October 22, 2020

Holy Week 2015: Glorified (Rob Grayson)


“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”

• John 12:23

According to John’s gospel, Jesus utters these words shortly after entering Jerusalem at the beginning of this holiest and darkest of weeks. The atmosphere is heavy with speculation that Jesus could be the one to spearhead the revolution that will finally throw off the shackles of Rome. The crowd, willing to believe this, fêtes Jesus as king as he rides into the city, completely missing the symbolic significance of the fact that he is riding not on a white charger but on a donkey’s colt.

Given so much hope of glory among both the populace in general and Jesus’ own disciples in particular (not long before, they were still arguing about who would get the best seats with Jesus in heaven), it’s easy to imagine how they might have understood Jesus’ comment that it was time for him to be glorified. Yes! It’s going to happen! Jesus is finally going to take his rightful place and ascend to his throne!

They were right: Jesus was going to take his place. But what they didn’t realise was this: in a world that prizes strength, ambition, power and cunning, enforced by violence and kept in motion by sacrificial religion, there is only one fitting place for a God who is and always has been infinite mercy and love: the cross.

That’s right: the throne to which Jesus would ascend was the cross.

This cross – this cruel, ugly instrument of death – was the place where the glory of God would be most clearly displayed to the world. How so? you ask. Because the glory of God is His love, and this is what love looks like.

Love does not insist on its own way; it does not bite back or lash out; it endures all things. It stretches out its arms and dies at the hands of those who were born out of that very same love. And as the nails go in, as the flesh tears and the blood flows, it says “Father, forgive”.

The cross tells us everything we need to know about the heart of God. It answers every question about human suffering, every cry of Why? and How long?, not with some kind of remorseless divine logic but with the body and blood of Christ. It is as though Jesus says this:

I see the kind of world you have made, a world ruled by control and blame. I know it’s going to cost me my life to show you that, in spite of all your violence, hatred, suspicion and fear, the heart of the Father is and always has been to forgive, to bind up, to heal and to restore. So here: take me, break me and kill me. I give myself willingly so that you may no longer have any doubt. Take, eat, for this is my body; feast on it in your sin and your shame, and I will give you in return neither vengeance nor judgement, but the blood of forgiveness. Can you not see the new thing I am showing you here?

And so, in a few hours, King Jesus, arrayed in purple and with a crown of thorns on his head, will ascend to his royal throne at Calvary, the seat of God’s undying love. For love is the one thing no cross can kill; it is stronger than death. The king will hang enthroned, and even as the dark clouds gather over Jerusalem, even as this broken man suffers the very worst that humanity can heap upon him, the glory of the love of God will shine forth from his heart, radiant like the bright morning star.

Do you see it?


  1. Leigh Copeland says

    there’s something here I never before considered or heard of: that taking the bread and wine is a symbol of our sin, a reenactment – even a present instantiation?- of our participation in the murder of God. I suppose that means that in some sense we should not do it or want to do it. Taking the bread and wine should be a confession of guilt. The sacrificial and scapegoating meanings are present not that they should be celebrated but as the reminder of the disaster which we caused but which nevertheless could not defeat God’s love – even for deicides and cannibals! Jesus’ willingness to subject himself to such human violence does in itself communicate his love and grace, but I think it also suggests that a ‘Communion’ would be incomplete if the Resurrection were not made a integral feature of the celebration. Just as the bread and the wine have acquired sometimes misleading meanings so has the Resurrection. The bread and wine are not about a substitutionary, propitiating blood sacrifice of an infinitely pure victim to satisfy God’s infinite wrath and the Resurrection is not about the deity of Christ and hope of post-mortem bliss in heaven. The blood and wine are a symbol of what is forgiven in the Resurrection.

    • Excellently put, Leigh!

    • communion for me is always a somber event.

    • Hmm…just as potential point of disagreement, He said “Do this in remembrance of me,” not “Do this in remembrance of you.”

      In other words, the focus is on Him (and what He did), and not necessarily meant for us to reflect on us (and what we’ve done). I don’t know that I want to enter into communion feeling too guilty, shameful, etc., but rather very thankful, grateful, loved and forgiven.

