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Why the emerging church should believe in penal substitution

The doctrine of 'penal substitutionary atonement' remains a major bone of contention between the yapping, excitable Jack Russell of the emerging church and the snarling pit bull of reformed theology. There may be some dispute over the choice of dogs, but the seriousness and persistence of the disagreements is apparent from, for example, the 9Marks Forum and this paragraph from an essay by Albert Mohler in which he quotes from D.A. Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church:

Given the fact that both McLaren and Chalke deny the substitutionary nature of the atonement - indeed, rejecting virtually any notion of penal substitution - Carson sees the ghost of a discredited theological liberalism. 'I have to say, as kindly but as forcefully as I can, that to my mind, if words mean anything, both McLaren and Chalke have largely abandoned the Gospel,' Carson laments. 'Perhaps their rhetoric and enthusiasm have led them astray and they will prove willing to reconsider the published judgments on these matters and embrace biblical truth more holistically than they have been doing in their most recent works. But if not, I cannot see how their own words constitute anything less than a drift toward abandoning the Gospel itself.'

The general argument that I want to put forward is that a doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement is certainly biblical but that it has to be framed narratively. Problems arise when we extract statements about justification from their narrative or historical or eschatological context and treat them as a universal theological propositions with an ugly label slapped on such as 'penal substitutionary atonement'. This is the repeated error of reformed-evangelical theology: biblical texts are found wandering the streets like lost children, but instead of being returned to their original homes they are adopted into new modern families and told to shut up and behave themselves.

The particular and limited contention here is that the statement in Romans 3:25 that God put forward Christ as 'a hilastērion through faithfulness by his blood (or: through faith in his blood)',1 which is usually considered central to the theory of penal substitutionary atonement, has to do specifically with the 'salvation' of Israel as a nation from historical judgment. Other texts (eg. Isaiah 53:6-10; Romans 5:8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 9:11-28; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:10) will have to be looked at separately.

The wrath of God

The starting point is quite clear: the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and wickedness (Rom. 1:18). This stands as a universal premise, but Paul's argument in Romans has in view two particular historical categories of people who face 'tribulation and distress' on a day of wrath (2:9): the Jews, who boast in the law but do not keep it (2:23), and the Gentile/Greek world, which is characterized by idolatry and sexual immorality.

The 'day of wrath' has to be understood theologically as an expression of God's anger towards sinful people, the Jews first, but also the Greeks. But it also has to be understood in historical terms: it refers, as characteristically in the Old Testament (eg. Zeph. 1:14-16), to some form of national, political, and probably military disaster. We should keep in mind that Paul is writing before AD 66. For Israel, as Jesus had predicted, the day of wrath would be the war against Rome, with its massive loss of life and the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. For the Gentile world I suggest we need to think in rather less precise terms of the collapse of the sort of civilization depicted in Romans 1:19-32 - analogous to the defeat of the Babylonian régime that took Israel into captivity by the Persian Cyrus; but this is not crucial to the argument here.

The question that arises is this: Given the foreseen judgment of God on Israel, the descendants of Abraham, how would the original promise to Abraham be fulfilled? How would the family of Abraham be preserved? How would the people of God - all of whom are under the power of sin - survive the coming tribulation?

'Israel' at this point includes Gentiles (9:24; 11:17). When Paul says in Romans 3:23 that 'all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God', the 'all' refers specifically to 'all who believe' in the preceding verse. So when the question is asked about Israel and the coming wrath, it is a question about the righteousness or justification of both Jews and Gentiles. They are being, or will be, justified as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 'Redemption' is probably to be understood as the future event of rescue on the day of wrath (cf. Rom. 8:23; Eph. 1:14; 4:30).

Atonement for Israel's sins

The righteousness of God in justifying that remnant of the people of God (including Gentiles) that believes has been shown or demonstrated by the fact that he put forward Christ Jesus 'as a hilastērion through faithfulness (dia pisteōs) by his blood' (3:25).

In the LXX the word mostly refers to the 'mercy seat' that covered the ark of the covenant (see Ex. 25:17-22). In Paul's argument the association with Christ's 'blood' or death suggests that the ritual on the day of atonement is in view: Aaron is instructed to take the blood of the 'goat of the sin offering that is for the people' and sprinkle it on and in front of the mercy seat; in this way he made 'atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins' (Lev. 16:15-16). He uses an idea, therefore, that is intimately associated with an act of atonement for Israel's sins. Jesus' faithful obedience culminating in his death at the hands of Israel's enemies was in some sense equivalent to, or analogous to, the action on the day of atonement by which Israel was cleansed of its sins.

