The Beautiful Victory of the Cross and the Table of Aslan

'Christus Victor' photo (c) 2007, Randy OHC - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Last week, I wrote about my belief that the cross is too beautiful to fit many popular theologies.  It isn’t beautiful in itself, for a Roman cross represents the power of Empire, a power that is always opposed to the way of Jesus.  Rather, the beauty is in the One who chose to endure unjust suffering, knowing that the grave would not be able to hold God’s Messiah down!  The beauty is in a Jesus who models what it means to love our enemies while humbly reminding us that we all were God’s enemies (Romans 5.10).

One thing that I’m convinced of is that God did not pour out Divine wrath against Jesus on the cross in order to be appeased. This view, as Mark Baker states, “can too easily lead to a situation in which we might conclude that Jesus came to save us from God.”[1] I plan to nuance this statement in future articles, but for now it suffices to say that we need alternative ways to think about the cross.

In fact, part of the problem is that we’ve limited the cross to one primary explanation (God’s wrath being poured out on Jesus as a substitute for sinners to appease God’s bind to the Law).  I want to suggest that the New Testament gives multiple images and metaphors for expressing the multifaceted significance of the cross.  Today, lets explore one of these through the lens of a popular story.  Notice that this is one example of how substitution can still be present in atonement theology without the appeasement of God’s wrath (which, as popularly understood, isn’t in the New Testament).

As a child, I remember reading C.S. Lewis’ wonderful masterpiece – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in public school.  What I didn’t know then that I know now, is that the scene where Aslan is killed on behalf of Edmund the traitor is a wonderful picture of a theory of atonement that is often called, Christus Victor (or, Jesus’ victory over the powers).  So, let’s try to look at how substitution works out in this understanding of the cross, which some would consider the central story from out of which all other atonement images arise.

'Aslan's stone table perhaps?' photo (c) 2008, Michelle Owner of the Squishy - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Edmund betrays good, and the deep magic law of Narnia demands that such a traitor be punished by death.  The White Witch makes sure that the deep magic would be appeased and threatens to kill the traitor.  Aslan then offers his life as a substitute for the boy’s.  One life for a life.  Edmund is saved, but at a cost.  The great Lion would have to suffer and die at the hands of the evil White Witch and her minions.  After mocking and torturing Aslan, the Witch stabs him with a knife and kills him.  When the evil deed is done, she screams out in pride: “…the great Fool, the great Cat, lies dead.”[2]

But, just as with Jesus, the story does not end there.  On the other side of death is resurrection!  Aslan comes back to life, to the shock of everyone because of a deeper magic that not even the White Witch knows about.  He is thereby victorious over death and victorious over the evil Witch.

Now let’s imagine that we are Edmund.  We are the traitors who have fallen prey to the luring of the demonic powers and the devil.  And because of our betrayal, our hands are dirty and cannot be cleaned by our own doing.  So, Jesus (Aslan) steps into our situation and offers his life as our ransom.  Jesus becomes our substitute who endures the full wrath owed to a traitor of the kingdom of God, which is death.  Now notice that the death of Aslan was not something that was executed by Aslan’s Father, but rather was at the hands of the White Witch and her evil companions (the devil and demons/powers).  When Aslan is raised back to life by the deeper magic, he conquers the power that the Witch thought she had over him and even conquers her final weapon, death.

In sum, Aslan (Jesus) is a substitute for us who were under the curse of sin (betrayal) and who allowed ourselves to be lured into the traps of the White Witch (the devil and powers).  Aslan endured the full wrath of evil by dying in Edmund’s (our) place.  And then, Aslan was vindicated over death through resurrection, guaranteeing both his own victory and the victory of those who give him their allegiance.  This is Christus Victor.  Jesus is our substitute who defeated the powers of evil when we were powerless to do so.  May we live this week in light of that victory in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, families, and world!


[1] Mark D. Baker, ed., Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross: Contemporary Images of the Atonement (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2006), 22.

[2] C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Chronicles of Narnia (New York: Harper Trophy, 1994), 171.

  • http://www.travismamone.net/ Travis Mamone

    Ah yes, good ol’ CS Lewis!

