I have been reading various works on the atonement for the “Work of Christ” seminar that I am currently enrolled in for school. Many different ideas in regard to the nature of the atonement exist. The one of which I subscribe is Penal Substitutionary Atonement. Yet, in my reading of the other processes of thought on the atonement, one that sticks out to me I am referring to as a liberal view of atonement.
The argumentation against Penal Substitutionary Atonement that sticks out in my mind is held by a number of feminist theologians and it suggests that Jesus’s death on the cross should be viewed as “divine child abuse” (J.C. Brown, “Divine Child Abuse,” Daughters of Sarah 18, no. 3 (1992): 28). This idea paints God out to be a blood thirsty, hateful entity, that poured out wrath on His innocent Son for no reason at all. Many postmoderns would question how anyone could love a God like this?
With this at the forefront of my mind and in my thoughts, I was driving my two daughters to school and my youngest daughter wanted to listen to a song that we sing at church entitle “Jesus, Thank You” (Listen here). The song is about the atonement. A line in the song states, “Your blood has washed away my sin, Jesus thank you. The Father’s wrath completely satisfied, Jesus thank you.” As I listened to this song, I began to think through the words that were being sung. They were words about blood. Listening to the lyrics I began to think that this song is seemingly morbid as a blood sacrifice is being made in order to appease the wrath of God. To an outsider, or non-Christian, this language might cause some problems.
But what the liberal and postmodern theologians are doing is gauging their position based upon their own subjective, modern ideas of who God is and how God should act. Very few times will you encounter a person holding a position such as this enforcing their perspective with the whole counsel of God, or even a small portion of Scripture.
What is being forgotten in the midst of this debate is the holiness of God. Considering the depths of what it took to atone for the sins of God’s people, we cannot look past the holiness of God if we truly desire to understand the atonement. The blood sacrifice is a direct result of the relationship that God’s holiness shares with sin. God’s holiness is, in the most severe sense, opposed to sin. If we keep this at the forefront of our minds, while the Penal Substitutionary Atonement might seem extreme, the holiness of God demanded the sacrifice.
It is possible to spend the next two years posting about the nature of the atonement and what I have put forth in this short essay, but we do not have the time for that. The takeaway from this for all of us is the relationship that we have with God before Christ. Our relationship with God before Christ is marked by wrath. We are by nature enemies of God, children of destruction. Now, because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, we are adopted into His family as His children, coheirs with Christ to an eternal inheritance as Christ stood in our place as our substitute and absorbed the wrath of God for us. “Full atonement can it be, Hallelujah! What a Savior.”