorative and nonviolent," But at another point, you mention the "divine avenging" of 70 AD and the fact that God lets people die in their sins, "which must be extirpated." So how does this reconcile with your aforementioned notion of God's justice? Furthermore, what room is there in your theory for Christ's violence in the court of the gentiles or for God's fatherly discipline in Hebrews 12 and elsewhere in the OT? Isn't God the Father capable of inflicting suffering as a kind of tough love? And although you mention that there is no sign of a "second shooter" during the crucifixion, how do you explain Christ's early death, which was evidently so unusual, that Pilate couldn't believe it?


Thanks for this review. It seems to me you have grasped the essence of the deeper questions that drive the book. The need to revisit the atonement is really about who God is, how Jesus represented him, and how our presentations of the gospel (mis)represent him. You have hit upon the crux(!) of our burden: is God the author of evil, esp. that which was manifest ultimately on the Cross? And how does he resolve the problem of violence? Through further violence or by forgiveness?

Of course, penal theorists (rightly, I think) remind us that it is essential that our doctrine of forgiveness must not negate the call to justice. But of course, that opens the discussion as to what justice is and how it comes. P.S. theories typically see justice as wrath satisfied through sufficient punishment. We don't buy that. Justice is about making things right and Jesus' way of doing that was restorative and nonviolent.

But back to your point. Restorative justice models of atonement say that God is in no way the author of evil. He is the author of life. And the sad truth is that we who have been freely given life have buggered it up royally and we hate those who remind us of that. Jason Upton reminds us that the world hates beautiful people: from Jesus to MLK, we inevitably kill them.

But how does God resolve and redeem such a world? How did Jesus changes all that? What part did the Cross play? Our authors offer a variety of thoughts: for example, some of them see it as an inevitable tragedy (Borg) and horrendous crime (Northey) while others (like Wright) do see it as a deliberate or necessary part of the redemptive plan. This is NOT to say that God was punishing Jesus ... but, for example, that death gave Jesus access to death that he might conquer it (Irenaeus) or that Jesus' death exposed as a fraud the scapegoating mechanism behind all human violence (the Girardians).

When you began singing about seeing your sins FROM the cross, you are see something that Rohr is preaching (and before him, Zechariah in chapter 12). That in beholding what Christ endured, I get a revelation of my part in this murder and thus also receive the mercy in Christ's prayer of forgiveness.

This is really a nuanced version of the moral influence theory, but that old title says far to little. There is something far richer than "feeling touched" and thereby repenting. Included in this is a supernatural beholding--a revelation by the highest definition--that leads to a real identification (not just empathy, but I WAS THERE) as a participant of the sin and a recipient of the forgiveness. Of course, this is just one element of greater picture, but if I'm hearing you right, you've not only understood it--you've experienced it.

At the end of the day, it is not simply the Cross that saves us, but rather, God in Christ saving us through his life, death, resurrection and ascension. Further, he is not only forgiving sin, but restoring and reconciling all things, visible and invisible, earthly and heavenly, by the firstfruits of a new creation: namely, resurrected and glorified Christ himself.


Dave Haseldine


Wow! Just came across this not realising where people's thinking had got to since I read J Denny Weaver's "The Non-violent Atonement" a few years ago. The BIG PLUS of retributive justice theories of atonement have always been that they give a mechanism of how your sin gets on to the cross and then gets sorted. For folk to whom those theories make sense it can be amazingly liberating. But it seems to me that one assumption underlying them all is that God planned (and was happy with) all the pain and sin in the world and also of the death of Jesus on the Cross. The only problem is that I have never been able to believe those theories. But the other problem has been that although J Denny Weaver's (& other?) atonement theories have sounded much more believable and not a construction disconnected from real life and the person of Jesus, I have not seen a credible mechanism that helps me see how my and others' sins are sorted so I can be reconciled to God other than through my own "works". Until now through the possibilities of restorative justice atonement theories. Hurrah! I will read the book and find out more. But it may be that they see evil, sin, pain, etc. all NOT as part of God's Plan (that God is OK with) but as an INEVITABLE CONSEQUENCE of Life and a free response to God's Love. This may seem a small distinction from God intentionally Planning it all, but I think the implications are hugely significant. For in this case, Jesus' death is NOT a fulfilment of God's Plan but the inevitable consequence of religious and civil rejection by people of God's nature and way in Christ who was God-among-us. Thus, on the Cross we do not see God putting people's sins on it/Jesus instead of us/our sin being (justly) put on it. Rather we see God in Jesus' life and death OPPOSING sin, evil and hate with all of his being in order to bring reconciliation to individuals and all creation.

