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86 Responses

  1. Dread says:

    It will be interesting to see what Russell Moore will mean for Christianity Today. Wikipedia chronicles Moore as an inerrantist, calvinist, complementarian who believes in a literal hell. I wonder if his escape from the SBC bureaucracy will reveal changes in those and other more conservative positions. His last days at SBC indicates evolution.

    None of those represent my own views so change is not a seminal concern as I write.

    Hopefully he can revive the magazine, which like most evangelical entities hs waned in influence.

  2. Michael says:

    He will fail because he is a reasonable and reasoned man.

    The public square has no place for such anymore…

  3. Dread says:


    Reasonableness in today’s environment went out when CT hired a middle-aged, white, protestant, ableist, straight, cisgendered male. Sorry if II missed anyone’s favorite intersectional concerns. His every word must be self-renunciation if he is to survive that realm. The church is lagging behind so he has a minute yet.

    The public square is misshapen.

  4. Michael says:


    There is a fringe that will respond that way.
    His bigger problem will be that his fellow middle-aged, white, protestant, ableist, straight, cisgendered males will demand he sing the song of their people and both sides will reject him…moderation is no longer allowed…

  5. Officerhoppy says:

    “ moderation is no longer allowed…”

    Ain’t that the truth…In politics or in church

  6. Dread says:

    Even the census bureau is untrustworthy – these ‘mistakes’ skew government

  7. The New Victor says:

    Sans Utah and Illinois, that tilts red states underreporting. At the end of the day, does it matter much?

  8. Officerhoppy says:

    Just realized something. Probably elementary to most but trying to understand God apart from Jesus will drive you to insanity. I know—I’ve tried

  9. Officerhoppy says:

    But it needs to be the Jesus of the Bible not one’s on imagination—imo

  10. Michael says:


    You’ve made this distinction between the Jesus of the Bible and one of imagination many times.
    I’m having a hard time identifying what makes the distinction….what is this imaginary Jesus?

  11. Michael says:

    The Buechner article Duane linked is gold…

  12. Officerhoppy says:

    Fair question.
    Maybe it would be better for me to refer to him as the Jesus of fiction vs the Jesus of history

    I’ll do my best to explain

    For starters we American believers think Jesus looked like and thought like our western values. He was a middle eastern biological male who didn’t look like a surfer and probably didn’t have blue eyes.

    We was a loving merciful man but one who honored and obeyed god. He didn’t place love over judgment. Both were on the same plane and of equal value. He was equally concerned with both and both met together on the cross.

    Jesus was neither conservative nor democrat politically. He taught aspects of each view.

    People Think Christianity is Just ‘Jesus and Me’. But while we are called to be disciples of Jesus, we become disciples with one another, learning how to love God and each other as we go.

    That following Jesus means I will be happy all the time and like magic I’ll never experience pain or suffering, and my problems disappear. I don’t think Jesus ever taught that

    That Jesus has no room for doubt. Many believe doubt is a sin. That’s wrong. Unbelief may be a sin but not doubt. All of God great men or women doubted.

    I could come up with more but i think you catch my meaning. Feel free to add to the list or challenge any one on mine

    There are more but

  13. Michael says:

    “He didn’t place love over judgment.”

    You just missed the whole point of the Incarnation…

  14. Michael says:

    You reject the common American evangelical view of Christ.
    I get that.
    So do I.
    The real question is who do you think He really is…

  15. Officerhoppy says:

    Don’t love and judgment meet equally on the cross? That’s how I’ve always seen it. Judgment was poured on Christ in our place. But I’ve seen mercy and judgment being equal with judgment being dealt with in Jesus and thru him mercy, forgiveness and love freely dispensed to all who desire them.

  16. Michael says:


    That places all the emphasis on one aspect of the atonement at the expense of so much more.
    In any case, love trumped judgment…and always will…at least the version of judgment common to evangelicalism.

  17. Officerhoppy says:

    Thanks Michael—would it be fair in your mind to say that love “triumphed” over judgment rather than love “trumped” judgment?

    Isn’t He the source of both?

  18. Officerhoppy says:

    Maybe we’re saying the same thing

  19. Michael says:


    We’re operating out of different biblical narratives.
    For me, the Bible is about Gods plan of restoring and redeeming all things through Jesus Christ.
    That initiative was purely out of love and love is the primary attribute of God.

    Evangelicalism has a narrow focus on personal salvation that is actually one island in a vast ocean of Gods renewal plan.