There are other textual antecedents that should be taken into account.

1. The narrowing of the scope of the sacrificial argument, the emphasis on the connection with the salvation of first century Israel, is supported by the Theodotion text of Daniel 9:24, where the cognate verb exilaskomai is used for the atonement of the sins that have been responsible for Israel's state of protracted exile:

Seventy weeks were determined for your people and for your holy city for sin to be completed and to seal up sins and to expunge lawlessness and to make atonement for wrong-doings (tou exilasasthai adikias) and to bring in righteousness of the age and to seal a vision and a prophet and to anoint the holy of holies.

2. We have to recognize that in some manner Paul's argument is anticipated by the martyrdom theology of the Maccabean literature. The most important passage is 4 Maccabees 17:20-22 (RSV):

These, then, who have been consecrated for the sake of God, are honored, not only with this honor, but also by the fact that because of them our enemies did not rule over our nation, the tyrant was punished, and the homeland purified - they having become, as it were, a ransom (antipsuchon) for the sin of our nation. And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an atoning sacrifice (tou hilastēriou tou thanatou autōn), divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been mistreated.

The death of the faithful martyrs (Eleazar, the seven brothers and their mother) at the hands of Israel's enemy resulted in the liberation of Israel from tyranny, the punishment of the tyrant Antiochus, and the cleansing of the nation (cf. Lev. 16:19): the language of the atonement is used to express the redemptive effect of their deaths for the nation at a time of political and religious crisis.

2 Maccabees 7:37-38 reinforces the connection between the sacrificial death of the martyrs, who suffer because of Israel's sins (7:33), and the theme of the wrath of God against Israel:

I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our fathers, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by afflictions and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty which has justly fallen on our whole nation. (2 Macc. 7:37-38)

This barely differs from Paul's argument in Romans: by his righteous death Christ justifies sinful Israel, averts the wrath of God which is justly directed against the nation.

3. As N.T. Wright points out, it is difficult not to hear echoes of the description of the suffering servant in Paul's argument in Romans 3-4 (N.T. Wright, Romans, 475-476). But the servant suffers punishment (Is. 53:5) not for the sake of the world but because Israel sinned: 'stricken for the transgression of my people' (53:8). This is not personal sin, it is not a universal atonement. It is the sin of the nation that brought the judgment of God upon it - exile, and the devastation of Jerusalem. At least, we must place the personal transgressions, the sins of individual Jews, within this story. In his suffering the servant experiences the judgment of God against Israel; through his suffering many in Israel are accounted righteous; he bears their sins (53:10-12).

Summary

Both Israel and the pagan world face a 'day of wrath' when God will punish both Jews and Greeks because of their sins. This punishment must be understood in historical terms: we should think of this as judgment on the ancient world. The believing remnant of the people of God, which unexpectedly now includes Gentiles, will be delivered from this wrath because God put Jesus forward as an atoning sacrifice, expressed in his faithfulness to the point of shedding his blood. What was saved by this was a nation, not Tom, Dick and Harry. Because Jesus died, the people, or at least those who believed in him, lived. Jesus was 'destroyed' so that a community that identified itself with him might survive the conflagration. The question then arises: how do people subsequently participate in this restored people? Wright thinks that the narrow argument about the salvation of Israel opens up later in the letter to include the whole of humanity: 'The wider dimension at which this hints is God's faithfulness to the human project itself, and indeed to the whole cosmos' (Romans, 478). We shall see.

  1. 1. The argument that dia pisteōs means 'through the faithfulness (of Christ Jesus)' makes good sense within the narrative-eschatological structure of Paul's thought, but it is difficult to resolve the matter exegetically.
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Comments

Narrative contexts to atonement theories

My immediate response to your comment, Andrew, which I have really enjoyed reading, is this: you assume that there are two exclusive alternatives - a “narrative or historical or eschatological context” (as interpreted by yourself), and “universal theological propositions”.

But there is another narrative context which is not as reduced as the one you are proposing, whose framework goes beyond the immediate 1st century situation of Israel, and is provided by the OT writings themselves - as interpreted from the perspective of the NT writings.

Within this broader narrative context, Israel was always part of a bigger purpose in God’s plans to deal with the crisis of Genesis 1-3 which frames the entire narrative. Echoes of the crisis and restoration movements are heard particularly in the linguistic motifs in the story of Noah, Abraham, and the entry of Israel into the promised land.

