When God Became the Devil

I thought I should share what Richard Beck wrote about the penal substitution theory of the atonement, which is very popular today, particularly among conservative Evangelicals: Prior to Anselm, the main atonement theory used by the church was Christus Victor. Specifically, humanity was being held captive by the Devil and Christ died to free us [Read More...]

Sounds Like a Scam

I have said before that if depicting Jesus’ death as a legal transaction ends up making God seem unjust, you might want to rethink your analogy. Likewise if depicting Jesus’ offer of salvation makes him sound like a Nigerian banker, you might want to rethink your imagery.   [Read more...]

In Christ Alone

David French blogged about the Presbyterian Church USA removing the hymn “In Christ Alone” from its hymnal, because its authors refused a proposed change to the lyrics that did away with the notion of Christ’s death as satisfying God’s justice. It isn’t often that I agree with French, but I do when he writes: The [Read More...]

God Doesn’t Suffer, So Why Should We?

In my Sunday school class last weekend, the discussion quickly moved from a discussion of the atonement to a specific focus on whether God suffers or can suffer. A number of interesting observations were made, but one seemed particularly worth sharing. Following a discussion of why some consider it better to be above suffering (and [Read More...]

Spinning the Cross

David Hayward's latest cartoon will probably be controversial in some circles. But on one level, it reflects a very mainstream understanding of what happened in the early church. Jesus' followers thought he was destined to be king and restore the kingdom of David. They were so persuaded that, when the Romans crucified him, their belief [Read More...]

Sacrificing Sacrificial Language

The last time my Sunday school class met, we discussed whether the language of “sacrifice” is essential to Christian thinking about the death of Jesus, or is a metaphor or illustration used in New Testament texts precisely because it related the death of Jesus to something familiar, helping people to make sense of it. In [Read More...]

Hebrews 9: A Bloodbath

Hebrews 9 is the source of a couple of popular “memory verses” in conservative Evangelical circles. It was interesting to explore it in my Sunday school class today in a way that got at some key questions, both in terms of the exploration of the meaning of the text in its original context, and how [Read More...]

Gentiles and Crap

As we continued working our way through Hebrews today in my Sunday school class, the mention of the curtain (separating the holy place from the most holy place or “holy of holies”), and the lack of mention of the temple (the author focuses instead on the tabernacle), led us to a broader discussion of the [Read More...]

Class on the Crucifixion and Passion Narratives in the New Testament

Since this is another class without changing powerpoint slides, I’m making this one available as an mp3 podcast as well: [Read more...]

Yom Kippur

I wish those celebrating Yom Kippur an easy fast, as the traditional greeting says. And I invite anyone interested to discuss the notion of atonement on this Jewish “Day of Atonement” – it seems as good a time as any to chat about the topic! Christians, if you need some food for thought, then take [Read More...]

Galatians 3:13 and Romans 8:3 Without Penal Substitution?

Mike Bird posted on his blog Euangelion about a couple of my recent posts. Having addressed the first theme, inerrancy, in yesterday’s post, this one turns to the question of penal substitution. Since Mike asked specifically about Galatians 3:13 and Romans 8:3, I will make them the central focus of this post. Galatians 3:13 is [Read More...]


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