Why Jesus Rose

I’m on no quest to reject the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement (PSA). (I merely intend to dethrone it.) :-)   In fact, that’s the understanding of Jesus’ death that was taught to me in my youth group as a kid, and similarly in the college ministry that excommunicated me. But, in all honesty, PSA never sat quite right with me. For one, it didn’t seem to jibe with the chesed of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. And it really didn’t jibe with Jesus’ message. Honestly, I just took my leaders’ words on faith that Jesus perfect life and subsequent death somehow assuaged my own moral guilt.

In my last post, Why Jesus Died, I argued for a different — and more historically robust — understanding of the crucifixion.

Another problem with PSA, it seems to me, is that there’s really no reason for the resurrection. It’s little more than Jesus, “Ta-Da! See, I told you that I was divine!” (Which, by the way, Jesus attests only ambiguously, and primarily in the Gospel of John. Take a deep breath, people. I’m not questioning Jesus’ divinty; I’m just saying that Jesus himself wasn’t particularly adamant about it.) There must be more to Jesus’ resurrection than another proof of his divinity.

So, why a resurrection? More importantly to me, as one who is increasingly shunned by evangelicals and in the same room with liberal mainliners (and Catholics), why a real, historical, physical resurrection?

Well, if you found some resonance with my previous post on the crucifixion, then the resurrection of Jesus is all the more important. In Jesus, God identified with humankind in an unprecendented way — this is why the divinity (i.e., non-mortality) of Jesus really matters. So deeply did God enter into the uniquely human experience of godforsakeness that God even died. God experienced grief in the shattering of the eternal relationality of the Trinity. Yes, God really died.

So, when Jesus rose from the grave, it was more than the resusitation of a corpse (hell, I’ve seen Criss Angel do that!). Instead, it was a foretaste of the eschaton. I described Jesus’ miracles in the last post as significations of the new, eschatological age that Jesus the Messiah inaugurated. The resurrection is the capstone event in the inauguration.

Since Adam, death has been the primary definer of mortality and, as far as we can tell, the one thing that differentiates human beings from god(s) — thus the constant tension between human and mortals and their frequent stories of romantic love for one another in ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Death was the one thing that God didn’t experience, and it was the one inevitability of human existence.

So, for God to experience death — especially a death that was sacrificially important — is pivotal. For God to conquer death and invite all the rest of us humans into immortal existence is even better.

In other words, Jesus’ resurrection confirms all of his teachings about the Kingdom and all of the miraculous healings with which he is credited, for it is the ultimate signifier of the new, eschatological age. Jesus is, as Paul wrote, “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (Paul wrote thus because he was attempting to convince Corinthians who believed in Jesus’ resurrection to also believe in their own future resurrection.)

What I’m saying is that Jesus (God) really, materially healed people — if he hadn’t, then the miracle stories are without worth.

Jesus (God) really, materially died.

And Jesus (God) really, materially rose from death.

It’s only in his resurrection, his victory, that his death has any meaning at all.

Happy Easter, everyone.

  • http://jasonsmith.wordpress.com jason smith

    Tony,
    I am praying for you man. I can’t imagine enduring the persecution you are enduring. I hope your day is filled with joy and hope and fellowship with the saints.
    I just wanted you to know, you’re not alone. I get it. I cringe when I see things said of you. I much more enjoy a robust understanding of the life, death and rez of Jesus. I am thankful for the PSA and the reality that Jesus took my place and allows me to stand with confidence, but I am also so thankful for what his resurrection does. IT brings me life. It gives me the hope to carry on. It gives me hope that things can change. That people can change, that this wretched place will call home is being and will be changed.
    Keep pressin on.
    Jason

    • http://ledgerlock.deviantart.com/ Lock

      Like Jason Smith here, I am truly feel for such a holy man as Tony here. You are a saint Savior Most High Theologian Tony. Save the church from its ill fated beliefs with your awesome theological brain of yours.

      I get you man. You are the wind beneath my wings. Save me Tony, “Show me the way…”.

      You emergies are so full so shite.

