Nature of the Atonement

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Andre, Jul 14, 2008.

  1. Andre

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    Reading another thread stimulated me to bring up the question of the Atonement - what precisely happened at the Cross?

    I have found the following position advanced by NT Wright to be compelling. On the cross, God condemned sin, not Jesus:

    For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man,....

    In other words, the proper way to think about the atonement is one in which the intent of God was to "condemn" sin and, sadly and no doubt necessarily, Jesus dies in the process. So, on this view, God is not saying "I have to punish someone and Jesus is the one", but rather "I have to defeat sin and Jesus' death is the only way this can be accomplished".

    Perhaps some will see this as "splitting hairs", but it has been my experience that such fine theological distinctions do indeed matter.

    And apart from the scriptural support for this take on atonement, I think it makes far more "intuitive" sense than the idea that justice is served by "punishing" Jesus instead of us. On the NT Wright view of atonement, God is not punishing Jesus, He is attacking and defeating sin and Jesus heroically puts Himself forth as the one who will die as the unavoidable consequence of this.

    Other texts in Romans 5, 7, 9, and 11, I suggest, support this view of the nature of the atonement. Not to mention texts on the inefficacy of animal sacrifices.
     
  2. billwald

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    No one knows. Various hypothesis were devised to account for the crucifixion. If we had a need to know Jesus would have told us.
     
  3. Andre

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    I think that Paul knows and that he has expressed his view in Romans, albeit in a subtle and cryptic way. And to the extent that this so, I suspect that the subtleties are indeed important - seemingly esoteric items of theology often have practical and important outsworkings. Here is the basic picture that I think (here I follow my understanding of NT Wright).

    1. Adam sins and mankind falls;

    2. God establishes the covenant with Abraham. The real goal of the covenant is to solve the sin problem;

    3. Israel is given the Torah which has the strange divine intention of actually making Israel more sinful, not less;

    4. What is God up to? He is deceiving the power of sin into being lured into "one place" - the nation of Israel.

    5. Once sin has been lured into Israel, it is focused down on one person - her faithful Messiah Jesus. Cornered as it were, sin is then condemned on the cross and Jesus dies in the process. The covenant has reached its climax - its intended purpose has substantially been achieved - the Adamic sin problem has been dealt with.

    I am happy to defend any of these points scripturally.
     
  4. Baptist Believer

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    What book is the N.T. Wright quote from?
     
  5. Andre

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    Which quote? I do not believe I gave a quote. The ideas all come from the "Romans in a Week" lecture series, which I highly recommend.
     
  6. annsni

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    Romans in a week??? Are you serious??? At church, we're just beginning chapter 9 and it's been 37 messages so far! Chapter 9 will add in 6 more.... How can you do it in a week?
     
  7. Andre

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    Point well taken. I think we agree that Romans is a deeply complex, extremely sophisticated text. When I referred to Romans in a week, I refer to a week-long course of lectures - not just a Sunday - totalling 10 hours of lectures (discussion over and top of that).

    So I understand your surprise.....
     
  8. swaimj

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    First, in the verse you quote, you use the phrase "to be a sin offering". This is an interpretive reading of the verse and, IMHO, a questionable reading. I believe that Paul is saying that even though he, that is, Paul, found the law to be no aid in living a sinless life, Jesus condemned sin because he lived under the law and yet did not sin. Of course, this does ultimately involve the atonement, but Paul does not directly refer to the atonement in the verse you quoted.

    Second, your view ignores clear verses which specifically state that Jesus died as our substitute and as the sin-bearer. For instance:
    Christ redeemed us from the cuse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree". Gal 3:10

    He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" I Peter 2:24

    For Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" I Peter 3:18
     
  9. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: Start defending:wavey:

    HP: Says who??


    HP: And where do you find support for that?



    HP: Where is that fanciful conjecture mentioned or support for it found??



    HP: Show us the support.



    HP: There is no way you can support these notions Scripturally Andre…….but I am willing to listen.
     
  10. Andre

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    In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny.....You asked for it!!!:laugh:

    I will have to get back to you on all this. I think the arguments are compelling, brilliant, and entirely faithful to the scriptures - I wish I could take credit for them!
     
  11. Doubting Thomas

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    As one who has read several of NT Wright's books, I look forward to reading your defense of these arguments.
     
  12. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    HP: With them all being at antipodes with Scripture I can see no reason why you cannot take the credit for them. :thumbs:
     
  13. annsni

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    Just joshin' because we always laugh at how long it takes us to get through a book study at church. Genesis took 4 years, Revelation 3.5 I think. Romans should prove to be about 3-4 years from what I can see. LOL I've seen studies that do a good job - while less "intense and deep", but still covering the important points. 10 hours would be about 13 messages for us (pastor preaches about 45 minutes), so I can see that it would work. LOL
     
  14. Andre

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    Are you saying that Romans 8:3 (the text I quoted) does not deal with the atonement. That's an interesting position to take. I think it is rather clearly does deal with the atonement. I will not argue the point for the present. As for the "sin offering" translation, I believe it is indeed the correct translation. Here is Romans 8:3 in 3 different translations (NIV,NASB, Youngs):

    For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man

    For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh

    3for what the law was not able to do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, His own Son having sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, did condemn the sin in the flesh

    Do you not think these verses deal with the fundamentals of what happened at the cross?
     
  15. Andre

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    These texts are entirely consistent with the position I am advancing, although I acknowledge that they are also consistent with the position I infer you as holding. This is not surprising - a given text can indeed work with different interpretations. However, I think that Romans 8:3 works in favour of the position that sin is condemned on the cross, not Jesus.

