“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”

cemetery-1138972_640_optStudying the prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament during Advent is a good exercise.  They tell us much about Him.

Consider Isaiah 53, which takes up deep into the life of Christ and unpacks the exactly what happened in His atoning death on the Cross, while also pointing to His Resurrection.

Especially striking to me is the truth it states that has strangely attracted less attention than it deserves:  Not only was He “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities.”  He also “has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”

That is, God the Son took into Himself both the sins of the world and the suffering of the world, atoning for them.  Remember this the next time you feel the force of the “problem of evil” and the “problem of suffering.”

After the jump is the entire prophecy of Isaiah 53, with some verses bolded for your Advent contemplation.

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“debt” = “guilt”

I’ve read two articles on Germany’s hard line against bailing out Greece that blame in part the German language.  Says Michael Birnbaum, “This tough stance comes from a rules-oriented nation where even the language is conspiring against Greece’s struggles: Germans use the same word for “debt” and for “guilt.”  (Harold Meyerson makes the same point.)

Well, I’ve got news for the journalists.  “Debt” and “guilt” also use the same word in Greek.  At least in New Testament Greek.  This is why the Lord’s Prayer is variously translated “forgive us our trespasses” and “forgive us our debts.”  The Old English version says forgive us our “gyltas,” i.e., “guilts.”  Let me explain the connection. . . . [Read more…]

Nailing down God

Great Holy Week meditation from LCMS President Matthew Harrison:

The world must surely think we’ve lost our marbles when, in the liturgy for Good Friday, the words ring out: “We adore You, O Lord, and we praise and glorify Your resurrection. For behold, by the wood of the cross joy has come into all the world.”

How true! On that day of deepest darkness, humankind finally got its hands on God. We grabbed hold of God in the flesh, nailed Him to a tree and told Him to get out of our world and leave us “the hell” alone. To this day, our every sin still demands the same — to be left alone in hell. Not much cause for joy there.

Ah, but even more true, on that day of deepest darkness, our God was loving the world, loving you and me and all who fail Him again and again. He was loving us by giving His only Son into that horrid death so that our hate-filled, violent, rebellious race might be pardoned and given a life without end in His kingdom. [Read more…]

Taking someone else’s punishment

What would Jesus do?  Take your punishment to free you from condemnation.

A Saudi blogger has been sentenced to 1000 lashes for criticizing Islamic clerics.  So seven religious freedom advocates, including the well-known conservative scholar Robert P. George, are offering to take the floggings in his place. [Read more…]

Christianity without the Atonement

The committee preparing a new hymnal for the Presbyterian Church (USA) has thrown out a popular praise song, “In Christ Alone,” not just because it refers to the “wrath” of God, as originally reported, but because of the word “satisfied.”  That is, because it says the wrath of God was satisfied in the Cross of Jesus Christ.  What was objectionable is the doctrine of the atonement.  (See Abby Stocker, writing for Christianity Today, and follow her links, which show how this bedrock teaching of the Christian faith has become controversial lately, even among many ostensible “evangelicals.”)

What is the point of Christianity without the atonement?  It becomes turned into another religion.  I suppose the attraction is that it gives us another religion of law, which people somehow prefer to a religion that says they are sinners in need of forgiveness and, yes, atonement.  Jesus becomes the example we have to emulate, though surely those who are honest will have to admit that this is an even higher standard that they fail to live up to.

At any rate, after the jump I quote Timothy George on the controversy, who, though he focuses on “wrath” rather than “satisfaction,” makes some excellent points as he puts the controversy in the context of church history.  I also appreciate his account of how hymns have been tinkered with.  See, for example, the Mormon Tabernacle choir version of “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and what the Unitarians have done to “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” [Read more…]

Rejecting Christ’s sacrifice

Liberal Catholic intellectual Garry Wills has a new book out entitled Why Priests?:  A Failed Tradition in which he makes the rather un-Catholic argument that Jesus institute the priesthood.  But he goes farther, giving a Catholic version of what many mainline Protestants and even some supposed evangelicals are saying:  That Christ was not sacrificed for our sins. [Read more…]