The broader context makes sense of much of the way the OT is written (in contrast with how identical material is handled in the Koran, for instance), where the failings and shortcomings of God’s people are a constant theme, and provide a constantly reverberating echo of the formative crisis of Genesis. Romans acquires its meaning within this broader context - to which Paul is constantly alluding. Even the catalogue of sins in Romans 1:18-32 is not exhausted by relating it to contemporary Jews and Gentiles. As Don Richardson has pointed out, it is also an anthropological history of religion: a declension which is descriptive of religious practice worldwide.

The echoes of Maccabees which you have pointed out, in Romans 3:25 especially, need careful attention, because Paul (and other NT authors) constantly take OT symbols, words, practices, beliefs, and flesh them out with new meaning in the light of the advent of Christ. We cannot assume that an earlier meaning of a word provides exclusive access to the precise definition of its NT counterpart.

There is a historical/narrative reading of the OT & NT writings which we need to return to with greater rigour. It is the reading in which God remains faithful to his covenant, as expressed in incremental repetitions from Genesis to Malachi, a covenant whose purpose was to fulfil God’s plans for creation whilst dealing with the Genesis catastrophe and its painful consequences as described in the slowly unfolding history of the OT.

In this retelling of the narrative, Israel plays a prominent part, and especially 1st century Israel. But the advent of the perfect Israelite, Jesus, who was and did everything that Israel was meant to be and do, and became much that Israel could never be, bursts the bounds of a purely localised historical and national fulfilment. This is the narrative reading which now needs to sit alongside the mutually exclusive alternatives which you provide, and I suggest it is a better reading than either of them.

There always was a universal meaning to the advent of Christ, if by universal we mean significant for the entire creation, and not simply for the history of Israel in the 1st century. This significance was not developed as a mythological adornment by the church in hindsight as the real history faded from view, but can be traced back to the years immediately following the resurrection of Jesus, and long before, if we are to take much of Isaiah seriously. The unwillingness of Israel as a whole to accept the terms of this interpretation of her history led directly to the national catastrophe of the Jewish war, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.

It is within this narrative context which I have sketched out that the purpose of the death (and resurrection) of Jesus needs to be understood. In this context, I question whether Don Carson can validly take a narrow reformed interpretation of ‘the atonement’ and make it a test of orthodoxy, and I think he undermines his case by doing so.

Gospel - Good news?

I can follow the argument of substitutional atonement but I can’t practice it.

A couple of years ago I went to a Palm Sunday service and a musician performed one of his own works in which a young lad asks his father, “Why are we here?” His father replies “We are here to keep the Lamb from running away.” I left hastily lest I do or say something I would later regret.

In my practice, I can’t cozy up to a God who plays such games. At least in the Jewish and Islamic traditions the “kid” gets to Live. This is a messy world, none of us can really fix it but I really, really appreciate those who try. I look at my brothers and sisters and if they are going to hell, I want to go with them.

For me, a church that clings to substitutionary sacrifice is a submerging church (not emerging).

Is it really our job to keep the Lamb from running away?

Substitution and hell

I’m not sure what your real concern is here. ‘Penal substitutionary atonement’ is an attempt to explain the significance of Jesus’ death. To my mind it is not the heart of the reality of the thing (I would say that the event or act is more important than the interpretation of it), nor is it necessarily normative or critical for the self-understanding of the post-eschatological church - that’s my way of looking at it. It makes a lot of sense, however, within the framework of Jewish eschatology as a way of giving meaning to the anomaly of a crucified messiah.

Israel under judgment needed forgiveness. The turning point proved to be the death of the prophet Jesus from Nazareth as was demonstrated for his disciples by his resurrection and by the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. It was an inevitable conclusion to draw that his death out of faithfulness to the God of Israel (this may be the significance of Paul’s phrase ‘through faithfulness’ in Rom. 3:25) was the atoning sacrifice by which Israel’s sins were forgiven, and, shifting the conceptuality somewhat, that by the destruction of his body that part of Israel that remained in him avoided destruction.

But this is quite distinct from the argument about hell. I do not think that our popular (reformed, evangelical, whatever) notions of ‘hell’ correspond at all well to the biblical understanding of God’s judgment. There is, for a start, no place of unending suffering called hell corresponding to heaven as a place of bliss. There is death (Hades) and destruction (eg. the destruction of a city or a people or a civilization), and these are frequently interpreted as expressions of God’s judgment or wrath, both against the covenant people and against the nations. The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was foreseen by Jesus (though he wasn’t alone in this) as an act of final divine judgment against a rebellious nation. Substitutionary atonement explains how this could happen without God having to renege on his promise to Abraham.

