I’m reading a book of essays about the cross – about why the death of Jesus really matters.
If you’re a Christian you’ll have thought, prayed, sung about the cross. If you’re not – (a Christian that is) – you may have never given it a second thought.
I think about it a lot. And because I believe it’s at the heart of what it means to be a Christian, I want to be able to talk about it intelligently and accurately. (As far as that is possible). Because it is SO important a part of Christian faith, it’s important not to get it wrong.
There’s a school of thought that says it something like this. People are sinful. Sin needs punishing. We can’t be in relationship with God because sin has created a barrier between us and God. We deserve to take the punishment, but God has provided another way. Jesus, the sinless one, is punished for our sin. God punished Jesus instead of us. If we accept this, then we can be saved.
It’s what I grew up with, and I accepted it completely. (Although there was always something at the back of my mind that didn’t really like it as a good solution to the problem). The roots of this way of seeing the cross go back a long time, but it was only really expressed as ‘God punished Jesus instead of us’ in the 19th century. Increasingly over the last 10 years or so I’ve changed my view on this. In its pure form, this ‘Penal Substitutionary Atonement’ theory of the cross is based on some pretty dodgy ideas.
1. That God is violent. (Well, you have to be violent to punish someone by crucifying them)
2. That violence can solve things. (Might is right).
3. That broken relationships can only be restored by punishment
There may be more … but I’m going to come back to this, don’t worry.
By the way, leading evangelical and social activist Steve Chalke got himself a lot of hate mail when he called this theory of the cross ‘Cosmic child abuse’
I’m hoping that one of the things I’ll be able to do in the next two months is give this some more careful thought – watch this space.
see here for some more http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/news_syndication/article_050726consumingpassion.shtml