We’ve spent the last few posts deconstructing aspects of the Penal Substitution theory of the atonement that so many of us grew up with (series archive, here). Today we turn away from the necessary deconstruction and begin reformulating a healthy view of the atonement.
When I was doing my graduate work at Gordon-Conwell before going to Fuller for my doctorate, I had the opportunity to study atonement theology– an encounter for which I will always be grateful. I entered those studies holding a rigid Penal Substitution view, as I didn’t know there were other options, and certainly hadn’t explored them. However, in time I found that using penal metaphors exclusively or rigidly certainly didn’t make sense– for all the reasons I have outlined in this series thus far.
When it came time to rebuild my atonement theology, I decided to clear the table of everything else that had been put on it, and begin rebuilding by returning to what Jesus said about it.
When struggling with theology, there’s no better move than returning to what Jesus said about it.
When I examined how Jesus described the atonement, I stumbled upon a single word that he used– a word that, for me, changed my entire view and approach to it.
The word? Ransom. (λύτρον)
In Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 we see Jesus describe his own coming work on the cross, which he describes as giving his life “as a ransom for many.”
Personally, I think this is hugely significant. Had Jesus come to be offered as a sacrifice to God, I would have imagined when he talked about the atonement, he would have said as much. However, that’s not the concept he expressed or the words that he used– he specifically described what was happening as the paying of a ransom.
Just think about the word and concept for a moment.
Now, let me ask you a big question: When a child is kidnapped and a ransom is demanded, who is the one who demands a ransom?
In the Penal Substitution view of the atonement, the death of Jesus is a payment to God— but Jesus called it a ransom, and ransoms aren’t paid to the parents of the kidnapped!
Ransoms are paid by the parents of the kidnapped.
Ransoms are not demanded by those who are good, but by those who are evil. As we have talked about the death of Christ, and the idea of blood sacrifice, many have rightly objected to the idea that God would demand and need such a thing– it seems vile and abusive to kill an innocent human being. It’s an affront to our God-given sense of morality and justice, and rightly so.
So here’s where we’re at: We’ve demonstrated the idea of God being the causing agent who demanded the death of his own son as a blood sacrifice makes little sense. But we must still contend with Jesus’s own words that he was willingly going to the cross as a payment to ransom us. We also must contend with the idea that Jesus died as a net result of humanity’s sin, that he somehow stood in our place in that moment, and that the result was our freedom.
And that invites the question: Who would be so evil that they would demand or enjoy Jesus– one who was not under the penalty of sin and the least deserving of anyone who has ever lived– be hoisted up on a cross and brutally slain?
And that question brings us to who I think is the missing character in most atonement theology: the Devil himself.
When we consider the meaning of ransom, and when we take a new look at the character who often gets left out of atonement discussions, to me the picture begins to make more sense. The cross was a payment, a ransom– but not one demanded by God, it was a ransom paid by God.
I’d invite you to consider the first mention of the atonement, which actually occurs at the beginning of God’s story. As soon as sin and death enter the world, what does God tell the serpent in the garden?
In Genesis 3:15 God makes a reference to what is to come and says, “You will bruise his heel, but he will crush your head.”
Did you catch that? You will bruise his heel. This, I believe, is a reference to the death of Christ– and this makes Satan the causing agent of the cross.
Now, fast forward to the New Testament after the death and resurrection of Jesus. How do authors describe what happened on the cross? Well, John seems to continue this theme of Satan being a chief player in it all. In fact, in 1 John 3:8 he actually says that the ultimate reason Jesus came was to “defeat the works of the Devil.”
Too often atonement theology is truncated and reduced in ways that are not helpful. Part of a solution is viewing the cross from 50,000 feet instead of at eye level, so that we can see it in light of God’s cosmic war against evil– one where even God became a temporary casualty.
Reclaiming the idea of “ransom” is one of the ways we achieve a bigger view of God’s story.
The cross, I believe, is the place where Jesus faced Satan’s wrath head-on. It is a moment of the ancient battle where Satan clings to those he has enslaved by sin, and who are facing the natural consequence of death. It is also a moment where Satan gets to relish in a gruesome death of the one who he has hated since the very beginning.
But the victory is short lived.
With the resurrection, God vindicates Jesus– thus making him victor over death and the Evil One. Equally importantly: He became the victor over the Law, perfectly completing it and closing the book– so that the Evil One could no longer use it to accuse us, and declare us guilty.