    My own personal view of the Cross has changed in the last year or so.  I’ve always seen Jesus’ death as a beautiful thing because it meant that Jesus’ death has set me free.  Then with the advent of the so-called New Calvinist movement, the Cross became an ugly reminder of how I slapped God in the face with my rebellious nature.  Romans 8:1 flew right out the window.  The Cross didn’t free me; it just gave me a lucky break.

    Thankfully I stopped listening to those voices, and I now see the Cross as my liberation again.

    • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

      Bro, the reason there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus is that “God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Ro 8:3) There’s no condemnation because Jesus took it. It is a reminder that I was worse than I ever feared I could be, but somehow I was loved more than I ever dared to believe. 

  • http://twitter.com/aaron_brown_ie Aaron Brown

    I love that Lewis wore Jesus on his sleeves and was able to convey the work of the Cross through a Messiah figure like Aslan the Cristus Victor Lion.  I tweeted your link.  Would you care if I posted a link at my website TerminalPodcast.org,  directing people from the blog to yours?  Let me know.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @twitter-83687576:disqus … thanks! Yes, feel free to post a link over there to send ‘em over this direction.  Really appreciate it!

      • http://twitter.com/aaron_brown_ie Aaron Brown

        Linked and linked  http://terminalpodcast.org/?p=799

  • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

    Dude, again playing off the wrath against love and screening God’s hand out of the judgment of sin on the cross. You don’t need to do that in order to celebrate Christus Victor motif or any other motif or aspect of Christ’s atonement. I got a bunch of articles and books about that, (Baker’s is not the only book on the Cross out there).  Heck, I wrote my M.A. thesis on that very subject on Col. 2:13c-15 & the logical integration of both the legal and polemical language in the verses. This is exactly what  Lewis does in the story. They’re  both there. The righteous getting the punishment  that the unrighteous deserve so that they could be free of BOTH the power of the devil as well  as God’s just judgment/wrath. (Wrath is simply God’s measured, judicial anger over/opposition against sin; His will that sin be annihilated.) While it’s true that in the story Aslan was executed by the witch and not the FAther. The Scriptures assume  doctrines like Divine concurrence and providence  in which case there can and are two aspects to every action, the free human response and  its God-ordained purpose.” this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.” (Ac 2:23) What’s more, we know that it was the Lord’s will  to “crush him” in order make many righteous, by laying  on him all  our iniquities, bearing our punishment, (Isa 53). I could go on for a while, but all I want to say is that it’s both and more. The Cross is all of it.  It’s  God’s just judgment on our sin and his victorious liberation us from our enemies.

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

      The Scriptures assume  doctrines like Divine concurrence and providence

      Sez who?  Where do you find this in the Scriptures?

      • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

        Sez who? Crudloads of legit biblical theologians from the 1st Century to the 21st, Christian and Jewish. If you want an actual list, let me know.

        Verses? – When it comes to the death of the Son for the Salvation of the world, the verse in Acts I quoted (2:23) is one prominent example where it bluntly asserts God’s determination of Jesus’ being handed over to his murderers so that they could do what their own evil heart desired so that God’s own good purposes could be accomplished in and through them. Again in chapter 4 the apostles assert, “You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
           “‘Why do the nations rage    and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth rise up    and the rulers band together against the Lord    and against his anointed one.
         27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. ”
         
        I could go on to all the times in the Gospels that speak of Jesus’ knowledge that his death “must” (dei) happen according to the Scriptures and the will of God even though it happens through the free actions of individuals held morally responsible. A robust view of Providence and Divine concurrence with human action are plausible inferences based on these verses.
         
        In the OT, the story of Joseph comes to mind. (Gen 50:20) Joseph’s brothers did what they did for evil. God allowed and even determined that it happen for good purposes. God’s anointing of Cyrus for his purposes in history comes to mind. (Isa. 45:1) There is no indication that Cyrus had anything other than his own purposes in mind and yet the Scriptures assert that it is because God anointed him for the task, he did it. At one level, it is Cyrus freely choosing. At another level, it is God. That sounds like Divine concurrence and providence.
         