We rather miss the point, though, if we now spend our time worrying about who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. There will be a final accountability for all humanity, but Jesus died so that faithful, justified Israel might live. We have been incorporated into that people by God’s grace. Our overriding responsibility now, as that people, is to be a new humanity, a creation in microcosm, centred on the living God, acting justly and compassionately towards one another, and seeking to manifest both practically and prophetically the glory of the creative God.

Re: Substitution and hell

gnashing of teeth?

 

Re: Gospel - Good news?

No, it’s our job to feed the lamb so it wants to stay.

I need to work this out in conversation some more

Forgive me, but I only have a Master’s in theology and sometimes this kind of (professionalized) work escapes me (and I am being facecious in no way please understand).

I guess at the grass roots, this is the problem that remains for me. The God of the heavens is terribly angry at God’s people for their many sins (we’ll keep it at the particularity of Israel, as Andrew has framed it). Yet John tells us that “For God so loved the world…”

Herein lies the problem, bound up nicely and theoretically in the penal substitionary atonement theory, at least for me.

God sends God’s son to die so that God can keep Godself from killing the people, the object of God’s anger. Father kills son (or has son killed, if you prefer the passive voice) so God won’t kill (judge/pour out wrath on) others that God also loves.

Doesn’t this sound terribly pathological to anyone but me? Seriously, I picture Jack the Ripper (for the UK’ers in here) and Sam Gacy (for the stateside reader) when I think of this. It borders on Silence of the Lambs-esque for me, in all honesty.

I love you so I have to kill you. Wait! I will kill my kid instead to show you that I love you.”

I’m ill just writing it. But please, Andrew, others, specifically address this type of framing in your response. I need my sanity back. Perhaps the clues lie in CAUSALITY: perhaps the events were overlaid with such an interpretation to make sense of them but in no way were the motivating reasons (on the part of the Father) for why events unfolded as they did?

A second substitution

Not only does God substitute his son for mankind, he substitutes crucifixion for eternal suffering in hell.

They've done something to our minds, I tell you

The last point you make (in some desperation) is important. What does the language of ‘wrath’ actually refer to? Presumably it is meant to tell us something about God, and to understand this we need to see it in covenantal terms. For example, once the land had been taken, the people made a conscious corporate decision to serve the Lord rather than the gods of their fathers or the gods of the Amorites (Joshua 24:14-18), even though Joshua warned them: ‘If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.’

They did forsake the Lord, they worshipped foreign gods, they acted unjustly, and so on. So God became angry. They had reneged on their solemn agreement to be a holy people devoted to YHWH. In that regard, the wrath of God is an inevitable implication of the covenant, it is a mark of how serious a thing it is to be the people of the living God.

But the other thing to take into account is the geo-politics. What were the people of Israel supposed to think when the Babylonians invaded? Would they have concluded that God was really pleased with them? Was this a sign of blessing? The language of God’s wrath is one of the ways in which, both before and after the event, Israel made sense of national suffering in the light of the crucial conviction that God had made them his own people.

The prophet Jesus, like John the Baptist before him, foresaw judgment coming again on a sinful, rebellious, hypocritical people. That’s the theological analysis. It corresponds to a political insight: that sooner or later the Jews would start a fight with Rome and lose it badly. The outcome would be an end to the temple system, the land, and any semblance of self-government as a nation. The only hope he saw was to create around himself an alternative faithful, justified Israel, which would walk the narrow path leading eventually to life. But in the process he fell victim to the destruction that would soon come on the whole nation: he was destroyed by Rome, by the instrument of God’s wrath. He suffered the historical ‘punishment’ that was Israel’s, but it meant that the people would continue, centred around the temple of his body, inheriting the whole world and not just the land of Canaan, and with Christ himself as king.

The cross was the point where love and judgment met head-on. You see the same collision in the prophets over and over again: ‘in my wrath I struck you, but in my favor I have had mercy on you’ (Is. 60:10).

I’m not sure where this gets us, but it seems to me that there is a world of difference between Israel’s painful struggle with its sense of calling and identity in an often hostile world and your caricature of a pathological God. The caricature is a product of our feverish modern evangelical culture. Take a couple of aspirin, wait for the fever to subside, and maybe things will not look quite so nightmarish.