  • Scott M

    Thanks Tony. As an adult convert, I tried on the story within which the PSA theory is embedded and it just never fit. It falls apart and was never something in which I was able to sustain belief for very long. It just doesn’t cohere very well either with my experience of the God I had encountered or the story of that God I found in the Holy Scriptures. Since I have long had a deep interest in history, especially ancient history, it was natural for me to reach back into history for ways those who followed Jesus understood the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Resurrection. So it’s probably unsurprising that when I finally encountered modern Orthodox voices many years later, the things they said sounded (and still sound) comfortable and familiar.
    I remember a couple of years ago when my state SBC entity devoted one of its monthly publications to Easter. I was shocked and dismayed that it was pretty much all about the Cross. In the tiny handful of places where the Resurrection was even mentioned (beyond an article or two consisting of a ‘proof’ that it happened), it was in passing. And the only reason for it anyone could articulate was that it proved that God had accepted Jesus’ payment on the Cross. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I really was. I was even more surprised when I tried to articulate my shock to some friends and they didn’t understand it at all. To them, that reduction and almost dismissal of the Resurrection not only made sense, it was reasonable.
    Up until that point, I had mostly held the perspective of the story of God within which PSA makes sense at arm’s length as a curious oddity. I couldn’t see how people found it in any way an attractive story or how it described a God anyone would want to actually know, much less be united with in the most intimate of communions. At that point, though, I saw how actively harmful and destructive it is. The Resurrection is the great cosmic event at the center or reality. It changes everything. It changes the nature of all that is. And the story within which PSA lives and breathes hides that almost to the point where it cannot be seen. It’s not a harmless theory at all.
    Thanks for rearticulating the ancient and most proper view of Pascha. ‘It’s only in his resurrection, his victory, that his death has any meaning at all.’ Indeed. Without the resurrection, Jesus is nothing but another failed Messiah wannabe. Without the resurrection, death still reigns. Without the resurrection, we have no hope and our faith is nothing but a cruel joke. It’s the Resurrection that makes the Christian story what it is — a story different from any other.

  • Tim B

    Tony,
    Four quick thoughts:
    PSA isn’t against God’s ‘hesed’. In fact, if you consider Genesis 15 and how God himself walks between the divided animal parts, you see that God himself in covenant with his people promises to take upon himself the curses of the covenant when God’s people break the covenant in order that the covenant faithfulness (hesed) of God might be maintained. This has been articulate in much more extended form elsewhere, let’s not put up false antitheses where there are none. You can find further Biblical examples of this so that PSA and hesed are not against each other. In fact the latter is the basis for the actions taken in the former.
    Second, outside of the internet world, the best articulations of PSA have also been clear to include a two-adam christology, Christus Victor and other elements that help explain both PSA and representation/identification and the eschatos man that Christ is for us. At what point have you crossed over from ‘dethroning’ into the realm of tearing asunder?
    Third, Hebrews all over the place connects PSA with Christ’s representation of us as one just like us as high priest, mediator, intercessor, etc. Christ’s continuing work for us is ground on the fact that he both accomplished redemption (PSA) and he is exalted with indestructible life to minister as high priest. In fact, Hebrews is clear that he cannot do the latter without doing the former. Here again, resurrection is not an after thought as if ‘once we have PSA’ we don’t really need the resurrection… this of course, just isn’t Biblical… but just because this view is false doesn’t mean downplaying the significance of PSA.
    Finally, Romans 4:25 has not problem with PSA and the resurrection of Christ and connecting the two as part of Christ’s one great work for us.
    I am sure not all will agree with me, but the least we could do is not erect straw men (even if they are unintentional). Granted many people who hold to PSA do not work it out in relation to other areas of theology, but it would be prudent to listen to the best articulations where these issues are dealt with more fully. I think one might find that some of your objections fall by the wayside… perhaps not, but the full-orbed articulations are out there.
    Tim B

  • http://www.faithprogression.com/2009/04/easter-end-of-barbaric-sacrifices.html Mike L.

    Tony,
    Thanks for another thoughtful post. I’ve enjoyed these Holy Week posts. I do have one bone to pick with you. We’ve had this conversation in person, but I thought it would be good to bring it out here. How can you make such hard lined unnuanced statements like:
    “What I’m saying is that Jesus (God) really, materially healed people — if he hadn’t, then the miracle stories are without worth”
    These are the kinds of either/or modernist statements that typically come from your fundamentalist critics. Are you really going to discount the literary ability of the scriptural authors? Are you going to sell them short by assuming they could not have created stories with allegory and metaphor to capture the “meaning” of Jesus’ message in symbolic parables about his death and resurrection? Are you willing to do the same thing to all of us non-literalists that the fundamentlists do to you?
    I’d argue that when we begin to look at the miracle stories (including the different versions of the Easter story) as parables, the stories not only have more “worth”, but they begin to have so much more “meaning”. If, as you insist, they literally happened and our texts are nothing more that factual accounts of literal events, then I’d suggest you’ve tossed out their important meaning in a quest for what you (and most modernists) call “worth”. You’ve made the tragic flaw of modernity by assuming that facts always carry more weight (worth) than stories. I’d counter that it’s the idea that these stories probably didn’t literally happen that allows us to begin asking the really big question, “why did the author write it this way?”
    My blog post today takes on a couple of the same questions you’ve opened up this week. Thanks for sharing and always being willing to listen!