    Let me try to explain. With respect to Galation 3:10, I can coherently claim that Jesus is indeed "cursed" in the sense of being smitten or damaged - yet not specifically punished. Look at how the word "cursed" is used to describe how nature is damaged by the act of Adam in Genesis 3:

    Cursed is the ground because of you;

    Is the ground "punished"? I doubt it. I think that the word "cursed" here in Genesis 3 is used in a "damaged" or "smitten" sense. And I can make the same claim about Galatians 3:13 - that text does not specifically require us to see Jesus as target of condemnation. It is sin that is the target, it is sin that God condemns at calvary, not Jesus, except, of course, in the sense that Jesus dies as sin is condemned.

    Parallel arguments for the other texts. The important point is that none of these texts require us to see Jesus as specifically being the focus or target of God's condemnation. They all work perfectly well with the notion that God "uses" Jesus as a kind of "lure", a place where sin is "tricked" into taking up residence.

    Once "cornered" in Jesus' flesh, it is then condemned. And, sadly, this is such a violent act that Jesus dies in the process. There are other texts which support this view - I will get to them in later posts.

    Let's be clear, lest someone misrepresent me. Jesus still needs to die, and without his death, sin cannot be condemned. So I do not think I am in any sense diminishing the work of the Cross by looking at things this way.
     
  16. Andre

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    My old friend HP (I recall some good battle involving HP, DHK, and myself) has challenged me on the following assertion:

    I will assume that no one disputes that there is a covenant between God and Israel. I assume the controversy lies in the assertion that the goal of the covenant is to reverse the Adam sin problem.

    While I indeed believe this to be the case, it is not easy to argue in brief form. One cannot point to "this verse or that verse" for a concise statement of this.

    The inauguration of the covenant is described in Genesis 15:

    On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,
    To your descendants I have given this land,
    From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates


    My assertion is that, despite initial appearances, the covenant has a much deeper significance than giving the Jews the land of Palestine.

    In later chapters, the content of the covenant is futher filled in:

    Abram (A)fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,
    4"As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you,
    And you will be the father of a (B)multitude of nations.
    5"No longer shall your name be called [a]Abram,

    But (C)your name shall be [b]Abraham;
    For (D)I have made you the father of a multitude of nations


    The LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham (O)what I am about to do,
    18since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?

    Part of the covenant is that Israel's history will somehow work out so that the nations will be blessed.

    How could Israel possibly be a blessing for the world? In order to keep posts short, I will close now and, in a later post, take up this theme and connect it to Romans and Paul's ideas about the covenant.
     
  17. Andre

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    How does Paul see the covenant? We know that one of the covenant promises is that "the nations" will be blessed through Israel. But what possible forms could this take?

    Probably the most commonly held view among the Jews themselves was that it would be through showing how super it is to live under Torah that she would bless then nations.

    What does Paul think about this? Does he see this as possible?

    What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? 2Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.
    3What if some did not have faith? Will their lack of faith nullify God's faithfulness? 4Not at all!

    Already we have a hint that Paul does not see the Jews as being faithful in carrying out Torah. But he then goes on to clearly assert that the Jew is in as bad a state as everybody else:

    What shall we conclude then? Are we {***that is, the Jews of course}any better[b]? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10As it is written:
    "There is no one righteous, not even one;
    11there is no one who understands,
    no one who seeks God.
    12All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one."[c]

    Paul clearly rules out faithful obedience to the Torah or, more generally, "righteous living" as the means by which the nations will be blessed by Israel as the covenant promises. But, as per verse 3 above, Paul stresses that God will be true to his covenant.

    Romans 1 to 4 is all about the covenant (I can make this case if necessary). So, in Romans 3:3, Paul is not talking about a vague and non-specific faithfulness on the part of God - he is talking about his faithfulness to the covenant. That this is so is underscored by his focus on the Jews as per verses 1 and 2.

    So if the blessing of the nations cannot consist in the Jews setting a "moral example", what does it consist in?

    It consists, as I will further argue in later posts, in the more deep and fundamental task of Israel being involved in solving the sin curse brought down on mankind by Adam.


     
  18. swaimj

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    First, I was incorrect. I think the translation "for a sin offering" is OK and I think this does deal with the atonement.

    I question what you mean when you say that sin was "tricked" into taking up residence in Jesus. Jesus was without sin and sin has never at any time resided in him.
     
  19. Heavenly Pilgrim

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    Ro 3:3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?




    HP: I do nor agree in the least with your stated conclusion. There has been faith within the nation of the Jews. There has been an untold treasure of truth lived in the lives of many of the OT saints and even in some of the Jews of the NT prior to the birth of Christ. Where would morality be today apart from God’s torch bearers the Jews?? The Jews have without question passed on a moral example, regardless of the excess or lack of obedience by some or many. They have been the torch bearers of moral truth to the nations in spite of their failures and or their additions to God’s commandments that was not authorized by God. What on earth are you talking about?
     
    #19 Heavenly Pilgrim, Jul 17, 2008
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2008
  20. Andre

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    I will explain in future posts what I means by sin being "tricked" into the flesh of Jesus.

    Is there not some text which says something like "Jesus 'became' sin on our account"? Either way, if you take Romans 8:3 at "face value" it certainly seems to say that sin was indeed "in his flesh" at the moment at Calvary where sin was condemned:

    For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in sinful man

    Do you not see how this text, at least as an isolated item, strongly suggests that, in some sense, sin was integrated into the person of Jesus on the Cross.

    I am interested to know - what texts will you put forward in defence of your claim that sin never resided in Him?
     

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