The Herb Of Grace

Theology and Poetry, Politics and Prose

Monday, April 6th in Holy Week. April 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Joel @ 2:42 pm

To be sure, we can say that the Father in no way punishes his Son. The Father is nothing but “well pleased” with the Son. I think that we can also say that the Father is not interested in divine child abuse. Yet, the Father “knew” the Son would be killed because he knew his Son was entering a crucifying world, a world that rejects God. As Herbert McCabe notes, “The mission of Jesus from the Father is not the mission to be crucified; what the Father wished is that Jesus should be human…And this is what Jesus sees as a command laid on him by his Father in heaven; the obedience of Jesus to his Father is to be totally, completely human” (93).

Thus, Jesus was crucified because he was human not because the Father planned to have him killed for some greater cause. We must always remember and never shy away from the fact that we crucified Jesus, not the Father. We have created a world that is characterized by suffering and death –by oppression, torture, and even crucifixion. We must not become confused on this point: God never causes suffering. God is always God for us, always for human flourishing, always for love.

Ry Siggelkow


9 Responses to “Monday, April 6th in Holy Week.”

  1. Ben Cloud Says:

    This is not biblical on many levels. God brings judgement on all sorts of people and this suffering. He is the God who hurts and heals, who mains and heals, who opens the mouths of lions and shuts them. He is the God who blinded Paul, sent Satan to Job, Struck down Davids child, would not let Eli and Hophni repent because he wanted him to perish. Jesus was punished for our sins, told his disciples he must die, and then willingly became the chastisement for our sins. Suffering is used as much as anything for Gods grace to be made known.

  2. R.O. Flyer Says:

    Ben Cloud,

    Thanks for responding. First, I should clarify that in this paragraph I make no claims about whether or not God “uses” human suffering. Rather, I state that God is not the “cause” of human suffering. The biblical testimony is not at all, as you seem to assume, univocal about the role of God in human suffering. God does, in fact, use human suffering for his glory, namely, the suffering of Jesus and the martyrs who participate in Jesus’ way of suffering. The disciples of Jesus are called to bear the cross in the world as a way to participate in Christ’s passion. It is important to note, however, that this suffering is not a “good” in God’s perspective; rather, it is the consequence of human sinfulness and betrayal. God is not “pleased” with the suffering of his servants. Rather, God is “pleased” with the faithfulness of his people in the face of adversity.

    The central thrust of my statement here is for us to come to a deeper recognition of our complicity in the killing of Jesus. It is because of our sin that Jesus is killed; it is not because God the Father is a pathological killer bent on destroying his Son. Every time we reject the other in our midst, whether this be our neighbor or (perhaps most especially) our enemy, we, in a sense, re-narrate, the scene of the crucifixion. The resurrection of the Son is God’s victory over the world’s systems of death-dealing. By the Spirit we are now set free to live a life of love and self-giving instead of rejection and death-dealing, and in doing this we participate in the very life of God. Until this ‘evil age’ has passed away and as long as humans continue to reject Jesus, those who participate in the reign of Christ will continue to come into confrontation with “the powers” and thus bear crosses.


  3. Ben Cloud Says:

    My concern is in you equating the cross as a form of child abuse as if God had no knowledge or plan of this path of suffering as a means of grace that he was sending to the earth for our sins. You say “the Father is not interested in divine child abuse” as if the cross, as foreordained by God, and embraced by Jesus was not as much as the mission of Jesus as being human. In fact you say, the mission of Jesus and what the father wished “is that Jesus should be human,” not crucified…for our sins. That is just not biblical.

    The idea that God sent his son to die for our sins as a sacrifice is classic Biblical theology. The idea that such stated biblical truth makes God a “sadist inflicting punishment, while Jesus plays in his role as a masochist,” is post-modern non-sense. This quote by Joel B. Green in his book “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross,” (intervarsity press – 2000) is in the same vein being offered up by people like You, Brian McLaren, Joel B and others.

