Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Rick responded to this post, saying:

Could you find a better word than "prefer." I know what you mean by it and am not in the least worried. But there are those out there who use the language of preference here in a way that scares me. They speak as if God gave us a grab bag of models and if you don't like this one, try another. (I might not even have a problem with that if they didn't mean, if you don't like this one, insult it, throw it in the garbage heap, and try another.)

Of course, I can clarify, for the sake of those (all 3.4 of my loyal readers!) who might mistake what I meant...

I do not mean prefer as in, at the complete and total expense of the other. Which is to say, I do not hold exclusively to the Christus Victor/Ransom theory of the Atonement (Athanasius) at the expense of the Penal Substitution theory (Anselm). They both have much to tell us.

As much as the "God wouldn't do that to Jesus; that would make God a meany!" crowd wants to complain, we still have to deal with texts like Isa 53:10 which sure make it sound like God played a pretty active role in the death of Jesus. As much as we want to keep God's hands clean in this death of Jesus thing, we can't. Furthermore, saying such a thing makes us do all sorts of mental gymnastics over the Trinity. Any attempt to exonerate God in the death of Christ is sin, for in doing so we attempt to make God in our image.

Furthermore, when we speak of satisfying God's wrath, we need to know what we're talking about. Are we talking about wrath as in Jonathan Edward's God who dangles the sinner over the pit of hell like a spider? Or are we talking about in the sense that -- in our sin -- God does not even know us. A while back, Solarblogger blogged about God's hatred being one of indifference, which (if you think about it) is a hell of a lot scarier than active hatred. I think that thinking applies to God's wrath as well. At least if we are being actively punished, God nevertheless knows that we exist.

Christ "satisfied" that wrath of God by reintroducing us to Him.

I mean prefer as in, I see elements of both models supported by the Scriptures, but the predominant view is one of rescue. Ransom. We do well to remember that in the great messianic passage from Isaiah foretelling the name of Jesus ("His name shall be called..."Isa 9:6), the name "Mighty God" (El Gibbor) is just as well rendered "Heroic God". The God who seeks and finds. The God who sells everything to buy His Pearl. The God who leaves 99 sheep to find one lost one; the God who puts off everything else to find his lost coin. The God who runs to his Son while "he was yet a long way off."

Models are simply that: models. They are not the real thing. They are ways of talking about what happened, constructions invented by fragile human minds to understand just what God did for us on the Cross. As such no model is perfect. In "picking" one to focus on, then , we must recognize that we are privileging an imperfect approximation
posted by Kepler at 11:14 |


At 11/23/2006 05:34:00 PM, Blogger solarblogger

Thanks for the clarification. The naughtiness I've seen by some on this issue bothers me.

Readers should also be alerted to the fact that while models allow us to talk about what happened, certain "theories" are to be found in the text itself. So while I'm comfortable with the models mentioned by Aulén being spoken of as models which are of greater or lesser help, I've heard people speak of the "legal model" in the same fashion, and there I draw the line. There is a lot of legal language in Scripture that we must be willing to swallow whether we like it or not. As to just how far these images can be pressed, that is an open question. And I would hate to see this terminology be taken all by itself. But when we speak of "theories," we need to be clear that a certain amount of theorizing is implicit, if not explicit, in the very text of Scripture. We didn't build it up through Baconian induction.

By the same token, I think there are aspects of Christus Victor that we must hold to because they are stated outright, e.g. Colossians 2:15.

Every point you make about models is good. Just let the reader beware. Others will come along once that is admitted, and try to get much Scriptural teaching regarded as mere models.


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