  • Dan

    Reading these posts reminds me of C.S. Lewis statement about “modern scholarship”, that they claim to be able to read between the lines when it is clear they can’t read the lines themselves. I’d attempt a rebuttal Tony, but I’m pretty convinced it would go nowhere.

  • http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/ Sara

    We need to prayerfully let our atonement theologies emerge – as they have been emerging for 2,000 years. Tony has presented a pretty standard postmodern evangelical perspective of atonement and resurrection. That’s fine. But I think we need to dig even deeper. The “Christ event” was a major event and the crucifixion was a deep trauma for the disciples. The person they knew as he person they variously knew as rabbi, liberator, friend, son, brother, Son of God, Son of Man, Immanuel, etc. was executed by the Roman authorities. It would have been very difficult for the disciples to live in the immobilizing bog of endless questions, which in turn probably had endless possible answers. They had to find and/or create meaning out of this event in order to come to some level of emotional, psychological, and spiritual clarity and resolution. Humans are meaning-making creatures. They had to make this tragic event into something positive and redemptive. They had to make something bad and ungodly look like something good and ordained. So, over time, various models of atonement were developed to explain how the execution of Jesus could be beneficial for Christians. And with those atonement theories, the trauma of the crucifixion was resolved for some people. It now made some sense for some. Jesus died for a reason. Jesus died for us. Jesus died for me.
    The idea that Jesus died for us or because of us, I would argue, needs to be rejected. We need to remember and commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus as a tragic, unjust, and un-ordained event. It could have been different. It should have been different. But it wasn’t. The Roman Empire killed Jesus. It was tragic, unjust, and traumatic. And that’s how we need to remember it.
    Jesus wasn’t killed for our sins. Jesus was killed by the sins of the Roman Empire. Jesus was killed for following God’s will instead of Cesar’s will. Therefore, the cross should be remembered as a symbol of state sponsored terrorism, instead of a symbol of the saving work God has done for us. As Flora Keshgegian argues, “Trauma that is not remembered and dealt with appropriately finds expression in distorted relationally and arrested living. So too with the cross.” So we must face the trauma of the cross in order to effectively be Jesus’ Resurrection Community. The sins of greed, imperialism, tyranny, etc. killed Jesus. And they still do. But living according to God’s values of love, justice, mutuality, etc. brings us face-to-face with the resurrection anew. Let’s face the trauma of the cross so we can embrace the resurrection ever more deeply.
    We know what sin can do: it even killed Jesus. But we also know there is more to the story. Jesus’ crucifixion doesn’t have the last word. The sins Roman Empire doesn’t have the last word. Death doesn’t have the last word.
    God is still speaking to and through all of us. God is still working to and through all of us. God is still bringing about shalom, fullness of life, and complete joy to and through each of us. We are the Body of Christ in the world. We have been risen up by God to be the Church of Jesus Christ. We are the Resurrection Community. Why? Because God and God’s story goes on.
    Christ the Lord is risen today – and always. Praise be to God!

  • http://thingsthelordtoldme.blogspot.com/ brian

    wow sara…
    what do you call your religion? where is it derived from?

  • Sara

    Tony:
    Why don’t you reject the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement outright? What’s holding you back?
    How is what you’re saying about “God dying” different than liberation theologians saying God knows what the suffering of the poor is like because Jesus was crucified as a poor person?
    Do you believe that the miraculous healing miracles were literal? Couldn’t these stories have worth as literary devices? Couldn’t they have worth as myths that carry deeper truths?
    How is your understanding of the “final eschaton” different than that of Open Theism?
    Is there really a such a strong dichotomy between life and death? Doesn’t emergent science show that life goes on in a variety of different ways (e.g. cells, energy, quantums)? Couldn’t God already know and experience all of this without the crucifixion and resurrection?
    Are you saying that before Jesus, death had no meaning? Are you saying that Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists have no meaning in their deaths?
    Aren’t phrases such as “without worth” and “any meaning at all” rather triumphalistic and decidedly not postmodern?