An emerging theology needs the critical realist sense that scripture clings to history.

Thanks

Super helpful, Andrew. And, as you note, the cariacature is not my own; it was given to me. It’s interesting that you bridge, for me, the construction of national identity that hints at an analysis of the historiography of Israel in that process. I just finished reading John Van Seters “Historiography in Ancient Israel” a chapter in the Blackwell Companions to History: A companion to Western historical thought. He didn’t bother, naturally, to go into any atonement theory but you seemed to have bridged the historical construction of Israel’s identity formation and the mission of Jesus in light of God’s judgment quite nicely. I do recommend the chapter to you as it discusses the historiography of the Davidic line that has been part of the discussion in this thread.

Again, thanks. We really are going to need some sort of resource (HINT) that will make a narrative approach to biblical theology more accessible, and quick.

Re: I need to work this out in conversation some more

For me it makes me ill if God didnt’ kill His son. It’ll show at best he’s indifferent about sin and evil.

If you believe Jesus is God, then it’s a self-sacrifice as well. Read what Jesus was saying.. it was all voluntary.

Wasn’t Isaac tied up like a lamb to be killed as well until God said stop and that He’ll provide.

For whom is sacrifice made?

One of the more powerful statements of Jesus, in speaking to me, is “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath”. The first corrolary to that is that the whole of creation preceeding man was not made for man’s sake, but man for its sake. The second corrolary is that much of what is given us to distinguish us as holy is given not so much as a means to appease deity, as to bless our passage through life. The effect of sacrifice more upon our shame than our guilt. In fact, one might argue that sacrifice is impotent against guilt, and those who came to regard vicarious satisfaction of God as the object of cult ritual and social organization were the apostates rebuked by the prophets.

The Gospel is not man’s way of reaching God. It is God’s way of reaching us. It says “God is satisfied”. Some people get all morbid about how God comes to be satisfied. Some of the weirder evangelicals obsess on the topic of blood — and the goriness of the sacrificial cult which was the YHWH temple cult until the parousia, which arguably occurred in 66 C.E.

Isn’t it evident that Jesus retired the Davidic monarchy, restoring the pre-Saul “kingdom of God”. And perhaps Jesus’ “blood sacrifice” was the retirement of that practice, equally as gratuitous as the monarchy, which God allowed His people as a concession to “the hardness of their hears” — not as an object of His own satisfaction. What satisfies God? I don’t believe that penal substitution matters one whit to Him.

A puff away from 3 packs a day

Penal substitution past and present

The distinction you make between appeasement and blessing is important, but I would have thought what we have in scripture is a logical sequence from one to the other, rather than a conflict between the two. The ‘logic’ is this: we begin with blessing (the first couple, Abraham, the giving of the land); the continuation of the blessing is contingent upon obedience, otherwise it is replaced by a curse and the wrath of God; to avert the wrath of God sacrifice is made, which restores the original blessing. Clearly Christ puts an end to that ‘logic’, but that doesn’t invalidate the reading of scripture. In other words, we still need to say that God was prepared to punish Israel and that in some sense Christ took that punishment or curse or destruction upon himself for the sake of the future of the people of God. But that is a past tense statement. You may be right to say that penal substitution does not matter to him now - except in so far as we remember the basis for our membership of God’s people.

This illustrates the value of a narrative theology. Arguments are contextualized, located within the plot. We do not have to somehow concertina everything together and force an unnatural coherence out of it for an eternal present.

I don’t understand your point about the pre-Saul kingdom of God. Why is Jesus so widely seen in the New Testament as a Davidic king?

The pre-Davidic and post-David Kingdom of Heaven

I guess I Samuel 10 is the best place to point out the pre-Davidic Kingdom of Heaven — at the time of its abandonment. The monarchy was not an instrument of covenant, but incidental to it.

What of Jesus’ reputation as dynastic heir to David? First, when and how did this reputation develop? And to the extent that Jesus was, briefly, upon the throne of David — I say it was not to rule eternally from that throne, but to return God as the monarch of the people.

Why is this important, in today’s narrative, as in the Roman diaspora? Because it would seem that Jesus taught that identity of the people need not be political. I don’t need a “king of the Jews” to be a Jew. And I certainly don’t need the United States of America to be a “Christian nation” to be a Christian. Au contraire — while Islam and Judaism were about political social organization, Christianity makes no such provisions, and repudiates those provisions intended to politicize the cult of Jesus.