The cross is a climactic moment in a long battle against evil. It’s one where the Evil One bruised God’s heel, but had his head crushed in the process.
Ransom: it’s a small word that makes a big difference in atonement theology. I’d invite you to reconsider it, and reconsider that the cross may have been more about Satan’s wrath against God, than God’s wrath against us.
(footnote: I think concepts of ransom are just one aspect of the atonement, and that there’s so much more. I don’t hold all aspects of the traditional ransom theory, but believe the metaphor works well when situated within a larger Christus Victor framework.)
I made a much longer post, but it needs to be cleared before it will appear. Meanwhile, I thought I would condense it just in case anybody else reads through this is looking for another perspective.
To put it briefly, I think both satisfaction/substitution and ransom/Christus Victor soteriologies are lacking. Instead, I think that recapitulation/participation soteriology is both the accurate interpretion of Jesus’ teaching and a beautiful, empowering doctrine. To put it briefly: Jesus saved us simply by becoming human, thus forming in Himself a bridge between mortal and immortal. By recognising this and accepting Him as Messiah, we participate in this union, which leads us through death to new life.
Some links for further reading:
https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:cf34ec7b-4b0c-4f4c-ba86-89e438f84db5/download_file?file_format=pdf&safe_filename=602327057.pdf&type_of_work=Thesis ~ A thesis which contrasts Irenaeus of Lyon with Clement of Alexandria and sheds further light on the ideas of recapitulation and the union of the human with the Divine in Christ (as well as other “lost” takes on Christian doctrine from Irenaeus).
Isn’t this world all about the cosmic battle between Satan and God?
Satan’s claim is that God can not create a being who is free to choose and choose to serve God and still love God?
The problem with the Penal Substitution model is that it turns God into some cosmic policeman interested in only sinless perfection.
I believe you are generally on the right track. Suggest you read the Urantia Book for further perspective.
As with most things theological, understandings often get truncated and too often lead to perversion. Take Calvin’s teaching on the eternity of salvation. He was an agnostic when he came to knowing if he himself or anyone else was saved. The book of Job reveals what is happening. God makes a contract with the Prosecuting Attorney. And, yes, God does answer Job. Basically he tells Job that he just doesn’t understand. I would also say that this also gives insight into the Akidah (i.e. the binding/sacrifice of Isaac). Since God is all-knowing, certainly He knows that Abraham would be obedient. So why did God do it? “Elohim” as you know refers to Almighty God as well as the gods or “angels” or heavenly host as the Bible only recognizes One God. Hence it is not for God’s sake to test Abraham, but for the sake of the heavenly host to prove to doubters that Abraham would be obedient.
Something does not compute. If Jesus is God, then according to you, God is Ransom….God is crucified, then God resurrects himself…It was all an illusion?
I have read Genesis and do not find Satan there. Indeed, the Satan as the Devil does not appear anywhere in the Torah. Apparently by the time of Jesus belief in multiple devils existed, and they probably were considered causative for multiple disease states. Perhaps the idea of an Evil force opposing the Jehovah God came out of the Babylonian experience. There are multiple ways of reading Genesis, and the Jews had theirs, Christians have theirs, too: The Jews didn’t seem to find any original sin appearing at the Garden, but Christians see it all over the place.
Just last night I read Isaiah 43:3 which says that God gave Egypt, Ethiopia and Seba for Israel’s ransom. I was wondering how this was and what the relational significance of this is with the ransom element of atonement theology. I would appreciate any thoughts you might have on this.
Isaiah is referencing the defeat of the Babylonian Empire by the Persian king Cyrus the Great. This released the Israelites from captivity and they welcomed him as a liberator.
Cyrus’s empire took over Kush and Saba.
This was Isaiah’s theological interpretation of historical events.
How good was Cyrus the Great?
“Upon taking Babylon, Cyrus issued a declaration inscribed on a clay barrel, known today as the Cyrus Cylinder. It recounts his victories and merciful acts, and documents his royal lineage. It was discovered in 1879 in Babylon, and today is kept in the British Museum.
Although the cylinder reflects a long tradition in Mesopotamia where, as early as the third millennium B.C.E., kings such as Urukagina began their reigns with declarations of reforms, the cylinder of Cyrus is widely referred to in modern times as the “first charter of human rights.” In 1971, the United Nations translated and published it into all of its official languages. The cylinder decrees the normal themes of Persian rule: religious tolerance, abolishment of slavery, freedom of choice of profession, and expansion of the empire.”
