Happy Easter everyone (or Resurrection Sunday if you prefer). I had hoped to publish this yesterday, but it wasn’t quite ready yet. Yesterday we went to our respective churches and celebrated that Jesus is no longer dead and in the grave, but rose again to life (possibly after an annual ritual of candy for breakfast …).
Praise God! That resurrection is our hope and without it we would be hopeless as Paul indicated in 1 Corinthians 15:12-22:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (ESV)
The resurrection was proof that Jesus had conquered death. As he said from the cross, “it was finished.” What was finished? The sacrifice for sins was paid to make a way for peace between God and sinners.
I want to back up a little and tackle something I’ve been hearing about more and more lately relating to atonement. I recently happened to hear someone claim they believe in “non-violent” atonement theory. Without knowing much about the concept, I inferred that it is a rejection of substitutionary atonement (which is my understanding of atonement as laid out in scripture). So I turned to Google to see if my concerns were correct.
They were. Adam Erickson wrote about the “non-violent atonement” at Sojourners in 2015 saying, “The whole premise of penal substitutionary atonement is a lie,” and “God has never atoned for sins through wrathful violence,” and “it was human wrath that hung Jesus on a cross, not God’s.”
This atonement teaching is also connected to the Fransciscan Catholics according to the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC). Writing at CAC about non-violent atonement, Fr. Richard Rohr wrote of the Franciscan John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) and his view of the cross saying, “The image of the cross was to change humanity, not a necessary transaction” and “Duns Scotus concluded that Jesus’ death was not a substitution but a divine epiphany for all to see. Jesus was pure gift. The idea of gift is much more transformative than necessity, payment, or transaction. It shows that God is not violent, but loving. It is we who are violent.”
If the cross was unnecessary and if there had been another way then having Jesus come and live and die such a cruel death would be utterly barbaric.
This explanation of the cross also contradicts countless scriptures that declared it “necessary,” a payment for human sins, and as Jesus taking God’s wrath over sin in our stead (which I would argue is immensely loving and gracious).
Here are just some of verses you would have to ignore, completely redefine or otherwise do semantic contortions with in order to accept it (this is by no means an exhaustive list). I don’t see how you can read the gospels, the book of Romans, Hebrews or several epistles and accept this “non-violent atonement theory.”
1 Peter 2:24 “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.”
Hebrews 9:21-22 “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”
Romans 8:3 “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.”
1 John 2:2 “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”
Hebrews 9:12 “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” (actually, read the whole chapter)
Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”
1 John 1:7 “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”
1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit…”
1 Corinthians 15:3-5 “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
In addition to all of this there is the picture of God’s deliverance and the Messiah to come as illustrated by the God-given ram that “takes” Isaac’s place as the sacrifice on Mt. Carmel and the entire Jewish sacrificial system. But, I think you get the picture.
Like every other doctrine though, the truth is determined the same way, by comparing it to the whole of the Bible. Not just comfortable parts of it.
If you have to reject scripture in order to reinvent theology and make it acceptable to your heart and mind, not only are you are in error, you’ve made yourself god and are putting your soul in peril.
As John Owen once said, “How great is the darkness of men under the new covenant who look or seek for any other way for the pardon of sin except through the blood of Christ.”