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.