As I understand it, restorative justice theory does not put offenders sins elsewhere. Rather offenders need to acknowledge their actions and consequences, gaze upon the sin they have caused and the people whose lives they have wrecked, begin to relate to them, ask forgiveness, wait to hear any forgiveness if any is offered, work to rebuild the community they have damaged, and commit to go and not sin again. To me it is a revelation how blindingly obvious this process echoes with all that Jesus lived for, and how my sin is dealt with by God in God's relationship with me and mine with God and others.

In worshipping God recently I was yet again failing to sing with any conviction of "seeing my sins on the Cross" (or something similar), when I experimented with singing "seeing my sins FROM the Cross". And that opened up new images / ideas of Jesus seeing me with his deserters (at best) or (more likely) with the crowd who had shouted "crucify!", or possibly with the soldiers who crucified him, and hearing Jesus say of US, "Father, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing!" Since everyone THEN failed to see that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himslef", it follows that the easiest thing in the world for us NOW is that we do not see what God is doing now and follow God. Most likely everyone slips into opposing and rejecting God and the ways of Christ. And so I need to hear and respond with all my mind, heart, and strength to the presence of the Holy Sprit of the Son of God to me now, to face my sin, to wait on God, to be open to receive God's Forgiveness and Love, to stop opposing God and to change and turn and be an apprentice of Jesus in living by Grace so God can transform the world with the Love of Christ through my taking part in the Reign of God.

These ideas about how God reconciles me and anyone to Gods' self through the work of Christ then and the work of the Holy Spirit in people today all seems very promising. But it is still only man-made thoughts, and in 1 Corinthians Paul says that some one may have the most spot on religious theories and knowledge ever, but if they have no love, it achieves absolutley nothing. Ouch. Thank you, Paul.

Wayne Northey

Thanks, Brad, for your conciliatory response to Linda.

To paraphrase a quote from an article you just posted for me: It is indeed a great irony of history that the Cross has become a symbol of God's rather than humanity's violence, in exact inversion of the message of the Cross and the nonviolent teachings of Jesus.

Brad Jersak

Dear Linda,

Thanks for responding, although your response made me wonder if you read the article. But I would like to answer a couple of your questions which I only address in the second half of the article as it appears in "Stricken?"

1. When Jesus quoted Psa. 22:1 and Psa. 31:5 on the Cross, we are well aware that he had in mind both of those Psalms in their entirety. They were Messianic Psalms that not only described his experience, but also gave him comfort through that experience. In your challenge to take God at his word and to let Scripture interpret Scripture, I would suggest that you read the rest of those Psalms which go on to assert very clearly that God did NOT turn his face from his Son or forsake him at all.

Psalm 22:24 "For he has NOT despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has NOT hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help."

Psalm 31:22 "In my alarm I said,'I am cut off from your sight!' Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help."

2. This notion that God cannot look on sin is a bizarre fiction in light of the fact that God sees everything, every sin, every sinner, and Psalm 139 describes him even being present in the depths of hades.

I imagine that this idea comes from one text in Habakkuk where the prophet tells God that he is too holy to look on sin, but then has to ask the follow-up question, "So why do you?"

Hab. 1:13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?

Moreover, Jesus himself descended and dwelled among sinners, beholding their iniquities day after day. Sure you are not saying that Jesus is not God, are you? Or that he somehow was not holy while he walked this earth? Or that every time Jesus saw a sin, he turned his face away?

3. Imagining that God was pouring out his wrath on Jesus directly contradicts WHERE the Bible says the Father was on Good Friday. Zech. 12:10 makes it clear that God himself was the one being pierced by us on the Cross. Paul explains this saying that "God was IN Christ, reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). He did this, not by doing violence to his own dear Son, but by forgiving us when we were doing the violence. In that light, verse 21 cannot mean what you think it means.

4. Finally, your call to stick to the Bible must surely apply to the preaching of the gospel. So true. Examine, as I have, every single time the gospel was preached in the book of Acts. Not once do the apostles and evangelists ever preach that God was punishing Jesus or pouring out his wrath on him. Every single time they preached, the outline is as follows:

a. God sent Jesus.
b. Wicked people murdered him.
c. But God foresaw this and raised him to life.
d. Jesus is Lord. Now repent and follow him.

When did this message morph into the one you're echoing? Ultimately, "penal substitution" in the manner you are describing was not preached until the 1500's. One and half millenia after the Apostles made clear their understanding of the Cross (which they picked up from Jesus' own parables and prophecies - see the article).