  • http://jhimm.net/wabi_sabi jhimm

    i have discovered that hell, in fact, exists. and we all live in it, right now. it is a place where a man can say the things Tony just said, and people can find a way to pick fights about it.
    this may be one of the single most orthodox blog posts i have ever read in my life, and people are either picking it apart or dismissing it out of hand.
    with every day that goes by i am increasingly convinced that most “Christians” do not know Jesus, have never met Jesus, and would be horrified and disgusted if they did.
    people need to be better gardeners of their fruit.

  • http://properscale.blogspot.com Eric Orozco

    If one man, Adam, caused the mortality of us all…how much more will life be given through Jesus Christ.

  • http://merginglanes.com Dan Ra

    tony,
    all i came to say is that your ‘why jesus died’ and ‘why jesus rose’ was really blessing to me and allowed me to praise jesus even more.
    thanks for your words, brother.
    dan

  • Korey

    Wonderfully put jhimm. Most beliefs are deeply held and formed through time and experience. In their depth and long formation they likely are excluding or reacting to the ideas and beliefs of others. The hope of this emergent thing as I, one lone guy, see it, is that all those who profess Christ as Lord (be it perhaps more figurative in some cases) can express their beliefs in a “growing and generative friendship”, even when those beliefs might threaten or impinge on one another. If only we could disagree passionately without feeling the need to mock or condemn out of anger, hurt, irritation, or elevation of thoughts over actions. To say this is challenging is complete understatement.

  • Jeff

    While I diverge a bit from yesterday’s blog, I believe you and I agree here. The resurrection, to me, is a demonstration by God that God can and does act in the world in ways that cannot be predicted and are counter to our expectations. When that happens, everything in our lives changes and we have to decide how we will respond. Ourt response is to live as Jesus lived, as best we can, knowing that even when we fail, we are forgiven. To live like that makes us sheep, not goats. Happy Easter!

  • Your Name

    Jhimm, you said:
    with every day that goes by i am increasingly convinced that most “Christians” do not know Jesus, have never met Jesus, and would be horrified and disgusted if they did
    Sadly, I am forced to agree with you. It gives me no pleasure…
    Tony, pretty good post. I would love to see a summary view of the Catholic, and mainline Protestant views of this. Most Catholic theology seems fairly conservative in most respects, but surprisingly liberal in others.

  • http://keahisttheology.blogspot.com Kimberly Ervin Alexander

    “Exactly!”, says the Wesleyan-Pentecostal Kim.

  • Mattywils

    It’s kind of hard to find any of that “liberal taint” in this post that so many readers of this blog have brought arms against. I may not understand and attest to all of the things you hold to Tony, but your take on the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord has given me an refreshing new take on these ancient, and beautiful realities of the Christian faith.

  • http://www.thechristianwatershed.com Joel

    Tony,
    Don’t you think you’re creating an unnecessary dichotomy? PSA is very clearly taught in the Scriptures, that Christ took our sins upon Him on the cross. What is also taught is ransom, satisfaction, liberation (though not the Marxian form), and a whole host of other atonement. Why does it have to be just one?
    Secondly, the point of the resurrection under PSA is that as Christ has been raised, we too have been raised to walk with power in this life. Our sins have been handled on the cross and in this life we have power. Our old nature is dead and our new nature is reborn in the resurrection.
    There are, of course, multiple other reasons for the resurrection.
    I guess I’m just a little confused why someone who attempts to have a “big tent” faith is so exclusive and unimaginative when it comes to the issue of the atonement (especially something that is quite clearly taught in Scripture – just because blood and sacrifice makes you uncomfortable doesn’t mean that’s not how it happened).

  • Sara

    I’d be curious to hear Tony respond to Mike L and I’s comments on the meaning of the miracle healing stories.

  • Joel

    I should also add that you’re ignoring the part in penal substitution that teaches that our justification is complete in Christ’s resurrection. Romans 4:25 and 1 Corinthians 15:17 both indicate that without the resurrection, we’re still trapped in our sins.
    There are other theories of the atonement and I think it’s quite possible for many of them to be true. I’m simply pointing out that the view of penal substitution is an important one an without it, you’re missing the point of the Gospel (I would argue the same thing for those who deny ransom theory, Christus Victor, satisfaction, or other views).

