How Do Modern Apologists Explain How Jesus’ Atonement for Sins on the Cross is Not a Human Sacrifice?

JESUS DIES ON THE CROSS INTRODUCTION – Salt and Light Ministries

A review of evangelical theologian and apologist Randal Rauser’s latest book, Conversations With My Inner Atheist, Part 7:

“Mia” (Rauser’s nickname for his doubts):  Why isn’t the death of Jesus just one more evil? As I understand it, at the heart of atonement is the idea that Jesus died as our substitute, in our place. He took the punishment that was properly owing to us. And this somehow maximizes God’s justice. But I think that actually looks positively horrid.

Randal: I think the first thing I want to say is that I believe the heart of your objection is not the Christian doctrine of atonement per se but rather against a specific theory of atonement, namely the penal substitutionary theory of atonement. According to that theory, Christ reconciles us to the Father by being punished in our place and having our sin transferred to him. But many Christians do not accept that theory. One can reject penal substitution theory of atonement while retaining the core doctrine of atonement.

Mia: So what is the right theory, then.

Randal: In fact, there are many theories of atonement: ransom, Christus victor, exemplar, Girardean, governmental, recapitulation, and others. Each aims to offer an overarching framework to interpret how God actually works to reconcile us in Christ. But I don’t actually endorse any one of them.

The key, from my view, is to note that the church on the whole has never committed to insisting that any one of these theories is the correct one. So while the church teaches the atoning work of Christ—indeed, that teaching is at the heart of her proclamation—it has never formally dictated a specific theory of how that work should be understood. That’s one reason why I don’t hold to a specific theory. Rather, I think that the New Testament provides a rich multiplicity of word pictures or metaphors and that each one of them offers a particular insight even if none of them can sustain an overarching theory.

–pp. 104, 106-107

Gary: “The New Testament provides a rich multiplicity of word pictures or metaphors and that each one of them offers a particular insight even if none of them can sustain an overarching theory.” Wow. Leave it to a moderate-liberal Christian theologian to come up with such lovely, nuanced, literary verbiage to describe a bloody human sacrifice!

Read part 8 here.

.

.

.

End of post.

5 thoughts on “How Do Modern Apologists Explain How Jesus’ Atonement for Sins on the Cross is Not a Human Sacrifice?

  1. I agree with Rauser on this one. There are numerous “theories” about “atonement”, and basically every one of them is (by necessity) somewhat metaphoric.

    But, as to “human sacrifice” in particular: Repeatedly, the NT says that “Jesus gave himself” or “Jesus gave his life” for us.

    This is not fundamentally different than a soldier that “gives his life” for his country – often called the “ultimate sacrifice”. But, of course, this is entirely metaphoric, too. Nobody “sacrificed” anyone in the sense that, say, the Aztecs sacrificed thousands. And, if a soldier makes the “ultimate sacrifice” (of himself), nobody even thinks to equate that with “human sacrifice”.

    Except you, Gary. And probably other former fundamentalists that fail to grasp anything of nuance in much of anything they read, and certainly have no grasp whatsoever of the use of metaphor. Only the most rigid, brittle, wooden reading will do. Same old fundamentalist problem you’ve always had, really….

    So, there’s that.

    Like

  2. I don’t know about “someone” – meaning, “any random person”.

    The question is whether Jesus offered himself up to God to appease God.

    The answer: No. Sacrifices in Judaism were NOT the means of obtaining forgiveness. Forgiveness was obtained by repentance.

    From chabad.org: “On a basic level, if the sacrifice was being brought to atone for some inadvertent sin, one had to feel remorse over what had happened.21 To assist in reaching true repentance, he would bear in mind that what was being done to the animal essentially should have occurred to him.22

    Another way of understanding sacrifices is that the animal one brings as an offering to G‑d is symbolic of our own inner animal, our instincts and primal desires that we must bring into alignment with G‑d’s will. We surrender that part of us to G‑d and make it submissive to Him, so that it too may seek to do His will.23”

    Here (above) are given two different Jewish views on sacrifices, and their actual purposes. And, there are other similar views.

    But, sacrifice for the sake of “appeasement” is not one of them.

    So, why Jesus would have felt he needed to offer himself up to “appease” God is beyond me.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s