Dealing with our Jurassic Park notions about God

Goat sacrificeWas Jesus just the sacrificial goat tied to a stake so a tyrannosaurus-like God would be appeased? In other words, is our view of the atonement more like the goat scene from Jurassic Park rather than one of redemption and love?

Sound absurd? It should. But how far off is this from our Western Stoic and Roman jurisprudence influenced view of the gospel?

One of the goals of my blog is to dissect some our long-held notions about God, especially, those that hinder intimacy with Him, those that actually keep us in hiding from Him even though we embrace His benefits and the idea of going to heaven. In this light, I think we should look at this particular notion because how we see God greatly affects our relationship with Him. So here are a few things to consider…

Good God, Mad God? Does God have a “good God, mad God” cop thing going on with us so we’ll confess?  A graceful, understandable human Jesus on our side saying “Come to Me…” and an angry, too holy, too transcendent Father who can’t even look at us and must exact legal payment or else the flames on the other?

Don’t think we do? Well, what have we been taught about the atonement? Here’s how the Reformers packaged the atonement for us in the evangelical West.

They argued for a penal substitution atonement–that “Christ, by his own sacrificial choice, was punished (penalized) in the place of sinners (substitution), thus satisfying the demands of justice so God can justly forgive the sins. It is thus a specific understanding of substitutionary atonement, where the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death is understood in the sense of a substitutionary punishment.” (Wikipedia)

So, there you have it. It’s all about punishment, not love. Jesus, the sacrificial goat in the hands of an angry God. The selfless and sacrificing  Son, the exacting executioner Father. See what I mean?

Now, there’s nothing technically wrong with a penal view of the atonement. After all, Jesus is the Lamb who was slain for our sin… It just totally misses the point…and the very heart of Father for us.

C. Baxter Kruger talks about this legal view of God in “The Great Dance” (emphasis mine), “Gone is the great dance of the Trinity, reaching out to share their life and glory with us. It’s replaced with the Divine Legalist who’s extremely upset over human failure and sin…The death of Jesus is now aimed at God rather than human corruption and alienation. Jesus came to change God so we can be forgiven…the cross has suddenly replaced Jesus Himself as the point of eternal significance. But Jesus is the place where the human and Divine come together.”

What Kruger is saying is that we make the atonement about changing God’s mind instead of about bringing us to Him. The Cross becomes the focal point, even overshadowing Jesus Himself. Justification towers high above the adoption in our doctrinal esteem…and, tragically, over our fellowship in the Godhead, which was the whole point.

Why are so many worship songs sung in church to Jesus but relatively few to the Father? After all, Jesus said He was leading us to the Father (John 14:6), and that it’s the Father who seeks worshipers (John 4:23). Right? Not that we shouldn’t worship Jesus, but did you ever wonder why this is so? Well, for one thing, it’s easier to relate to someone full of grace and inviting rather than someone ready to zap us if we don’t straighten up. Do you see my point?

We certainly aren’t going to be intimate and vulnerable with someone that we’re not sure how they feel about us. It’s a pretty well established fact that most Christians feel in their deepest of hearts that God is disappointed with them, even angry at times. After all, they’re not perfectly following Him. One false move could send them off the cliff into perdition and ruin. Or so it seems.

Justification emphasized over adoption creates confusion about our identity. Again, this comes from C. Baxter Kruger. “Justification is overemphasized to the point of replacing adoption as the heart of the gospel message.” He goes on to say that this over-emphasis, “leaves us in the dark about our true identity and the very secret of our existence.”

We focus so much on forgiveness of sins and the sacrificial aspect of the gospel that we miss the WHOLE POINT of the sacrifice! It was to adopt us as His own! God put us IN CHRIST. What Christ is, we are in Him. Fear and alienation has been defeated by love (1 John 4:17-19). Amen.

Now, I don’t want to minimize the significance of the Cross by any means.  God nailed me there with Jesus! The old me is dead. Hallelujah.  I just want to put it in its proper place…but why did God do this?

Why did God do this?

Why? This Father LOVED US SO MUCH that He sent His eternal Son to become us in order to reach out to us, to remove our “corruption and alienation” so that we could join Him in the fellowship He’s had with Jesus since before creation (John 1:1. 2. 14: 3:16).

This is my point. The Godhead is NOT double-minded. Jesus did not come to appease an angry Father, He didn’t do something for us. He did it as us and with us. Why? So He could INCLUDE us. He put us in Himself…in His embrace…forever! Get it?

So let’s stop looking up in the sky and starting looking at what God has done in us and with us!

Beloved, it’s time to believe that He unconditionally loves you.

You can run to Him.

He won’t bite.

