Does the Father “will” the death of the Son?

Does the Father will the death of the Son? It’s a common question in the realm of atonement discussion. I’m doing a close reading of Fowl’s New Horizon’s Commentary on Philippians so that I can write a critical response. His response to this question is so good that I wanted to post it here. The use of Anselm’s own words in support of his point of view is genius, considering that Anselm’s Substitutionary atonement view has so come to dominate American individualistic notions of atonement. Anselm brilliantly turns the whole thing on the issues of atonement and justice. I really enjoy this paragraph.

“In this regard, it is important to remember that the emphasis in [Phil.] 2:8 is on obedience. Of course, Christ’s obedience ultimately leads to death. God could, however, will the obedience without directly willing the death. It would seem best to formulate the matter this way: God wills Christ’s perfect obedience. The Son, as an expression of love for the Father, willingly takes on human life, becoming fully human and revealing God’s deepest desires for the world. The world, being the sort of place it is, cannot abide the obedient one and kills him. As Anselm wrote, “Therefore, God did not compel Christ to die, when there was no sin in him, but Christ himself freely underwent death, not by yielding up his life as an act of obedience, but on account of his obedience in maintaining justice, because he so steadfastly persevered in it that he brought death on himself.” (from “Why God Became Man.”) p.100


About Tim Suttle

Find out more about Tim at

Tim Suttle is the senior pastor of He is the author of several books including his most recent - Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), & An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals.

Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. The band's most recent album is "Straight Back to Kansas." He helped to plant three thriving churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • casey elizabeth

    i am loving this quote. it’s going to be stewing in me for awhile, i think.

    also, in response to your previous post, i am going to be posting a reflection on the lectionary and common prayer on my blog in the next week or so. this class i have been taking on daily common prayer has been spectacular! i too have a growing appreciation for the unity inherit in praying morning and evening offices. i never thought structure in prayer would feel so freeing.

    i leave monday for the new melleray monastery outside of dubuque, iowa. there we will be doing ALL on the offices (starting at 3 am) mon-fri.

    i’ll let you know when i blog…

    peace, casey