        Finally, there are those verses that seem to imply that God has an interest in what goes on at the tables in Vegas, (Prov 16:33) or that God happens to turn the hearts of Kings like streams, whichever way suits him. I realize this is a just a tiny, not-likely-convincing summary, which could be filled in with tons of other verses and stories, but this does give you a little bit of a feel for why I think that the Scriptures (and the central Gospel message) lead me to the conclusion that the Scriptures assume Divine providence over and concurrence with all free human action. It helps if you also have a profound sense of the Creator/creature distinction, the harmful effects of assuming univocity of being, action, and language between those two levels of reality. Otherwise you’re forced into modern, mechanistic caricatures of these doctrines.
         
        Hope this helps!

        • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

          Oh, and I’ve gotta challenge you…not because I’m sure but because I suspect my hunch is correct…what theologians before the 4th century?

          • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

            The Letter to Diognetus, Ireneaus, Lactantius, Hippolytus, Origen, Tertullian (I think), and it’s likely others that I’m not aware of. I’m not a Patristics expert though.  

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    The vital part of this story, and the part missing from the classic atonement theory, is that the wrath in question is not that of the Great King in the East…it’s the wrath of the White Witch.  She is also the one who demands death.

    The failure of PSA is the insistence that God demands death…any old death will do, either ours or his son’s…to appease his rage against sin.

    • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

      That’s not the affirmation of classical PSA, or even it’s early, constantly misrepresented, Anselmian form, and certainly not of it’s best Evangelical representatives.  It doesn’t assert that “any death will do.” That is, at best, a misleading caricature so typical in current criticisms of PSA which manage to be sadly ignorant of the tradition at this point.  The central logic of a biblical doctrine of PSA is that precisely Christ, as the Christ, the Mediator, Anointed Messiah who is fit to represent all of humanity as it’s Covenant Head, (ie. Israel’s Messiah, Lord of the World), is fit to die and rise on behalf of the people who are united to him by faith. This is where that classic doctrine of Union with Christ (Incorporative Christology/Soteriology) comes and saves the day as well. It is not simply a death out there. It is the penal death and justifying resurrection accomplished by Christ into which I am incorporated by faith. Therefore it is now MY death and resurrection.

      Beyond that, no matter what the L,W,W says, anybody who reads the OT (Law, Prophets, etc.) can see that it is an entirely plausible assumption to think that sin leads to death as the judgment of God the King of the World.

      • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

        Actually, it’s precisely in reading the O.T. that the foundations of the theory of PSA suffer some of their most serious attacks IMO.  Go back and read the law and the prophets and try to see them without the lens of presupposed PSA.  In point of fact the O.T. does not portray sacrifice as a quid pro quo of forgiveness.  Hebrews 9:22 notwithstanding, the O.T. is replete with forgiveness sans blood, and most sacrifices are actually sacrifices of worship, thanksgiving, etc., not sin.

        Add to that the fact that Jesus was crucified, not on Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement, but on Passover, where the blood was not at all associated with sin but rather with the identity of the people of God leading to sparing from a plague that was not at all a punishment for their sins, and I say the Biblical case for PSA is thin indeed.

        I was deliberately flip when I said “any death will do.”  But not entirely wrong.  The notion of PSA states that you have to die for your sin (which, by the way, is not synonymous with “the wages of sin is death,” this is a description of natural consequences, not punishment).  PSA further allows that God would accept an innocent death…that of his Son…as the target of his own wrath.  It’s a caricature, but not without merit, that atheists have characterized this as “divine child abuse.”  But the problem with the theory is that it is not directly substantiated in Scripture, but rather inferred from a rather complex web of out-of-context verses.

        BTW the bit about Adam as our Federal Head and Jesus as our Covenant Head–entirely extrabiblical.

        But in the final analysis, the Bible teaches us that Jesus died “for our sins” and “for our salvation” and to defeat the power of death.  Nowhere does it teach that Jesus’ death was absorbing God’s wrath or receiving punishment in our stead.  Those come from theologians quoting each other, not from the Bible.

        • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

          First off, the bit about Christ as our Covenant Head (I never mentioned Adam, or the word “Federal”, although it’s a good word) was supposed to be a historical reference to the framework in which classical,  PSA was articulated in it’s fullest form even thought it was taught much earlier.  Also, I concede that it is extra-biblical only in the sense that the Doctrine of the Trinity is extra-biblical. I find the judgments that it expresses to be thoroughly biblical and even necessary in order to understand the biblical testimony, even if it uses different, but entirely helpful  terminology. Federal theology is simply covenant theology which finds its grounding in the historical acts of the gracious-but-Holy, Covenant-making God we see attested to all throughout Scripture. It is precisely that God who declares all over the OT that if his people break the Covenant as Adam did (Hosea 6:7), He would execute the Covenant curses on them which include exclusion and death (See the Torah, esp. Deuteronomy, the prophets, etc.). We see this in the nature of covenant sacrifices, atonement sacrifices for sin (the fact that not  all sacrifices are for sin doesn’t change the fact that some were and the fact that Hebrews links Jesus’ death to those, and I would argue Paul does too [Rom. 3:25; 8:3; just to mention a couple], as well as 1 John, 1 Peter, and others). We also see it in Paul’s language of Adam and Christ as the heads and beginnings of two different humanity’s and epochs in Salvation-history (esp. Rom. 5-8). I would go deeper, but there’s too much to say here.

          Beyond  that, the whole Divine Child-abuse canard screens out the fact that theologians teaching PSA fully acknowledge and  emphasize on the fact that Jesus goes willingly in obedience to the Father who loves him for it (John 10 among others), and that their wills are joined, not set in opposition as the caricatures would have you believe. Christ  offered himself up through the eternal Spirit (Heb. 9:14). PSA is Trinitarian through and through. If you want, I can point you to a number of books on it (that don’t merely synthesize a bunch of out of context verses.)

          As for forgiveness without sacrifice in the OT, sure there is forgiveness without sacrifice explicitly mentioned in the verse right next to it. Still, the whole sacrificial system and provision is, yes, assumed throughout. If you want to cut Hebrews 9:22 out, fine. I’ll keep it and read it and believe it though.

          As for your final, blunt assertion, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree because I’ve seen it nearly every author in  the NT as well all over the OT. Mark, Matthew, John, Paul, Peter, Hebrews, all teach it.  

          There is a bunch more to say, but I’ve said enough for the night.

          • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

            Very interesting choice of verses, Derek.  I’m on the run so two very quickly:

            Hosea 6:7 analogizes Israel’s sin to Adam’s.  Nothing about death or penalty.  But it’s right after Hosea 6:6 which reads: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”That doesn’t sound very PSA to me.And Rom. 3:25 states that Jesus’ death is a “sacrifice of atonement.”  This is true.  The rub comes in the definition of “atonement” as “appeasing the wrath of God which demanded blood payment for sin.”  That definition is not there.  “Atonement” in the OT and NT is more correctly designed as “covering” and the idea of “covering” or “lid” for sin needs more unpacking, but to represent it as in any way a transactional condition of forgiveness is not supported by this text or any other.  That transactional nature has been superimposed on this and many other texts by those who already “know” this is what atonement means.I’ll try to amplify more when I have bit more time but this will have to do for now.

          • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

            In the same spirit:

            1. I knew the Hosea verse didn’t bear the whole weight of my statement. It was only supposed to make the Adam/Israel connection. Both violated the covenant. Also, it’s easy enough to find covenant curses connected with both violations which include  death (Gen 2; Deut. 30).

