THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPT OF ATONEMENT
Beliefs based on the life of Jesus rather than his death
This essay continues below.
Criticisms which have been made of the non-violent theories:
Most of the criticisms of the regular Satisfaction
Theory apply here as well, with minimal modification:
|The theory assumes that because God is infinite, even a
single, minor human sin incurs an infinite debt to God. It can only be
cancelled by an infinite satisfaction through the death of Yeshua, the
sinless god-man. But, using the same logic, a single,
minor positive act by a human would bring about an infinite amount of good. But that is
irrational, because only God can bring about an infinite good. Thus,
one might conclude that atonement does not require infinite satisfaction such as could only be
achieved by Yeshua's death.|
|"Justice surely demands that at the very least the guilty party --
[i.e. humanity] -- provide as much of the satisfaction as he or she can."
3 But in the Satisfaction
and Penal theories, humans contribute nothing and Yeshua
everything. The torture-death of Yeshua and the zero contribution of humanity seems unjust
|The belief that God's need for justice is so strong that he would demand as
satisfaction the death of an innocent person "assumes a view of God's
moral nature that many modern readers would reject."
3 Being omnipotent, God could find
some other way that atonement could be attained.|
|One of Jesus' main messages was that we must
love our enemies, forgive those who injure us, and overcome evil with good.
These teachings appear to be totally opposite to God's demand for blood and
a torture death of an innocent man. Fr. John Mabry views the Penal Theory as "..an oppressive theology,
and inauthentic in light of Jesus' teaching." He asks: "how can a God
who in Jesus told us that we were never to exact vengeance, that we were to
forgive each other perpetually without retribution, demand of us behavior
that God 'himself' is unwilling or unable to perform?...why can God not
simply forgive as we are instructed to do, rather than mandating that some
'innocent and spotless victim' bear the brunt of 'his' reservoir of wrath?
The ability of humans to do this when God will not or cannot logically casts
humanity as God's moral superior. This is of course absurd!"
|Presumably, the Penal Theory would require that any new human sins committed after Yeshua's execution would
also have to be punished. They would necessitate the ritual sacrifice of a second God-Man.
Thus, multiple incarnations and executions would be required over the
millennia of human history since the first century CE. An
indefinite number of human sacrifices might eventually be required.|
|It seems logical that if the death of Yeshua satisfied God's need for
justice, and if humans made no contribution to the process, then salvation and
atonement should be granted to everyone -- to Christian believers and
unbelievers alike. It is unclear why only those individuals who trust
Yeshua as Lord and Savior will attains salvation, atonement,
and Heaven. To send those who have not trusted
Yeshua to Hell for eternal punishment is to penalize a person for committing
a thought crime -- a despicable act in today's world. |
In addition, one might argue that the essence of the Penal Theory is
that violence, suffering, and punishment of one or more innocent people is justified, if
it produces beneficial results for other people. Many find this concept
offensive and profoundly immoral. They regard punishment of the innocent for the
sake of others to be inherently
evil. It is this concept that partly justified the Burning Times (the
extermination of Witches during the Middle Ages and Renaissance), the
Armenian genocide, the
Nazi Holocaust, the genocide in
Bosnia Herzegovina by Serbian Orthodox Christians,
and other recent genocides religious oppression, and mass crimes against
- Kevin Davidson, "The Atonement," at:
- Keith Johnson "Major views of the Atonement," at:
- Michael Martin, "The Case Against Christianity," Temple University
Press, (1991), Page 257 to 258.
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
- Allan McNabb, "Calvinism," (2000), at:
http://www.biblestudyguide.org/ You may need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
- "The Book of Confessions," Presbyterian Church (USA). Cited in
- John Mabry, "How the doctrine of vicarious atonement...," at:
Copyright � 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2005-APR-12
Latest update: 2005-APR-12.
Author: B.A. Robinson
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