By Elizabeth Prata
Detractors of Christianity will say anything to cast aspersions onto the beauty, glory, and mystery of the atonement. One of the more popular riffs I’ve heard lately is that Father God putting Jesus the Son on the cross and killing him was “cosmic child abuse”.
Now that the flat denial and total rebuttal of that notion is out of the way, let’s take a look at why Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary and good.
The mystery of the atonement and all its attendant doctrines is something that has been written about for centuries and by better theologians than myself! I will not be adding anything new. However, my church’s Sunday School lesson taught through the scriptures related to the justification of saints through the atonement, and my brain is afire with thoughts.
As a side note, one way I can affirm the Spirit is alive in me, is His work in my mind when I study or I’m being taught by my pastor-teachers. The scriptures do say He transforms the mind. (Ephesians 4:23, Romans 12:2). My brain fairly sizzles with thoughts, connections, remnants of previous lessons unearthed from my memory to see the light of day and attach to the new information. I’ve got arrows, lines, writing sideways, lol. My brain comes alive when I sit under good teaching. Here is an example of my notes->
I’ll start where my teachers started: Romans 3:21-26,
Justification by Faith: But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. [underline mine]
God is just. He performs perfect justice. Being just is one of His attributes. He cannot be anything else but perfect in all ways, including being just. He dispenses His justice as the Just One.
He is also the justifier. No human can forgive unto justification of another human’s sin, (Mark 2:7). We are on equal par, having equal authority. Someone higher than ourselves needs to administer justice. Can I send so-and-so to jail for a five year term for his crime? No, I have no authority. A duly sworn Judge can, though. With the crime of sin, God as the higher up and person distinct from ourselves is the Judge. Secondly, all humans sin, so we need someone outside of humanity to forgive, otherwise it’s just the blind leading the blind. Because God is perfect and holy, He can forgive. Therefore, He is also the Justifer.
Why does there have to be blood, a cross? Because simply to pass His hand over sins and forgive would compromise His holy character and make it seem that the sinful dishonoring of Him trillions of times would not be that big of a deal, said my teacher. As RC Sproul said, sin is “cosmic treason”. For a holy God to overlook treason by His enemies would make God a patsy, not an authoritative King over all!
Another reason the Son’s death on the cross was not ‘cosmic child abuse’ was that Jesus willingly submitted to the Father’s plan. John 10:18 says,
No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it back. This commandment I received from My Father.
Jesus was not a victim. Claiming that He was a victim of abuse would introduce a split between the will and desires and plan among the Persons of the trinity. It is just not so. Jesus is the perfect image of the Father, of the same essence. (Colossians 1:15, 2 Corinthians 4:4). He came to do the will of the Father, (John 6:38) not be a hapless victim of a plan gone wrong.
Continuing with reasons Jesus was not a victim of cosmic child abuse, we have to know that God did not have to save anyone. The amazing part of grace is not that He saved some, but that He saved any. He extended His hand and plucked some from the fires of His wrath and He chose to do so with this plan of the life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of His Son. This is a Plan the Son agreed to.
The fact that when the angels sinned God chose not to save them (2 Peter 2:4) shows His great mercy and grace upon His elect humans. “This magnifies God’s grace powerfully” said my teacher.
Finally, I ask detractors to think of the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked the Father to let this cup [of wrath] pass from Him, if there be another way, yet, His will be done. (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). Jesus told his companions, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.” (Matthew 26:38). He shared with them that He was grieved! Afflicted to the point of death! He sweat great drops of blood! Yet no one stayed awake with Him. He was alone. he pleaded to the Father in honesty but also in submission to the end of the great plan. Jesus asked the Father THREE TIMES.
If the Father had thought of another way, but did not use it, THAT would be child abuse. If the Father had held a different plan in reserve in His mind, and ignored the pitiful pleas from the Man of Sorrows in the Garden, how abusive that would be! If there had been a different way but God killed Jesus anyway, that would be abuse. But no, there was not another way.
Jesus must live the perfect life pleasing to God. This Lamb must be sacrificed in blood, because in the blood there is the life. (Leviticus 17:11). Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22) He must die, and be buried. He rose again, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father. The Trinity is united in their desire to administer both justice and grace upon those whom they will administer justice and grace.
Remember, the shocking thing is not that God doesn’t save all. It is that He saves any.