            2. As for the linguistic issues surrounding the term “hilasterion”, I’m well aware of the disputes. I’ve been convinced that whether the term is explicitly “propitiation” as Leon Morris has painstakingly demonstrated through careful linguistic work in The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, or “mercy seat” as many recent commentators have argued, I still think that the term carries propitiatory connotations. Just for fun, I will quote N.T. Wright here who is dealing with a caricature of PSA and ends up quote C.E.B. Cranfield (theologians quoting other theologians):
            “Or what account does Dr John give of Romans 3.24-26? Here, whatever we may think about the notorious hilasterion (‘propitiation’? ‘expiation’? ‘mercy-seat’?), in the preceding section of the letter (1.18-3.20) God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and wickedness, and by the end of the passage, in accordance with the ‘justice’ of God, those who were formerly sinners and under God’s wrath are now justified freely by grace through faith. To put it somewhat crudely, the logic of the whole passage makes it look as though something has happened in the death of Jesus through which the wrath of God has been turned away. It is on this passage that Charles E. B. Cranfield, one of the greatest English commentators of the last generation, wrote a memorable sentence which shows already that the caricature Dr John has offered was exactly that:We take it that what Paul’s statement that God purposed Christ as a propitiatory victim means is that God, because in His mercy He willed to forgive sinful men and, being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against His own very Self in the person of His Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved. (A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. 2 vols. Edinburgh: T & T Clark; vol. 1, 1975, p. 217.)”
            It’s not just isolated verses but the logic of the surrounding texts which point this reading. 

            Finally, the point of the whole “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” is that their false sacrifices are worthless, not that sacrifice as a whole is pointless or unnecessary. God himself set up the sacrificial system. I also am not saying that the blood of goats and bulls actually accomplished forgiveness, etc. As Hebrews says, the blood of goats and bulls cannot take away sins, but prepare the way for the true sacrifice that was to come in Christ. (9, 10:4, 8-10) Honestly, as I review it, Those chapters of Hebrews as a whole undergird so much of what we’ve been talking about, it’s ridiculous. 

            Well, that’s it for me right now. Have a good day.

          • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

            Go back and look at every sacrifice you can find throughout the O.T.  Name me one where the sacrifice and/or the blood “bought” forgiveness of sin, or substituted for the death of the sinner.  And no, the ram that substituted for Isaac doesn’t count, because Abraham was not sacrificing for Isaac’s sin.

            The quid-pro-quo of PSA is not there.  Anywhere.

          • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

            On Abraham, I would suggest Jewish scholar Jon Levenson’s “The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son.” Abraham would have been sacrificing for his own sin. In Leviticus 16, the laying of the hands on the ram, whispering the sins of Israel on it and sending it out into the desert to die or be killed implies substitution. The idea that the blood/death of the sacrifice of the victim making atonement for the life of the Israelite is asserted in Lev. 17.  Beyond that, Isaiah 53 blatantly connects the notion of sacrifice with the Servant suffering the punishment of sins committed by others, in their stead. In any case, you never dealt with the blunt assertion of Hebrews linking forgiveness and sacrifice, or the logic of Romans 1-4, not to mention Romans 8:3. This not to mention 2 Corinthians 5, or Galatians 3.

            Beyond that, I’m not sure I spoke of the Cross buying forgiveness. If I did, then it’s a slightly sloppy way of expressing it. I think I mentioned sacrifices “accomplishing” forgiveness or being the way that sins are forgiven/are dealt with. Just so you know, I don’t think of PSA as a simple quid-pro-quo. In seminary I wrote about the atonement in a Trinitarian context and I wrote:

            “a fully-Trinitarian emphasis also shatters any idea that Christ’s penal death was simply a strict act of retributive justice whose sole aim was to satisfy God’s wrath or a strict, economic tit for tat exchange of punishment for sin. God could have had that by simply leaving us to ourselves in our sin so that they might pay out their just wages, death. (Rom. 6:23a) Instead God’s atoning act through the Cross transcends strict retributive exchange, not by ignoring, but by fulfilling the claims of justice and pushing past them to the gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23b) God did not simply want to deal with sin, he wanted to save sinners. God did not only want to be vindicated as just, but instead wanted to be both “just and the justifier of one who has faith in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26) Wrath is dealt with to be sure, but it is dealt with in Christ in order to clear the path for the gift of the Spirit which enables us to live new, reconciled lives now which will issue in the final total restoration of our selves through the gift of Resurrection. “God pours himself out for us, not in an economic exchange, but in an excess of justice and love.”[1]  The gift of God far outweighs the trespass of man. (Rom. 5:16) The penal, retributive justice of God has a more-than-retributive goal; it aims at the “restoration of community and eternal peace” with God and others.[2] This happens through the gift of life in the Spirit which is peace. (Romans. 8:6) Thus the retributive justice of God has a restorative goal which transcends strict, economic justice through his gift-giving grace which comes out only when we see its Triune goal: the gift of the Spirit. ”
            [1] Ibid, pg. 403[2] Boersma, pg. 194-196

            I hope that clarifies a bit why I find your constant reduction and caricature to be so misguided and unnecessary.

          • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

            Sorry, I’m afraid we can’t avoid talking past each other.  “The penal, retributive justice of God” is a human construction, not associated in the Bible with either the sacrificial system or Jesus’ death and resurrection.  It is also part and parcel of the penal, retributive attitude of the church which has resulted in so much violence and bloodshed in the name of the Prince of Peace.  I find those most sure of hell to be the most likely (of Christians) to send people there.  But it’s clear to me that the lenses through which we read the Scriptures are so completely dissimilar that common ground is rare and agreement (except to disagree, hopefully agreeably) is improbable.

            Peace of Christ be upon you!

          • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

            Agree to disagree. Peace be upon you too! 

            Ps. Interesting side-note, I legitimately just came upon more verses on sacrifice being connected with forgiveness in the  OT this  afternoon in the book I was reading. (Lev. 4:27-31) Thought it was kinda funny.

          • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

            Thanks Derek.  That is the first reference (and I’d missed that one) I’ve seen where there appears a transactional character to forgiveness.  There’s a lot more to unpack, but this one actually does contradict my “no verse” contention.  I appreciate the reference. Again, peace!

          • http://www.facebook.com/jason.ekk Jason Ekk

            Ithinkitistimetostartanewthread…

        • Sean McLeish

          I was listening to a Christian Apologist the other day speaking of Atheistic Scholars who have no good response to a good Christian argument when they hear one, not that they never have good responses but the very fact that they are so use to their colleagues glad-handing them and patting them on the back when they make an argument, essentially that they aren’t used to any push-back, that they can make the arguments they do make.

          ‘Any old death will do’? – I’m pretty sure…very sure that the gospel writers weren’t blindly portraying Christ’s atonement as having to do with the passover or making random allusions to leviticus 16…it must have simply been chance.  I mean, I’m no biblical scholar, but I am pretty sure that every single NT writer makes reference to either of those two events.

          Also, last time I checked Chalke is not an atheist (Cosmic child abuse).

          Most sacrifices may be for thanksgiving et al.  But, the day of Atonement, (Leviticus 16 in case you need to check it) was to restore Israel in relationship with God and with each other…for sin.  Hence, NT writers don’t associate the atonement with grain offerings or other thanksgiving offerings, but with a sin offering. They associate it with the passover because God in Christ’s atonement is passing over sins committed by you and me.  Because God is HOLY and cannot stand to look upon sin…maybe that’s why Jesus cried “Eli Eli Lama Sabbacthani” because the Father was actually turning his “face” from Jesus at that moment because God is holy, and cannot stand to look upon evil.  That at that moment Christ was actually separated from God.  Not to pay Satan a ransom as if God actually owed him anything…but to redeem us unto himself as a holy priesthood.

          Honestly, I don’t care too much if you continue to spurn PSA for whatever reason, that the doctrine you don’t see in Scripture, which I see running throughout, isn’t important to you.  Because here’s what’s great about Jesus, he still saves.  Whether or not you’re right about doctrine.  That’s how powerful his cross is.  And, for the record, yes Jesus is Victor…but He is so much more.

          • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

            God did not turn his face away from Jesus:  http://nailtothedoor.com/did-god-really-abandon-jesus-on-the-cross/.  Jesus was quoting from Psalm 22.  This is precisely what I mean when I say that PSA is an extrabiblical lens imposed on the text.

          • Sean McLeish

            Not a very compelling argument.  There is a reason that preachers preach that.  It’s because Jesus is connecting with the agony of the psalmist, phenomenologically speaking he was abandoned.  Of course Jesus knows that the victory is His, He is God.  He is omniscient, you can’t really pull a fast one on him.  But, the abandonment of Christ on the Cross is essential to Christ’s Cross itself, for him to die alone is a powerful reminder to His people that they are never alone when they feel alone, that they have one who was tried in all ways, but without sin.  That they have a great High Priest (didn’t he make sin offerings for the people in the OT?).