  20. bob1 says:

    The Buechner piece is indeed a gem!

  21. Josh says:

    What would be the indication that R. Moore would shy away from any of his conservative theological leanings?

    Because he was against Trump and wanted to help sex abuse survivors in the SBC? Those were his two sins in the SBC. There was never a theological argument against him…but ohhhh, people hated him for those two things.

    In truth, he will fail at CT, because he is taking over as Editor-in-Chief of a MAGAZINE. Its a dead medium. There is no long-term way forward.

  22. Dread says:

    Josh, if people hated Moore at the SBC I know little of it. I do believe his last years in the SBC indicated an evolution from some of those 4 positions wiki noted and from which I too have modified.

    Magazines are definitely obsolete but CT has engaged the change with digital and podcast… I still hope he succeeds. CT is not the bastion of evangelicalism that it was in the beginning but rivers flow.

  23. Josh says:

    There was arguments from the floor to fire him for several years at the SBC.

  24. Dread says:

    The atonement

    Evangelicalism still relates basically to substitutionary atonement based upon the wrath/love dichotomy brought forth by 19th century fundamentalist rationalism. It is easy too understand and state and relate to others and then along comes a generation that caricatures it. “So to you God is a cosmic child abuser who finds pleasure in torture?” It shocks us to read their scornful cartoonish rehash. But it makes us think … it does have as Dr Wright tells us a paganistic hint. So we must work harder to explain.

    God IS love but God is never said to BE wrath. God’s judgement against sin need not be juxtaposed in such a way. God judged sin and determined to put it away. He did so by condemning sin in the flesh of Jesus who came in the likeness of sinful flesh for such a purpose.

    But Jesus did not satisfy God’s wrath, rather Jesus satisfied God’s holy name by his obedience unto death. Even as Adam disobeyed bringing condemnation Jesus became the one who willingly obeyed and offered himself in our behalf. His sacrifice was not to be the object of wrath but to be the willing servant. “A body thou hast prepared for me” He 10:5. It’s predetermination is hinted in the phrase “lamb slain before the foundations of the world.” He does not come as a brow beaten boy but as a son to whom the father has given all things.

    His death did three unmistakable things. 1) Hallowed the Father in perfect obedience 2) Destroyed the powers by entering into the darkness and overcoming it. As proclaimed in his three hours of dark silence upon the cross emerging triumphant with his “it is finished” pronouncement. He destroyed the darkness do not forget it. and 3) His death opened the way for a new humanity not by inspiring us to rise to his glory but by giving his life TO us as well as FOR us. An act that a is crowned by the Pentecostal outpouring.

    Enough for now.

  25. Michael says:


    Not bad at all… 🙂

  26. Officerhoppy says:

    Just a question—why would God send a son to die if not to receive the substitutionary wrath and death? What is propitiation in your theology.

    Not challenging. Inquiring.

  27. Duane Arnold says:

    So that Christ could participate fully in humanity… even death.

    “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

  28. Dread says:


    He would send his son to die to rescue us. We are repeatedly told that his love motivated it.

    Propitiation means atonement. In the english dictionary it means to appease which can carry the idea of punishment. Which is where the use of wrath might lie in your thinking.

    It can also mean to satisfy or satisfaction. Therefore, I note to you that Jesus satisfied the righteous requirement of the law. He honored the father in complete obedience. The book of Hebrews is using Ps 40 specifically telling us that God took no pleasure in their sacrifices but contrasting it with the pleasure he has in the obedient servant who, as the law prescribed, offered his life even when his service requirement was finished. He is the bondservant…. the apostles understood this and noted that they too were the bondservants of the LORD.

    God’s desires are satisfied by the obedience of the son in the face of even the cross where the innocent suffered as if he was guilty but he was not and therefore the unjust act of the principalities and powers is turned on its head. In one act; “not my will but yours” (drinking the Passover cup) Jesus satisfied the Father’s holiness (in obedience) and drew the powers of darkness to their own doom, where darkness had its hour. Lk 22:52

    I tell my church – well wherever I preach- He gave himself for us to give himself to us – He gives himself to us to live his life through us. “nevertheless I live – not I but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faithfulness of the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me”

    I hope I can learn to express it better but this is my effort.

    Duane does more with less words but that’s my answer.

  29. Michael says:

    There is some real good theology here all of a sudden…

    “So that Christ could participate fully in humanity… even death.’
    Why did my traditions before Anglicanism out such little weight on the Incarnation?

