Thursday, May 08, 2008

An Amazing Accomplishment

In the Adventist Review of December 20, 2007, Calvin B. Rock sermonizes that a god who created this universe was required by his own “law” to sacrifice his son (if you are an Arian) or part of his “indivisible self” (if you are a Trinitarian) to satisfy a debt he/his son “did not owe, because we owed a debt we could not pay”.

Cartoon modified from Grimmy: Friends Don't Let Friends Own Cats! by Mike Peters
(click to enlarge)


  1. yeah... it's hard to imagine that we haven't gotten 'bout all the mileage out of substitutionary atonement as we're gonna get. it creates so many problems when we try to cling to it as the sole metaphor by which to understand the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior.

    one example of how problematic such insistence can be is heard in a recent online dialogue between renowned religion scholar and agnostic bart ehrman and anglican bishop and theologian tom wright. it is echoed again in the comments section of a review i posted for God's Politics.

    when overused, penal substitution stretched to its logical conclusion makes GOD out to be a vampire--a blood-thirsty fear-monger who somehow delights in suffering.

  2. Interesting... and how else would God have spared us from eternal death?

    Maybe some of the "brighter-than-God" minds around could offer a solution...

    I'd love to read some alternatives...

  3. andre, scripture is replete with various metaphors for atonement. penal-substitution is just the one made popular by the book of Romans, but even paul has more than one he uses. i want to remember (but i'm not certain) that brian mclaren gives a brief survey of 7 that have had prominence at different times in church history in his book Generous Orthodoxy. i seem to recall scot mcknight publishing a book last year that explored several of these in great depth (i can't remember the title the publishers settled on). n.t. wright mentions one description of atonement in the dialogue i linked to previously that is gaining appreciation among missional practitioners and theologians, Christus Victor, originally put forth by gustaf aulen in 1931.

    i don't believe any of these persons imagines themselves as brighter-than-GOD, just seeking to more accurately describe what they see GOD doing in the earth as it continues to unfold. it's like watching a person knit. what it looks like they are making can be very different in the beginning or in the middle than it turns out in the end.