      (This touches on a point I shared yesterday, about a friend of mine never wanting to participate in communion because she doesn’t feel worthy enough. Worthiness and “sinless-ness” shouldn’t be an obstacle to participation in communion, and if we dwell too much on OURSELVES entering into communion, I think it’s a barrier to understanding what it’s about. It’s all about HIM, remembering what HE’S done.)

      • I hear what you’re saying, and my initial gut reaction tended to completely agree. However, upon reflection I think this argument is setting up a false dichotomy. It doesn’t have to be a “one versus the other” kind of issue: somber reflection on what you’ve done (i.e. your sin) vs. rejoicing in what He’s done. If the guilt/shame was the end all be all, then I think you would be absolutely right, but in the case of communion I think it is a means to an end (where the end is the being grateful and focusing on Him and what He’s done). It is against the backdrop of the black, nighttime sky that the glory and light of the stars are most clear and visible.

        • I feel like remembering what “we’ve” done is the first step, and remembering what “He’s” done is the culmination, or final step: “Lord, what I’ve done is wrong, but You are good and your love is greater, and for that I thank you and rejoice with gladness”

      • I agree with David. Yes, we do this in remembrance of Jesus, but we remember what he did *for us*, and why he had to do it. Specifically, we remember that *we* (humanity) did it to him.

        For me, true thankfulness and the acceptance of forgiveness means first recognising why forgiveness was and is required.

  2. edward pillar says

    excellent piece… The glory of God is love. The glory of the cross is love. blessings Rob.

  3. Thank you Rob. Very challenging.

  4. “The cross is not a sign of sacrifice but of execution – of a nasty bit of judicial murder that has no more intrinsic significance than the thousands of other such acts all though history. To be sure, people have turned the cross into a religious symbol; but since Christianity is not a “religion,” that sort of thing can only lead to confusion. Christianity is the proclamation of the end of religion, not of a new religion, or even of the best of all possible religions. And therefore if the cross is the sign of anything, it’s the sign that God has gone out of the religion business and solved all the world’s problems without requiring a single human being to do a single religious thing. What the cross is actually a sign of is the fact that religion can’t do a thing about the world’s problems – that it never did work and it never will – which is exactly what Hebrews 10:4 says: “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” So, if you want to theologize it into a sign, the best you can do is say that it’s the sign of the fulfillment of all that religion ever tried to do and couldn’t.”

    (Robert Capon, The Mystery of Christ… & Why We Don’t Get It)

    • Lovely Capon quote, of which the late Michael Spencer would, I think, have heartily approved 🙂

    • Why do we call it Good Friday then? (And I mean that seriously.) If Good Friday represents what Capon says – a day of execution – shouldn’t it be called Horrible Friday or some such thing?

      • Rick, I penned some thoughts on that very question last Easter: http://www.faithmeetsworld.com/a-good-friday-meditation/

        • Excellent. Thanks, Rob.

          It’s difficult to communicate the “good” of Good Friday to non-believers, though. I had that bubble up last year, and frankly it’s like trying to describe music to a deaf person, or sunsets to the blind. Very, very difficult.

          • Yes, I hear you, Rick. It is an odd kind of nomenclature for the day we murdered God.

          • The discussion I had went even beyond “the day we murdered God.” It was around the thought, “The day God murdered his son,” for these folks see God as culpable in what transpired. Which is certainly an interesting thing to try to talk around…LOL.

          • What’s good about Good Friday is that God did not obliterate us for our evil, but forgave us in a new life of reconciliation. Good Friday can only be known as good from the perspective of the resurrection; since your friends don’t believe in Jesus’ resurrection, it makes sense that they can’t see any goodness in Good Friday, but only culpability all around, human and divine.