    Such a loss of years…

  30. Officerhoppy says:

    To participate in humanity—even death

    Again, just seeking to understand. If he was to participate fully in humanity, why didn’t he just live a normal life and die like any other human?

    If his death was purely to fully participate in humanity, why was he beaten and humiliated on a cross? Paul seems to place more value to Christ’s suffering than just to participate fully in humanity.

    How do you understand this in 1 Peter “ And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:23-24).


    I’ve been taught that the word propitiation carries the basic idea of appeasement or satisfaction, specifically toward God. It’s a two-part act that involves appeasing the wrath of an offended person and being reconciled to him.

    I always understood atonement as a covering of sin. But did Jesus just cover our sin or totally remove it. I tend to think the latter

    Again, not challenging you guys. I am simply asking questions hoping to learn and understand.


  31. Duane Arnold says:

    Participation is not limited to death. It also involves sacrificial suffering, resulting in self sacrificial love and obedience. Indeed, it is the model of the Christian life. As to the death of Christ, multiple elements may be seen such as sacrifice, reconciliation, and as I said above, participation. These are multiple parts of the whole.

  32. Josh says:

    The problem with getting too dep in the woods on any of the theories is that they all have a fatal flaw. You get familiar with one system, then learn the flaw, so you go all in on a system that solves that flaw…but it leaves other areas exposed.

  33. pstrmike says:

    thanks Duane. It’s not either/or, but the multiple elements involved in the Incarnation.

    agreed, Josh. Where this becomes problematic is that people hold out a verse or two or three, and expect it to be the trump card that defends their system, and defeats all others. That’s black or white, splitting type of thinking.

  34. Officerhoppy says:

    That’s been my experience. Drives me nuts!

  35. Dread says:

    In this discussion only substitutionary atonement has been proposed as a single explanation.

    In the Cross Christ brought forth multiple impacts – toward the Father toward the dark powers and toward fallen humanity.

    His death definitely defies a single theory.

  36. Officerhoppy says:

    I agree with that. But i don’t know if Duane, you and others necessarily believe in penal substitution. Sound more along the lines of Christus Victor.

    That’s not an accusation but rather an observation.

    Unfortunately, I am having a difficult time shedding my evangelical upbringing. I am not grasping some of the concepts expressed here. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Probably best to just let “sleeping dogs lie” as they say. I’ll challenge my thinking within the context and boundaries of what has been termed “evangelicalism”. Though i don’t think either theologically or politically, i fit the traditional mold.

    That’s the best I can do—i guess

  37. Michael says:


    Who are you reading outside of your tradition?

    I didn’t like N.T. Wright before I actually read him…if that’s a bridge to far there are lots of great works that engage this topic much better than can be done on a blog…

  38. Officerhoppy says:

    I’m reading Rabbi Sacks right now on Spirituality.

    I’ve read some of Wright. I probably need to read more. Thanks for the references

  39. WenatcheeTheHatchet says:

    Two things come to mind about atonement theories:
    1. I think it might have been Emil Brunner who pointed out that our faith should be in that to which atonement theories point, not in any of the atonement theories themselves because they are all incomplete conceptions of what Christ accomplished and we should embrace all of them while being aware they each have problems as theories. I have been happy to embrace every atonement theory as a part of a set of atonement theories. Show me the atonement theory you reject and I’ll show you the thing you think Jesus need to do for you by rejecting said atonement theory. They’re an all-or-none bundle.

    2. As to why Western theologians shifted so steadily away from christus victor, Jeffrey Burton Russell, in his five books on the history of Western thought about the devil and evil, pointed out a trajectory from christus victor through ransom theory to expiation and propitiation through to satisfaction of justice to penal substitutionary atonement that the Western church scholastics pivoted farther away from christus victor and ransom out of a “cold feet” concern that the older theories of atonement gave Satan and evil spiritual forces too much credit or attributed too much power to them. That God the Son saves us from the wrath of God the Father was not necessarily the endpoint anticipated by those who were shifting atonement theories away from Jesus was the bait on the hook as a human so Satan didn’t see the divine nature of Christ concept that Luther, for instance, was willing to endorse.

  40. Dread says:


    Are we better fathers than God? Do your children have to appease your wrath to find your love? No. Penal substitution is not without insight into the severity of sin but it does seem to miss something of the love of God. Christ did not secure God’s love he demonstrated it. We have a God who will spare nothing to bring us home. We have a God who will bear any suffering to secure us safely in the fold.

