Letters to Paul, IV: the blood Atonement was necessary...
(Tim: Building on his series on Jonathan Edwards and the Atonement, here's another series--numbers one, two, three, four, and five--by our American African correspondent, David Wegener. But first, a note from David on the purpose of this series.
Paul is a Zambian Christian leader, a graduate of the school where I teach. I’ve taken him as representative of one of my students so I can have a face to look at in my mind as I write these letters.
Often my students puzzle over what they hear coming from the church in the west. Much of their background has led them to accept without question what comes from western Christians. "After all, they brought us the gospel and keep coming back and helping us." My exhortation to Paul is the one given by his namesake: “Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess 5:21).
Letters to Paul (IV): The Blood Atonement was Necessary
Dear Paul: The world we live in is violent. You know that from your background as a soldier. The violence in our world is a result of sin. My sin. Your sin. The sin of Ian Smith, the sin of Kenneth Kaunda, the sin of Joshua Nkomo, the sin of Robert Mugabe, the sin of the OAU, the sin of the leaders of England, the sin of Jimmy Carter, etc.
Jonathan Edwards tells us it all goes back to God’s command (“you shall not eat” from that one tree in the garden), the penalty (if you do, “you shall surely die”) and man’s specific disobedience (they “ate”). He is surely correct...
Adam’s sin was a life or death matter. His sin was passed on to all of his descendents and that means you and me. We were “in” Adam when he sinned. That’s what it means when the Bible calls him our federal head (Rom 5:12-19).
There are lots of manifestations of our sin. One of those is our questioning of the necessity of the atonement. As a result of our sin, we are filled with hatred for God keeping to His word. We wonder, why can’t He just overlook that “act”? We are filled with hatred that He even gave a penalty for disobedience, the penalty of death. Why can’t He overlook our disregard for His word, His authority, His honor, and His goodness?
Edwards also took great pains to show us the link between the terrible nature of the crime and the degree of punishment for that crime. God is infinite. So sin against God must be infinitely terrible. It is infinitely hateful to God and stirs up His infinite abhorrence and indignation. So God must punish sin with an infinite punishment. God’s honor is at stake in the punishment of sin. If sin is not punished with an infinite punishment, then the greatness and majesty of God’s being is dishonored. Is God a being worthy of honor and fear? Should we fear His displeasure?
So Evangelicals who question the necessity of the atonement...
- have a wrong view of God;
- have a wrong view of sin;
- have a wrong view of God’s word;
- end up justifying the devil.
God cannot simply set aside His commands. Such an act would be unworthy of Him. The devil told our first parents that if they disobeyed God’s command, we would not “surely die” (Gen 3:4). If the violent atonement wasn’t necessary, Satan was right.
If we question the necessity of the atonement, we sin greatly. Feminists who complain about a violent atonement don’t know what’s at stake and they miss out on the grace of God: the Father sent His Son to save us by dying in our place. Isn’t it interesting that the feminist movement, though it allegedly hates violence, has spawned so much of it?
Yours with thankfulness for a violent atonement, David