  5. Dennis Brown says

    I see it, Rob. Thanks for this. It’s hard to come to terms that we broke our lamb with our own violent hands. God was viewing humanity through the eyes of Jesus and now views them through all of ours. Too much violence and pain then, and too much now. Hills and valleys of brokenness strewn across the landscape of our heaven and hell. Our violence again covers the earth and only the Lamb nature can take it away. It might be standing at our door to swallow us up, but if it does I guess we’ll have to sit on that throne and say “Father, forgive them” because now we’re the lambs of God.

    • Thanks for your comment, Dennis. Yes, I believe the only way to our long-term survival as a species is to renounce “beast power” (based on coercion and violence) and adopt Lamb power (based on self-giving, other-centred, co-suffering love).

  6. I see it through the clouds of tears.

  7. Sometimes I see, sometimes I don’t, but I hope that it continues to be there, whether I see it or not.

    I think God was showing us something in Jesus’ life, passion and crucifixion, but it’s something we can only see from the perspective of Jesus resurrection. The resurrection makes known the forgiveness and reconciliation that God has undertaken in Jesus, and it also inaugurates a new era in the life of the world.

    Yes, God shows us something about himself in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection; but I believe he also did something new in Jesus, quite apart from whether we recognize it or not, or see it or not. He changed the world, not just us, from within the world; he overturned the powers that rule the world, and inaugurated the convergence of his Kingdom with this world. This will inevitably end in the total transformation of this world not only into a place where we human beings are reconciled with God and each other, but where the lion and lamb shall lay down together, and no violence shall come between them.

  8. Russ Jacobson says

    Excellent, this is truth, it is my hate, shame, fear, distrust that put him there as much as the next person. Now when we do communion I have had a much different way of viewing things. This is the Creator I have come to finally know a bit more than I used to. Thanks for sharing this.

  9. Good post, Rob. Thanks for sharing.

    Every time I see someone going through life’s wringer, I remind them that Jesus went through life’s wringer, too, all the way to the point of being nailed to a cross. He died. Not all of life’s wringers end victoriously….to the human eye. But I usually tell them that regardless of the outcome of their current wringer (or storm, or whatever analogy we use to convey crap), that the victory has been won, even if it doesn’t look like it, even if it ends in death.

    • Thanks, Rick. If the trajectory of Jesus’ life doesn’t teach us that we need to radically redefine the meaning of words like “glory” and “victory”, we’re missing the point.

      • Well put!

      • I’m always using sports analogies to convey some of these spiritual truths. The one I go to most often is: Imagine playing a basketball game, and your team is getting drubbed, and you keep throwing the ball out of bounds and dribbling it off your foot. Every now and then you make a basket, or pass it to a teammate who makes a basket, but overall, for every point you score, your opponent scores 10-15.

        Time is running out. The game enters the fourth quarter and see that you’re losing 176-16. But then…lo and behold…the superstar hot-shot you’ve heard about enters the arena and joins your team. And you think, Wow…160 points is a lot to make up, but this guy…if this SUPERSTAR is who everyone SAYS he is…well, he’ll win this game for us!

        And the 4th quarter begins, and you begin to see your superstar savior dribbling the ball off his foot and throwing it out of bounds and sometimes even GIVING IT directly to your opponent. Suddenly, as the clock winds down, you look up and see 310-20. Things actually got WORSE when he entered the game. The buzzer sounds. You slink off the court, dejected, humiliated.

        And then the announcer says, “Congratulations to Rob Grayson’s team!” And you look up and see the score hasn’t changed, so you wonder, what the…? And you look at the scorer’s table and you see the superstar standing there, giving you the thumbs up. And you realize why he came, not to win via the score.

        To me, that’s what our victory is like. The score will look ugly when the game ends, but we’ll be declared winners through Jesus.

        • Deep down, in the hard to get at crevices of my being, I always kind of wish that somehow in the end God just does away with the whole distinction between winners and losers, and everybody, and I do mean everybody goes home truly happy.

          • I hate to drift toward universalism, but maybe, just maybe, if Jesus truly is who He says He is…maybe everybody DOES go home truly happy.

