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The Atonement and the Trinity

Greetings All,
    Due to a construction project here at the church I didn't get the "thought" out for last week.  Only so much time in a week!  That's why I tried to get this one out before the week gets going!
    It comes to you from J. S. Whale, from lectures delivered at the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England back in 1941.  I ran across his book "Christian Doctrine" for 25 cents at a used bookstore and have thoroughly enjoyed it (even though it is currently out of print). 
     The following excerpt is one of my favorites.  I have tried to shorten it and used parenthetical insertions [  ] in the process to keep the flow of thought going while still trying to remain true to the content. Condensing it from 5 pages down to a few paragraphs for your reading pleasure was not an easy task! 
    A common response I hear after my sermons is "You make us think."  I pray that you will take a few moments to do just that in relation to this quote by Dr. Whale.  It's not your typical modern day "dumbed down fluff."  It requires mental concentration. (Have I lost  anyone yet?)  I trust you'll find the insights gained thereby to far outweigh any mental effort exerted!  Enjoy!

The Atonement and the Trinity 


    "The New Testament undoubtedly uses the ancient language of blood-sacrifice to proclaim the saving work of Christ. This language is baptized into Christ, of course, but is unintelligible apart from the sacrificial system of the Old Testament....
    Yet this language about the victim who is sacrificed perplexes and often alienates modern people, not so much because the language of blood-sacrifice is necessarily archaic, and inevitably repulsive to the modern imagination, but because all 'objective' theories of Atonement seem to use it in support of a doctrine of penal substitution which, on the face of it, is immoral and therefore insupportable....
     The cross is no more and no less than history's supreme demonstation of the depth and splendor of the love of God.  [Yet] because the 'objective' theories represent Christ's death as necessary, not only to man but to God; and because the legal word 'Satisfaction' (the need to appease the wrath of God against our sin) is used to affirm the holiness of God's love and the eternal moral realities which are implicit in his forgiveness, modern people protest that such a word makes God out to be a capricious Oriental Sultan; a cruel tyrant who arbitrarily demands the suffering and death of an innocent victim that the guilty may be spared His avenging anger....
    [Yet] much modern criticism is irrelevant because it rests on a serious misconception... [Duns Scotus, Occam, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and the like] never allow you to think of God as a cruel tyrant exacting his due from an innocent person on our behalf.  In all the classic soteriologies (plans of salvation) of the Church he who is sacrificed is not a human being chosen out from humanity to serve as a scapegoat. That would be the Nestorian heresy.  On the contrary it is the Offended One himself, the Holy God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, who as the second person of the Trinity assumes a human nature in order to be able to suffer for offending sinners, and in their stead. 
     According to Christian theology, the Being who goes deliberately and freely to his death is not a human personality but the second 'person' of the Trinity, God Incarnate in the clothing of human nature... You cannot escape some such trinitarian formulation if you take the witness of the New Testament seriously. 
      If Jesus is an unambiguously human martyr and no more, the gospels are a monument to a vast illusion, the Gospel is a mistake, and the extinction of the Church is only a question of time.  But if Jesus really is the Word of God Incarnate... you would have to recognize with Duns Scotus (who was not a fool)... that on the cross the Absolute Ruler of this universe was being 'cruel' towards himself alone....
     Do not say that Christian soteriology makes God the Father an Oriental Tyrant, unless you wish to expose yourself to the charge of theological illiteracy.  Such a contention is a pathetic caricature of the very truth which the doctrine of the Trinity is meant to conserve... Though no one understands the vast mystery of the triune God, the doctrine of the Trinity is not unintelligible.  It is fundamental to Christian [thought]... The doctrine of the Trinity is easily caricatured; but the truths it presupposes being inescapable, the doctrine itself is in some form inescapable, and anyone who dismisses it with impatience or contempt will be displaying intellectual sloth rather than intellectual acumen."     
   Insights worthy of our serious contemplation.  In the service of Jesus, Pastor Jeff
Dr. Jeffrey F. Evans