And he undoubtedly inspired the founders of the USA.
“Although a source of inspiration for European and American philosophers, the state model created by Cyrus, based on diverse cultures, but no single dominant religion, was only picked up on in the 18th Century United States.”
So you guys have ol Cyrus the Great to thank…………..
Wow. I love history; I never knew Cyrus, or that cylinder, existed. Thanks, Bonie.
I’m having trouble getting the end point?
Here we go again …….
I just read the following:
Christus Victor explains the why, penal substitution explains the how, and moral influence explains what should be done in response.
Also … for those who say I can forgive without needing something in return, why can’t God do the same? Could it be the only reason you can extend such free forgiveness is because Jesus already paid something?
In the new covenant/testament/will God forgives freely and therefore no sacrifice for sin is needed.
Hebrews 10. Berean Study Bible
1. The Law is only a shadow of the good things to come, not the realities themselves. It can never, by the same sacrifices offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2. If it could, would not the offerings have ceased? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all and would no longer feel the guilt of their sins.
3. Instead, those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4. because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins. 5. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said:
“Sacrifice and offering You did not desire,
but a body You prepared for me.
6. In burnt offerings and sin offerings
You took no delight.
7.Then I said, ‘Here I am, it is written about Me in the scroll:
I have come to do Your will, O God.’”a
8. In the passage above He says, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire, nor did You delight in them” (although they are required by the Law). 9. Then He adds, “Here I am, I have come to do Your will.” He takes away the first (old covenant/testament/will) to establish the second (new covenant/testament/will). 10. And by that will, we have been sanctified through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11. Day after day every priest stands to minister and to offer again and again the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12. But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God. 13. Since that time, He waits for His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet, 14. because by a single offering He has made perfect for all time those who are sanctified.
15. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First He says:
16. “This is the covenant I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord.
I will put My Laws in their hearts
and inscribe them on their minds.”b
17. Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”c
18. And where these have been forgiven, an offering for sin is no longer needed.
a 5-7 Psalm 40:6-8
b 16 Jeremiah 31:33
c 17 Jeremiah 31:34
I’m going to say something that I NEVER say: Oh. My. God!
And that is just it! I discovered MY God at age 14, all by myself. Well, via the witness of the lives of my peers at a camp I attended – what I mean is there was no church ‘intervention’ or any formulaic approach to the throne of grace, nor was I ‘raised in a Christian home’ and made to attend church and Sunday School. A young atheist found Jesus, arms open, loving and wonderful, and knew that he wished to follow this man, this God in flesh. And give him my all.
And THIS is my story, this is my song: a year later, I was convinced that I should attend church somewhere. I still do so, and believe that I must (though not religiously – NEVER religiously!), but all those years I heard things from pulpits that I didn’t like. I learnt to filter for myself, to retain what I KNEW about my God from my own reading and experience, and reject the nonsense. Many things that I held on to were due to peer pressure, now I am able to realise and confess it. Even though I am a long-haired, tattooed nonconformist, there are always things that are drilled into you by varying forms of mass hypnosis. Over the years I’ve been slowly picking away at a lot of little things, removing them from my flesh like cactus thorns that have stuck in there. Each one causes very little pain as long as I stay still, but movement has always been my nature, always inquisitive, always raising my hand and saying ‘excuse me, I’m not sure I agree’ (Questioning Thomas is my favourite disciple). Now I have a blog to do that, and the ever present social media posts that just MUST be challenged! Those thorns ARE painful when I try to pull them out, but boy, do I feel better for getting them out!
One of the last things remaining was the ‘angry God’ that I never recognised, and the need to find propitiation and its emphasis in each new translation of scripture, which would be rejected if such doctrine was ‘watered down’ to any degree (as if by simple translation one could alter meaning – I have a Linguistics Masters, don’t get me into THAT debate, I warn you). Though there it was, nice and neat, each time a preacher opened the word and proclaimed the gospel. God was angry, inconsolably angry, and continued being angry, right up until Calvary, when Jesus turned his wrath away by the sinless blood. And I read tracts that vilified Roman Catholic teaching that indoctrinated children into believing that Mary was the good mother who placated an angry father who wished to chastise the child with a rod! All the while I was told I had an angry father who needed the sacrifice of his son to be satiated with the perfect blood that would stop his bloodthirsty nature. Oh the irony!!