    “Five bleeding wounds he bore received on Calvary they pour effectual prayers… they strongly plead for me. Forgive him oh forgive they cry nor let that ransomed sinner die.”

    “I do not know or understand what God hath willed what God hath planned I only know at his right hand stands one who is my savior.”

    The poets know that whatever he did it ends in worship and awe.

    I try to grasp it but in the end it grasps me.

  41. Michael says:


    ” I have been happy to embrace every atonement theory as a part of a set of atonement theories. ”

    Well said…

  42. Michael says:


    I’ll say the amen…

  43. Dread says:

    I am so glad our conversations have turned so often to the cross and the mystery of it and the majesty of it.

    I have been desperate for grace and a place to hide and rest.

    There is more ahead more to discover more to proclaim but in the end it will lead us to worship and wonder, to santification not to sanctimonious certainty.

    We cannot trace his steps his ways are past finding out but we can find him. He is able to be found and none who find him boast of their pursuit.

  44. Michael says:


    “I am so glad our conversations have turned so often to the cross and the mystery of it and the majesty of it.”

    As am I…this builds us up and away from the clamor…

  45. Dread says:


    Do not grow weary with these conversations for me they are not argument or debate they are testimony … the testimony of Jesus our LORD

  46. Officerhoppy says:

    Again a question not a challenge: in your theology what did Jesus accomplish on the cross? what was the purpose of his suffering? What was is death and resurrection all about?

  47. Dread says:

    Busy day but I will respond. Though it seems to me as if you read what I write with lenses that do not see it. And I say that with warm regards.

  48. Duane Arnold says:

    Might I recommend:

    Athanasius, ‘On the Incarnation’

    Anselm, ‘Cur Deus Homo’

    Gustaf Aulen, ‘Christus Victor’

    As I used to say to my students, “read and discuss”…

  49. Officerhoppy says:

    Gustaf Aulen a few years back. Didn’t agree with him

  50. Michael says:


    What did you disagree with in Aulen?
    Disagree completely, or with a particular point?

  51. Michael says:

    The primary purpose of the death and resurrection of Jesus was the culmination of Him reconciling the world to Himself…and all that entails will not be fully understood until He comes.

  52. Duane Arnold says:

    “Christ came down from heaven because no power other than that of God Himself was able to accomplish the work that was to be done. Incarnation and atoning work are thus set in the closest possible relation to one another; both belong to one scheme.”
    ― Gustaf Aulén, Christus Victor

  53. Xenia says:

    A monk gave us this illustration about the purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection. He told us:

    All humanity is placed on the conveyor belt of life, so to speak, from the moment we are born. This conveyor belt leads inexorably to a giant maw called Death, which grinds us all up. If we could live a perfectly sinless life, the Grinder couldn’t kill us, but we cannot be perfect, so we all die. But Jesus came and led a perfect life on our behalf. Being human, He was also riding on the conveyor belt towards the Death Grinder but He was like a Diamond, and when He went through, He broke the Grinder. Satan wasn’t expecting this. He was defeated. We say Christ “trampled down Death by death.”

    After He died, He descended into Hades and rescued all the Old Testament righteous. We believed John the Baptist was allowed to die first so he could go do a little preliminary preaching. We say “and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” Christ’s resurrection was the proof the pudding.

    This is the main Pascha (Easter) hymn:

    Christ is risen from the dead,
    Trampling down death by death!
    And upon those in the tombs
    Bestowing life!

    We don’t see Christ as a victim but as a super-hero.

  54. Officerhoppy says:

    This is what I didn’t agree with “ the idea of “ransom” should not be seen in terms (as Anselm did) of a business transaction, but more in the terms of a rescue or liberation of humanity from the slavery, and sickness, of sin.

    I don’t mean this as a snarky statement but the Army capitalized on this statement. Which is “Be all you can be, join the Army”

    I interpret Aulen as saying “Be all you can be bea Christian” Jesus sets you free to be all you can be.

    It seems to me that Jesus went thru all that he did for more than that.

  55. Michael says:


    I’m not understanding the objection.
    My understanding of Aulen was pretty much captured in the quote Duane posted…which is my base level understanding of the atonement…and the Incarnation.

  56. Chris Long says:

    Ok, I’m going to do something I rarely do and jump in the fray on this one. 🙂 Mainly because I really want to understand more of what Dread, Michael, and Duane are positing. Please don’t read any of the below as wanting to attack but simply as trying to understand where you are coming from.

