Thursday, November 13, 2008

2 Bad Arguments Against Substitutionary Atonement

Last time we looked at a terrible prooftext that’s been used to argue against substitutionary atonement. This time I want to examine two arguments that are levied against this concept.

Divine Child Abuse
It’s not uncommon to hear someone say that God sacrificing His Son to appease His wrath and save humans is divine child abuse.

I think that view is best described as a really sloppy Christology.

When we talk about God sending Jesus to the cross, we’re not saying anything the Bible doesn’t say, but we’re missing a big part of the picture the Bible paints. Yes, the Father sent the Son, but more to the point God sent God.

Though there are three persons to the Trinity, there is only one God. God created us, God gave us a moral law, we rebelled against God, and God rescued us.

Not only that, we can reasonably insert the Son into that and say Christ created us, we rebelled against Christ, and Christ rescued us.

The plan of salvation was conceived by the Godhead and enacted by the Godhead. We shouldn’t let the Father/Son language obscure that fact.

God Won’t Forgive (But Wants You To)
A second argument against substitutionary atonement sees God as inconsistent. Here’s an example:
“The traditional understanding says that God asks of us something that God is incapable of Himself. God asks us to forgive people. But God is incapable of forgiving. God can’t forgive unless He punishes somebody in place of the person He was going to forgive. God doesn’t say things to you - Forgive your wife, and then go kick the dog to vent your anger. God asks you to actually forgive. And there’s a certain sense that, a common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving. Unless He kicks somebody else.” (via Caffeinated Thoughts)
The point they miss here is that God can ask us to forgive people because we have been forgiven. (And, of course, it falls prey to sloppy Christology mentioned above.)

From God’s perspective, a law has been broken, a debt has to be paid, and God is willing to pay that debt. If you have been forgiven because He has paid your debt, you’d better be willing to do the same for someone else.

Not Just Substitutionary Atonement
I don’t think that substitutionary atonement is the only facet of the jewel that is the cross of Christ. I honestly think we’ll be mining the wonders of that event until Christ returns (and possibly even after). But we should never be afraid to tell the story that God in His grace paid our debt.

Why the Cross 1
Why the Cross 2
Emerging Heretics?


Steve said...

Hey, man

Great post!

Brian McLaren makes me nuts. As you know, it's him that Shane was showcasing on Caffeinated Thoughts.

McLaren is counting on his audience's ignorance to take a cheap shot at a fundamental piece of theology. God help him.

Sure, I can't infallibly know his motives, as my above sentence might suggest, but I do know that he's misleading a lot of people, and that's not cool.

ChrisB said...

I think he thinks that people today won't accept such a "violent" idea, so we need to discard it. But if we discard that, we lose the heart of the gospel.

I find it difficult to believe that pomo's would reject God sending His Son to die to pay for our sins but would accept Him dying to show us the "dangers of empire" or some such. Talk about wasting a life...

Vinny said...

Why can't God just forgive our debt? If someone owes me money, I can forgive the debt without going out and earning the money to pay myself back.

ChrisB said...

Vinny, the "debt" analogy can only be taken so far. We have also broken the law.

There is only way that justice could be satisfied while still showing us mercy. God took the punishment on Himself to do just that.

Anonymous said...

I am not a proponent for the doctrine of substitutionary atonement because the facts which are used in support of this doctrine are not exculpatory. In other words the evidence placed as a defense is evidence that reveals an inverse which is contra to this proposal's content and expectation. It is true that many people believe this doctrine is true but a majoritorial view point is a contra truth to "only a few find it." One of the objectionable traits that supporters of this doctrine display is minimization of quotes of God that are counter of the base assumptive of substitutionary atonement. For the main equational question this doctrine opens is; is it possible to sacrifice a man's body in your place and bloodshed be the evidentiary fact of requirement for absolution and the result not be recriminatory? The only correct answer is NO. The quote of God that negates the expectation of absolution is:
"And for your life blood
I will surely demand an
accounting. I will demand
an accounting from every
animal. And from each
man too I will demand
an accounting for the
life of your fellow man."
Gen. 9:5
Therefore the actual and true result of crucifying a man in your place and, there is absolutely no evidence that Jesus did not loose his life by bloodshed, is a recrimination.
The thing I see about the doctrine of substitutionary atonement is that it puts the new wine in an old wine skin.
There is further evidence from the same source, God, that lends more credit of disintegrating the integrity of substitutionary atonement. For Jesus before he was crucified said that after he was crucified "When he comes he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin."
The articulation of any doctrine is nothing more than the base concept's explanation of needed proof by fact and there are no facts that have or will impinge the integrity of what God has said.
Guilt relative to sin remains as recriminatory evidence that the crucifixion of Jesus did not pay your debt for sin no matter what you may think.

Theodore A. Jones