The Meaning of the Cross?
What do you think of the this statement?
“The cross is not what God inflicts upon Christ in order to forgive. The cross is what God endures in Christ as he forgives.”Brian Zahnd
Remarkable, Isn’t it? This rings true for me yet I realize it challenges the way some have interpreted the meaning of the cross. I think this is because many have confused ideas about the meaning of the cross. Many of our ideas are based on assumptions and false teaching and not on a full understanding of how the whole of Scripture reveal and interpret the meaning of Christ’s sacrifice.
Instead of pretending that this confusion about the cross isn’t a theologically widespread pandemic I am going to be as honest as I can about the problem. To the best of my knowledge, a large percentage of Western Christianity for the past 500 years has been infected. Calvin was trained as a lawyer in the 1500’s and at the age of twenty seven invented a particular way of interpreting the cross which has been dubbed penal substitution atonement theory. There are famous preachers today who have large influential ministries who preach Calvin’s ideas about the meaning of the cross.
What is God Like?
What God is like is one of the big questions that are raised when we look at what the cross means and what exactly happened and where the Father was and what his role in the whole affair was.
As mentioned in the previous installment of this conversation with Brian Zahnd, “God is like Jesus.”
Of course to most of you this seems obvious, but this isn’t something I grew up with in the Christian church. In my mind, Jesus was different and separate from the Father.
God the Father seemed like an impossible to please Monster that Jesus came to broker a deal with on behalf of humanity. The idea is that Jesus came to change God’s mind about us – that Jesus came to pay off this angry God with the blood sacrifice that this “God of wrath” demanded. This was the profound lie I absorbed by osmosis growing up in the Western Christian church. In fact this heresy has a name: Penal Substitution Atonement Theory.
Penal Substitution Atonement Theory
Unfortunately this heretical lie is preached by well meaning but confused pastors all over America. Many pastors might even hear the challenge to this heresy and double down with the lie, further entrenching people in confusion and fear. I have seen this happen first hand!
Those within the movement to expose the problems of Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory have been very gentle, kind, and sympathetic to its adherents. C. Baxter Kruger in his thesis God in the Hands of Angry Sinners quotes George MacDonald:
“Good souls many will one day be horrified at the things they now believe of God.”
Others like John Crowder are more blunt. He said in a recent Jesus Trip video:
“There’s a lot of foolishness in that idea that we call penal substitutionary atonement. The idea that God was abandoning or punishing his own Son in order to pay off his anger. That is absolute hogwash and the biggest heresy of the western world. It’s not biblical. The early church never believed the ridiculous idea that Jesus was saving us from God. This idea has nothing to do with the ancient faith of the early church fathers. Most importantly this idea does injustice to the Trinity…”
Below is a more in depth presentation of the topic:
Monster God Debate
Brian and I discuss Penal Substitution and Zahnds role in exposing what John Crowder has, in my opinion, quite rightly dubbed a heresy. He has went head to head with Dr. Michael Brown over this issue in a debate entitled Monster God Debate.
Dr. Michael Brown seems to have built much of his ministry around debates and being the guy who “answers all your questions”. I’m sure he has a great deal of good things to say in general, but, in my opinion, his contribution to the content of this Monster debate, which I’m safe to assume he perpetrated, is not among them.
For more information about this topic please also visit my blog post: Papa With Scars, Theology Behind The Shack.
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