A puff away from 3 packs a day

Of dogs and theology

This is perhaps a little immodest of me, but I can’t resist drawing attention to Lisa Borden’s wonderful meditation on dogs and theology. There’s a nice corrective in it, which I appreciate.

penal substitution should be renounced...

I really disagree with your portrayal of the “wrath of God”. I don’t think it is so complicated. Israel (just like everyone else) wanted to be special so they figured being special would mean God values them. This leads to an idea that God would be Jealous if his “special ones” worshipped another God so in their myths he punished them when they strayed from God. This is no different than a woman that secretly enjoys when her husband is jealous. Jealousy is flattering because it implies a certain amount of desire.

The wrath of God is a myth to support the desire of Israel to feel special. It is fed by the need to supernaturally explain natural disasters and victory/defeat in war.

Christianity has perpetuated this myth and needs to feel special by imposing some new rules to help its group feel “chosen” or “set apart”. This is not very different than teenagers creating trends in clothing or new forms of music in order to set it apart and help it feel special while also creating an artificial bond between its members. Christianity needed something to set it apart from other religions since there is nothing in Jesus teaching that would differ in core philosophy from the Jewish teachings or Buddhist, etc. These types of doctrine fill that role.Lastly, substitution atonement is a way to make a less evasive and less action oriented religion. If we can limit the primary reason for Jesus death to a supernatural meaning in afterlife then we don’t have to follow him to death for the causes of social justice and freedom from the Empire. The real meaning of Jesus’ death is that anyone who follows Jesus’ message WILL BE KILLED BY THE EMPIRE. Jesus challenged us to follow him in this path. This is easily seen because that is exactly what many early Christians did in Rome and throughout the empire. Ask Paul, Peter and John and hundreds more. Even ask Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. about that! If any one of us really spoke out and encouraged the masses of Jesus followers to sell all they have and withdraw from the Empire and refuse to take up arms in order to ensure the flow of oil and money into the Empire then we would be killed too. Paul understood this call to “take up our cross” and he did it. Somewhere along the way the message was transformed into “worship the cross” instead. I guess that is because it is much safer to sing corny songs than it is to speak out against injustice.

Much wisdom here, danutz

I actually am persuaded the God, the Son, bore upon Himself the humiliation of such things as farting in public and bad hair days and scourging and crucifixion in abandonment and ridicule and rose victorious, in a victory we are called to share (through a sacrifice we are called to share, as you describe so vividly).

But recently, in this topic, I discussed the insignificance of the Davidic dynasty and the Aaronic temple cult. They served a purpose of meeting man’s needs, toward which God will often yield, as he yielded on divorce (Christ’s commentary on the same the means by which we are told that God accomodates man’s shortcomings (hamartyria?), for the sake of social justice and harm reduction. God would distribute clean needles to addicts.

Clinging to such things when their time has passed is corruptive. I wonder now, saying this — to what extent Jesus’ association with dynasty and blood sacrifice was trying to contextualize by anachronism — anachronism for the epistle to the Hebrews, and of Barnabus. More anachronism in a time when Santera is maybe the only sacrificial cult remaining, until the Red Heiffer gets the knife.

Take up your cross can be translated “pull up stakes” like breaking camp. Yes, Jesus spoke of forsaking social privilege (and the blessedness of those unencumbered by the same) to do things without consideration for rewards given by men or empire. And he saw the fury of well kissed asses toward those who don’t grovel. And we, with Him, ought come to know such fury. And to never know grovelling.

Addressing Andrew’s appeal to the “wrath of God” — perhaps that wrath is reserved, as for those duped by false prophets in the time of Jeremiah, by those who say we can keep what we got by grovelling at the right feet. Sometimes, you just gotta give up the incidental to keep the sacred. God’s wrath is against the incidental. He’ll always preserve the essential. It’s not against us, so much as against that which distracts us, and keeps our tent stakes stuck in the ground.

A puff away from 3 packs a day

Re: Much wisdom here, danutz

"God’s wrath is against the incidental. He’ll always preserve the essential. It’s not against us, so much as against that which distracts us, and keeps our tent stakes stuck in the ground"

that idea gives me hope.  thanks.  wrath that restores.  new idea for me really.  at least in the heart. i have internalized wrath that kills.

Re: penal substitution should be renounced...

But God demonstrates His own love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Thus, in the same way we were once bonded to the slavery of sin, yet freed, we can now go into the world to act for social justice.

An example is good, but when you’re the object of mercy, it liberates you more to care more.

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