    First some backdrop – I agree that much of evangelicalism (and I would say Christianity at large) has put far too narrow a scope on what transpired at the cross and has often missed the “big picture” of the entire redemption story. I also agree that God is love and motivated by love and loves all and wants all with Him (though I reject the idea that that means that all WILL be with Him – i.e. Universalism).

    With that said, I see all sorts of wrath/negative things/whatever you want to call it poured out on unbelieving humanity in Revelation, and I also see all sorts of things in the OT (outside of Christ) as punishment for sin.

    What I am reading seems to downplay that Christ took our punishment for sin, but it was merely just about Christ’s obedience to the Father? Then why did He have to be a spotless lamb free of sin? Just so He could be perfectly obedient? Or was it also so He could be the acceptable sacrifice (which all the OT sacrifices pointed to) as payment on our behalf where through His shedding of blood and death we could be made alive?

    I don’t see a contradiction in punishment for sin with God’s nature of love, but it seems like maybe some of you do?

    I do reject the idea of God as a harsh God just waiting to whack people over the head (which is how much of Christianity tends to at least somewhat see Him), but I also acknowledge that outside of Christ’s substitution for humanity which I’ve made personal for myself through faith in receiving God’s gracious gift, that I would have no standing and would be fully deserving of sin’s penalty and God would be just to give me what I deserve. I don’t really see a contradiction there.

    Am I missing something you are trying to say?

  57. Michael says:

    I do not not deny the element of substitution in the atonement.

    I think, however, that all of the aspects of the work of Christ must be seen through the lens of Trinitarian love, not wrath.

    “God loves us and wants to spare us the burden of our sin, but Christ suffers because of it!? Is this fair? By “putting forward” the Son, as the apostle Paul wrote [Romans 3:25], isn’t the Father abusing the Son? Doesn’t substitution constitute another wrongdoing, this time against the innocent Christ? How can one wrongdoing heal another? Doesn’t Christ’s death on our behalf compound sins rather than take them away?

    The Father would be abusing the Son and committing divine wrongdoing – rather than taking away human wrongdoing in Christ were a third party, beyond God who was wronged and humanity who wronged God. But he isn’t He stands firmly on the divine side of the forgiving God, not between the forgiving God and forgiven humanity. “In Christ,” wrote the apostle Paul, “God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses unto them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Not: Christ was reconciling an angry God to a sinful world. Not: Christ was reconciling a sinful world to a loving God. Rather: God in Christ was “reconciling the world to himself”.

    What happened then when God “made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)? The answer is simple: God placed human sin upon God! One God placed human sin upon another God? No, there are not two Gods. The God who is One beyond numbering and yet mysteriously Three reconciled us by shouldering our sin in the person of Christ who is one of the Three. That’s the mystery of human redemption made possible by the mystery of God’s Trinity: The One who was offended bears the burden of the offense.”


  58. Officerhoppy says:

    Thanks for your comment. I am understanding your position a little clearer now.

    FYI—it was the understanding that Jesus died for my sins that brought me to Christ. That thru Him I could be in a relationship with God. That was a ver liberating concept to me.

    I later learned that not only did He set me free from the penalty of sin that he also released me from the dominance of sin. That too was liberating.

    In my own personal journey I have always sought, like you, to worship and serve the true Jesus of history and the Bible and not one of my own making.

    On PhP I had been introduced to another aspect of God that intrigues me. In one way I though it contended or competed with my already held and studied belief. But it has opened up a new avenue of thinking and experiencing Him.

    So rather that see these new ideas as competing, I view them as complimentary.

