On Sunday I had the chance to preach at the ministry I served at for years. Here’s my message on Luke 19:1-10.
I have spent the last few weeks studying the book of Jonah for our series at Soma, Chasing Rebels…
The first week we kicked things off with the notion that God pursues rebels like you and me. Today I want to jump forward to the end of the book – after Jonah has complained about God’s compassion and mercy towards the Ninevites God gives him an object lesson. Basically God causes a vine to supernaturally sprout up and give Jonah shade, the next day God causes a worm to eat up the vine and a hot eastern wind to scorch it. And boy is Jonah pissed! His anger burns and he exclaims that he is angry enough to die because of this vine (its sort of an expletive in Hebrew). The lesson worked – it got the reaction from Jonah that God wanted all along. Here is how commentator Leslie Allen paraphrases that conversation in NICOT. (God is the one talking here:)
Let us analyze this anger of yours – it represents your concern over your beloved vine… but what did it really mean to you? Your attachment could not be very deep, for it was here one day and gone the next. Your concern was dictated by self interest, not by genuine love. You never had for it the devotion of a gardener. If you feel as badly as you do, what would you expect a gardener to feel like, who tended the plant and watched it grow only to see it wither and die, poor thing? And this is how I feel about Nineveh, only much more so. All those people, those animals, I made the, I have cherished them all these years. Nineveh has cost me no end of effort. They mean the world to mean. Your pain is nothing to mine when in contemplate their destruction.
God’s compassion extends to rebels like the Ninevites and surely it extends to us. Its our responsibility to extend it to others who don’t know God.
What does Jonathan Edwards believe when it comes to atonement? Well, its nothing terribly interesting – he takes the traditional reformed line when it comes to this doctrine. However – in one of his miscellanies he says something that has been used by other theologians (John McLeod Campbell initially) to argue that he might have theoretically been open to a different theory of atonement. Lets take a look at that miscellany real quick:
oo. Satisfaction. Now some may say why could not God, of his mercy, pardon the injury only upon repentance without other satisfaction, without doing himself any hurt? I also ask, why could he not of his mercy pardon without repentance? For the same reason he could not pardon without repentance without satisfaction. For all repentance man is capable of is no repentance at all; or which is the same thing, it is as little as none in comparison of the greatness of the injury, for it cannot bear any proportion to it. Now I am sure, it would be as dishonorable for God to pardon the injury upon repentance that did not bear the least proportion to the injury, as for him to pardon without any repentance at all. Wherefore, we are not forgiven now because our repentance makes any satisfaction, but because therby we reject the sin and receive the satisfaction already made.
Here he starts with the same sort of question Abelard asks in his commentary to the Romans – why could God just not forgive without satisfaction being made? It seems obvious to me that the his answer to the question is basically – “because that makes no sense whatsoever.” You see this in his second question – why could God not forgive without repentance? The answer is supposed to be obvious – he can’t – just like God cannot pardon when there is repentance without satisfaction. Why can’t God pardon without repentance without satisfaction? Because our repentance is not enough. Our repentance is too small in comparison to the offense we have committed at all. Therefore satisfaction needs to be made.
This is where other theologians come in – McLeod specifically. McLeod picks up on this supposed insight – that our repentance is not enough to merit forgiveness – and he says that if there were a sort of repentance that was equal or greater to the offense committed against God then that would merit satisfaction. McLeod goes on to argue that Christ – our substitute – makes exactly this sort of repentance. Christ repents perfectly on our behalf.
There are a few problems with this though…
1)How can Christ repent for someone else? Repentance can only happen at the hands of the perpetrator. This however is not actually as big of a problem as one might think. If Christ and the elect actually have an organic – real – and not merely legal union – then Christ’s repentance really is his peoples repentance and Christ can really repent for them because they are one metaphysical entity.
However there is a bigger problem…
2)At what point does Christ actually repent? Where do we see Christ’s vicarious repentance in scripture at any point? We don’t. Aside from the fact that vicarious repentance would have been an impossibility in Edwards’ mind, I think the lack of a scriptural basis for this is this particular theory’s fatal flaw.
It’s Easter Weekend! Its the time of year we Christians celebrate Christ’s atoning work for us on the cross and his resurrection, which we participate in through baptism into Christ. In light of the fact that it is Easter weekend I will be blogging on Richard Swinburne’s Responsibility and Atonement this easter weekend. I hope to show that Swinburne’s atonement is full of shortcomings. Today, on Holy Saturday we be looking at another aspect of Swinburne’s atonement theology. After this we will be in a position where we can critique his theory =)
In addition to these four components of atonement (repentance, apology, reparation, penance) there is another component which is very important for Swinburne’s moral system. He believes that a person can help another person make atonement. One can help a person to make atonement by encouraging her to repent or apologize. One can also help a person make atonement by providing another person the means to make reparation or penance if that person does not have the means to do it themselves. The act of helping to make atonement for another person will be very important for Swinburne’s theological work on atonement.
Swinburne’s primary work on the theological side of atonement is found in chapter ten, “Redemption.” He claims that “each human sinner owes atonement to God for the sins (objective and subjective) which he has committed himself,” and that this atonement involves repentance, apology, and reparation. However given man’s sinfulness it is extremely difficult for humans to make the necessary atonement. Thus humans need help from outside.
Swinburne believes that no person can atone for the sins of another person, however one can help another person atone for their sins. Thus God can provide the help humans need to perform atonement. God provides the necessary reparation and penance for human atonement. This is Christ’s life and death. Swinburne makes it clear that the crucifixion is not a payment of a penalty, in other words he disavows Penal Substitutionary Atonement. However he argues for what he calls a sacrifice model, which is for all intensive purposes a version of the satisfaction theory of atonement. Christ is a sacrifices, who gives something valuable to God, namely his life ‘lived in obedience to God and laid down on the cross.’ Christ’s offering of himself as a sacrifice is a supererogatory act. Since God did not owe God anything, and he owed other humans very little, his giving of his life is meritorious. Christ’s meritorious work can be applied to human work of atonement. Thus humans who repent and apologize to God for their sins can use Christ’s life and death as their own reparation and penance. Just as a friend can help another friend make atonement, Christ can help a repentant and apologetic sinner make atonement. Thus if we are to summarize Swinburne’s position, humans repent and apologize but Christ offers reparation and penance for them. These four actions combined remove the guilt that humans cannot remove on their own.