  10. Do you see it?

    No…no, I really don’t. It all seems sort of meaningless to me at this point. I haven’t a clue what a pure, good Christianity is anymore. Nor do I see any need for a Savior or Lord, or see anything beautiful in His actions, or what our response should be.

    This will be an interesting Easter.

    • In that case, friend, I can only wish you grace and peace, in whatever way it comes to you.

      • Yes, grace and peace to you, StuartB.

      • Yes, even with my “Read Hebrews” line, I’ll wish you grace and peace, too, StuartB. Sorry to hear you’re struggling. Go U2!

    • Read Hebrews! Good book that addresses some of those issues.

      • By the way, my “Read Hebrews” line was intended as encouragement, not sarcastic or snarky or judgmental, or however poorly it might’ve been interpreted by you. Peace, bro!

      • Thanks, I may hit that book up soon, along with some Ecclesiastes (always seems to center me better than anything else, with the exception maybe of Job).

        Honestly Rick, if I didn’t know any better from the FB group, I’d assume you were were a undercover commenter from my former church come to troll me, with your frequent mentions of me listening to U2 and the encouragement and what not. That was how they got me years ago, through a combination of love bombing and encouragement and appealing to my interests and hobbies. Then the bait and switch.

        But I can tell you are a real person, so…thanks, lol.

        • I might’ve been a bait-and-switcher in my past, but not anymore. My mantra now is Jesus, only Jesus, and make sure I don’t do anything to screw up someone from entering into a real relationship with God through Jesus.

          I’m helping plan an in-house church retreat sorta thing for early August and I keep telling myself, Just don’t do anything that screws someone up.

    • That was a broad comment on my part, and I should clarify it better at a later time. Let’s just say I’m separating out 30 years of doctrine and trying to figure out what’s real, what’s worth believing, what I want to believe, what I actually do believe…and how can I square that away with the fruit and testimonies I see of others who I genuinely know follow God and yet look nothing like what I’ve seen in the past 30 years.

      • I can relate to that struggle Stuart. It’s a very difficult and often a lonely place to be.

  11. Off topic:

    I had an interesting Saturday (ended up having an allergic reaction to something in gin and tonic, lots of busted blood vessels in my face and eyes at the moment), so didn’t get to react to anyone’s comments on Saturday’s post (blessing and curse there, lol).

    I want to address something that came up in the objective/subjective discussion. Really two questions:

    1 – How much of there needing to be an “objective morality” actually comes from an inerrantist perspective of Scriptures?


    2 – If we were to reject an objectivist morality, what is truly lost? What is at stake giving up an objectivist morality, or the desire for there to be one?

    • 2) I think that, if there is no objective morality, the word morality itself should not be used: it seems too strong, and reeks of the absolute; better to talk in terms of what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior for the specific group within which an ethic exists. Also, the concept of evil seems too strong for referring to behavior that is unacceptable only within a specific group’s ethical system; once again, the idea that behaviors are acceptable or unacceptable seems more commensurate with the non-absoluteness of completely relative ethical systems.

      You would also have to give up the prerogative of pointing to any form of human behavior and saying, “That should never happen!,” which is after all the core of any truly objective moral insight.

      • OldProphet says

        RobertF: You sure have done a lot of book lernin! And to add to your comment
        . Isn’t it a truth that once the existence of God is removed a God of absolutes, then there is no such thing as objective morality. It simply cannot exist without a solid standard. Of course, men can create their own standards and mores and laws, but their ultimately subjective to their own culture. Frankly that’s the modus operandi in the majority of nations today. Sharia law might be fine in Iran, but not here. At least so far. Ultimately, you have to come back to God’s existance to have a universal standard. So, the consequence of no objective morality; Hitler, Stalin, Auschwitz, you know the story. Without OM even “thou shall not kill” is meaningless.

        • Without OM even “thou shall not kill” is meaningless.

          And yet it’s meaningless within the content of that source of OM as well. Very little sets apart a Hitler or Stalin from a Joshua or a David, apart from our own faith and idea that what they did was “ok” because “God” or “inerrant Bible”.

          Meaningless is a good, solid, Biblical word. It comes from those really honest parts of Scripture.

