Tuesday, September 20, 2011


What would Jesus think about the interpretation that says his death was necessary for humanity's reconciliation with God? What would he say about "theories" developed some time after his crucifixion that stated he became a substitute for the cruel death we deserved, that his life was given as a ransom for many, that God received necessary satisfaction because Jesus was willing to go through an ancient, horrific execution?

My hunch is he would have none of it.

Here's why.

Jesus seemed to draw heavily from the work and proclamation of the ancient Hebrew prophets. These prophets argued against the practice of sacrificial ritual (Jer. 7:4; Mic.6:7) and even questioned if God ever established a sacrificial system (Amos 5:25; Jer. 7:22). The God of Hosea says, "I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6). They forcefully stated that justice, love, and morality are more important than purity laws or rituals.

The sacrificial concept is simply not present in the teachings of Jesus. He stated in various ways the idea of the open generosity and invitation of God, unrelated to sacrifice or any kind of symbolic payment. Jesus spoke of his impending death and tried to prepare his disciples for that moment, but he did not say that it was God's will or that it would somehow effect human salvation. The developed notion of a blood atonement has so gripped the Christian movement that it has pushed off of the stage of history the ethical teachings of Jesus. Jesus called for a life of compassion; the church has cried "blood."

For Jesus, the way to God is already open and we gain access by a response of faith. Even this has been manipulated as "faith" has been corrupted and changed from an idea of trust to an idea of belief.

Stephen Finlan is a theology professor at Fordham University and the author of several books on the subject of atonement. Dr. Finlan says, "The cross demonstrates the cruelty of the state and the violent envy of religious hierarchies; it was not required by God." "This fact is too painful for many Christians to admit, since it threatens to reveal something about their continuing engagement in selfish political maneuvering and in the use of ritual to enforce conformity." The church has expanded its base under a system of control that says "believe this or know the very wrath of God."

Jesus taught that God says, "You are accepted."


  1. Although the quote is from John, what do you do with the quote: behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

  2. You are right that Jesus did teach that God says, "We are accepted." But accepted on the basis that Christ on the cross absorbed the wrath of God in our place so that we are now looked at as righteous (The Great Exchange) as seen in 2 Corinthians 5:21.