Was 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