          It simply cannot exist without a solid standard. Which we will never and cannot know. It’s like an errant person trying to interpret an inerrant Bible. How can a subjective person know and let alone follow objective morality? “We see through a glass darkly” is about all we got.

          Is there anything more Biblical than situational ethics?

          So, the consequence of no objective morality; Hitler, Stalin, Auschwitz, you know the story. Not really, but I’ve heard the meme enough. Atheism = no objective morality, thus holocaust, auschwitz, etc. The flipside is, broadly, Deism = objective morality, which looks like genocide of Canaanites, global flood theory, manifest destiny, zionism…etc.


          Let’s flip the question around a little.

          Is there such a thing as Objective Good and Objective Evil?

          • I like this quote from the wiki page on evil –

            “Seek out the society of your boon companions, drink, play, talk bawdy, and amuse yourself. One must sometimes commit a sin out of hate and contempt for the Devil, so as not to give him the chance to make one scrupulous over mere nothings… .” – martin luther

          • OldProphet says

            Actually, Stuart, I agree with your response to my comment. Without OM, anything and everything is lawful Even with Laws!The possibilities are endless. Grass is against Federal law but legal in Colorado? “one toke over the line”?

          • OldProphet says


          • To bring in a physics reference (sorry couldn’t resist, after all though, everything is physics hehe):

            In general the speed of an object through space is relative and depends on the observer’s frame of reference. However, there is only ONE thing that is always the same and invariant, no matter who’s measuring it, and that’s the speed of light, which is the same regardless of the reference frame. Kinda neat, particularly when you think about how many metaphors there are between God and light…

          • Yes, that’s amazing; no matter what speed I’m traveling at, the speed of light will always measure the same from my frame of reference. It’s absolute.

            But the existence of objective absolutes in the physical world does not necessitate the existence of moral absolutes. Hypothetically, there may be absolute truths, but no absolute moral truths. I say that as one who is convinced that in Jesus Christ there are unconditioned moral imperatives, although I’m inclined to believe that these imperatives arise in situations so varied and disparate that sometimes a type of situation ethics is the only way they can faithfully be responded to in history.

          • You’re right, there’s really only situational ethics in the Bible. That’s the best way to express ethics in a practical way so that the hearer can actually take it on board. But all situational ethics in the Bible are understood in light of a single, absolute, holy being. This is what makes it “objective.” Not because the rules don’t change with the circumstances, but because the source of the rules is perfectly holy and singular, and therefore an offense is ultimately an offense against him, not simply someone’s preferences or sensibilities.

            As to the atheistic atrocities vs theistic ones, that really can’t be an argument for or against in my book. We can’t broadly show the causes and effects in those events. We can’t necessarily trace worldview/theology to results/actions, except in the broadest and most general of ways.

            I would look at it by posing the scenario first and then looking at examples: if there was no God, then the moral standard would be subjective. Something is right/wrong because I (or we) say so, cause it’s in our (perceived) best interest. Therefore, there’s no reasonable restriction on my evil, should I choose to carry it out. If I decide my best interest overrules yours, that’s all it takes for me to do it. There’s no reasoned objection to be made. No moral case can be made besides “You shouldn’t do that….cause I don’t want you to.”

            Looking back on particular events, we might be able to see shades of this principle coming through where certain figures or events are underpinned by this type of moral sense, but we can’t prove it by them.

          • One more thing though, I think the “moral” element of something is only one way of talking about it. It’s important that everything not be simply reduced to being described as morally good or evil, as if a thing’s morality is its deepest character. The “it was very good” of Genesis 1 was not a moral goodness. I think it’s just as important, perhaps more so, to be able to recognize objectivity of beauty. Its aesthetic quality. I tend to give people a headache when I insist that there is such a thing as objective beauty as well. Again, it can be recognized but not necessarily defined.

      • I think there’s another way of looking at objective morality. It seems like some here are putting it that “there can be no statement that is always absolutely true about morality”. So “no one should ever ________ because that’s just ALWAYS an evil behavior. In all circumstances.

