Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Why Jesus Matters (A Post On Atonement)

Jesus matters because He gives us a new understanding of the nature of God. Or, more accurately, he takes a particular understanding found in the Old Testament and expands on it. The Old Testament contains the image of a Suffering God, and the idea is important where it crops up. But Jesus takes that image and makes it central to our understanding of God. The Gospels place the Cross at the center of all we know and can claim to understand about God. Jesus is God revealed, and so Jesus matters.

Jesus matters because He combats a particular disease of our collective cultural psyche. This disease is one of idolatry, in particular the tendency to worship coercive forms of power, in particular political and military power. Jesus is God's response to the ascendency of Emperor worship and the worship of worldly glory. As He reveals what God IS, He also reveals what God is not. Thus he undercuts the cultural contagion of political worship.

Jesus matters because that cultural disease was an incarnation of a greater problem, which is the fact of a satanic presence in the world. Something stood before God and man, and erected walls between all facets of mankind. The wall between man and God is broken down, because Christ's coming removes the impediment to proper worship of God, established in the general worship of political and coercive forms of power. Satan is thrown down from Heaven by Christ, and so the way to Heaven is completely clear.

Jesus matters because the evils of the world made belief in God difficult. This block to faith was one of the walls erected by Satan. Because Jesus has shown us a God we can believe in despite the suffering and evil in the world, because we can know truly that God is love, albeit Suffering Love, we are saved for faithlessness and one of Satan's main tools is robbed of its main power.

Jesus matters because He shows us a God who is in no way indifferent to the evils of the world. He says of sin that it is the suffering of God, and so God's mercy does not make us bitter. We know God cares in spite of His choice to forgive. Mercy and justice are reconciled on the Cross, and so another impediment to faith, and thus another tool of the devil, is removed.

Jesus matters because His choice to suffer gains Him the moral right to forgive and so it is a forgiveness we can receive and accept. A person who has not suffered as a result of a crime cannot forgive, but the victim of a crime can forgive. As Jesus suffers with us, as a consequence of our sin, so He gains the moral position from which forgiveness is possible.

Jesus matters because He extends God's act of adoptive reconciliation to all people. God created an outpost of His self-revelation with Israel. Israel was the first to reveal God, collectively. Because Christ the individual invites opens a way for individuals and not just collectives to reflect God's being, so all people are given the opportunity to be One with God. 


  1. Now all you say about Jesus may be true; however it is no comfort whatever to me. To be wracked with pain from cancer or burns from an accident and to hear, "God suffers with you." is condescending and useless. It seems to worsen the suffering to think there is this mighty God that will do nothing for you but watch. Thanks for nothing. Morphine or Death would be more useful gods under those conditions.

    What is more, He will stop no evil and allows any wickedness humans can invent to go right on. His love and mercy and suffering with us is supposed to be enough. I find it thoroughly inadequate.

    A God that does not end suffering seems like a spectator or too little, too late to me. There are things I would never allow anyone I love to endure. A God that is more aloof than me, seems pointless.

    Consider this; Today somewhere a miserable wretch is being tortured. They may have lived a spotless life and now they are being torn apart for the amusement or to make another feel secure. They can cry to God all they want and he won't do anything. That to me indicts God as indifferent. Perhaps he suffered once but that was far away and long ago and besides, I don't want a god that suffers with me. I want one that makes the pain stop.

    This is why I still find little comfort as a Christian. Christianity seems to be true, but I take no comfort therein. On the best days I can distract myself from the reality of the world and get on pretty well, on the worst days I just wait for evil to fall upon me and hope it does not last long.

    1. I do not think God suffered in the past and suffers no longer. Jesus is NOT simply God's pain, Jesus REVEALS God's pain. I don't think God can coercively impact the world. Jesus in list reveals God. God's vulnerability does not remove our pain, it changes our moral calculation. The idea that religion makes life EASIER disappears with Christianity. For this is what God is. To blame God for our situation is to blame the victim of sin, not its author. God is the one WE need to pick up and carry. There is hope, and there should be happiness, in that God's choice to not abandon us, which is the source of His suffering (embracing the unembracable) means that His pain will not always be our pain. It also means that he finds some joy beyond the pain. That joy will be ours before it is His.