Oh, this has grown into a blog of my own. Long I have pondered the meaning of REM’s classic ‘Losing My Religion’ and recently it has become more clear. These things I shed, for I know not why they attached themselves to me in the first place. That’s ME in the corner!
Thank you, Benjamin! We do not agree on all things (find me another human with whom that is possible and you will have proven cloning!), but I was wary at best, and really scared if I’m brutally honest as I read through this short series, thinking you were going to go too far, too much outside the fold of ‘orthodox’ doctrine to be listened to, BUT I arrived at the station that said ‘YES!’ on the sign as I got off the rickety train. We have sung about ransom in our hymns and spiritual songs yet never realised that this itself blows wide apart the desire for sacrifice.
With brain cells inside my skull going ‘pop.. pop.. pop’ now, I have to get back on that train again, and the next station? Who knows, but the boarding point called ‘religion’? That is SO far away now…
OK, this is really interesting to me… I’ve never been able to accept the idea of a deity worthy of worship who demanded sacrifice. The whole “angry, vengeful jealous God” who found any human imperfection worthy of horrific, unjust punishment and yet is the source of all love, kindness and compassion makes no sense. However, the idea of a “ransom” being extorted from a deity by some unknown force is something to think about…
Of course, it raises a few problems of it’s own. A deity that could be extorted can’t, by definition, be all-powerful. An all-powerful deity could simply brush aside the extortion. The ability to extort, to make demands, implies equals. I can’t make demands of someone with vastly more power. So, if a ransom was paid, who was it paid to? The devil? That means God is not more powerful than the devil… doesn’t it?
It’s similar to the questions I’ve always had about people praying for healing, help or protection. Why would one need to ask for your needs from an all-knowing deity? Don’t they already know about the tornado, the cancer, the job-loss? Why wouldn’t a loving God step in without the prayers? Or, for that matter, simply prevent the crisis in the first place?
However, questions aside, this is a new idea for me, and a compelling one. Thanks, Ben, for giving me something to think about.
I can’t buy into any kind of “ransom” theory because it still makes the death of Jesus a necessity, which to some degree still implicates God in Jesus’ death. I have to reject any atonement theory that makes Jesus’ death a requirement. Also the above theory makes the Devil a real being, which I don’t buy into. I consider the Devil/Satan a mythological symbol of deception and evil, which power is very real. This is the power that entered Judas and made him, to use the language of John’s Gospel, “a Devil.” I think it is much better to see the death of Jesus as the inevitable consequence of a life devoted to the cause of the kingdom of God, hence the real saving, liberation power of Christ is in his life, not death. See my post at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/2016/03/the-cosmic-cross-the-sixth-saying-of-jesus-from-the-cross/ His death is the crowning event of his life.
Original sin is an Augustine/ Calvinist invention. What humanity inherited from Adam was death – separation from God. Jesus came to save us from that death – separation from God. “The life is in the blood”, therefore we can also say, “The death is in the blood.” Jesus the Son was in likeness 100% invisible unformed (Pure Spirit) God (the Father) clothed in 100% human flesh form (or image), including His blood which was 100% a part of His human body. A spirit does NOT have, nor need blood, or blood sacrifice for that matter. No, it was Adam`s blood in Jesus` veins. “And He has made of ONE blood EVERY NATION OF MEN (every single human being ever born on this earth, including Jesus),…for in Him we live and move and have our being,.. `For we are also His offspring.'(sons of God)”(Acts 17: 26, 28.) “…we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” (2 Cor.4: 7.) HE SHARED IN OUR HUMANITY, THAT WE MIGHT SHARE IN HIS DIVINITY. FROM DEATH TO LIFE. Jesus `ransomed’, bought, bartered or swopped us from ourselves. “A life (death) for a life (eternal life)”. “…giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.” – Colossians 1:12–18
I’ll admit to being puzzled here. Your take on “ransom” seems to be a distinctly literal interpretation which, in large part at least, is precisely what disqualifies the PSA from any serious consideration. And how does God offering an innocent man as a “ransom”, resulting in his brutal and unjust murder appreciably differ from God offering an innocent man as a “sacrifice” resulting in his brutal and unjust murder? I get that in the ransom theory God is not a bloodthirsty psychopath, and I’m all for that. But again, how is that appreciably worse than a God so weak he has to kowtow to the devil and negotiate a ransom (even if this God is smart enough to trick the devil into what was, in fact–from the devil’s perspective finally, a worthless payment; a divine bad check!) And what devil worth his salt–strong enough, that is, to demand a ransom and be taken seriously by the Creator of the universe, would fall for such an underhanded deal in the first place.