    After much thought, this is where I am landing—at least for now! 🙂

  59. Chris Long says:

    Thank you Michael. Though I find what you posted to lead me to many more questions. Volf talks of God not as abuser which I would agree with, but why do we even use these types of terms in relation to God who Himself is the definer of what is right and what is not. What does one do with Isaiah 53:10 where we are told that it was God’s will (or “pleased God” in the KJV) to crush or bruise Jesus? The answer of course which it looks like Volf even was getting to is that “The One who was offended bears the burden of the offense” which lines up with Isaiah 53:12 where it says “he bore the sin of many”. So it was God’s will that Jesus suffer on the cross not because the Father is an abuser to the Son, but because Jesus was going to bear all of our sin so there would be no more barrier of sin between us. Thus it pleased the Father for Jesus to be bruised not because he’s a sadomasochist wanting to hurt His son but out love where He himself bore the brunt of our sin in Jesus – and sin is ugly and hurtful. The whole talk of some even talking about God in terms of abuser it seems to me completely misses the point. Isaiah 53 goes on to say in vs 12 that Jesus “makes intercession for the transgressors.” I see no distinction in Volf saying that it was NOT “Christ was reconciling a sinful world to a loving God.” but rather “God in Christ was ‘reconciling the world to himself’.” If God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself, do we not agree that the world was sinful and that God is loving? So aren’t these the exact same thing? God in Christ reconciled a sinful world to a loving God (to himself). I see no distinction and am unclear why Volf draws one. Maybe I’m missing something.

    On another note, which may open a can of worms, but which I just can’t help but bring up given this whole discussion. The whole fact that God is love and doesn’t want people to suffer I find in direct contradiction to a view I read often on this site of how God wants us to suffer for some “mysterious” reason or to make us holy or perfect us or whatever… If my memory is correct I do believe I’ve read here about you believe believers are going to go through the tribulation. You also basically just alluded the other day that you find a rapture position irrational, but the whole rapture position is predicated on the fact that God is love and Jesus fully took our sin and thus we are not destined for the wrath to be poured out on an unbelieving world as showcased in Revelation. It’s also the same view that underlines dispensational theology which I’ve also seen attacked many times on this site, but which at least on some level makes total sense to me. The view that we are in the age of grace right now where all may receive the gift provided in Jesus, and that one day this age will end and the next will begin (which I believe corresponds with the rapture of the Church). Anyway, I just find it ironic. I would expect to find people espousing the types of things I am seeing here today also matching with those that believe in a rapture and the practical living of a victorious Christian life free of thinking God is maybe giving them trials or troubles for some mysterious reason to perfect them or judging nations/people right now with the judgement of God, all of which are things I’ve read for years in various forms on this site.

    Here’s another wrench: If we really believe that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (see 2 Cor 5:19a) and that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”, then why do believers even talk of God judging nations or people for the various sins that they do (i.e. murder, sexual sins, etc)? If Jesus has fully paid for sin and taken that sin upon Himself, then why do we go around talking about how God is judging America for her sins? etc. It seems to me the only sin that remains for people is of unbelief – that not of choosing to take the payment for sin that has been made on our behalf (and thus rejecting the Holy Spirit) where Jesus Himself bore the sins of the world.

  60. Chris Long says:

    * I see I forgot the reference to the verse “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” – it’s 1 John 2:2

  61. Michael says:

    “The whole fact that God is love and doesn’t want people to suffer I find in direct contradiction to a view I read often on this site of how God wants us to suffer for some “mysterious” reason or to make us holy or perfect us or whatever…’

    God is love and suffering in a fallen world is still somehow part of the purpose.
    I do not even pretend to understand it.
    The NT tells us over and over and over again that that suffering and sacrificial love are the marks of people who follow Jesus.
    You have never and will never hear me speak of God judging the nation in this age…
    The victorious Christian life is simply finishing the race…

  62. Chris Long says:

    Thanks Michael. While I disagree with your conclusions there, that isn’t new and I appreciate you laying it out there. I must have mixed up the judgement thing with other comments I’ve read here. Blessings!

  63. Officerhoppy says:

    “ I think, however, that all of the aspects of the work of Christ must be seen through the lens of Trinitarian love, not wrath.”

    I get that

  64. Dread says:

    Again a question not a challenge: in your theology what did Jesus accomplish on the cross? What was the purpose of his suffering? What was is death and resurrection all about?

    MUCH as already outlined elsewhere: He honored the Father by “obedience even unto death on the cross” Ph 2:8 — He “reconciled us to God in one body” Ep 2:16 — He made “peace through the blood of his cross” Co 1:20 He cancelled our debt “nailing it to the cross.” Co 2:14 (disarming the powers v 15)

    Just a quick thought. Punishment is the word people seem to be seeking. I don’t think his death is framed using that particular word in scripture. The thought has to be parsed from other statements. We would do well to avoid describing things in terms not used by the text. I don’t think a text says plainly that he died as a punishment for our sin. Most of this concept is wrapped up in our obsession that Jesus is the reason we can “go to heaven” when we die which is also an expression not found in scripture.