YouTube video provided by Max Leuftink

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 40 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
This entry was posted in Doctrine, Father Heart of God, Reformation, Theology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Dealing with our Jurassic Park notions about God

  1. Michael says:

    I love this. This is what I get out of reading the Old Testament, especially the prophets. People describe God as angry and on a rampage in the OT; but I can never get past his incredible love. He desires us. This is what I’m especially thankful for over the past few months: a revelation of the gospel. Nice post, Mel.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, I think that’s where some of the confusion comes from on the nature of God, from some of the OT language. It would take a whole other post to sort that all out, maybe several! 🙂

      Just to clarify, my point here is not that God is not just or that He doesn’t judge sin. He is just and He DID judge sin on the Cross! But the way we’ve obsessed over this aspect since the Reformation misses the main point of the incarnation. It was God Himself who came in human flesh in order to purchase us and bring us back to Him. Why? So we could be rightfully included in fellowship with the Father and the Son in the Spirit–now and forever. You cannot separate the Father from the Son in this purpose. The Father did this through the incarnated Son because of love–period. The early church fathers saw this primarily as God’s desire to free us from Satan’s claims over us and bring us back to Himself, not because the Father wanted to punish us, or even punish Jesus for us. This redemptive emphasis of the early church has been lost in our evangelicalism. We’ve lost the real heart and intent of the Father by trying to emphasize the legal aspect with the Western Roman Jurisprudence paradigm of the Reformers. I think we need to bring it back into the proper focus because it’s been disastrous to Christian’s relationship with Him–especially, when it comes to intimacy with Him.

      The main purpose of everything God does is for love, not judgment or punishment. The Father did it because He wanted us! There is no conflict in purpose or nature here. When you see Jesus you see an exact representation of the heart of the Father toward us.

      • Michael says:

        That’s why I really like this line: “We focus so much on forgiveness of sins and the sacrificial aspect of the gospel that we miss the WHOLE POINT of the sacrifice!”

  2. Pingback: Dealing with our Jurassic Park notions about God | authorjodiwoody

  3. jodiwoody says:

    Amen! Jesus is the door and the way to the Father. He (Jesus) is surely saddened when we misconstrue his sacrifice. He love the Father so much that He gave up His life, just so the Father could be in relationship with us again. Go figure, we are that special to God.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Yes, amen. When you make it about love instead of punishment, you see the heart of the Father for us. And you can’t help but love Him back and want to know Him more.

  4. Cindy Powell says:

    “The Godhead is not double-minded”- amen, amen and amen!!! This is so good Mel. Thank you so much for the words of freedom you speak to the Body. Blessings upon blessings to you!

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks. Much appreciated. 🙂 Blessings to you too. Btw, if you are planning to post on your blog or you have a web page explaining your upcoming trip to SE Asia, I will re-post it here. A very important ministry for us all to get behind.

      • Cindy Powell says:

        Thanks so much Mel. I really appreciate that. I know I’ll post something, I just don’t have it completely worked out yet. I have a poem I wrote about trafficking that will be posting on another blog in a week or two (on MLK day) maybe I’ll link back to mine on that day with details about the trip??? I’ll keep you posted!

  5. Extracting belief in the God who wants to ‘zap’ us from the truth of who He is takes time. I still find myself falling back on that old belief from time to time. It’s days like today – after making a major blunder – that I am proof that God is not waiting at the ready – prepared to pounce the moment we blow it.

    Thanks for this timely reminder. 😉


    • Mel Wild says:

      You’re welcome, and I hear you! The old lies we believe about God and ourselves are like an onion with many layers that have to be peeled back (and this process also brings tears to your eyes!). But we just run back into Daddy’s lap and He makes it better. 🙂 And thank you for your comments. Much appreciated, as always.

  6. Many songs do make God a double minded and word twisting or truth twisting person by ato one part speaking about Jesus and suddenly about God as if they are both the same. No wonder people get muddled up, confused and at a certain point shall not believe the Bible nor the church any more, certainly when they hear about all the corruption in churches and all the abuses by so called ‘men of God’.

    In case the songs would clearly speak about the son of God who is not ‘god the son’ (something totally different) they could contribute something worth-full and help people to worship the Only One True God.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I don’t think Jesus being God the Son is confusing at all, nor does it make Him double-minded. It’s just paradoxical. Some aspects of God are not figured out by one-dimensional human logic, but by divine revelation. This revelation is what we see in the New Testament. I responded to your comments about your view of who Christ is in my post, “Why Christ must be God for us to be in Him” so I won’t belabor it here. If you believe Christ is not God, you and I have a very different view of Scripture. But you are free to disagree and I respect that, but I won’t use this as a platform for debate about it. Be blessed.

  7. Great post and lots to continue thinking through there. Do you know Stuart townend’s song “The Father’s Embrace” based on Psalm 27. I think it would be a good theme song for your blog!

  8. Pingback: You want…more??? What!!! | In My Father's House

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