Picture this: Dad is playing ball with his son, or flying a kite, or going on a trip; many of you mothers took videos. And we who are dads treasure these memories: those special times when we were bonding and maybe even teaching him things he didn’t know. Sons are very special to dads; it’s a lot more than just carrying on our family name.
No sane dad would ever hurt his son—for any reason. For example, nothing could make me deliberately cause pain to my son, not even if it helped me financially or emotionally or intellectually—or in any way whatsoever. If somebody owed me a trillion dollars and said: “I’ll pay you back if you let me shoot your son,” I’d say: “Keep it!” and so would every sane father I have ever known.
God the Father, according to several different “Christian” theories, deliberately ordered the execution of his only son as “pay back” for the sins of mankind. According to one theory all of us were being held ransom by the devil—so the pay-back was really made by God to the Devil! Another is the Scapegoat theory: God the Father demanded a Scapegoat sacrifice like the Old Testament sacrifices, and since our sins were so great only the son of God could be the Scapegoat. A third theory is Substitution. Since the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23) somebody had to die, and, once again, that job fell to the only son of God.
Tell me, what sane father would ever do this?
Stephen N. Johnson has a compelling chapter on this in his inspiring book, “The Deep Reach of Amazing Grace.” He says on pg. 38: “Punishing an innocent person for the transgressions of another is blatantly immoral and unjust.” And God the Father is neither immoral nor unjust. Steve makes a clear and surely “Christian explanation” of why Jesus was executed by the Romans; he loved too much.
Eating with criminals infuriated the police; healing the sick on the Sabbath was against the Law; and publically talking to a half-breed Samaritan woman was enough to get him banished. We know the Pharisees stoned people to death for blasphemy, and what Jesus was saying about helping an injured traveler (and a hated Samaritan, at that) on the Sabbath was getting close. But when he told public sinners that their sins were forgiven, that was surely blasphemy and it deserved crucifixion!
And get this: their sins were forgiven, Jesus said, not because they confessed them to a priest, or because they attended a week-long revival, or even because Christ would die on the Cross. None of these things. Sins are forgiven, Jesus said, because God loves us. That’s all. (Good thing Jesus isn’t walking around today looking for a Christian church to pastor!)
Steve Johnson quotes the famous “Atonement texts” in the Pauline epistles: (Romans and Ephesians) with words like “Christ died for the ungodly” and “he gave himself up for us, etc.” and Steve claims they’re not really “atonement” texts at all, but rather texts that show Christ died because he insisted on loving all these people around him, not to pay off a debt to his father.
Now I know we have a few “bible-thumpers” who will jump all over this interpretation of the Scriptures. (I can hear them screaming!) They have known for years exactly what these words mean; they mean that God the Father demanded the execution of his only son to make amends to him for all the sins of mankind. In essence, God the Father killed his Son. If this is truly what the authors of these Scripture texts meant, then I say they were wrong—because that would surely be blasphemy.
I would much rather accept the interpretation of Steve Johnson and the many Scripture Scholars who agree with him, like Tony Jones in “Did God Kill Jesus?”
In his epilogue, Steve quotes the Danish theologian, Soren Kierkegaard, who said: “The most dreadful sort of blasphemy is that of which Christendom is guilty: transforming the God of Spirit into …ludicrous twaddle.
I agree. Do you?