Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Romans 5:11 - Atonement

Scripture Romans 5:11
Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (NIV)
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (KJV)

Radio callers question
In trying to make the jump to a belief in Christianity, one of the key things I get confused about is the “atonement”.
Why was there not another way other than the crucifixion of Jesus to atone for our sins?
It seems a harsh roundabout way achieving what God wanted.

The word atonement, which is almost the only theological term of English origin, has a curious history.
The verb "atone", from the adverbial phrase "at one" (M.E. at oon), at first meant to reconcile, or make "at one"; from this it came to denote the action by which such reconciliation was effected, e.g. satisfaction for all offense or an injury.
"For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Source: www.newadvent.org

Response from Radio Guest
The atonement actually begins with the incarnation and God cared about us enough that He would want to become one of us.
He made us in His image.
We were spiritual, we were intelligent, we had creative thoughts, imagination, language.
We were made in His image and then we rebelled against Him.

God cannot tolerate sin.
God created the world to be good and to be holy like He is.
Man brought sin into the world.
As CS Lewis put it – we are not straight anymore, now we are bent and broken.

God loved us enough that He sent His son to become one of us, to relate to us but then also to pay the penalty that would have been due to us.

In other words, if I am a criminal and I kill someone and I break the law and I am in prison and then I am going to face the death sentence for that.
Somebody can come along and say ‘you know, I will take the death penalty for him, I will very graciously take his place if you let him go.’

Now this actually happened by the way in Auschwitz in 1941 with Maximillian Kolbe who voluntariliy took the place and died for another man and the man was set free.

And so this is somewhat what God did.
He came down in human form to die for humanity and take their place and in effect said I am going to show them how much I love them by doing this.

The interesting thing is, if you were in prison and on death row for murder and I came along and said I will take you place, that’s fine. But I am one limited person who can only be an exchange for one other limited person. The beauty of what Jesus did is that He is an infinite person and therefore He could die for an infinite number of people and save them. Now the reason I think, and when I watched Mel Gibsons movie the Passion of the Christ, this came to my mind – “Why is it so gruesome? Why is this so gory? Why did He have to go through this?”

And I think it was God trying to demonstrate how horrendous and egregious and wicked and upturning sin really is. It is not viewed by God or the church that sin is ‘oh we did something wrong, slap us on the hand’ but that sin is really a violation of the general rule that God made for the world and His moral code. And by violating that it does such damage not only to mankind but to all creation. It was so egregious and awful and wicked that only the crucifixion and a death like that could show and demonstrate how really bad it was and the consequences it brought about.

I think at the moment of Jesus death on the Cross was one of God’s most glorious moments. Jesus said ‘when I am raised up’ He is almost viewing this as being put upon a throne, the highest moment of a King, in all His glory. Jesus saw being raised up on the Cross as that pinnacle moment. It was at that moment where God who is Love by His very nature demonstrated to mankind how pure and powerful His love is. That He was willing to do that for us who didn’t even deserve it. How could you demonstrate love more than by that act?

Only God could come down and wipe out the sin and save us from the corruption that we have buried ourselves in and that is why I think we have the atonement.

(follow up question from radio caller)
Do you think that Jesus being God could have done it with a snap of His fingers?

He could have done something like that.
If I was Him I would have had a different reaction.
I would have said ‘you disobeyed, you are now living in sin and squalor and completely egregious behaviour. I am going to wipe you off the face of the earth’
I am not as loving as He is, I would have said ‘I am going to let you just rot in your choices’.

Maybe God could have snapped His fingers and done it, but because God is holy and just there is a requirement that justice be taken care of.

It is like in my family with my kids, I can over and over again overlook an evil done by one of my children but I know that if I have a great sense of justice that justice has to be done. If one son is beating up on another son all of the time I can’t just forgive him and ignore it I have to actually step in and rectify that.

And that is what God did. He came in and rectified it. He actually satisfied His own justice.

(the caller add’s in that he is beginning to understand the concept and that in his words ‘it basically comes down to justice, it is a combination of love plus justice’)
That is a very good point.

If God by His very nature is ‘just’ and ‘loving’, how can He satisfy both of those qualities of justice and of love?

In Love, God wants to forgive.
In Justice, God has to exact punishment and make things right.

But with Him and coming down and taking the punishment Himself, He satisfied both aspects of justice and love.

Source: Transcribed from the Catholic Answers Live radio show – Episode ca091023a
titled "Open Forum for Non-Catholics"
with guest Steve Ray

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