    Steve Chalk also promulgates this unbiblical view, by mixing metaphors. He says, “The fact is the cross isn’t some form of cosmic child abuse – a vengeful Father punishing your son for an offense he has not even committed….It stands in total contradiction to the statement, “God is love.” If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil.” (The Lost Message of Christ. Zondervan, 2003).

    John Piper responds to this bizarre statement above better than I could saying, “With one cynical stroke of the pen, the triumph of God’s love over God’s wrath in the death of his beloved Son is blasphemed.”

    Jesus said, “John 10:17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.

    John 10:18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.

  4. Ben Cloud Says:

    “To be sure, we can say that the Father in no way punishes his Son”

    Is. 53:5 says differently:

    But he was wounded for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement (punishment) that brought us peace,
    and with his stripes (punishment) we are healed.

    Is. 53:10 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
    when his soul makes an offering for sin,
    he shall see his offspring;

    This is substitutionary penal atonement. He was punished for our sins by God’s will. Yes? Please give me feedback if I am wrong.

  5. Ben Cloud Says:

    You say, “Thus, Jesus was crucified because he was human not because the Father planned to have him killed for some greater cause.”

    Do you both believe this statement – that he was crucified only because he was human – not because the father planned the cross for some greater cause…. specifically, our redemption?

  6. Ben Cloud Says:

    Here is another bias – that I bring to the table – just to be honest. Post modern books like the Sh&ck – tell us similar things to what I am hearing here – that “God does not punish people for their sins. Sin is its own punishment.” I think loose theological arguments like these statements water down what Jesus did for us on the cross.

  7. R.O. Flyer Says:


    A few quick points:
    1) Penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) should not be used as a litmus test for orthodoxy. This seems to be one of the greatest mistakes of folks like John Piper and Mark Driscoll. This particular theory of atonement, whatever its merits, has never been canonized in any Christian tradition, save Piper and Co. Thus, to regard this theory of atonement as a test of one’s orthodoxy is simply outrageously out of bounds with the entire Christian tradition. So, stop the witch-hunt!

    2) PSA is a theological theory that attempts to explain God’s work in Christ. It is not from the Bible itself; it had a very particular beginning, namely, in the thought of Anselm, revised in Calvin, and significantly revised by the neoCalvinists.

    3) Believe it or not, there are other theologically legitimate ways to talk about God’s work in Christ. No theologian in their right mind denies that in Christ God has reconciled the world to himself. No one denies that in Christ we are saved. Much of what is in question in these discussions about atonement is speculative. Whatever the merits of PSA it is NOT the only articulation of Christ’s work; in fact, it is quite limited as to what it actually says.

    Now it is important to remember that there is no one way to understand “the atonement” or God’s saving work in Christ. Certainly, some ways of understanding the atonement are better than others. However, I do suspect that penal substitutionary atonement is usually misrepresented and not all that well understood. There may very well be problems with this “theory,” but probably all theories of atonement are problematic precisely because they are always theories. God’s saving work in Christ is truly a mystery. This is not to say that we cannot reflect on it or attempt to articulate what it might be about, but our language and our analogies will always fail.

  8. R.O. Flyer Says:

    Ben, your suggestion that my statements are “postmodern” and likening it to books like “The Shack” not only has no basis, but is simply not charitable. I fail to see how such suggestions advance the discussion in any constructive way. It is not my statements above that “water down” the cross; rather, it is your suggestion that humanity is not directly complicit in Christ’s crucifixion that amounts to a clever way of escaping repentance.

  9. roger flyer Says:

    Just entering the convo on Easter eve… (R.O.’ s dad Roger. Hi Joel)

    … hey hey The Shack is an ok read, Ben, and post-modernism isn’t the devil, is it?

    It is difficult for ‘evangelicals’ trained and formed in a particular world view, ie regarding the atonement and the Bible’s ‘inerrancy’ (whatever that means) to stay differentiated and open to critique and reasonable argument.

    It seems to bring out heavy guns and name calling (heretics!) from the ‘rightists’ like John Piper.

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