    He died as the passover lamb, I Co 5:7 and it was of course, during the Passover. The Passover sacrifice had no clear reference to the sins of the people. Passover was about the defeat of the dark powers of Egypt.

    The first reference to his death was Ge 3:15 where the injury of the seed of the woman would result in the destruction of the serpent. Thus we are looking for one who can defeat the evil one.

    I have repeatedly stated that Jesus – completed the Passover when he announced “It is finished” having come through the 3 hours of darkness (an allusion to the 3 days of darkeness in Egypt, I think) and thus what the cross did was to defeat the dark powers by his own holy obedient death.


    I believe you said you rejected the idea of “ransom” as sounding like a business transaction but the death of Christ as a punishment (penal) is entirely transactional.

    Jesus owes nothing to the powers nor does the scripture indicate he was punished for us. It reads more as if he went into the pangs of death because that is where we were. He suffered to rescue us from what our sins have done.

    I would urge you to read Dr Wright on The Day the Revolution began as he takes great pains to examine the punishment motif.

    I would add that the amazing writings of P T Forsyth would help a great deal.

  65. Nonnie says:

    In my little neighbourhood Bible study we are going through the Lord’s Prayers and talked about “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done” and how we don’t see a lot of God’s will being done here on earth. I was reminded of a sermon I heard years ago about about the kingdom and how we truly ARE living in the Kingdom…..”already…but not yet.” That quote has answered so many questions/mysteries for me. Already….not yet. And with that, I can rest in our Father’s love.

  66. Officerhoppy says:

    Thanks Dread
    For clarification, my friend, I think I said that Christ’s action on the cross was transactional.

  67. Dread says:

    I read it several times overlooking the “quotation marks” it did seem strange that you rejected that. Thus I noted it….errantly.


  68. Officerhoppy says:

    You ‘da man!

  69. Josh says:

    Since I am allowing myself to ask all questions and follow the truth wherever it leads, I will throw these thoughts out there. I understand that even the mention of these questions is heresy to some, and I’m fine with that. Pray for my soul, I guess.

    So, if God is Sovereign, if He is in control the way we’ve always been taught that He is in control, then the crucifixion is superfluous.

    Every atonement theory that begins with sovereignty goes like this: God created people. God caused (actively or passively) them to go bad. God came and died to get them back on track. Doesn’t make sense.

    The only way the crucifixion makes sense is that maybe God is not in control the way we’ve always thought. Maybe things got really out of hand and he had to take the most drastic measures to fix things.

    I know that is taking away one of God’s intrinsic traits, but I don’t see another way to make sense of it.

  70. Michael says:


    I think the questions are important…I think it’s also important to accept that we won’t find satisfactory answers to most of the really good ones.

    We create systematic theologies to create certainty about what we believe, so we won’t feel so damn scared when it looks like the sovereign God is different than we want to imagine.

    I was wondering this morning how much more human suffering has to happen before He pulls the plug on the experiment…

  71. Dread says:


    Let’s say you are correct.


    Make God in the image you perceive to make sense.

  72. Josh says:

    Dread – I don’t understand your comment.

  73. Josh says:

    Like I can’t tell if you are being flippant like “Make up whatever god you want, you heretic.”

    Or if you are suggesting an exercise, “What would a god that made sense to you look like?”

    Care to expand?

  74. pstrmike says:

    “Make God in the image you perceive to make sense.”

    Isn’t that what we all end up doing? I think we do…… or we accept someone else’s image for us.

    I spent some time years ago with a Benedictine monk for the purpose of research on my dissertation. We talked about suffering and then I pressed him more to talk about his views on theodicy, a topic that is linked to the question of God’s sovereignty. He went into a small panic and said, “don’t talk about these things!” He went on to tell me a story about a nun and her strong reaction she had when asked the same question. We talked more about the idea of forbidden knowledge, a concept that was understood in ancient classical literature. It may be possible that some things are just too far beyond us and it may serve us better to leave alone. Maybe, maybe not. It is a question that I am working through as recognize that all theological systems of theology have their achilles heals and are essentially theological theories that have been constructed over time. The ancients definitely believed this.

    I’ve haven’t spent much time with Benedictine works outside of The Rule, but what I have found in reading some of their works and also my time with the monk was that they focused on practical Christian living rather than attempting to resolve the unresolvable.

    Moderns do not think this way, they want answers and attempt to bring a sense of certainty into their theology. Perhaps that is why some of the writings of Eastern Orthodoxy, the Desert Fathers and Mothers, and the Society of Friends sound so incomplete to many modern readers.