        That’s not what I think of when I hear the phrase “objective.” I believe there is an objective moral standard like I believe that God exists: You may not be able to define it very well, but you know it’s out there. So when I refer to objectivity, I’m saying “WHEN someone does something that is clearly evil, the evil that they commit is evil BECAUSE it violates an absolute standard, not simply because someone else is hurt by it, or dislikes it.”

        I have no interest in flinging around “The Rules” to establish for all what good/evil are. But I do think that, once it is given that there is no objective standard, it’s impossible to really argue that ANY standard be used, and then it really is a might-makes-right scenario. (In the end. It certainly would take awhile for things to get to this point. And I DON’T think that atheists are all intrinsically im- or a-moral because they don’t believe in God.)

  12. El Burro Que Mastica Zarzas says

    From Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

    “An evil man threw tobacco in the macaque-rhesus eyes.’ Oleg was struck dumb. Up to then he had been strolling along smiling with knowing condescension, but now he felt like yelling and roaring across the whole zoo, as though the tobacco had been thrown into his own eyes. ‘Why?’ Thrown into its eyes, just like that! ‘Why? It’s senseless!’ ”

    “How can this be? An evil man? Not an agent of American imperialism, or a counter-revolutionary, or a bourgeois revisionist, but simply an evil man. What sort of description is that?”

    Evil is by its nature hard to define. I think that’s why the Bible refers to ‘the mystery of iniquity’.

    I don’t think you need an “inerrantist” view of Scripture to posit an objective morality. Lewis was no one’s ineerantist, although he was also no one’s progressive. He explained an objective morality in terms of the Tao. I think also of St. Theophan’s statement that the simple reality of anything is enough to save the entire cosmos. Evil is simply that-which-is-not, and cannot consistently be made-to-be. Chaplain Mike’s A-F-T trifecta has gone a long way to enable Western societies’ flight into the irreal. I wonder how much of the project will be salvageable when energy outputs are 30% lower than currently.

    That said, we are not always the best at perceiving objective morality.

    • Agreed, Mule. Evil is the placing in wrong relationship things that of themselves are good. Evil does not exist as an object, but as a disordered relationship in which some deprivation of good has become reified. Evil is negation.

  13. Beautifully said Rob.

    Having been raised with the penal substitution approach to the cross and its implications, I’ve come to see that it shapes A LOT of what people (both Christian and not) think about Christianity and the person of Jesus. The reasons for that seem pretty straight forward – it’s simple, scary, there are a few bible verses that can be used to support it (if looking to do so) and seems to fit well within our modern notions of “justice” in the forensic sense. In many ways, what you shared above stands in stark contrast to that. And I want this truer and more beautiful vision of freely forgiving, self-sacrificing love and infinite mercy to sink deep into my soul.

    • I still struggle a great deal with the penal substitution approach. While I am starting to lean towards agreeing with your view, it is still hard to just completely reject the foundation for an entire worldview that has been engrained in my mind for so long. I’m certainly not close-minded enough to reject anything that doesn’t fit with what I already believe, but given how wide-reaching the implications of this issue are, it certainly doesn’t make it easy. There seems to be plenty of Scripture/history/logical arguments to support both sides! On top of that, things are often never as simple or black-and-white as we may think…perhaps neither side is completely right or wrong, but there is rather some mysterious way in which they both coexist (e.g. just like free will vs God’s sovereignty)

    • Thanks for your kind words, Mike. I first began to question some of my previously unquestioned evangelical beliefs about seven or so years ago, partly after reading bloggers like Internet Monk who introduced me to different perspectives. Thus began a process of theological reflection, deconstruction and reconstruction. Ditching the idea of penal substitutionary atonement was a major step in that process.

      And from where I stand now, the God revealed in Christ looks more beautiful than ever.

  14. it is still hard to just completely reject the foundation for an entire worldview that has been engrained in my mind for so long.

    I understand completely, believe me. I’m very much where you are and I’ve read and thought about this A LOT.

