Posted by Dr. Larry Taylor
Theologians have debated over theories of the atonement for centuries; however, almost all of the debate is post-Constantine. Proto-orthodox scholars, who predate the usurpation of Christianity by the Empire, were characterized by persecution, martyrdom, poverty, and sold-out devotion. They agreed on much: the importance of actually doing what Jesus said to do, the trinity, the essential nature of Christ, His bodily resurrection, a Christological reading of all of scripture, and what was much later labeled as the Christus Victor theory of the atonement. Christus Victor sees the entire life of Jesus, not just His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, as salvific. Christus Victor sees Jesus on the cross:
- Revealing the divine truth about who God really is (perfect love)
- Reconciling all things (including humans) to God (but not God to humans because God was never mad at anyone – the problem is on our side)
- Focusing all the sins of humankind into a singularity called “sin,” which was then born and forgiven
- Healing us of our sin-diseased natures (we are all broken – the true meaning of “original sin”)
- Invading, immersing, filling, anointing all with the Holy Spirit, which enables us to live kingdom of God lives (loving enemies, turning the other cheek, nonviolent resistance to evil, living by the sermons on the mount and plain)
- Giving us an example of how to live, love and forgive
- And, defeating the power of darkness that rule this world by overcoming evil with love (which in reality includes all the others).
Consequently, the cross is not just about having our sins forgiven so we can go to heaven after we die. It is that, thank God, but also includes so much more – nothing short of a complete cosmic victory that will eventually bring all of creation into perfect alignment with the will of God. We are not only forgiven; we are also set free to from all the forces of darkness in this evil age. As we day by day trust in Christ, we share His cosmic victory; we are saved from satan, destruction, the inability to be right with God and others, idolatrous efforts to find a source of life in lesser things, and meaninglessness. We are saved to participate in life, joy, peace, love and goodness. And we are empowered to clean out of our lives everything not in alignment with the Kingdom of God, including the swearing of oaths, violence, retaliation, coercion, unforgiveness, judgmentalism, yielding to temptations, lying, legalism, false teaching, racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, pride, nationalism, allegiance to anything other than Christ, and so on.
Moreover, the cross is not a legal transaction as understood by Anselm of Aosta (c. 1033 – 1109), the Archbishop of Canterbury, who gave us the now commonly accepted “penal substitution” theory. According to that theory, God the Father is so holy He cannot stand to even look at us and has righteously concluded that everyone must be tortured in eternal fire forever. To prevent that from happening, Jesus stepped in and took our sin on the cross so that all of God’s wrath, anger, judgment, and punishment could be vented on Him. Having whipped and crucified Jesus instead of us, God can now forgive us because a legal exchange has taken place. God, the righteous judge has punished Jesus the defense attorney instead of us the proven guilty who were rightly accused by Satan the prosecuting attorney.
There are many problems with that view. If God needed to vent wrath somewhere, did He really forgive? How does ruthlessly punishing an innocent person absolve the guilt of a criminal/sinner? How can a loving Father pour wrath on His only son? When we look at the Gospel stories, it is clear that God did nothing violent at Calvary. People caused all the ugliness of Calvary. All the Father did was watch. God is not and never was angry with us. He cannot be – God is love.
The cross is not a legal transaction that absolves us of guilt and by so doing divorces justification from sanctification. Many have taught that a person must first by faith accept Christ, which results in being justified before God, declared right with God, “saved,” heading for heaven after death; to be followed (optionally) by making Jesus Lord of one’s life, obeying Him, following Him, and serving His kingdom. The result is a ton of people who are “saved,” but their lives bear no resemblance to Christ’s. Massive numbers of Christians see no need to live by the Sermon on the Mount and continue to support things diametrically opposed to the Kingdom of God.
The Christus Victor view eliminates all those difficulties. Jesus died for our sins. All the sins of all of humankind were focused into a singularity (“the sin of the world”), absorbed, born, and forgiven by God. The kingdom of evil was overcome, not by violence, but by self-sacrificing love. On the cross, we see the heart of God. As His enemies are torturing Him to death, He forgives them. Now, by faith, we make Him Lord of our lives and trust Him daily for the ability to live like Jesus.
Yet, how do we know love has conquered evil and the Kingdom of God is victorious over the kingdoms of this world that are ruled by the principalities and powers of satan? Are we not surrounded by war, violence, poverty, hatred, sickness, disease, and strife?
We know for sure that Christ won the full and final victory over evil because he is risen from the dead.
We know He is risen from the dead by an abundance of historical evidence, including:
- Hundreds of eyewitnesses saw Him, talked with Him, ate with Him
- Nearly all of those eyewitnesses died horrific deaths insisting He was alive and is Lord of all
- Not one of those eyewitnesses recanted their story even under pain of torture
- The Romans made sure He was really dead (there was no possibility of a comatose state – Rome was good at killing people)
- The tomb was sealed under Roman law under pain of death
- The tomb was guarded 24/7 by Roman soldiers
- The entrance to the tomb was covered by a disk-shaped stone weighing many tons
- Something or someone picked up the stone and set it off by itself (Scripture says an angel)
- The tomb was already empty
- The graveclothes were still wrapped as if around a body
- The turban was neatly folded and set aside
- For over 2,000 years, lives and cultures have been transformed by people attesting to the fact that He is risen.
If not risen from the dead, who moved the stone? How did Jesus get out of a sealed and guarded tomb? How do you explain all the eyewitnesses and changed lives and refusals to recant?
Christ is risen!
Christ is victorious!
Christ is King!
Christ is Lord!
So, where is the Kingdom of God? It is here. It is everywhere women and men trust Jesus and are by faith and grace eliminating everything contrary to the Kingdom from their lives. It is where dedicated followers of Christ love their enemies, provide for the homeless poor, seek justice, house the stranger-alien, turn the other cheek, refuse to participate in war or violence or coercion, share all their worldly possessions with others, live in peaceful community, and spread shalom.
About Dr. Larry TaylorRadical Anabaptist Jesus Freak Red Letter Christian, sailor, thinker, pastor, teacher, chaplain, counselor, husband, father, grandfather
Posted on March 31, 2018, in Bible, bodily resurrection, Christianity, Prayer, Spirituality and tagged anabaptist, angels, Bible, charity, Christianity, comfort, eschatology, eternal life, evangelical, evil, faith, fellowship, forgiveness, God’s Word, good, grace, healing, heaven, hell, hope, Jesus, joy, judgment, kingdom of God, love, mercy, New Testament, Old Testament, peace, second coming, shalom, social justice, thoughtful, truth. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.