            But, maybe, just maybe that is how he felt there on the cross.

            P.S. Christus Victor is just as extra biblical.  If not more.  You never dealt with the fact that NT authors tie The atonement to Lev 16, which is a substitutionary atonement for sin.  They may not say it explicitly, but it is in their language, their imagery itself stinks of it.  I would set about quoting some Scripture here, but neither of us have to time to exhaustively work out all of the OT prophetic allusions that lead to the Cross.  That each and every gospel writer lead to the cross with prophecy concerning God’s anger with sin and the one who would take it.  Or you can just read the first chapter of John (1:29) “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”  IMO, you have to do more work to deny PSA than you have to do to defend it.  

            But again, you’re rejecting God’s turning his face because you are not understanding it (not saying that I do).  Jesus’s ‘forsakenness’ is not an eternal one, but a situational one.  God would not forever turn his face, but in the moment.  God doesn’t turn his back, eternally.  And, he doesn’t turn his back on you and me because of the work of Jesus on the cross.

            Let me ask, if PSA is extra biblical then why did Peter seem to think Jesus took sin upon himself 1 Peter 2:24?  The author of Hebrews as well (Hebrews 9:24).  

          • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

            Oh, “there’s a reason preachers preach that,” all right.  They’ve been programmed that the only way to bring people to Jesus is to scare the hell out of them.  It ain’t how Jesus and his apostles did it.

            You are assuming that because Jesus quoted the language of Psalm 22, God really *did* turn his back on Jesus.  The Bible never states that.  The abandonment of Christ on the cross is “essential” only to the PSA doctrine…and is not taught in Scripture.

            The high priest did make offerings for sin.  Jesus is our high priest.  That does not mean Jesus absorbed God’s wrath…something that neither the O.T. high priest nor the sacrifice was ever represented to do in the Bible either.

            I find it interesting that you refer to Lev. 16.  Yes, there are “sin offerings” sacrificed there.  But look at what animal actually receives and “bears” the sins of the people…it’s the goat that doesn’t get killed (see v. 20-22).  There’s a whole lot to unpack there, but the transactional blood-for-forgiveness is not part of it.  “Substitutionary atonement,” the idea that one thing dies in place of another, is not even alluded to obliquely in the entire chapter.  Cleansing, yes.  Sacrifice, yes.  Substitutionary death, no.  It is not there.

            I reject substitutionary death/sacrifice in atonement, not because I don’t like or understand it (though I don’t), but rather because it is only “found” in the text by bringing certain assumptions to the text…assumptions that are IMO unfounded.  You have not provided their foundation.  I don’t blame you there; the theologians going back to the Reformation didn’t provide the foundation either, because there isn’t one.

            Jesus in 1 Peter 2:24 “bore our sins that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”  There’s nothing substitutionary about that.  Substitution would be “Jesus bore our sins and died so that we might not die for our own sins.”  Not. What. Peter. Said.

            Hebrews too.  Jesus died to “put away” sin (I assume you meant v. 26; 24 isn’t relevant).

            No, PSA is not in those places.  It can only be found there by presupposition.

          • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

            Nevertheless let me affirm absolutely your last paragraph.  You’re right, our salvation…whatever it is…is in and by and because of Jesus, not because of our atonement theology.  I think the theology still matters, but your point is vital.

            Enough with Salvation already! is a post I wrote with just such a thought in mind.

      • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

        it is an entirely plausible assumption to think that sin leads to death as the judgment of God the King of the World.

        I disagree with even the plausibility, but the real point is that a “plausible assumption” is insufficient evidence for Christian dogma.  You have condemned it as an “assumption” yourself.  It is not a Biblical assertion.

        • http://www.facebook.com/derek.rishmawy Derek Rishmawy

          Fine,  let’s dump the word “plausible.” I think it’s Biblical. Hooray for using stronger words!

  • Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

    Do you know, that as a Lakota, everytime I read about Christus Victor, Jesus makes even more ‘sense.’ Not that that is totally necessary, but I think that without that, much of what we ‘sell’ as Christianity isn’t palatable (not that it must be) or understood by anyone, sometimes even less by us.

    To understand the victory of Christ over the powers of darkness and raising victoriously answers a need that many cultures need, but these self-same cultures may not understand sin like the Middle East understands it. Jesus is the ANSWER to all of humanity’s needs, but I do think some nuances are culturally specific and all can be traced in the Biblical accounts. 

    Just a thought.

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

      You say this as though there is something in Lakota tradition or philosophy that somehow resonates with a CV perspective.  I would love to learn more, if you have anything to recommend.

      • Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

        Sorry, Dan. I didn’t see that you’d replied to me until just now when I was in another Disqus app. Yes, one of the Lakota creation stories is about the buffalo, who emerged from the world below after the Lakota were tricked to the surface by a couple Trickster figures. The Pte Oyate (buffalo nation) were the relatives who didn’t come to the surface, and they couldn’t emerge then like the humans (else replicate the same problems–nakedness and weakness, etc.), so they emerged as the buffalo, sacrificially, so that their relatives could hunt them and live. Instead of fighting the different powers directly, they subverted the issue in order to save and give life.

        • http://nailtothedoor.com/ Dan Martin

          Wow, @google-db532d00ed5a46de4b69501dbfb17073:disqus , that is a fascinating story. And yes, it has definite resonance. No real surprise to me … the idea that God revealed truth to many people through their own traditions, not just waiting for white missionaries to come to them, should not surprise anybody. Heck, the whites were evangelized by brown folks at the beginning … where’d we get the idea we had it first? ;{)

          Anyway, thank you for sharing that story. I had no idea that nakedness was related to things going wrong in other traditions as well.

          • Tasiyagnunpa Livermont

            I should have said, the nakedness was an issue, because they were cold. The world at the surface was harsh, cold and brutal to their skin. Still works, though.

  • http://twitter.com/kbrownstead Keaton Brownstead

    I can tell when you’re about to post something good when you keep quiet for a few days. =]

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems

      @twitter-91022084:disqus … flattered. Thanks and you may be on to something ;-)

  • http://twitter.com/aaron_brown_ie Aaron Brown

    Kurt, thank you for you’re ministry with Pangea as well as your speaking and service. I think Thor and Aslan are pretty masculine. I do hate it though when people assume I spell my name “Erin” instead of “Aaron”.If you’re down, would love to have you on our Podcast sometime. I think it would be a blast!about.me/aaronbrownie

  • Mike Mayer

    First off, I do not pretend to be an expert in atonement theology or any alternative. That being said, I have a problem with this spin on this form of appeasement as well.

    Ok… so God is not the one who requires blood. He is not a vengeful (yet capricious) deity that wants to see retribution, but doesn’t really care who he extracts it from. I have no problem with this side of the interpretation in your post.

    What bothers me is that it must lead to one of two other possible conclusions that I find highly unsettling. Option 1. God is subservient to Evil. Option 2. Both God and Evil are subservient to a higher Order. In both cases, God doesn’t necessarily want to see the blood-payment happen, but cannot put his foot down and stop it either… even though he has a trick up his sleeve to outsmart Evil in the end.

    It is precisely this train of thought that has led me to believe that the Good Friday story has NOTHING to do with repayment of a debt. (i.e. the Aslan story is wrong). Rather, when Christ was faced with the choice of saving his life or adhering to his principles/mission/calling (and his self identification), he chose to remain true to his path—understanding that the cost of not doing so would be the betrayal of everyone who had come to know him as the Son of God. He chose to lay down his life out of Love for the sake of others. For if he didn’t, he would have been nothing more than a very good philosopher. He did not die because he (and God) was backed into some legalistic corner. He died because he chose it as the means to redeem the world by ultimate example of how to live one’s life.

    • Mike Mayer

      Note that I realize I might be restating what other commenters have said… but frankly, I cannot comprehend a lot of the “theo-speak” jargon being used in most of the commentary.


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