I'm glad to be able to dialogue with you, but I confess that I find the ease with which you accuse others of heresy and predict their demise on judgement day to be rather scary. I hope to see us both enjoying the Lord's welcome that day, atonement theories aside.



You are trying to complicate something that is not. Let God's word speak for itself. Take the entire word of God and you will get understanding. Understanding of who God is and what He requires. The wrath of God did fall on Jesus, why did he say, "my God, why hast thou forsaken me?". God could not look upon Christ when "He was made sin for us". God hates sin and Jesus became sin. But it did not end there because Christ finished it, He proclaimed "It is finished". Brad, just take God at His WORD. Stick to the Bible, the more you read of one person or another's different take on how they interpret things you will (and have already) gotten lost in a sea of heresy. Sola Scriptura - let Scripture interpret Scripture. But, I believe you have an agenda whether you're aware of it or not - Satan is devious and can deceive you unaware. If you do not believe that Christ's blood and the cross was necessary to fulfill the requirement of God to bridge the gap between us and Him then you no longer believe the gospel - you believe "another gospel" and your beliefs will fail you in the end at the judgement seat of Christ.

Ron Roper

Thank you for this superb summary, to date, of the "Atonement Wars", as Scot McKnight dubbed them. In response to what I felt was a pretty grim, but fairly representative, sampling of struggling responses to his review of Mark Dever's article in Christianity Today, "Nothing but the Blood", on Good Friday of last year, I submitted the following to his blogsite, www.jesuscreed.org, on Easter. However, the somewhat humorous circumstances of that, my first blogging attempt, made response unlikely, which, indeed, proved to be the case. By the time I revised it that May and resubmitted it, the topic was cold. Nevertheless it gave me the necessary momentum for ten months of intense writing and research (in that order) that abundantly confirmed the underlying assumptions. And now I see similar conclusions bristling all over your own chapter excerpt from "Striken by God?" So here's for a mutually flattering comparison of both--in effect, a rousing corroboration!


The radically unjust and violent crucifixion of the Son of God justified his Father in raising him from the dead and vastly overcompensating him for his willing self-sacrifice; conversely, the resurrection and exaltation of Messiah Jesus, in retrospect, justified even the towering evil of his crucifixion by the chiefs of this age, behind whom stood Satan as clueless perpetrator, whose habitual career of viciousness finally ensnared him into thus dispossessing himself of his control of the world. His future torment for the ages of the ages, by way of just and proper overcompensation, is accordingly assured. Messiah’s cross and blood are therefore fearful signs to Satan of his impending doom.

However, God never had a wrathful moment toward his faithfully obedient Son, whose love for the whole world led him to this incomparable deed; Jesus suffered this totally unjustified abuse under the aegis of God’s undiminished graciousness. His people mistakenly regarded him as suffering abuse at the hand of God’s anger against sin, and even wrongly imputed sin to the Savior. Rather Jesus bore the sins of his people instead of avenging himself. This was Messiah’s supreme victory—absolutely refusing, even under extreme provocation, to revile his enemies, repay them in kind or use his Messianic prerogatives to protect himself. Rather, he absorbed the loss in its entirety. Sin was not and can not be paid for; Jesus paid for us. Sin, by contrast, must be washed away, cleaned off, erased, released. The blood of Jesus signifies to God the unjust taking of absolutely innocent life by premeditated violent assault. God’s righteousness could be satisfied by nothing less than a public reversal of the verdict and a lavish overpayment for the humiliation and execution. Hence resurrection to immortal life and eventual glorification soon followed, i.e., the just award for taking such abuse and waiting for God’s own righteous judgment instead.

Because of Adam’s primal offense, he and his descendants were deprived of access to the Tree of Life and so eventually died. Thus death passed through to all mankind, whereupon, perforce, all sinned. Along with decay came its behavioral effect—craving, coveting or lusting—which incites injustice, i.e., violating the rights/authority of others in attempts to gratify the corrupt needs stemming from our mortality. Therefore, unlike Adam, all his descendants were born in sin without a choice, yet, like him, they remain mortal, cut off from the source of regeneration. From such involuntary slavery the only liberation could be a gratuitous restoration of agelong life on some other grounds than our own righteousness, since without replenishing of life that was impossible. For this rescue, God’s love conspired a solution whose wisdom transcended any stretch of the imagination.