    I’m reminded that Benedict wrote The Rule for monks, of which not all could read or write—but they could memorize—which they were required to do for the Daily Offices. The monks experience the tension of living a strict ascetic life surrounded by a culture of affluence. It is a tension that never leaves them—at least that how it was expressed to me. To a lesser degree, we live in the tension of pursuing the mysteries of the faith (which we all do through various means), and a modernist church culture that grew up on “Evidence That Demands a Veridict” and “The Case for Christ.”

  75. Michael says:


    That was excellent…very insightful and helpful, I think.

  76. Josh says:

    Agreed. Those were good thoughts.

  77. Dread says:


    I was just asking what you really think.

  78. Josh says:

    Oh, I don’t know. These are just questions that are confusing me right now.

  79. Duane Arnold says:

    “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
    ― Rainer Maria Rilke

    This bit of advice has been my guide in research and theology for more years than I wish to think. I like definitive answers as much as the next person, but I realize that the living of the questions is the real experience of life. I can put forward theological propositions, but real theology takes place, at least for me, in morning and evening prayer and in the celebration of the Eucharist. Now, I realize in saying this that both the experience of prayer as well as that of the Eucharist fall outside of neat definitions. Even here, at the heart of my faith, I am forced to live the questions until I live myself into the answers. In these matters we truly look through a glass darkly…

  80. Josh says:

    That’s a wise quote, Duane. Thanks.

    I’ve been living by this one lately:

    Let it break you; let it help you lay down what you held on to.
    – The Lone Bellow

  81. Chris Long says:

    Dread, I appreciate your comments/questions – you are causing me to think through some things deeper which is never a bad thing.

    Michael, said “I think it’s also important to accept that we won’t find satisfactory answers to most of the really good ones.” I don’t accept that. And I don’t want to. And actually the really big questions I have had in dealing with much pain and sickness and loss, I’ve actually come to some pretty satisfying answers to as I believe God has shown me things but I had to unlearn a lot of what I’d been taught about things such as God’s sovereignty that quite bluntly I think have been taught wrong over and over again by the Church for a very long time. Ultimately many of the things God showed me which took me quite a process of wrestling with the Spirit and studying the Word I penned down in my book “Where’s the Abundant Life?” (I titled it this because this was the question that I myself asked for years when I looked around at both my life and the life of most Christians) and chapter 1 in that book is titled “The Disconnect” precisely because of this observable disconnect.. I don’t accept that the “Abundant Life” Jesus died for me to have is just hobbling Home to Heaven where I’ll finally understand but meanwhile my lot is just to suffer and try to get other people to join me on a quest to suffer but not understand God. I believe God is far more knowable than this doctrine of “God’s just so mysterious, who can know His ways” allows for and I already can definitively say that I believe I know God in a much fuller way than I did 11ish years ago when I started on this process with some of the revelation I received and studied out. Not that there’s not still mystery and I’m of course not claiming I know everything about God. I totally understand why people reach the place of “just live with the mystery” – and while of course it is true that to some degree there will always be some mystery and I don’t disagree with that, I think that can easily become a “cop out” to just satisfy ourselves so we don’t go crazy (or leave the faith) when we don’t understand. I’m not directing that at any one person – that’s been me too – and I think is many believers.

  82. Dread says:

    It is odd that worldview would be lampooned on a thread where the whole concern is the BIG questions; theodicy, eschatology, ontology, teleology, order/chaos, redemption.

    They’ve not all been directly articulated but they are what we’re considering.

    The big focus has been atonement which for me is actually the theodicy question. There is no clear answer in scripture to the why questions. But there is a screaming Christological metanarrative as to WHAT God has done about the problem. Jesus is what he has done. Our kerygma is nothing else.

    This reality unites our discussion. Jesus is our one subject. We spend all of our efforts upon John’s exclamation “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”

    Whether we announce it in the formulaic transactional theories or in the more mystery based admissions that we don’t know how but what he did. Nevertheless we are united that Jesus alone has conquered.

    That’s worldview.

  83. Josh says:

    “But there is a screaming Christological metanarrative as to WHAT God has done about the problem. ”

    Yes, agreed. Well said.

    As to Theodicy – Isn’t every theological system really attempting to sole the Problem of Evil? Every question kind of starts there, right?

  84. Dread says:


    The aching awareness that things are not right and somehow it is beyond our reach to make it so.

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