    Once a different framing narrative is offered things like Isaiah 53 look much different, but there’s still a part of me that’s prone to see things forensically in light of an infinitely angry deity. For me it isn’t just a matter of splicing together a few bible verses like a jigsaw puzzle to lob like grenades at those other verses. There are some fundamental and obvious problems with the penal substitution approach to the cross and I can’t not see them. It’s the cross itself that, for me, exposes them. Certainly it’s something that requires a lot of care in discussing.

    • David and Mike H,
      I agree that it is complex, just like life and even more so. I don’t want an angry God but have trouble viewing So much of scripture in any other light. Complex.

      • ChrisS,

        Yes, I can relate to that. It’s a constant battle for me.

        I think of “atonement theology” in terms of “what the Christian faith believes is wrong with the world and how God in Jesus addresses that problem.” When the primary (and only REAL) problem is how to appease and/or avoid divine wrath, it seems inevitable that we’ll see anger behind everything. I think that there are better ways to think about sin, justice, the cross, atonement, etc…..like the original post.

        There are two (written) sermons by a guy named George MacDonald that have been helpful to me – “Justice” and “Salvation From Sin”. They’re available for free online.

        • Thanks for posting those two sermons, I will certainly look into them. I agree with ChrisS that the topic is more subtle than is often portrayed.

          Also, to be fair, I think that for many that believe in atonement theology, their position is sometimes somewhat exaggerated. For me personally, even though part of me still somewhat clings to atonement theory, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I will “see anger behind everything”, or ultimately have a view of a scary, vengeful God.

          Anyways, I’m curious as to your thoughts on what the implications of a non-atonement theology are. Does that necessarily imply universalism? Or perhaps a temporary period of punishment/refinement (ala purgatory, which also though implies a sense of justice for wrongdoing). Or perhaps annihilation-ism (which is still punishment for those without faith since they are missing out on eternity with God)? I’m not sure if there are any other alternatives…

          • For me personally, even though part of me still somewhat clings to atonement theory, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I will “see anger behind everything”, or ultimately have a view of a scary, vengeful God.

            Very good point. At times, however, I wonder at the degree to which the underlying presuppositions and implications have really been examined and understood. I know that was true for me.

            In terms of implications on the scope and nature of salvation, that’s a massive topic. And to clarify, I don’t think “non-atonement” is the right way to put it. There’s just a fundamentally different way of seeing the nature and meaning of the word “atonement”.

            There’s not really a 1-1 correlation in terms of implications. John Stott is the poster boy for PSA and was an annihilationist. Many Calvinists/Reformed folks are annihilationists. The Orthodox (and I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong) don’t hold to a penal substitution approach at all, but the majority aren’t annihilationists or universalists. There are those who hold to a penal substitution view who are universalists – believing that the “price was paid” and is effective for all. For those who do hold alternative views, many would lose their jobs for saying so.

            In terms of implications, there are too many to really shake out here, and they will vary from person to person. I don’t see divine “justice” as diametrically opposed to “mercy” for one – mercy is a manifestation of justice (as backwards as that may sound). We don’t have a God who wants to forgive but can’t until the “price is paid” (actually nothing is really “forgiven” at all if a debt has been “paid” in the legal sense) – but a God who forgives freely and as an expression of his essential nature – even when we do our worst.

            I’ve read a ton on this, and I still struggle with it. You might like those George MacDonald essays. Two other books you might like are Healing the Gospel by Derek Flood and Salvation and How We Got it Wrong by Kenneth Myers. Fr Stephen Freeman is an Orthodox blogger who writes a lot about atonement.

  15. That’s an interesting way of putting it: “actually nothing is really ‘forgiven’ at all if a debt has been ‘paid’ in the legal sense”, makes me think about it a different way. Anyways, I’m sure “atonement” is one of many issues I will never fully comprehend this side of heaven; but at the same time, it would certainly be much more comforting to have at least “some” type of knowledge, however superficial, as to the eventual fate of those who reject God…

    Awesome, more reading material, gonna be a nice next few months and summer! 🙂