This whole atonement discussion, it seems to me, is tightly linked to the (discredited) notion of original sin. What would this conversation look like without that “Eve ate the apple” element? And where do we get the idea that something has to happen outside of God before forgiveness is even possible? I can forgive someone who breaks the law and does me wrong without their asking for it, deserving it or even knowing forgiveness has been given. Is the Creator capable of less?
I am in total agreement about ransom language, and how it was neglected by the penal substitution theorists (who, not incidentally, put the church in control of the “means of grace.”) In a comment below I draw some connections to Galatians and Paul’s radical declaration of a new creation in process.
What I want to address here is something brushed against in your comments, Benjamin, but also in some by other readers: mechanism by meaning. To do its job, to liberate us from the obsessive world view of the world, to make us a new creation, Atonement of whatever stripe has to actually matter to us. I am often struck by the preference of many traditional Christians for the penal substitution approach which is based not on what it says about God, but on what it says about me. “He took my place”. (He could have called ten thousand angels, but he died alone on Calvary’s tree). Enter into it, and that is powerful, moving stuff. All my inadequacies, all my unworthiness, is lifted off me by that one supreme act.
And it binds tightly to our sense of our own moral shortcomings, which permeates the most intimate of our relationships: with parents, children and partners. Family counselors will tell you it is a small share of households in which positives like affection predominate over negatives like dominance, fear and anger. “He took my place” has many dimensions, and appeasement of wrath is not a minor one.
I strongly believe that “he took my place” does not capture the truth about the universe, and the implication in terms of a wrathful God is but one. But it may be that we progressives, who can feel the stronger but softer appeal of “for freedom Christ has set us free” and “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me” may have to settle for living out the witness to that, rather than using authority modes (even the authority of Jesus) to try to stamp out “he took my place.”
It isn’t that people cannot understand the role of a willing martyr in forever rebuking our fears and the false claims of the powers. It is just that my relationship to my sin, and my own inner wrath about it, is so much easier to relate to.
28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. 30 Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now[h] receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. 32 For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[i] knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”[j]
35 “Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”[k]
36 For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
Well … sadly I don’t have time to deal with it here in detail, but I just read something from an academic article that lists a lot of people who held to a PSA view in the early church.
It’s written by a dispensationalist, so most on this blog will probably discount it outright on those grounds alone.
Honestly .. now I’m confused once again. I simply don’t see the other views of atonement as sealing my salvation in the way PSA does, but I’m willing to let PSA go if it truly is wrong.
I enjoy your post too Benjamin. I do think that you over “think” what is simple. Christ did pay a ‘ransom’ if you will, but it was a ransom that the Jewish leaders demanded. Why? because Christ dared to correct that which was wrong… he challenged teachings that had gone astray and re introduced the simple and beautiful gospel of God. And yes, he knew it would bring about his death, but His intense love for mankind was worth it if He could enlighten us to know that the “kingdom of God” is within all of us. Christ taught that the kingdom of God is within you… the power of God is within you; can not be given or taken away. What we spend our lives trying to grasp and understand is that precise power. Christ was killed because he dared to correct those in power, both politically and religiously. i.e. “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues “(Matthew 23:5-6). The greatness of Christ sacrifice is that He loved us so much that he was willing to die to correct or try to teach how to come to our heightened spiritual knowledge. God has perfect mercy for and understands the human maturation process. He has reverence for all living, but the Jewish leaders at the time did not, could not, and demanded Christs death.
I think people forget that the satan works for God. He is doing what God has commanded him to do. The stories of fallen angels are just that, fiction.
Thanks so much Benjamin. I´m really enjoying these blog posts and the discussions that follow.
1. Why would Satan accept a payment that he knows will ultimately destroy him?
2. If we take away PSA, are we left only with atonement theories that involve man having to do something in order to secure justification? What I mean is (and I was thinking about this at lunch today), PSA seems to be the only theory that ensures I directly receive Christ´s righteousness … my salvation seal. All the others do marvelous things, but do they truly justify via faith?
3. Have you considered writing a small book about this very topic?
I am drawn to the ransom and Christus Victor models as well. I am reminded of the end of the movie The Passion of the Christ where I think (if memory serves me correctly) that Satan is going absolutely mad after he knows he has been defeated. What a strong piece of imagery as we consider the ransom and Christus Victor models of atonement.