  • Scott M

    Joel, if you say that then you’re saying that the whole church and all Christians missed the point of the Gospel until the 16th century when the penal substitution theory of the atonement was developed. I know there are quite a number of Protestants who do believe something to that effect, but it’s an impossible story for me to believe. I do listen and try to respect the perspective of those who say that PSA deepens and enriches their understanding of the atonement. I don’t see it myself. Nor do I really see any evidence of it in practice or the things people say as outworkings of the view. But if someone does find something of actual value somewhere in it, more power to them. But unless you buy into the whole apostate church for centuries storyline, I don’t see any way that PSA can viewed as anything central or critical to our understanding of Jesus, God, the Cross, or the Resurrection. And when you focus on it to the exclusion of the older and more robust theories, I think it is reductionistic and actively harmful to our understanding of the Gospel and God. A lot of extremely troubling yet very popular ways of talking about God and the Cross flow directly from this theory of the atonement.

  • Rick

    Just because a theory wasn’t officially named and then coined until the 16th century, it doesn’t mean that this concept was created then. Paul writes as early as AD 57 that “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).”
    Just because somebody discussed it and gave it a name later doesn’t alter it’s historicity.
    Grace and peace,

  • Joel

    Scott,
    I wasn’t aware that all illumination had to be found complete within the first century, lest it be untrue. If this is the case, we are now without a Pope. If this is the case, we are now without the majority of our doctrines in the Christian faith. Though I believe we must have a basis for our belief dating back to an earlier time period, so we can maintain unity with all believers, past and present, it is a fallacy to argue that for something to be true, it must be traditional in its complete form. If this were the case, hardly anything in Christianity could be believed.
    Regardless, we never see any theology hammered out in the early church. There is no organized Thomistic cosmological argument – but there is an early form of it. Likewise, with penal substitution the early church fathers consistently spoke of how our sins were taken upon Christ on the cross. Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho, points out how absurd it is to question God for offering Christ as a sacrifice (Dialogue with Trypho, XCV). Or what of Eusebius of Caesarea when he said that Christ took upon our sin, that He became a curse for us (Proof of Christianity)?
    There are others I can turn to, but often times people re-read these men under a grid where we refuse to believe in penal substitution. However, it was clearly taught if you read their work straight-forward and without a bias. Considering I accept a multitude of views on the atonement, accepting penal substitution was not central to my beliefs – so I had no problem going back (a few months ago) and exploring the issue. The evidence for it is overwhelming. So much so that I think it becomes the predominant view because there is so much scripture on it and it was taught in the early church.
    You’re also making an appeal to the consequence of the belief (or possible consequences) – this is a logical fallacy. A belief taken too far or a belief not logically followed says nothing to the truthfulness of a belief. If we were to follow such logic, we could say that the Catholic Church should abandon a belief in a Pope since such a belief has been used to justify heinous crimes. Or we could say that Calvinism leads to murder since John Calvin burned people at the stake.
    Looking to the consequences of a belief doesn’t do much, hence the logical fallacy.

  • Scott M

    Joel, I read many of the ancient writers to try to understand Christianity long before I encountered even modern Orthodoxy or anything ‘emergent’. I read them fully and in context. Unless you bring a lens already shaped by enlightenment style natural law and the penal substitution ideas that flowed from it, there is no thread of penal substitution to be found. The elements of substitution that are found pretty clearly fit under ransom. Most of the remaining threads (and really the predominant one) are recapitulation. Together, those are typically called ‘Christus Victor’ theories today. There are variations among them and in the discussion and both developed a great deal over the centuries. But that was pretty much the scope of the theological exploration of the atonement for the first thousand years of the church. That’s simply a historical fact and one attested by a broad spectrum of church historians, many of the more modern of whom do and did personally hold to the validity of the penal substitution or satisfaction views. Obviously you have convinced yourself otherwise, but it’s not a particularly disputed historical fact in the development of atonement theories in the church.
    In fact, you can’t really find any thread that ascribes a problem to God until you get to the thread that is typically attributed to Anselm, the satisfaction theory. Penal substitution is at its heart just a reworking of satisfaction using the tenets of enlightenment-style views of natural law binding God to replace the feudal honor/shame tenets which bound God in the satisfaction perspective.
    Your attempted point about judging a perspective on its consequences is simply nonsense. By that logic we would be unable to call the principles behind Nazism or Marxism morally bankrupt on the basis of the consequences of their application. I think most people would reject that idea. I don’t attribute the specific examples you cited the outworking of any particular theological view. They are simply what happens when people have and are corrupted by power, regardless of their theology, religion, or lack thereof. Whereas Nazism and Marxism are explicitly political ideas so the political outworkings or consequences are relevant. It’s particularly sad when this happens in the church because it’s so clearly not the way we are supposed to live or exercise any power that may be granted us. As a result of the corruption of power we have Orthodox pogroms, Roman Catholic inquisitions, Protestant tortures, executions, and even massacres, anabaptist shunnings and all the rest. None of those are particularly related to theology, per se, though of course it’s always cloaked as such. They are all ways to exercise political power.
    My examples have been the consequences of the things people say and believe about God (and also what it means to be a human being – a closely interrelated idea). Those consequences are directly related and relevant in judging a theology about God. Having read The Shack yesterday, I understand now why so many of the more strongly Protestant in conscious theology reacted so strongly against it. The God in that novel is not a God who has any place in that strain of theological thought. (I hadn’t really planned to read The Shack. A Buddhist friend of ours bought it for my wife and told her that book really helped her understand Christians and why they even want to believe in their God. With that sort of introduction, I had to read it. [g])