The totally unjust, unspeakably vicious, shamefully public shedding of the blood of God’s Own provoked his tactically immediate reversal by way of just overcompensation: resurrection to agelong life, immortality and exaltation to an inheritance of and dominion over all things. Therefore Messiah’s blood figures throughout Scripture as the agent of salvation, rescue, protective covering, justification, wholesomeness, washing, cleansing, erasure of sins, liberation, freedom, ransom, purchase, pardon, conciliation, peace, nourishment, agelong life, etc. Speaking better than the blood of Abel, it evoked God’s immediate, surprising and overwhelming righteousness/justice that decisively reversed his plight. For this reason, the provision of his innocent blood, sprinkled on our hearts when we believe, frees us from God’s wrath against sin, for it evokes God’s similar vindicating response—his sending of new life from heaven to reverse the death in our spirits and enable us to contend successfully against the cravings still resident in our mortal flesh.

Furthermore, Messiah descended like a scapegoat, taking our sins far away into the barrenness of the unseen, not to suffer yet further abuse, but to mount the heights and herald this fresh-won life even to the dead so they could live in spirit, awaiting the resurrection, and be saved. As proof of his efficacy, some of them rose to life after Jesus’ own raising and were seen in Jerusalem as testimonies of the universal power of his liberation for all who trust him.

The Father, for his part, was absolutely satisfied by his Son’s humble acquiescence and rewarded it stupendously. On the cross, Jesus became a sin-offering—a flawless, unblemished lamb, an innocent victim, perfectly faithful and well-pleasing to God, whose sacrifice constituted the most aggravated and vicious sin ever perpetrated by Israel and yet played perfectly into God’s gracious hands. In response, God rushed to his rescue in covenantal righteousness with a mighty historic demonstration of his ultimate avenging of the unparalleled injustice: by reversing the wrongful execution of the covenantal victim and adding reparative damages of transcendent magnitude, but not by immediately destroying the victimizers. Thus was demonstrated on a world stage the fundamental principle of God’s saving justice: awarding good by righteous overcompensation, even against impossible odds, in due time. Thus true peace made its advent.

By such vindication and restitution complete pardon and superabundant graciousness were extended rightfully even to Messiah’s murderers, in addition to the rest of death-frightened and hence sin-enslaved humanity beyond Israel. Those in Jerusalem of that generation who remained stubborn to such an unprecedented and gracious exhibit of the previously unsuspected nature and misapprehended demonstration of divine righteousness via Messiah’s Resurrection were destroyed in an unspeakable horror of divine avenging in 70 A.D.—the prophesied abhorrence that desolated Jerusalem—a model for universal instruction of the nations concerning God’s righteous indignation toward those who harden their hearts by repeatedly refusing to change their minds after experiencing his undeservedly generous mercy, kindness, patience and longsuffering. They die in their sins, which must ultimately be extirpated. Salvation is now or never. Only Messiah’s followers, who believed his prophecies of this dread judgment, escaped. And God’s covenant with that nation was terminated. Its blessings then transferred to all who would walk in the Spirit and directions of Jesus as Master—a new nation unified beyond all physical differences.

Accordingly, God reimbursed Jesus with much more than the sacrificed throne of ethnic Israel; that would have been far too small a restitution for all his trouble. In exchange God gave him all authority in heaven and on earth. In this magnificent way, God himself provided the protection, shelter or indemnity concerning the sins of all mankind. In tandem, he bequeathed his glorified Son the right to have descendents and fellow-heirs to join him in ruling over a new earth where righteousness and peace will finally be supreme. Jesus won the right both to save all humanity from God’s appropriate anger at wrongdoing and even endow us with marvelous gifts of the coming age.

Therefore, even now, during this present vicious age, even in the midst of enemies, we have a rich, tangible down payment of that future inheritance as partial damages for Messiah’s wrongful abuse: the new covenantal promise of superabundant Wholesome Spirit from God himself, including miraculous creation-regenerating power for healing, expelling demons and similar royal foretastes of God’s future restorative reign, as testimonies for the truth of its proclamation among all nations at present and as incentives to endurance in the obedience of faith. This faith conquers the resistant, violent world by peaceful nonresistance, by returning good for evil and by the force of faith-in-miracle-working-action.

This grand salvation is available not by any human action but by mere faith—a faith generated by the very recounting of this powerful and wonderful story, along with its narrated testimonies and evidences. So not only were the Father and the Son both justified by these destined events, and not only were the crucifixion and resurrection mutually justified by their staggering good results, but we sinners are likewise justified to receive agelong life by God’s historic demonstration of overcompensating justice to Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of all, but especially of those who endure in trust so as to keep getting cleansed and hence regarded as righteous and thus win the prize: inheriting an allotment of the immortal life of God’s kingdom on the new earth in the age to come.

April 16, 2006 @ 4:58 pm (rev. May 3, 11, 16-18, 20-21, 28, June 1, 3, July 25, Aug. 16, Sept. 5, 2006)

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