Whatever the truth is, ransom theology is a lot easier to swallow than “man did something wrong so God got really really mad and demanded the death of his son for appeasement”
How does this fit into the Passover story of the firstborn from Egypt? Jesus became the Passover lamb.
Covenant language, where man handed over their rights to the “god of this world” in Eden and the contract was fulfilled and redeemed by Jesus. He is the first fruit of many brethren, who now have redemption rights of Sonship?
So your whole understanding of Jesus’ death on the cross can be summed up in a single word? I would rather properly understand both Old and New Testament teaching, taken together, than do that. Satan is only part of the problem, not the raison d’etre.
Satan as a devil was not in the Old Testament. Such an important figure, if existed, would have been mentioned in the Old Testament. However, it was not.
If one believes in an omnipotent God, one could not possibly explain the existence of an evil devil that Almighty God could not destroy. If there was a devil, God would have destroyed it long long time ago.
I doubt God, with such omnipotent power, needs to “pay” any ransom.
I have to agree that Satan is all but completely left out of most atonement theology. Quite an interesting point. I think this is because Satan is all but left out of most theology all together as most educated Christians like to leave Satan out of the picture all together. Definitely an interesting variable to throw into the mix. I don’t at all think we’ve just go to go with atonement theologies of the past. I just reject those who discount what is in Scripture itself. Stick with Christ believing that God required the cross and I am open to understand why that was so. I always believe that where atonement theologies break down is we separate the Trinity into three beings with an angry father requiring the innocent son to die. Keep running with the ball Ben. I will keep reading. Tom
I think Tim Boone is on to something below. I agree that Ransom Theory far surpasses PS theory, hands down, and that it is the understanding that Jesus had. However, I think of Jesus’ ministry to the world as the ministry of reconciliation (as Paul puts it), which restores humanity to full communion with God. Scapegoating Satan is a cop-out, in that “Satan” as he is popularly imagined, didn’t exist in the imaginations of scripture’s authors until very late. Prior to this, “ha-satan,” the adversary, was nothing more than God’s agent (see Num. 22:22, his first mention). To believe that Satan is GOD’S adversary is to create a dualism that would fit more comfortably in Zoroastrianism than in ancient Hebraic thought.
Rather, is it not HUMANITY (for whom “Satan” may indeed be a well-suited stand-in) that holds Jesus for ransom? It brings to mind the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.
The word that is translated “ransom” in Matt. 20:28 and Mark 10:45 is better translated “liberation.” In the LXX this word is employed with regard to the deliverance of God’s people without any thought of a ransom paid. The idea of ransom dropped off and the emphasis was placed on deliverance or liberation. (see Hugh Anderson on Mark in the The New Century Bible Commentary).NT scholar Stephen Finlan points out that “redemption” (same Greek word group for ransom) does not mean that God actually paid anyone off. Both Mark and Matthew in that reference is making the point that the self-giving of Jesus unto death has redeeming, liberating power; it is a means of liberation. And it is important to note that it is not Jesus’ death exclusively being referenced here, it is his life that he gives for the good of others that culminates in death. (see Joel Green and Mark Baker, Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, p. 42).
..so, are you saying, the parent set up the kidnapping so he could pay the ransom?
A big step forward from Penal substitution. I have a little problem with the depersonalization of placing the problem on Satan. although it is an apt metaphor.
I think.. that the ransom is being paid by God to our blind and even unconscious fear that enslaves us to futile attempts to feel safe and good in materialism and other escapes (we first gave in to these fears and deceptive “solutions” in the Garden). By taking such dramatic action as the cross and resurrection God “buys” us out of our enslavement to fear and gives us hope through an experiential lesson in His powerful love for us and His gift of the resurrection.. We are the ones who need to believe and feel that our guilt is forgiven and that the things we are guilty of can be replaced with love and peace……. So maybe the narrative of Satan is apt but I think the more personal narrative of God buying me out of my fears and sinful needs is more powerful in my life….. What do you think Ben? Sharpen me up here.
Warmer! The necessity for the ‘ransom’ is rooted in each of us. We’re the ones who need this death. What makes it necessary precisely as forcefully renders us unable to believe this. So most of us don’t ‘get it’ until death. Which means being ‘born again’ is not about anything you can talk people into.