  • Jim Fisher

    God died! Of course he did. He promised he would.
    Normally in a covenant-cutting ceremony, Abram after cutting each animal in two pieces would have walked between the halves in order to confirm his oath. He would have intoned a formal imprecation against himself, “May this happen to me (may I end up like this animals!) if I don’t keep this agreement.” However in Genesis 15, something utterly startling and without precedent happened. Instead of Abram walking between the halves of the animals, God did (taking the form of a miniature cloud and pillar of fire). In this action, God takes upon himself the inferior covenant position in his promise with Abram. God implicitly answers Abram’s question in Genesis 12:1-3:
    “If I don’t make you a great nation and give you this land as I have promised, and bless you as I promised, and bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you, and bless all the nations through your seed, then may I be sundered like these animals.”
    And when that didn’t happen, God became like those animals, as promised.
    God’s death on the cross ended the Old Covenant. The end of the Old Covenant became very public 40 years later (Biblically speaking) when the Temple came down and when quite literally no stone was left upon another (except, ironically, the wall of the Court of the Gentiles which was not measured for destruction and still exists today). Jesus replaces the Temple. His perfect sacrifice replaces the imperfect system of morning and evening sacrifices. His Spirit, as it lives on within us, replaces the Law. God’s death means Life within us. God’s death means He lives on through me … if I let him.
    I can love a God like that! And I can love my neighbor with a Love like that … and I am still working on both. Happy Easter everyone.

  • Theresa Seeber

    Tony, sounds like you and my husband, David, have more in common than I thought. :-D I will be sure to share this post with him. Peace to you my friend!

  • Carl

    Tony said: “I’m on no quest to reject the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement“

    Tony also said: “Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.”

    Which to believe…

  • Phil Miller

    I’ve raised this same question to some staunch defenders of PSA elsewhere, and the standard answer seems to be something along the lines of, “Jesus rose because it proved that God accepted His sacrifice” or something like that. That doesn’t really seem like much of an answer to the question to me. Actually, it just seems to send me back to the question of why Jesus had to die in the first place. If it’s simply a matter of God being appeased, it seems there would be other ways to go about that.

    I think a lot of these things cause trouble because we like to look at theology from a systematic perspective to almost a complete exclusion of the narrative. We forget the story that Jesus found Himself in (to rip off Brian McLaren). There are substitutionary elements at play, but they have to be within the proper context of Israel and the covenant and the curses and promises that go along with that. I think it’s easier to start from this particular story and then move out to the universal implications from there. You can see all sorts of metaphors come into play along the way then.

    • ME

      Phil, I don’t think God HAD to do things the way he did them when it came to dying on the cross. He CHOSE that way, (or willed it if you don’t like saying God makes choice) and the fact that he chose that path reveals a lot about his nature.

      • Phil Miller

        OK… I don’t really see how this comment really relates to anything I said, though.

  • Michael Jordan

    wonderful post. Thanks so much!

  • Tim Welch

    Hello! I’m not a Christian, but I’m trying to make sense of the atonement of Jesus. I too was raised in the tradition of PSA, and it also didn’t make sense to me. My question is, if PSA isn’t true – did God/Jesus HAVE to die? That is, if Jesus hadn’t have died, would it be impossible for God and man to be reconciled? If not, what bearing does this have on Christian Particularism? Does one have to be a Christian in order to be reconciled to God, and if so- why?
    Thanks in advance for your thoughts!


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