The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday: Atonement and the Way of the Cross

Last year, on Good Friday, I put up a post which while overly facile in rejecting penal substitutionary atonement, offered a summary Arthur Lyttleton's view as set out in Lux Mundi. This year, I'd like to offer a short extract from Charles Gore, who, in addition to making the same point that Rick Allen made in critiquing my analysis last year, makes a point along the lines of what I was trying to draw out from Lyttleton:
we need to distinguish the ideas of vicarious sacrifice and vicarious punishment and I think we shall find that we can repudiate the second while we welcome the first. We can do this by appealing to the facts. All that came upon Christ in the way of suffering came simply from His life of obedience and sympathy. He never sought pain, as if to witness pain would please the Father, or taught men to seek pain, except so far as service and self-discipline involve it. All that He suffered came simply out of His obedience to His Father's mission, and of His speaking the truth and rebuking sin; out of His standing stoutly against wickedness in high places, and out of His boundless sympathy with men. This constituted His mission. He rode out because of the word of truth and meekness and righteousness." And as the world was, it brought Him to His death. There is not anything here which suggests any "punishment" devised by the Father for the Son. All that is said of the Father is that He did not interfere to spare His son that He let sin take its course, and show its real nature in this supreme example. The Father, in the divine providence that governs the world, made our sins and the sins which crucified Christ were the normal sins of men light upon Him, in exactly the same sense as all the world over the sins of men are vicariously borne by their victims the sins of parents by their children, of children by their parents, of rulers by their people, and of people by their pastors. The Father simply sent the Son into the world, and under the normal action of its moral laws, and did not interfere.
Belief in Christ (1924) at 296-297.

And why not just a free forgiveness of sin, without reparation? Gore replies:
Is there not an immense difference between the effect upon men's minds of a mere announcement of free forgiveness and the effect upon them of a covenant of free forgiveness bought at so tremendous a price as the death of the Son of God? The reason for the fearful price being paid to win forgiveness seems to be found rightly by St. Paul in the necessity for guarding the revelation of the divine mercy from all associations of easy-going indulgence or indifference to sin. It was guarded by the Sacrifice; and it was God Himself who paid the price.
Id. at 302-303.

So, put another way, for us to grasp the lesson of the Atonement, to embrace the need for us to model ourselves on Christ, and to pick up our crosses and follow Him, we had to both grasp the price of sin, and know that God is with us in our journey, having borne more, for us, then we can bear with for each other. And how better to understand the terrible cruelty of our species--the ultimate tendency of sin--than to see it turned on our liberator?

A hard teaching, but, so seen, one that captures how God's love, in the Incarnation, Resurrection, and Atonement, act together to effect our salvation.


Theodore A. Jones said...

"It is NOT those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who OBEY the law who will be declared righteous." Rom. 2:13
What is the law Paul is talking about?

Anglocat said...

Hello, Theodore, and welcome.

Paul is, as I read him, referring to Torah. Gore in the first volume of his commentary on Romans does a nice job of laying it out; and, although I have a hard copy, the book is available online. Again, thanks for reading, and commenting.

Theodore A. Jones said...

Bad guess. See Rom. 5:20 and Heb. 7:12b